My Top 1000 Songs #211: Naked Eye

Arguably Exhibit One for the proposition that The Who's leftovers were better than most bands' greatest hits. "Naked Eye" was recorded by the band in 1970 for an aborted LP (apparently with the planned title 6 Ft. Wide Garage, 7 Ft. Wide Car); the band then moved on to the Lifehouse concept album, itself ultimately aborted, with many of the tracks salvaged for 1971's Who's Next. A re-recorded "Naked Eye" (along with the other Garage recordings) finally saw official release on 1974's fantastic outtakes and b-sides collection Odds & Sods; that's where I first heard it, when I checked the vinyl out of the local public library early in my pre-teen journey through the Who's back catalog. 

And I loved so much of the music on that compilation--I refused to accept it was just a collection of throwaways!--but this song in particular grabbed me. There's a moody, finger-picked chord progression in the verse that's always moved me, something Townshend had been vamping on for a few years (you can hear it deep in the extended "My Generation" jam on Live At Leeds). The words are cryptic yet intimate, one verse (with Daltrey singing) offering cosmic psychedelia ("Take a little dope and walk out in the air, the stars are all connected to the brain"), the next (sung by Townshend) pivoting to break-up song territory ("You sign your own name, and I sign mine; they're both the same, but we still get separate rooms").

And in between is that barreling riff, the turning point from the chiming 60s art-pop of Sell Out and Tommy into the hard-rocking 70s albums like Who's Next and Quadrophenia. It's one of those instantly-familiar monster riffs you hear and wonder why you'd never thought of it before; it's brief and leaves you wanting more. But the song veers into some expansive jamming instead (an approximation of that Leeds jam, with Pete in particular really shining)--again, way too short. I kinda wish there were a 15-minute version lying around the vault somewhere for the next outtakes collection.

While not quite the concert staple as the band's big singles, they've dusted it off now and then over the years. This is a particularly fantastic version from 1982:
And still kicking, a few months ago:
Anyway, this post gave me an excuse to put together a Spotify playlist for my imaginary Who collection, Join Together With The Band, compiling non-album tracks recorded 1970-1974 (a lot of the Lifehouse tracks, many of which were found on Sods, as well as various other leftovers):