Released: February 27, 2000
Peak: -- US, -- UK, -- CN, -- AU
Sales (in millions): --
Genre: classic rock
Tracks (Disc 1 of Lifehouse Chronicles):
Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.
Tracks (Disc 2 of Lifehouse Chronicles):
All songs written by Pete Townshend. Times indicate length of the demos on Lifehouse Chronicles, but the dates and chart data refer to the original recordings by the Who. Those songs marked with an asterisk (*) were listed in Lifehouse Chronicles as being part of the intended 1971 version of the album. The raised, two-letter codes indicate the first appearances of the songs on releases by the Who.
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4.257 out of 5.00 (average of 7 ratings)
Quotable: “The most rewarding failure in rock history” – Tom Keogh, Amazon.com
About the Album:
“Undoubtedly the most rewarding failure in rock history,” AZ Lifehouse was originally the intended follow-up to the Who’s 1969 rock opera Tommy. The science fiction rock opera was inspired by Pete Townshend’s experiences while touring in support of Tommy. Townshed shared, “I’ve seen moments in Who gigs where the vibrations were becoming so pure that I thought the whole world was just going to stop, the whole thing was becoming so unified.” RO
The story is set in 21st century Britain. Pollution has become so bad that most people never go outdoors in their entire lifetimes. RO They can only experience “virtual reality…via their attachment to a system known as ‘The Grid,’ a concept which many think was predicative of the Internet.” RS These artificial experiences were supposed to be superior than what people could experience in the real world, but were “devoid…of spiritual fulfillment.” LC A guru known as “The Hacker” offers followers a chance to be liberated at a rock ‘n’ roll concert at a theater known as the Lifehouse. “There, the band’s ability to communicate with the audience replaces the role of the Grid and constitutes a powerful spiritual involvement with the world.” RS
Lifehouse was intended to “explore the idea that music is the fundamental basis of all life – that every human being on Earth has a unique musical melody that ‘describes’ them.” LC The idea was rooted in the teachings of Meher Baba, Townshend’s spiritual mentor. LC It was also linked to philosopher Inayat Khan, a Sufi musician who wrote about the connection of vibration and sound to the human spirit. RO Townshed ended up thinking he shouldn’t just write a story to simulate it, but actually gather personal profiles of every concert-goer and use that data to create a “universal chord.” RO
His “unwieldy dream of bringing together new music and controlled theatrical space with audience interaction sadly burst” AZ as Townshend became obsessed with, as he said, “trying to make a fantasy a reality” RO and it led to him having a nervous breakdown.
The rest of the Who didn’t grasp what he was trying to do and abandoned the project. However, many of the songs surfaced on future projects by the Who, most notably on the 1971 album Who’s Next. Other songs emerged on future singles and albums by the Who and Pete Townshend. Themes from the project were revisted on the 1978 album Who Are You and Townshend’s 1993 album Psychoderelict. RO
The project saw light again in 1998 when BBC Radio approached Townshend with the idea of developing a radio play based on Lifehouse. LC The play was transmitted on BBC Radio 3 on December 5, 1999. LC They were released as part of the Lifehouse Chronicles box set in 2000. That six-CD set also included his original demo recordings over two discs, a disc of alternate recordings, and another of the orchestral recordings used for in the BBC radio plays. LC
Townshend performed Lifehouse in concert with the London Chamber Orchestra at Sadler’s Wells in London on February 25 and 26, 2000. Rolling Stone reviewer Jenny Eliscu said “Townshend offered a brilliant set, full of emotion and resounding proof that the man can still play the fuck out of his guitar.” RS
It was released on the DVD Music from Lifehouse. The results are “simultaneously contemplative and hard-charging” AZ as Townshend refined “familiar warhorses…into works of refreshed beauty.” AZ He also has “a chance to shine on such lesser-known titles as Greyhound Girl. Often magical and surprisingly fun, this is a keeper for Townshend fanatics.” AZ
Notes: A single CD version, Lifehouse Elements, was released which included “One Note (Prologue),” “Baba O’Riley” (performed by the London Chamber Orchestra), “Pure and Easy,” “New Song,” “Getting in Tune,” “Behind Blue Eyes” (new version), “Let’s See Action,” “Who Are You” (Gateway remix), “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Baba M1,” and “The Song Is Over.”
Resources and Related Links:
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First posted 8/11/2021; updated 8/13/2021.