I Was There When…The Who Crashed Tanglewood in Lenox, MA (July 7, 1970)

With “I Was There When…,” veteran music journalist Doug Collette reflects on his experiences in the glory days of live rock music. With each column, he takes us back to a specific concert he attended way back when, spotlighting bands like The Who, Pink Floyd, and The Allman Brothers Band, among many others.

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The Who opened their 1970 summer tour in support of Tommy at New York’s famed Metropolitan Opera House with a two-night run, shows erroneously billed as the final performances of the “rock opera.” But when the quartet headlined a bill with It’s A Beautiful Day and Jethro Tull for one of the late Bill Graham’s “The Fillmore at Tanglewood” concerts, it was in fact the final performance of the ambitious piece in America with the original Lineup of this iconic band.

The Who played with equal measures of power and precision here within the lush greenery of the Berkshire Mountains. The almost (but not quite) out of control stage antics (including water fights amongst the band members during the early part of the show), images rendered indelible by the sound of them playing their famous piece flush with a sense of accomplishment and pride.

After the usual clutch of introductory numbers such as Mose Allison’s “Young Man Blues,” guitarist Pete Townshend, in unusually self-effacing and serious manner, stepped to his mike to introduce the Deaf Dumb and Blind Boy’s story. With Keith Moon a thundering whirling dervish, Roger Daltrey the definition of leonine grace when he wasn’t using his mike as a lasso, Townshend in one high-flying leap and guitar windmill after another, and the stoic ballast of bassist John Entwistle (he of the alternately machine gunned bass notes and swooping runs that served to ground his bandmates), the foursome moved with a practiced passion through their slightly abridged version of Tommy.

A glorious nonchalance permeated their playing, not surprising given it was close to year since their galvanizing appearance at the Woodstock Festival in August 1969. Their casual confidence only emphasized the natural theatrics of The Who: They needed few enhancements besides conventional stage lighting to truly dramatize their kinetic stage presence, particularly at such close quarters within the comparatively small open-air shed at the summer home of the Boston Symphony. At this point in their career, and for at least the next year, The Who defined thrilling in the context of a rock and roll show every time they took the stage.


01. Heaven & Hell
02. I Can’t Explain
03. Water
04. I Don’t Even Know Myself
05. Young Man Blues
06. Overture/It’s A Boy
07. 1921
08. Amazing Journey
09. Sparks
10. Eyesight To The Blind
11. Acid Queen
12. Pinball Wizard
13. Do You Think It’s
Alright/Fiddle About
14. Tommy Can You Hear Me?
15. There’s A Doctor/Go To The Mirror
16. Smash The Mirror
17. Miracle Cure/I’m Free
18. Tommy’s Holiday Camp
19. We’re Not Going To Take It
20. See Me, Feel Me
21. My Generation

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17 Responses

  1. I was looking for information on It’s A Beautiful Day when I can across your post.

    July 7th, 1970. I was under the shed at Tanglewood – center 3rd section 80 something rows back.

    I was 17. And I fell in love with Patty Santos that day. From what I could see through the haze, she had on a velvet purple dress that was so short that all I remember seeing were her legs. That, her long hair, and a neck band. Fantastic set.

    Then Jethro Tull came out and brought the house down. They rocked the shed start to finish. They were freakin’ incredible. And they drained all the emotion out of the audience.

    So much so that when the Who finally came on and played their first few numbers, the crowd was listless. Townshend was so pissed (I ‘m guessing) that the warm up band received greater audience “love”, that he announced something to the effect that “We were never going to play Tommy again, but we are going to do it one last time for you. And then they did the rock opera, and killed the crowd.

    What a night. Best concert I ever saw – and i saw a lot of them.

    Do you remember it that way?

    1. Hi Alex, I enjoyed your comment. I was in the womb when this concert took place, 3 months from being born. I’ve loved The Who since I was in high school, and saw them in concert in the late 80’s. But when I happened upon this concert on YouTube recently, I was totally blown away. If I ever need to point to a perfect example of what great rock n roll is, this is it. As electrifying as it is online…I can only imagine what it must have been like to witness it in person. I’d love to hear more about the experience, if you think of anything else. Hope you’re doing well. Thanks.

