Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Pete Townshend

Squeeze Box

First recorded (as a demo) by Pete Townshend (1974).
Hit version by The Who (US #16 1975 |UK #10/CAN #1/AUS #1 1976).

From the wiki: “‘Squeeze Box’ was written by Pete Townshend, and was originally intended for a Who television special planned in 1974. The lyrics are couched in sexual double entendrĂ©s. In the planned performance of the song, the members of the band were to be surrounded by one-hundred semi-naked women playing ‘squeezeboxes’ – a colloquial expression for accordions and concertinas – as the song was played.

“Townshend first recorded demo of the song featured a farfisa arrangement, as well as with bluegrass banjos. When the anticipated TV special did not materialize, The Who recorded ‘Squeeze Box’ and the song was released as the first single from The Who by Numbers in 1975 in the US and 1976 in the UK. ‘Squeezebox’ became an international hit, becoming the band’s first-ever Top-10 hit in Britain since 1972.

Behind Blues Eyes

Written and first recorded (as a demo) by Pete Townshend (1971).
Hit versions by The Who (US #34 1971), Limp Bizkit (US #71/UK #18/AUS #4/NZ #5/SWE #1/SPN #1 2003).

From the wiki: “‘Behind Blue Eyes’ was originally written by Pete Townshend for his aborted Lifehouse project. According to Townshend, the song’s origin happened after a Who concert in Denver on 9 June 1970. Following the performance, Townshend became tempted by a female groupie, but he instead went back to his room alone, possibly as a result of the teachings of his spiritual leader, Meher Baba. Upon reaching his room, he began writing a prayer, the first words being ‘When my fist clenches, crack it open …’

“The song is sung from the point of view of the main villain of Lifehouse, Jumbo. The lyrics are a first-person lament from Jumbo, who is always angry and full of angst because of all the pressure and temptation that surrounds him, and the song was intended to be his ‘theme song’ had the project been completed.

“The version of ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ on the original Who’s Next album was the second version the band recorded; the first was recorded at the Record Plant in New York on 18 March 1971 and features Al Kooper on Hammond organ. It would not be released until 1995, as a bonus track on the CD reissue of Who’s Next. The released album version of ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ was recorded 8 July 1971 at Olympic Studios in London.

Who Are You

First recorded (as a demo) by Pete Townshend (1976).
Hit version by The Who (US #14/UK #18 1978).

From the wiki: “‘Who Are You’ was written by Pete Townshend and which became the title-track of The Who’s 1978 album, Who Are You, the last album released before drummer Keith Moon’s death in September 1978.

“According to Townshend, the inspiration for the song began with a very long, excruciating meeting in New York City regarding royalties for his songs (the reference to ‘Tin Pan Alley’ in the song). After the meeting, he received a large check for royalties, left and went to a bar and got completely drunk. In that bar he had encountered Paul Cook and Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols, who thought very highly of Pete for paving the way for punk rock.

Baba O’Riley

Written and first recorded (as a demo) by Pete Townshend (1970).
Hit version by The Who (NETH #11 1972).

From the wiki: “‘Baba O’Riley’ was written by Pete Townshend, of The Who, who originally wrote the song for his Lifehouse project – the Rock opera follow-up to The Who’s 1969 opera, Tommy. When Lifehouse was scrapped, many of the songs were released on The Who’s 1971 album Who’s Next. ‘Baba O’Riley’ was released as a single in several European countries, but not in the US or the UK where the song was available only as the lead track on Who’s Next. It was, however, the perfect song for the up-and-coming Album Oriented Rock (AOR) radio format that was picking up steam on FM radio. ‘Baba’ became a Classic Rock staple and remains on many playlists.

Won’t Get Fooled Again

Written and first recorded (as a demo) by Pete Townshend (c. 1970).
Hit version by The Who (US #15/UK #9/AUS #14 1971).

From the wiki: “‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ was written by Pete Townshend for inclusion into Lifehouse, the science fiction rock opera intended as a follow-up to Tommy by The Who . The project, however, was abandoned – as a rock opera – in favor of creating a traditional rock album, Who’s Next. Although the Lifehouse concept was abandoned, scraps of the project remained present in the final album including the song ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’.

“Other of the project’s songs would appear on various albums and singles by The Who (e.g., ‘Baba O’Riley’, ‘Behind Blue Eyes‘, ‘Join Together’), as well as Pete Townshend solo albums. Years later, in the liner notes to the remastered Who’s Next CD, Townshend wrote that the failure of the project led him to the verge of a suicidal nervous breakdown.

Magic Bus

First recorded (as “The Magic Bus”) by Pudding (1967).
Hit version by The Who (US #25/UK #26 1968).

From the wiki: “‘Magic Bus’ was written by Pete Townshend during the sessions in 1965 that produced My Generation. However, the Who would not record ‘Magic Bus’ until 1968 when it was released as a stand-alone single in the US and the UK.

“But soon after its composition, the Who’s management and music publisher in 1966 circulated a Townshend demo recording of the song. A version was released as a single in the UK in April 1967 by an obscure band called Pudding, in the UK on Decca and in the US on London’s Press label. It was not a hit.