Jun 142011

One of my long-unfulfilled rock performance dreams is to have a gig in which my band sets up and “performs” in rehearsal mode: that is, facing each other, playing for each other, having the right to stop songs in midstream, adjust part of an arrangement, and criticize each other. We would completely block out the crowd and just do our thing, the way our thing is meant to be done.

Every once in a while I stumble across a video of an artist rehearsing for a gig or studio recording. I LOVE THIS STUFF! As a music lover, I’m as interested in experiencing what goes on behind closed doors as I am listening to or making music myself, also behind closed doors. Don’t get me wrong, the thrill of playing out or seeing a band out in the wild can be tremendous, but there are less opportunities for catching knowing glances, intimate gestures, and tossed-off asides and fills.

If this video is labeled accurately, it’s The Who rehearsing for the first time with former Small Faces/Faces drummer Kenney Jones, who replaced the deceased Keith Moon. Talk about big shoes to fill! There’s much to examine as the band works through this new dynamic on a Classic ’70s Who–style rocker. For me, the big test is how Kenney handles the extended drum fill, beginning at the 3:15 mark, into Townshend’s noodling, which brings the song to a close. It’s not just what Kenney plays. It’s not just what Kenney doesn’t play. In replacing Moonie it’s also how Kenney doesn’t play while Pete does his thing.

What does Kenney’s performance and his new bandmates’ reaction to it foreshadow? There’s a lot more more going on here than learning the chord changes and honing dynamics!

We’re not talking about a game…The Who continue to practice…after the jump!


  29 Responses to “Practice Makes Perfect: It’s Hard to Replace Keith Moon in The Who”

  1. I saw Lou Reed once and he pretty much treated the gig as a rehearsal.. even had a music stand set up. He looked like he’d just rolled out of bed and showed up at the theater. He even made some lame attempt to say it was like a Velvet performance because you didn’t know what could happen next. I knew what would happen next, he’d continue to suck.

    Saw him on Letterman a couple of weeks later and he burned through a song all decked out in leather. Arrogant bastard

  2. hrrundivbakshi

    Good bye sister disco, with your… flashing trash pants? Without looking it up online, does anybody know what the words are there?

  3. Zak did a walloping job though – check out the Albert Hall Teenage Cancer gig (available on DVD)

    And for more behind the scenes stuff check out the Stones loose grooves on the Fourty Flicks extras

  4. I don’t know about this “rehearsal” gig idea of Mr. Moderator’s – it’s an odd fantasy. If he wants to show the world his work-in-progress, make a video and put it up on a webpage or something. However, when it comes to gigs, the idea seems somehow unprofessional and assumes too much patience and indulgence from the audience. I’m of the belief that you don’t take your act on stage until you have it down. For the record, I have done entirely unplanned and unrehearsed gigs on stage with “experimental” bands but even then we’d keep things going no matter what until we figured out how to bring things to a reasonably graceful end. No arbitrary stops, discussions, or arguments on stage.

  5. My fantasy does not involve free improvisation or jamming; it would be a structured rehearsal with band members facing each other and details of songs being worked out. Intra-band arguments would be part of the “show.” The audience could chime in, if they’d like. If the audience doesn’t dig it, tough shit!

  6. Yes, I get that. My point was that even in a free-form environment, our group still tried to maintain some aura of professionalism. May I suggest some chicken wire between your on-stage rehearsal and the audience? You might need it.

  7. hrrundivbakshi

    Come on, Mod. Fair is fair. If you’re going to subject your customers to your intra-band squabbles, half-finished songs and unresolved issues — the audience deserves to play a unique, out-of-the-ordinary role of its own. Perhaps they could be allowed to jump on stage and actively take sides, to help “prove” who the “winner” is in your arguments? Now THAT’s a gig I’d pay to see!

  8. hrrundivbakshi

    Seriously, I think this is a stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. One would be entertained on multiple levels — not only insofar as the music would be forcibly extruded through the crowd’s preferences, but also in terms of the new dimension of “life as art” it would bring to the stage. It would be vastly more *entertaining* to watch a defeated band member sulk as he/she was forced to play what a rival band member — backed up by the beer-stank breath of The Common Man — wanted

  9. bostonhistorian

    I concur. This is brilliant.

