Live at Leeds

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Live at Leeds
The who live at leeds.jpg
Live album by
Released16 May 1970 (1970-05-16)
Recorded14 February 1970
VenueUniversity of Leeds Refectory, Leeds, UK
GenreHard rock[1]
LabelDecca, MCA
The Who chronology
Live at Leeds
Who's Next
Singles from Live at Leeds
  1. "Summertime Blues" / "Heaven and Hell"
    Released: June 1970

Live at Leeds is the first live album by the English rock band The Who. It was recorded at the University Refectory, University of Leeds on 14 February 1970, and is the only live album that was released while the group were still actively recording and performing with their best known line-up of Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Keith Moon. Initially released in the United States on 16 May, by Decca and MCA and the United Kingdom on 23 May, by Track and Polydor, the album has been reissued on several occasions and in several different formats. Since its release, Live at Leeds has been cited by several music critics as the best live rock recording of all time.[1][2][3]


Townshend used a Hiwatt CP-103 "Super Who" guitar amp on the recording

By the end of the 1960s, particularly after releasing Tommy in May 1969, The Who had become cited by many as one of the best live rock acts in the world. According to biographer Chris Charlesworth, "a sixth sense seemed to take over", leading them to "a kind of rock nirvana that most bands can only dream about".[4] The band were rehearsing and touring regularly, and Townshend had settled on using the Gibson SG as his main touring instrument; it allowed him to play faster than did other guitars.[5] He began using Hiwatt amplifiers that allowed him to get a variety of tones simply by adjusting the guitar's volume level.[6][a]

The group were concerned that Tommy had been promoted as "high art" by manager Kit Lambert and thought their stage show stood in equal importance to that album's rock-opera format.[9] The group returned to England at the end of 1969 with a desire to release a live album from concerts recorded earlier in the US. However, Townshend balked at the prospect of listening to all the accumulated recordings to decide which would make the best album, and, according to Charlesworth, instructed sound engineer Bob Pridden to burn the tapes.[4][b]

Two shows were consequently scheduled, one at the University of Leeds and the other in Hull, for the express purpose of recording and releasing a live album. The Leeds concert was booked and arranged by Simon Brogan, who later became an assistant manager on tour with Jethro Tull.[11] The shows were performed on 14 February 1970 at Leeds and on 15 February at Hull, but technical problems with the recordings from the Hull gig — the bass guitar had not been recorded on some of the songs — made it all the more necessary for the show from the 14th to be released as the album.[4] Townshend subsequently mixed the live tapes, intending to release a double album, but ultimately chose to release just a single LP with six tracks.[12] The full show opened with Entwistle's "Heaven And Hell" and included most of Tommy, but these were left off the album in place of earlier hits and more obscure material.[13]

Side one contained three covers. "Young Man Blues" was extended to include an instrumental jam with stop-start sections. "Summertime Blues" was rearranged to include power chords, a key change, and Entwistle singing the authority figure lines (e.g.: "Like to help you son, but you're too young to vote") in a deep-bass voice. "Shakin' All Over" was arranged similar to the original, but the chorus line was slowed down for effect, and there was a jam session in the middle. The other song on side one, "Substitute", was played similar to the studio recording, but missing the final verses.[14]

Side two began with a 15-minute rendition of "My Generation", which was greatly extended to include a medley of other songs and various improvisations. These included a brief extract of "See Me, Feel Me" and the ending of "Sparks" from Tommy, and part of "Naked Eye" that was recorded for the follow-up album Lifehouse (that was ultimately abandoned in favour of Who's Next). The album closed with "Magic Bus", which included Daltrey playing harmonica and an extended ending to the song.[15]


The rubber-stamped cover of the bootleg Live'r Than You'll Ever Be inspired the cover

The cover was designed by Beadrall Sutcliffe and resembled that of a bootleg LP of the era, parodying the Rolling Stones' Live'r Than You'll Ever Be.[16] It contains plain brown cardboard with "The Who Live At Leeds" printed on it in plain blue or red block letters as if stamped on with ink (on the original first English pressing of 300, this stamp is black). The original cover opened out, gatefold-style, and had a pocket on either side of the interior, with the record in a paper sleeve on one side and 12 facsimiles of various memorabilia on the other, including a photo of the band from the My Generation photoshoot in March 1965,[17] handwritten lyrics to the "Listening to You" chorus from Tommy, the typewritten lyrics to "My Generation", with hand written notes, a receipt for smoke bombs, a rejection letter from EMI,[18] and the early black "Maximum R&B" poster showing Pete Townshend wind-milling his Rickenbacker. The first 500 copies included a copy of the contract for The Who to play at the Woodstock Festival.

