Out here in the fields
Sally, take my hand
From the album Who's Next
| 1979: Somehow I have convinced
my parents to let me go to a movie on a school night. This was not just
any movie; it was The Kids Are Alright, the first real "rockumentary,"
a serious attempt to document the history of the Who on film. I had no idea
what I was getting myself into. I'm all of 15, and I am not exaggerating
when I say that this film changed my life. I watched the movie as though
I was flash-frozen, in awe of the older fans there who had obviously already
managed to see the film several times, who laughed at the right parts. Jeff
Stein, a diehard Who fan who was the film's director, had gotten the band
to perform a fans-only show in order to get 'definitive' footage for the
film, and as a result, the TKAA versions of both "Baba O'Riley" and
the show (and film) closer "Won't Get Fooled Again" are regarded as, indeed,
the definitive versions by fans.
Later, seeing the Who in concert, I vividly remember the rush to the front when "Baba" would start, the diehards heading for Pete's side in order to have a chance to grab that ruined tambourine Pete would throw into the crowd after the first verse. I never managed to catch it, but hell, I certainly tried.
Fall of 1992: I don't remember the exact date, just that it had to be a Thursday or Friday night. I'd been out with friends, and came home, opened a beer, sat on the couch, flipped on the TV, looking for something random to watch until I was tired enough to fall asleep. Flip-flip-flip, hey, what's that on MTV? Holy shit, Alice In Chains! What IS this? After a few minutes I figured out it was some kind of program for the premiere of "Singles" and as PJ took the stage to play "State of Love And Trust" I just about pulled a muscle flying across the room to the VCR.
All of this was cool, and I just sat there enjoying things until the end of the program, when a very familiar riff caught my ears and I sat up dead at attention: "'Baba O'Riley!' I've heard about them doing this! OhmiGAWD!" I remember watching the song with my mouth open; yeah, they were drunk, yeah, it was sloppy, but I don't think I'd ever seen such a dead-on, affectionate, energetic cover of this song, ever. I was screaming and pounding the floor, it was just so obvious that these guys had been to as many midnight showings of The Kids Are Alright as I had. I'd considered myself a pretty big Pearl Jam fan up until that point, but that performance kind of cemented my fanaticism; it was immediately after seeing this that I began my search for live PJ, and bought (yes, bought - no internet and no live tapes in the Middle East!) anything I could get my hands on that had a version of "Baba" on it, just to try to relive that moment.
July 1, 1998: I'm about to shut down the computer for the night, in preparation for my trip to St. Louis the next day to see PJ. I've already entered the self-declared "PJ blackout zone," can't listen to them too soon before a show, when an email arrives with a link to PJ's version of "Baba" from the United Center show two days before. Ah, what the hell, I'd like to hear it. I download and open the file, turn up the speakers, and I am just transported. The guitar riff, the drums kicking in, loud and solid, the crowd's roar of recognition, the 20,000+ person sing along at the top of their lungs. I could be listening to a Who concert, it's the same feelings, the same energy.
And suddenly, I am that 15 year old girl again, seeing the Who for the first time, I'm same girl going to her first Who shows, fighting for the front. I close my eyes and I can alternately see PJ onstage at the UC, and the Who live, as well as that definitive performance from The Kids Are Alright. I'm banging on the desk, I am screaming so loud that my neighbors come downstairs to see if everything is okay. I absolutely did not expect to have so visceral a reaction to a sound file; it's one thing if you were at the show, you have other layers of memories that the sound can take you back through, but all I've got is my love for two bands and a vivid imagination.
To say that this performance is electrifying is an understatement; it's a tribute, it's a triumph, and yep, these guys most certainly did go see that movie every weekend; Eddie's vocal delivery is dead-on Daltrey; friends at the show reported antics with tambourine, Jeff machine-gunning the audience with his bass (another Townshend trademark), and you didn't have to be there to know about the epic jumps, splits and windmills that went on.
This performance is a perfect example of why fans clamor to hear PJ cover "Baba O'Riley" so much; not because we don't love each and every song Pearl Jam has written and don't want to hear them live, but because of the energy, the enthusiasm, and the fact that the band is obviously having so much fun playing it, kicking out the jams, letting loose, in a way they almost can't with their own material.
If you were one of "the lucky ones" to be at the United Center show, go and rent The Kids Are Alright; hell, even if you weren't, and you're a big enough PJ fan to be frequenting this site, you should do it anyway. =)
"We're all wasted!"
- Baba O'Riley, live from 6/29/98 [mp3 - 4,528K]
Thanks to Rich Hammond for the source and mp3 encoding
Dan Grenough, you rock our world!
Copyright © 2004 Five Horizons