The Who’s groundbreaking live album from their performance at Leeds University three months prior, Live At Leeds was released in the United States on Saturday, May 16, 1970. Side one of the original album contained four hard-hitting classics (“Young Man Blues,” “Substitute,” “Summertime Blues” and “Shakin’ All Over”) while side two featured extended versions of “My Generation” and “Magic Bus.”
Though the tracks were not released until 1995, The Who also ran through the entirety of Pete Townshend’s rock opera, Tommy, and additional songs like “I Can’t Explain,” “Fortune Teller” and John Entwistle’s “Heaven and Hell” for the crowd of about 2,000 students.
The original Live At Leeds album also contained within a flap numerous facsimiles of memorabilia such as a publicity photo of The Who, their contract for performing at Woodstock, a full-size ‘Maximum R&B’ poster, a receipt for smoke bombs and a list of gigs with financial figures included.
Following the release of Tommy in 1969, The Who began a world tour to promote Pete Townshend’s groundbreaking rock opera.
After they debuted the new live act — including Tommy in its entirety and “A Quick One, While He’s Away” — at London Coliseum two months earlier, the group played to a crowd of students at Leeds University in West Yorkshire, England, on Valentine’s Day 1970.
The accompanying album, Live At Leeds, went on to become famous in its own right as one of the first (and best) live records ever put together by a rock group.
The Who: (from left) John Entwistle, Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon and Pete Townshend in 1969.
Billed as “A Two-Hour Non-Stop Concert,” The Who’s performance at London Coliseum on Sunday, Dec. 14, 1969, marked the first of hundreds of times the band would play Tommy live in its entirety (most of it, anyway).
On this occasion, Townshend’s rock opera was bookended at the beginning by John Entwistle’s “Heaven And Hell” and the iconic “I Can’t Explain,” and at the end by classics like “Summertime Blues,” “Shakin’ All Over” and “My Generation.” In between, the band debuted songs from Tommy such as “Amazing Journey/Sparks,” “I’m Free,” “Listening To You” and “Pinball Wizard.”
The concert went mainly unseen until its 2008 release as a supplementary DVD on The Who At Kilburn: 1977.
On Friday, May 23, 1969, The Who released Tommy in the UK, and Pete Townshend’s groundbreaking new rock opera would follow Live At Leeds as the group’s second straight album to hit No. 4 on the Billboard charts in 1970.
Townshend wrote all of the original material save for three songs — John Entwistle’s “Cousin Kevin” and “Fiddle About” and Keith Moon’s “Tommy’s Holiday Camp.”
The single “Pinball Wizard” reached No. 4 in the UK (No. 19 in the US) and, along with “1921,” “Amazing Journey/Sparks,” “The Acid Queen,” “Go To The Mirror” and “See Me, Feel Me/Listening To You” became part of The Who’s explosive live act in the ensuing years.