The label was handwritten (reportedly[according to whom?] by Townshend), and included instructions to the engineers not to attempt to remove any crackling noise. This is probably a reference to the clicking and popping on the pre-remastered version (notably in "Shakin' All Over") which was from John Entwistle's bass cable. Modern digital remastering techniques allowed this to be removed, and also allowed some of the worst-affected tracks from the gig to be used; on CD releases, the label reads, "Crackling noises have been corrected!"[19]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[20]
Blender5/5 stars[21]
Christgau's Record GuideB[22]
Entertainment WeeklyA+[23]
Mojo5/5 stars[24]
Q4/5 stars[24]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[25]
Uncut4/5 stars[24]

In a contemporary review for The New York Times, music critic Nik Cohn praised Live at Leeds as "the definitive hard-rock holocaust" and "the best live rock album ever made".[1] Jonathan Eisen of Circus magazine felt that it flows better than Tommy and that not since that album has there been one "quite so incredibly heavy, so inspired with the kind of kinetic energy that The Who have managed to harness here."[26] Greil Marcus, writing in Rolling Stone, was less enthusiastic and said that, while Townshend's packaging for the album is "a tour-de-force of the rock and roll imagination", the music is dated and uneventful. He felt that Live at Leeds functions simply as a document of "the formal commercial end of the first great stage of [The Who's] great career."[27]

In Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981), Robert Christgau asserted that, although side one is valuable for the live covers and "Substitute", the "uncool-at-any-length" "Magic Bus" and "My Generation" are not an improvement over their "raw" album versions.[22] In a retrospective review for AllMusic, Bruce Eder felt that the album was seen as a model of excellence for live rock and roll during the 1970s; that it was The Who's best up to that point, and that there was "certainly no better record of how this band was a volcano of violence on-stage, teetering on the edge of chaos but never blowing apart."[20] In a review of its 1995 CD reissue, Tom Sinclair of Entertainment Weekly asserted that it shows why The Who were important: "Few bands ever moved a mountain of sound around with this much dexterity and power."[23] Mojo magazine wrote that "the future for rock as it became, in all its pomp and circumstance, began right here."[24] Steven Hyden, writing for PopMatters, said that it is "not only the best live rock ‘n’ roll album ever, but the best rock album period."[3] Roy Carr of Classic Rock, reviewing the 2010 Super Deluxe Edition of the album, remarked how the new Live at Hull section "is noticeably more tight, more focused and even more aggressive" than the original recording, concluding that "we now have the two greatest live rock albums...ever."[2]


Blue plaque at the University of Leeds commemorating the album

Live at Leeds has been cited as the best live rock recording of all time by The Daily Telegraph,[28] The Independent,[29] the BBC,[30] Q magazine,[31] and Rolling Stone.[32] In 2003, it was ranked number 170 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[33] A commemorative blue plaque has been placed at the campus venue at which it was recorded, the University Refectory. On 17 June 2006, over 36 years after the original concert, The Who returned to perform at the Refectory, at a gig organised by Andy Kershaw. Kershaw stated the gig was "among the most magnificent I have ever seen".[34] A Rolling Stone readers' poll in 2012 ranked it the best live album of all time.[35]

Release history[edit]

