Here is one of my all-time favorite performances: The Who doing “A Quick One (While He’s Away)” in 1968 as part of The Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus, uploaded in HD quality last month to their official YouTube account:
From Aquarium Drunkard:
Though no official story ever seems to have been given, rock legend has it that the above video is what kept Jagger from handing the tapes over to the BBC. While the Stones had been off the road and were out of practice, the Who were white hot, turning in a showstopping version of “A Quick One While He’s Away.” The song was their first attempt at rock opera, a seven-and-a-half minute medley whose “Dang!/Dang!/Dang!” bridge went on to score Max Fischer and Herman Blume’s acts of romantic terrorism in Rushmore. Here the group tear through the song’s six parts, Keith Moon decorating his bashing with stick-twirls and Pete Townshend whipping furious windmills as the song pushes its way downhill. Keith Richards, decked out in top-hat and eyepatch, gleefully invites us to “Dig the Who,” and it doesn’t take long to see that his bandmates needn’t have worried so much about their inability to top their openers: Very little has ever been better than this.
I dig the entirety of Rock And Roll Circus. I love the ramshackle quality of the Stones performances: the “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” is good and nasty (with the slightly sinister “and now…” intro from John Lennon) and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is nice and stripped-down.
But back to The Who: Maybe it’s the season, but what gives me the goosebumps at the end of “A Quick One” is the ending: “You are forgiven.” Over and over and over. “You are forgiven.” (At the end of this performance Pete Townshend yells, “You’re all forgiven!” In the Live at Leeds performance, it’s “We’re all forgiven!” which I like even more.)
I’m now reminded of the ending of one of my favorite movies, Amadeus: “Mediocrities everywhere… I absolve you.”