Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Who: The Relay

A few years ago when I began this blog, a friend of mine with whom I attended all 12 grades of public school asked me a very personal question, “Who is your favorite band of all time?” To which I replied, “You got that right; The Who is probably my overall favorite band of all time.” Today’s Thirty Something Thursday selection comes from the tail end of 1972: The Who’s “The Relay.”

I remember perusing the singles at Gimbles in the Eastland Shopping Center and spotting “The Relay” by The Who. Like its predecessor “Join Together,” “The Relay” and its unusual flipside “Waspman” were single only releases. Realizing that if I didn’t buy this single, I might be missing out on some Who songs that would be impossible to find once the singles went out of print. I laid down my 89¢ and took these two new songs home.

“The Relay” features three guitars by Pete Townshend. The first one you hear is an electric guitar in the left channel that is being run through a sample and hold voltage control filter of an ARP 2600 synthesizer. This processed guitar gives an authentic feel of a relay switch and, in my opinion, makes the song. In the right channel, Townshend plays acoustic rhythm guitar and an electric that is used for accompaniment and lead.

Piano is also begins in the right channel but pans to the left. As typical, the drums, bass, and lead vocals are in the center. Additionally, the backup vocals are double tracked in both channels. The Who and Glyn Johns did an excellent job in producing this record.

“The Relay” was titled as such in the USA, but not so in the UK where the song was simply “Relay.”

At the time I purchased “The Relay,” I assumed that it was the first Track/Decca release for The Who; however, later runs of “Join Together” had also been issued on Track/Decca as well. My version of that single was from the first run of pressings on the Decca label.

Although previous Track releases by other artists had been issued by Atlantic (The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Thunderclap Newman), these would be the only two singles issued on Track/Decca. Solo albums by Pete Townshend (“Who Came First”) and John Entwistle (“Whistle Rhymes”) were also released on the Track/Decca label and were that label configuration’s only two 12-inch releases.

By the end of 1972, the Music Corporation of America merged all of its labels into MCA Records. Further releases on Track by The Who (corporately and independently) were issued on Track/MCA. While it only made it to #39, it was a number one record in my heart.

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