The original LP was released on 16 May 1970 in stereophonic format. The album opens with "Young Man Blues", an R&B tune that was a standard part of the Who's stage repertoire at the time, moves onto "Substitute", a 1966 single for the band, then completes the first side with "Shakin' All Over", a cover of a hit by pioneering early 1960s British rocker Johnny Kidd, and "Summertime Blues", a cover of an Eddie Cochran song. Side two has two tracks, the first, "My Generation", is drawn out into an almost sixteen-minute medley including "See Me, Feel Me/Listening to You", "Underture", the instrumental riff from the end of "Naked Eye", "The Seeker", and a number of other mostly unrelated themes. "Magic Bus", the final track, is drawn out to seven and a half minutes (9:42 on the un-edited recording). There is an 8-second segment near the beginning of "Magic Bus" (leading into the lyric I don't care how much I pay) where the music is played backwards. Townshend stated that he did this deliberately to mark a part he had edited due to several mistakes. The 1995 and 2001 CD mixes edit this section differently and do not have the backward portion. The backwards portion was retained on Greatest Hits Live. The album was reissued on CD in 1985 by MCA in the US, and in 1987 by Polydor in Germany.

In February 1995, the album was reissued as a remixed CD which included more songs than the original vinyl edition, as well as song introductions and other banter that had been edited out of the original release. For the remix, new vocal overdubs from Daltrey, Townshend and Entwistle were recorded to address occasional flaws in the original tapes or performances. The additional songs were inserted before and in the middle of the original track list, but left "My Generation" and "Magic Bus" as the final two tracks.

In September 2001, a Universal Deluxe Edition version was released. The Deluxe Edition includes more chat between the songs, and the entirety of the band's Tommy set as performed at Leeds. Again, new overdubs from the vocalists were employed at select points. During the concert, "Summertime Blues", "Shakin' All Over", "My Generation", and "Magic Bus" were played after the Tommy set. The Deluxe Edition puts the Tommy set onto the second disc, moving "My Generation" and "Magic Bus" out of order to the end of the first disc.

In November 2010, Universal Music released a 40th Anniversary edition of the album which contained the full Leeds show from 14 February 1970 and the band's complete performance from the University of Hull, recorded the following evening, as well as a heavyweight vinyl reproduction of the original six-track album, memorabilia and a replica 7-inch single of "Summertime Blues/Heaven and Hell".[36] This performance had previously been unavailable because of a problem with the recording of John Entwistle's bass guitar on the first six songs. To fix this problem his performance at the Leeds show was overdubbed over these tracks of the Hull performance using digital technology.

In November 2014, the complete concert was released in set list order on iTunes and HDtracks, with restoration of much in-between song patter.

In November 2016, Universal Music released the complete concert as a three disc album on the Polydor label, half-speed mastered at Abbey Road Studios, with a six-panel gatefold sleeve with assorted pictures and liner notes by Chris Charlesworth.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Pete Townshend, except where noted.

1970 original LP[edit]

Side one
1."Young Man Blues" (Mose Allison)4:46
3."Summertime Blues" (Jerry Capehart, Eddie Cochran)3:22
4."Shakin' All Over" (Johnny Kidd)4:20
Total length:14:38
Side two
1."My Generation"14:45
2."Magic Bus"7:57
Total length:22:42

1995 CD reissue[edit]

2001 deluxe edition[edit]

  • First release of complete concert recording.
  • Engineered at Revolution Studios

40th anniversary collectors' edition[edit]

2014 deluxe edition digital release on iTunes[37] and HDtracks[38][edit]

  • First release of concert recording in set list order
  • Includes extra snippets of dialogue between songs; some songs (for example, "A Quick One, While He's Away") are longer than in previous releases, while others ("Young Man Blues", "Shakin' All Over", "My Generation", and "Magic Bus") remain in edited versions.



Year Chart Position
1970 Billboard Pop Albums 4[39]
UK Chart Albums 3[40]
Danish Album Charts 8[41]
Year Single Chart Position
1970 "Summertime Blues" Billboard Pop Singles 27[42]
UK Singles Charts 38[40]


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[43] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[44] 2× Platinum 2,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ Moon normally sang a few backing vocals during this period of the Who's career, particularly on "I Can't Explain", though sound engineer Bob Pridden frequently muted his vocal microphone.[7] This appears to have been done for the Leeds show, with Townshend making light of it before announcing "A Quick One, While He's Away", stating "We do feature normally Keith Moon singing, but today we'll just have to feature him."[8]
  2. ^ Townshend later suggested the tapes were indeed burnt in his back garden,[10] though archive live recordings of the Tommy tour have since been officially released.


