Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Who—
Join Together/Baby Don't You Do It


Released 1972 on Track
The Seth Man, October 2007ce
The 1970-72 “Lifehouse”-era of post-“Tommy” and pre-“Quadrophenia” Who yielded a prolific amount of single-only tracks, but the one that stands out every time is the B-side to “Join Together” called “Baby Don’t You Do It.” It was the sole live recording of the series as well as being far and away the most abandoned, passionate and reckless of the bunch in terms of high energy Rock. ‘Letting one go,’ kicking out the jams, going for broke, fucking rockin’ out, call it whatever but remember it’s Rock’n’Roll. For here, The Who did it, baby and did it all over this six minute blast of unleashed whirlwind thrash from their collective outgrown Mod past. “Baby Don’t You Do It” and several other tempestuous highpoints and flashpoints (i.e.: “Sparks,” “Underture,” etc.) continued throughout both sides of the dividing line twixt the sixties and seventies when The Who’s tour schedule was as severe and intense as the band themselves.

“Baby Don’t You Do It” was first born in 1964 as a pleading ballad by Marvin Gaye and quickly thereafter became one of The Who’s earliest covers. Giving it seven years of rough handling in the studio and on the road, it mutated into an apocalyptic beast of heavy Rock. Their live rendition doesn’t sound remotely Tamla nor Motown: it sounds like “Live At Leeds” and the songwriting credits should’ve read Holland-Iommi-Holland instead. It’s a raging soul plea shot with a Benzedrine dart to its heart. It’s a flippin’ template for their forthcoming “The Real Me.” It’s heavy, it fucking moves and it’s got it all: Townshend’s SG guitar power chords roar through dominant HIWATT loudspeakers; pretzel-shaped bomb-bass-tic Entwistlian 4-string runs are tautly performed with the greatest of ease; Daltrey’s throat-tearing vox and the outbreak of Mooning drum frenzy that continues unabated throughout. There are several sections where Townshend’s guitar cuts out and stays that way to leave Moon’s unaccompanied ferocious riding of cymbals and rapid double bass drumming to briefly hiccough then regain their lunatic balance on its rhythmic tightrope. After ending the song with several synchronised band crescendos, Daltrey places the microphone gingerly on the stage floor and instead of clinking it sounds like an explosive-filled projectile going off. Luckily, he didn’t sneeze into it or the walls of the venue would’ve probably collapsed or at very least: rendered them structurally unsound.

“Baby Don’t You Do It” is quite possibly one of The Who’s most unknown B-sides. It hasn’t been available on CD unless if there happened to be a minor European reissue of one of the “Rarities” compilations. Dammit: it even missed the clarion call for the “Thirty Years of Maximum R&B” box set while the version on the over-amended CD version of “Odds & Sods” contains an earlier studio version and as for the double expanded “Who’s Next”? There’s a version of it, but it’s yet another studio take -- with Leslie West on lead guitar, no less. Luckily, second-hand copies of this single have always been relatively available and trade for about the price of a new CD and it’s so worth it so jump on it NOW -- before it gets remixed like the rest of their back catalogue has and all the dirt gets spot cleaned into far less demanding digi-perfection (Crackling Noises Rule OK -- DO NOT CORRECT.)

Speaking of the digital domain, all the other non-LP sides from the first four years of the 1970’s (including this here A-side, “Join Together”) are available all over the place on CD: “The Seeker,” “Here For More,” “Heaven And Hell,” “I Don’t Even Know Myself,” “Let's See Action,” “When I Was A Boy,” “Relay,” “Waspman,” and “Water.” ALL of them except for...yup, you got it: “Baby Don’t You Do It.” Since it’s a 45 B-side, it would logically wind up either on a compilation or as a bonus track tacked on to “Who’s Next” along with lots of the above-named tracks. So why is it missing? Is it because it was such a storming, sweaty and sloppy set-ending afterburner that it would make all tracks fore and aft seem like CSN&Y in comparison? I dunno, but I love it not because it represents everything The Who were about as they operated on a far wider scale than just putting the boot in. But I love it because it’s everything they were about that I always loved: an undiluted channelling of aggression, passion and no-bullshit energy. Period.

I wasn’t alone in this sentiment except (weirdly enough) in situations surrounded by Who fans. I first heard the track on a New York City radio station show in 1985 hosted by Bill Wyman. He did an admirable job in hitting a lot of his own fave raves, which turned out to be obscuroes like “Dogs Part 2” and so on. But when the first few power chords of the B-side of “Join Together” called “Baby Don’t You Do It” rippled out from across the airwaves, it flattened me. It sounded like a “Live At Leeds” outtake. THIS was a killer, yet none of my half-assed Mod revival pals who’d seen the “Quadrophenia” movie umpteen times who wore green parkas had any clue about it. They didn’t want to either, for these were the new mod cons who’d stifle a yawn and get up to leave with the onset of the live ‘69 “Young Man Blues” during late night videotape viewings of “Kids Are Alright.” “Hey, this is the best part!” I’d exclaim to no acknowledgement and the place would soon empty out to the front door for extended goodbyes and leaving yours truly alone to suck it all in within the confines of a darkened room littered with empty beer cans and only the flickering red and white from the images of Townshend’s SG, the highlights of Daltrey’s shaggy mane and Moon’s cymbals the only light. What gives: They were apparently big fans of The Who and they all had “Live At Leeds.” Only thing was that upon close inspection the discs within were always in pristine shape with all signs of wear upon the front cover (and THAT was only from repeated removal and reinsertion of the adjacent copy of “Who’s Next” on and off the shelf when they should’ve just filed it next to “White Light/White Heat” for all the walks around the block -- side one AND two -- their copies of THAT sick puppy got when it was just glue factory compost to their “Face Dances”-era sensibilities.)

While listening to this song, look at the Spanish picture sleeve of the single or Jeff Stein’s Who photo book for visuals of Townshend going airborne, windmilling his heart out and casting off all inhibitions. Not that the music needs any help, but you probably will after repeated plays of this gale force classic. Just try not to break anything, as I sometimes do when jolted into a higher level of sensation by The Who and therefore put the boot in everywhere to everything. Sticking your fork in the socket was never half as entertaining or painless as this, and probably a few volts short.

This and three other tracks were recorded live at the same gig in San Francisco at the Civic Auditorium on December 13, 1971. The other trio of “My Wife,” “Bargain” and “Goin’ Down” have turned up on various Who compilations throughout the years and instead of being powerful fragments from a late night sortie upon the heads and hearts of teenage wasteland USA, perhaps it’s time to release the whole gig, master it loud as fuck and we’ll all be happy as clams...before we get much older.