I just joined the official Who fan club, which costs $50/year in order to get a T-shirt, live CD and (most importantly) advance tickets to their upcoming VH1 Rock honors show. As a member, you are granted access to special interviews/forums with all sorts of nice info. I stumbled across an interview with Pete Townshend here:
You may need to be a member to see this; I'm not sure. Regardless, here is the very sad excerpt that seems to definitively indicate that we will not be seeing at least half of Who's Next. Since we have Won't Get Fooled Again, I'm guessing that means Side 1, which means no Baba, no Bargain. At least Behind Blue Eyes is probably safe... Here it is:
"johnmcdonald: Back in 2004 Tommy was remixed for the 5.1 DVD-Audio format. At the
time, rumours suggested that you were working on 5.1 mixes for the other albums, such as
Who’s Next and Quadrophenia. Are these remixes ever likely to be released?
PETE: That’s right. I gave up on Quadrophenia as I decided I really want to re-record a
director’s cut of it (the way Jean Michel Jarre has just done with Oxygene). One day I
will do this if I get time. Who’s Next, it turns out, is no longer a complete set of masters.
An entire side has been stolen from our vaults at some point. These things happen.
Someone, somewhere, has it in a cupboard and is waiting for us to die? What then?"
I hate to break the bad news, but there it is...
I just picked up the 1999 DVD of the Classic Albums series for Who's Next, and there were some very interesting tidbits that both reinforce the Townshend interview, as well as offer a ray of hope for at least one song from side one of Who's Next.
Basically the DVD does its best to discuss the ideas, techniques and history of the album and is supplemented with interviews from the three (at the time) surviving members of the band. Of particular interest, they sat down with the original producer/recording engineer for a tour of selected tracks from the album at a multi-track mixing board. I almost jumped out of my chair with joy when he would isolate various tracks to highlight a particular drum fill or bass part, as it meant that, at least in 1999, isolated mutli-track masters existed for each of the songs (except for one, but I'll get to that in a moment). The songs present at the mixing board were:
Behind Blue Eyes (Side 2)
Won't Get Fooled Again (Side 2)
Going Mobile (Side 2)
Baba O'Reilly (Side 1)
My Wife (Side 1)
First off, I can very clearly say that Behind Blue Eyes and Going Mobile had isolated tracks, with Going Mobile even including a relatively blistering guitar solo by Pete Townshend that didn't make it into the final mix.
The real treat here, though, was the fact that My Wife, from side one of the album clearly had isolated vocals, drums and horns, which would imply to me that hopefully the bass and guitar are isolated as well. We may actually be getting this one.
For Baba O'Reilly, the bag was definitely mixed. As the song started playing, the engineer isolated the synth loop from the piano (so that you could hear the piano, but not the synth) and then said that he recorded the piano and band playing live for the track. When the bass entered, he started talking about it and the sound of the recorded song faded away to John Entwistle playing the bass line live (in a studio for the documentary). The interesting thing here was that it sounded for a moment like I could hear an isolated vocal track as everything faded away to Entwistle's playing. Obviously, though, he couldn't just isolate the bass in the mix, hence the necessity to show Entwistle playing the part. After that, he started talking about Pete's guitar part, and it cut to live concert footage of the iconic crashing power chords, once again, presumably because they couldn't be isolated at the mixing board. Finally, at the end of the song, they cut to the violinist who originally played on the track playing the outro live in studio.
With every other song, they illustrated points about the performances of individual instruments by isolating them at the sound board, but Baba O'Reilly appeared to have been mixed down to just two tracks: one for the synth loop, and one for everything else.
One might ask if this DVD was produced before or after the theft of one side of the album, but I would argue that the choice of songs and especially the presentation of Baba O'Reilly makes a very strong case that the missing side is indeed side one and that it was missing when the documentary was filmed.
One other significant note: Every song from side two of the album except for Getting in Tune was demonstrated to have isolated tracks at the soundboard. Since My Wife (from side one) was demonstrated to have isolated tracks, it is entirely conceivable that the split wasn't exactly even between the two sides. If I had to pick one track from side two that might not show up, it would definitely be Getting in Tune, as now all of the other tracks from that side have been demonstrated to be workable for RB.