    2. I was also at this concert and 19 at the time. I especially loved Tull and It’s A Beautiful Day, and they did not disappoint. Miss those times and the music!

    3. I remember just getting out o Vietnam and going to Tanglewood to see Janis Joplin sometime in late July or August. She was fabulous and we watched her up close. That was in 1970. She sang on her back on the stage floor. I also remember songs from It’s A Beautiful Day..White Bird,Girl with no eyes,had a reel to reel tape album. You can still buy the music on line. Good Stuff. Also tripped out on the Doors album Rider’s on the storm.

  2. Wow what a show. I was there with a few of my Cranwell buddies (prep school right down the street off of route 7) & it was magical. Was more of a Tull fan than Who fan but this was the show that made me a life long Who lover. Was familiar with White Bird but never knew much about the group itself, but Its a Beautiful Day rocked it. I too was 17. Both of my friends are gone now. But seeing this concert posted on the web was truly amazing….transporting me back some 45 years to a time when possibilities were endless and our whole lives were ahead of us. Tommy can you hear me?

  3. i was 18 at the time and had been to a lot of concerts, even Woodstock. this show at Tanglewood was one of the best i have ever been to.

  4. i was there also. the previous year we saw the who and jefferson airplane at tanglewood on the same bill, but these three bands put on the greatest rock music event i’d seen up to that time. only pink floyd tampa stadium 1973, and acdc ’91 and ’96 at the trop in st.pete, fl exceeded (if they did) that july concert at tanglewood. no band ever came close to these three shows and i’ve seen many many of the 60’s/70’s rock bands. ah, if only north berkshire county was as wealthy as south berkshire county.

  5. That ‘Water’ was amazing. It showed everything great about the band. Great vocals and Pete able to go off because he has John and Keith behind him. The great emotion Pete shows through his playing is amazing.

  6. I’m in It’s A Beautiful Day. I play violin, compose, vocalist along side Patti Santos, Loved playing Tanglewood Festival I will always remember all the wonderful shows I did the The Who, Jethro Tull, Janis, & all the hundreds of shows at the Fillmores

  7. remember sitting on the lawn and watching it on the video screen which was the first i’d ever seen one used at a concert. still have my copy of the program

  8. I was their with my summer camp group from Camp Norwich. We loaded into the back of a dump truck. I was 14 and never heard of The Who. Sill remember Tommy and was captivated by the lyrics. Thanks fir posting

  9. My first concert ever (followed by many, many, many more!). I was 13, at summer camp, and already feeling like I had missed the biggest thing ever the summer before, up at Max Yasgur’s Farm! The Who, Jethro Tull and It’s a Beautiful Day were all incredible and now, 50 years later as I hunker at home for who knows how long, I lam feasting on the memories of that summer day at Tanglewood and all of the days of live music that followed. I long for more live music and hope it’ll be before slipping my earthly bonds!

  10. Loved seeing all these comments….. This was my first ever real concert after graduating high school. Got right up front of the stage when Janis came out and stayed there for the Who!! What a show. I still have the poster framed on my wall. Tickets were 6 bucks! They had to helicopter in the Who. They closed the roads, Lenox Ma. was a small town of 6000 people. After that, they cancelled all the rock shows at Tanglewood,, didn’t start up again for 2 years!

  11. I was there in 1970, on the lawn with great, long time friends and … My girl friend. Fine day for music and we had a great time, I was 16. The people we hung with got to a lot of shows. It was that unique time and that unique time in our lives. We were lucky to be in the mix of all that.

    Saw Sandana to, not sure – 69 or 70. It was amazing. We were on the lawn.

  12. I was there in 1970, on the lawn with great, long time friends and … My girl friend. Fine day for music and we had a great time, I was 16. The people we hung with got to a lot of shows. It was that unique time and that unique time in our lives. We were lucky to be in the mix of all that.

    Saw Sandana too, not sure – 69 or 70. It was amazing. We were on the lawn.

  13. Saw it in the front row at age 14, we lived next door. Video doesn’t lie after so long, it WAS a kick-ass legendary show just like I remembered it as a kid.

  14. My memory is of the feedback, Roadies were jumping around to fix it. Someone went behind a big amp. Pete was getting frustrated. Went over and kicked the AMP. KNOCKED THE GUY OUT AND THAT WAS THE END OF THE SHOW.

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