Originally conceived as the follow-up to The Who's Tommy
-a groundbreaking form of theatre
within itself- "Lifehouse" was a rock opera
dealing with a futuristic world in which people lived inside sealed suits
to protect them from the polluted
world. They experienced life through virtual reality-type performances on a world wide web
-like network called The Grid
. This is a controlling network where music is outlawed. It's like communism
invented the internet
, yes he did. Ok, maybe not...but still.
Lifehouse was to be a multimedia experience, reflecting every listener. It was a storyline, mixed in with actual Who performances. This would-be "total music" experience was staged for a few days at the Young Vic theatre in February of 1971. These were more like rehearsals that the public just walked in on.
Townshend intended in touching every member of the audience personally, making the songs reflect them. Which is...exactly what they do anyway, at least for me. He, however, wanted this in a literal sense.
The Young Vic shows didn't last long enough to Townshend's liking, and more disagreements with Kit Lambert, the Who's manager, cascaded the project into murkier waters.
When an artist (Bob Snow) breaks out of prison, he stages a concert that spiritually saves the audience. He breaks into the network of the grid to stage this concert from the Life House. The message of Lifehouse, put inside a very small nutshell
, is that rock and roll
can save the world.
This concert allows the audience and the entertainers to "Join Together
". When this occurs, everyone is "in tune" and therefore would be set free
from "The Grid". He believes that finding the "one note" ("Pure and Easy
"), coming from everyone's biorhythms, performance, and spirituality
, will create "a celestial cacophony
of sound" to free them from mind control
The outsiders are also part of the breakthrough from the Grid-These outsiders are too rebellious or too poor to live within the Grid's power. They live on the outskirts of the earth.
Ray is another character who is searching across the wasteland for his daughter, Mary, who has run away to attend the concert.
He and his wife Sally, who are farmers, travel south from Scotland across the wasteland of middle England in a caravan. Yes, Baba O'Riley, in fact, is about farmers.
In their search, they get caught up in a disc jockey, who is calling everyone to the Lifehouse.
So, they arrive at the concert early, as Bobby does experiments (sort of like Pete did with Meher Baba) with people's biorhythms.
As the day of the concert begins, a small army sent by the government appears, but are not let in. They finally break in though, but the ordeal has already reached it's zenith-
everyone in the building and "watching" at home dissapears.
This is not meant to say that they all died-it's just the concept of music being able to set the soul free. It's like a rapture of sorts.
Lifehouse was supposed to be staged just as Tommy had...an album, in this case, a double or triple album, and a film. But it all went terribly wrong. Townshend didn't want this just to be another "rock opera". He wanted it to be a full-blown experience, with audience participation, input, and music (like "Baba O'Riley"'s synthesizer beginning-inspired by the biorythms of Meher Baba).
He filmed a series of performances in London as an experiment, he ultimately, as I said, wanted the audience to dictate what they were hearing.
Townshend was to get 2 million dollars from Universal Pictures to make this into a film, but it never materialised. In a hurry to release some "Lifehouse" material, Pete and The Who recorded Who's Next.
However, with the failure of Lifehouse to emerge as he intended, Townshend had a nervous breakdown, and produced Quadrophenia, his next rock opera, as a complete entity-with the music was sound effects, an autobiography of the main character (ghostwritten by Townshend), and a picture book. He feared that this too would never get produced.
Songs that didn't appear on Who's Next appeared as singles, like "Join Together", B-sides, and also on Pete's solo albums, especially 1993's Psychoderelict, which resurfaces some of Lifehouse's themes.
Townshend staged Lifehouse as a concert on 25 February, 2000 at Sadler's Wells, and appeared in 1999 on the BBC2 as a radio play.
The Lifehouse Chronicles were released in 2001, the first 4 discs being demos and songs by Townshend, the fifth and sixth discs being the radio play by the BBC.
The Lifehouse Chronicles
CD 1: The Lifehouse Demos
1. Teenage Wasteland
2. Goin' Mobile
3. Baba O'Riley
4. Time Is Passing
5. Love Ain't for Keeping
7. Too Much Of Anything
8. Music Must Change
9. Greyhound Girl
11. Behind Blue Eyes
12. Baba O'Riley (instrumental)
13. Sister Disco
CD 2: The Lifehouse Demos continued...
1. I Don't Know Myself
2. Put The Money Down
3. Pure and Easy
4. Getting In Tune
5. Let's See Action
6. Slip Kid
8. Who Are You
9. Join Together
10. Won't Get Fooled Again
11. Song Is Over
CD 3: Lifehouse Themes & Experiments
1. Baba M1 (2nd Movement)
2. Who Are You (Gateway remix)
3. Behind Blue eyes (new version)
4. Baba M2 (2nd Movement Pt.1)
5. Pure and Easy (reworked original demo)
6. Vivaldi (M5)
7. Who Are you (Live at Shepherd's Bush Empire November 1998)
8. Hinterland Rag
9. Pure and Easy (new version)
10. Can You Help The One you Really Love (demo)
11. Won't Get Fooled Again (Live at Shepherd's Bush Empire November 1998)
CD 4: Lifehouse Arrangements & Orchestrations
1. Townshend: One Note - Prologue
2. Purcell: Fantasia Upon One Note (Quick Movement)
3. Townshend: Baba O'Riley
4. Scarlatti: Sonata K:212
5. Townshend: Tragedy
6. Corette: No. 4 Aria
7. Corette: No. 2 Giga
8. Corette: No. 6 in D Minor
9. Corette: No. 3 Adagio and Allegro
10. Townshend: Hinterland Rag
11. Scarlatti: Sonata K:213
12. Purcell: The Gordian Knot Untied
-- Rondeau minuet
-- Overture Reprise
13. Townshend: Tragedy Explained
14. Townshend: One Note - Epilogue
15. Purcell: Fantasia Upon One Note
CD 5 and 6: Lifehouse Radio Play
According to Townshend, he intends to stage a concert similar to Bob's. "It's almost as if, if you switched on all of the pop music, all the rock, all the music there is, what you would actually hear is silence," he suggests. "It's silence music is striving for. I don't know whether that sounds too arch, but I understand what I'm saying. If this concert could happen in reality, what you'd hear is something like the sea, something quite soft, gentle, fractal and natural."
"There once was a note, pure and easy, playing so free, like a breath rippling by..."
and the lifehouse booklet