Jun 132011

I can do without the lousy chorus in The Who‘s 1972 oddball single “Relay,” as lip-synched here on Old Grey Whistle Test, and I can do without Keith Moon’s mugging for the camera in this particular performance, but after years of completely dismissing this song I watched this clip and wondered if I needed to reconsider.

The Entwistle-Townshend funky bass-guitar action is excellent! Considering that “Eminence Front” is my least-favorite Who song ever, and one of my least-favorite songs in the history of rock what I’m about to say might damn the song with faint praise, but the funky bass-guitar action in “Relay” is all that “Eminence Front” could have hoped to be.

Then there are the intangibles, including

  • Daltrey’s perfect sideburn:curly locks ratio, which may eclipse the best ratios achieved by the likes of Joe Cocker and Rob Tyner
  • The Medieval bass Entwistle plays (the headstock could kill a one-eyed giant!)
  • The dog-ugly Who patch on The Ox’s dog-ugly denim jacket
  • Daltrey’s really into it, for god knows what reason

I’m on the fence about Pete’s peasant shirt, but let me know what you think about this possibly overlooked piece of rock costume jewelry.


  12 Responses to “Reconsider Me: The Who’s “Relay””

  1. tonyola

    Yep, “The Relay” is a pretty fine song. Peter must have liked that shirt – he wore it or one just like it in 1973 for the infamous and hilarious Russell Harty interview where Keith Moon mercilessly goes after Harty.


  2. bostonhistorian

    I don’t know. It sounds like something the Guess Who might do–there’s an American Woman vibe about it. I guess the classics of classic rock just don’t move me.

  3. It’s Hard work correcting my friends opinions all the time. This song is a stone cold winner. I have no problem with a participant mocking the understood illusion that they are playing it live. Keith’s hilarious doing that stuff. You can keep your eyes on Rog’s locks and midriff.
    This trifecta of really under-rated Who songs all come from the same kinda era and vibe; The Seeker, Join Together, and Relay.

    JT and Relay make creative funky use of the “new” electronic keyboards, but still rock out. If they could have stayed at this phase a little longer, we’d ALL have been better off.

    I like the sound of Pete discovering what he can do with the new synths but before he gets too good at it.

  4. ladymisskirroyale

    Enjoyed the song, although Daltry is rather loud in it. And that large cross clashes with the “Little House on the Prarie” patch stuff of his shirt.

    Of the four, my hero is Pete. He is grooving along, has good energy and doesn’t bounce around too much. His ensemble has a nice balance to it: the pendant works well with the v neck of the shirt. I’ll even take the frilly sleeves which work since the shirt is white; a pattern and it would have been over doing it. I like the facial hair choice, too. My only gripe is the overgrown monk’s tonsure of his hair style.

    Entwhistle – it’s just too difficult to look beyond those patches and that bass.

    And Moon! Although this clip showcases a different musical style, you can see where Animal owes all his moves: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBOohuZlAiM&feature=related

  5. Hey man, I thought you’d support me in this difficult task of revisiting a song I’d long slagged. The more I watch “Relay” the more I sense I may need to try my hand at ripping it off. (Let’s talk tomorrow, by the way, about finding a rehearsal time.) Moon’s antics are actually funny, but at first they were getting in the way of my appreciation for some of the band’s new moves. What kind of bass is The Ox playing in that clip? The headstock is about a third the length of the neck.

    I’ve never liked “The Seeker,” but you make a good point about its era/vibe. Heard in that context it’s got its merits. Just don’t leave this era’s ultimate destination – “Eminence Front” – out of the discussion. You might dig this clip, which I don’t recall ever seeing before:


    The following is HVB’s greatest televised rock performance ever, right?



  6. Boy, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this thing in its full context. Here’s Keith Moon passing out on stage a couple of times before a kid comes up from the audience to drum with the band:


    I’ve only seen the last part. Can you imagine, in these times, a band of the magnitude of The Who allowing a member to pass out on stage TWO times – and joking about it the whole time?

  7. “Relay” was a from a good vein of songs from Townshend, where he lets the synths or guitar effects play out and he adds sharp guitar bits here and there. I’ll also take “Put the Money Down” or “Going Mobile” in that style. I guess “Eminence Front” is the end of the line, bottom of the tank there.

  8. I don’t think “Eminence Front” is bad at all, but it should have been a Townshend solo song than a Who song. By the way, in our band we used to call the song “Eminent Slut”.

  9. I’m with you, man.

  10. Chicken, I mean.

  11. Good points — and, you know, at least Relay hasn’t been played into the ground.

  12. misterioso

    chickenfrank is dead on and I would add in “Let’s See Action” as well. A great run for the band.

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