  1. ^ a b c Cohn, Nik (8 March 1970). "Finally, the Full Force of the Who". The New York Times. Rock Recordings section, p. M2. Retrieved 2 July 2013. (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b Carr, Roy (January 2011). "The Who". Classic Rock: 75. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
  3. ^ a b Hyden, Steven (29 January 2003). "The Who: Live at Leeds". PopMatters. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Charlesworth 1995, p. 5.
  5. ^ Neill & Kent 2011, p. 247.
  6. ^ Atkins 2000, p. 132.
  7. ^ Charlesworth 1995, p. 7.
  8. ^ Pete Townshend (1970). Live at Leeds (1995 CD reissue) (cd)|format= requires |url= (help). Event occurs at Track 8, 4:23. 527-169-2.
  9. ^ Atkins 2000, p. 24.
  10. ^ Townshend 2012, pp. 185-186.
  11. ^ Mark Simpson (18 June 2006). "Rockers thrill their generation". BBC News. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  12. ^ Atkins 2000, p. 129.
  13. ^ Harison 2014, pp. 96-97.
  14. ^ Atkins 2000, p. 130.
  15. ^ Atkins 2000, p. 131.
  16. ^ Neill & Kent 2011, p. 255.
  17. ^ Neill & Kent 2011, p. 76.
  18. ^ Neill & Kent 2011, p. 59.
  19. ^ Deskin, Scott (April 11, 1995), "Leeds album showcases The Who's live improvisation", The Tech, 115 (17)
  20. ^ a b Eder, Bruce. "Live at Leeds – The Who". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  21. ^
  22. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1981). Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. p. 419. ISBN 0899190251.
  23. ^ a b Sinclair, Tom (17 February 1995). "Live at Leeds Review". Entertainment Weekly. New York (262). Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  24. ^ a b c d "Live At Leeds". Muze. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  25. ^ Kemp, Mark; et al. (2004). Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 871. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  26. ^ Eisen, Jonathan (July 1970). Circus. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  27. ^ Marcus, Greil (9 July 1970). "Live at Leeds". Rolling Stone. New York. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  28. ^ "Hope I don't have a heart attack". (22 June 2006). Retrieved on 3 January 2007.
  29. ^ Live at Leeds: Who's best... The Independent (7 June 2006). Retrieved on 3 January 2007.
  30. ^ The Who: Live at Leeds. BBC – Leeds – Entertainment (18 August 2006). Retrieved on 3 January 2007.
  31. ^ Live at Leeds – again, a 6 June 2006 press release from the University of Leeds website
  32. ^ [1] Rolling Stone magazine (1 November 2003) (Retrieved on 28 October 2013.)
  33. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. New York: 136. 11 December 2003.
  34. ^ "The Who Live at Leeds". University of Leeds. Retrieved 9 November 2012.
  35. ^ "Readers' Poll: The 10 Best Live Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 22 November 2012
  36. ^ The Who Live At Leeds 40th Anniversary Special Edition Archived 6 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  37. ^ "Live At Leeds (Deluxe Edition)". iTunes. Geffen Records. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  38. ^ "Live At Leeds (Deluxe Edition)". HDtracks. Geffen Records. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  39. ^ Booklet inside Live at Leeds, The Who, 1995 edition, Polydor Records.
  40. ^ a b The Who at
  41. ^ "LP Top 10, October 12, 1970". Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  42. ^ "The Hot 100: August 22, 1970". Billboard.
  43. ^ "British album certifications – The Who – Live at Leeds". British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Live at Leeds in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  44. ^ "American album certifications – The Who – Live at Leeds". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 
  • Atkins, John (2000). The Who on Record: A Critical History, 1963-1998. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-786-4-0609-8.
  • Charlesworth, Chris (1995). Live At Leeds (1995 CD reissue) (CD). The Who. UK: Polydor. 527-169-2.
  • Harison, Casey (2014). Feedback: The Who and Their Generation. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-442-24010-0.
  • Neill, Andy; Kent, Matt (2011). Anyway Anyhow Anywhere: The Complete Chronicle of the Who 1958-1978. Random House. ISBN 978-0-753-54797-7.
  • Townshend, Pete (2012). Who I Am: A Memoir. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-062-12726-6.

External links[edit]