The Who's catalog has always been poorly represented on CD; MCA's reissues of the band's first few albums are often maligned by fans for their poor sound quality, pedestrian booklets and generic-looking packaging. The CD versions of The Who Sings My Generation, Happy Jack, The Who Sell Out and Magic Bus are lackluster at best. As an alternative, consumers have often sought out the English imports but, as with the early Beatles albums, the track lineups and album titles were often different, only adding to the mess.
Now, MCA is doing something about it. Continuing a trend that has seen the CD catalogs of artists like David Bowie, Aerosmith, Jimi Hendrix and Elvis Costello completely overhauled, the Who's early catalog will finally be upgraded to bring it in line with present-day quality standards. (The group's catalog from 1969's Tommy to the present is in much better shape.)
According to MCA executive Randy Miller, the label has already begun deleting some of the early CDs to prepare retailers for the new product. Most of the label's many Who compilations are also being phased out, simplifying the band's catalog. The plan is to have available in America one greatest-hits package, one career overview box set (Thirty Years of Maximum R&B, reviewed in this issue) and a high-quality CD version of each of the Who's individual albums.
"This is probably about a two-year process, but we'll start rolling them out as early as this fall," Miller says of the upgraded CDs. "Our plans are to completely clean up the catalog using original artwork, more extensive liner notes and remastered sound to really restore the catalog to the way that it should be presented to the public."
Although they're not as problematic, the Who's albums from the '70s might receive some sweetening as well. Most likely to occur is an expanded version of Live at Leeds, which was originally limited to about 40 minutes by the vinyl format; that length could be nearly doubled and still fit on one CD. The venerable Who's Next may be embellished to include demos and other songs that Pete Townshend wrote for the aborted Lifehouse project. "We've actually talked about an expanded version of Quadrophenia, if Pete is inclined to do that," Miller adds, but he cautions that these projects are still only in the discussion stage.
This story is from the September 8th, 1994 issue of Rolling Stone.