Picking the moment when the Who peaked is tough. Was 1969’s Tommy their transcendent moment? Maybe the emotionally complex Quadrophenia is your pick. Regardless, I think we can all agree it wasn’t Face Dances.
But really if we’re talking the ‘Oo’s “biggest band in the world” peak it’s the Who’s Next era, and that’s the tour they were on when the band brought their brand of maximum R&B to Long Beach Arena for this December 10, 1971. It’s also what brought the Trademark of Quality bootleggers to Long Beach with their trusty tape recorders, which is why 50 years later I have a shiny yellow copy of that show. The album only contains seven tracks, five of which are from Who’s Next, including the majestic “Bargain:”
Bands hated bootleggers, and rightfully so: Each unofficial release was taking money out of the band’s (and the label’s) pocket, but I often wonder if a half century any of them are glad that those bootlegs exist. I know I am. Unless Roger and Pete decide to release an official version of Long Beach ’71 someday, this is the only way I can hear that show.
Want your own copy of Closer To Queen Mary? Expect to pay around 50 bucks, but listen: There’s also a CD version of this boot kicking around with more tracks and better sound. Happy hunting.