  10. It’s heartening to see some of you come around and contribute to my long-held concept. An element of American Idol-style fan voting certainly could be incorporated, but fans would have to have thick enough skin to withstand the angry glares of highly opinionated thought leaders within the band. I, for one, for instance, would welcome the opportunity to look an audience member in the eye and say something like, “Why do you people want to take every song I bring to the band and apply the ‘Ticket to Ride’ beat?” Then, perhaps, some ballsy audience member would shoot back, “Because your natual sense of rhythm guitar suggests it!”

  11. It’s “flashing trash lamps”, HVB. Strobe lights, I guess.

  12. I’m starting to come around to this idea…

  13. cherguevara

    Is that Ron Howard on the mixer? He does a good British accent.

  14. Perhaps we can make this event happen – provided I can convince my bandmates to lay it on the line and show the world just how cranky a bunch of old friends can be!

  15. Or maybe it’s Clint:)

    I forget his name; he was the band’s longtime engineer. He’s featured in the Classic Albums special on Who’s Next, working the board alongside Roger Daltrey. From that video and these clips, as it turns out, the guy is one of my recent rock heroes. He’s so enthusiastic about the music of The Who. In the Classic Albums doc he’s bobbing his head along in pure joy every time he turns up a fader. He and Townshend could have been filmed over dinner, with the engineer guy in the Wallace Shawn role from My Dinner With Andre.

  16. To say nothing of old fans!

  17. Bob Pridden. He’s been their sound engineer since ’67.

  18. hrrundivbakshi

    Fuck AmIdol-style voting! What you *deserve* at a show like this is loud, boorish, sweaty fans, commenting from the audience using microphones that are set up to automatically interrupt/override whatever whiny point you’re trying to make. I envision dialogues like the following:

    Mod: See, here’s where the song could go into an eight-measure, “No Fun”-style guitar feedback freakout, and…

    Velv: (groans) This isn’t the place for a psych jam session, mannn…

    Mod: It’s not a —

    Velv: I’m okay with jams, as long as they’re —


    Dude in leather jacket and sweaty T-shirt: You BOTH are fulla shit (coughs, visibly swallows phlegm) — what you NEED is a twin-guitar lead… (burp)… section, like Thin Lizzy an’ shit.

    Mod: (scowls) No, no, the vibe of this song is much more —


    Leather Jacket Guy: It’sss TOTAL Thin Lizzy, dude! Whoze wit’ me? Come on!

    Crowd: mixture of cheers, boos, and calls for leather jacket guy to shut the fuck up, etc.

  19. Yep. This guy here: http://www.ratedesi.com/i/pic/8ES5XAUurwbiMM:/The-Who-Odds-Sods-1974

    I’m not sure about knowing glances and asides but Kenny starts off both songs (especially “Who Are You”) very stiffly and loosens up as he goes along.

  20. This was what I was thinking of when I said I was coming around to this idea. I am fully prepared to BE “Leather Jacket Guy”.

  21. machinery

    But Mr. Mod, doesn’t every time AndyR look at Seth to foreshadow a drum fill or to “mark an error” in the book count?

  22. Even if a band isn’t learning a new song, or breaking in a new member, you get their best when they are in a circle. Everyone can respond to the same conducting and visual cues. Keeping one’s eyes on each other is another tool to keep the pacing, dynamics, and intensity where it should for a whole song. The band hears everyone else better in a circle rather than in a stage line-up where the amps are far apart and pointed out instead of at the band.

    If you can do without the wonderful “acting” you get by having everyone line up like it’s a Gilbert and Sullivan production, I’m sure just the quality of the performance is highest when a band gets to face one another.

    But then you’d have to treat the drummer like an equal, and that’s a big mistake.

  23. tonyola

    Room permitting, our band would set up four-across on stage with everyone up front. The guitar and bass player would be center and side-by-side facing forward, and the keyboard player (me) and the drummer would be at the ends facing each other and the two guys in the center. It worked pretty well – not only was there more communicating and playing off each other, it had the benefit that no-one was relegated to second line. A full circle would mean someone would have their back to the audience, which I think is poor stagecraft and a little insulting to those watching.

  24. BigSteve

    The conductor faces the orchestra, and no one finds that insulting.

  25. Especially if he’s got a nice ass!

  26. Wisecrack accomplished, I would not be that offended by seeing a band in a circle. The musicians should be moving enough to enable all to get a glimpse of whatever musician is positioned with his or her back to you.

  27. Thanks for having my First-Ever Favorite Band for instructional purposes!

    As to your point, I suppose it’s an ancillary benefit to campfires

  28. Ah, now that makes sense! Doubters, do you hear what RaoulG is saying?

  29. Just remember who has to fill your cavities,

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