Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Tue 5 Jul 11 09:32
In what respect did you find "Quadrophenia" a follow on to "Who's Next"? In its operatic ambition and rather convoluted story, the two works shared similar traits. They both reflected some of his spiritual concerns and admiration of Meher Baba, perhaps more subtly in "Quadrophenia." The actual subject matter and production/musical tone, however, seem fairly different to me. In "Who's Next," Townshend was taking on a lot of almost science-fiction like ideas speculating on the future of our environment, technology, communication, and government, as well as the possibility of using music to transform human experience. In "Quadrophenia," he was very much addressing his and his audience's own (fairly recent) past. As Ed Ward noted earlier, "Quadrophenia" had a rather dense and less radio-ready production than "Who's Next," which was state-of-the-art (for 1971) hi-tech hard rock. I think the photo booklet and short story in the inner gatefold of "Quadrophenia" clarify the album's plot in a way that wouldn't be as apparent from the music itself (even with printed lyrics, which were included in the booklet). Maybe Townshend learned a little lesson from how hard it had been to explain "Lifehouse" to the band and many others, and wanted to make sure his concept was explicated to at least some extent in the packaging.
David Julian Gray (djg) Tue 5 Jul 11 10:18
I find it musically a logical progression from Who's Next - Regarding the accompanying booklet - I have the great advantage of your book and this discussion to guide me through the music of quadraphenia - but the disadvantage of not haveing the original packaging ... (just the music from various compilations - and not all of it either ... have to see what to do about that ...
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Tue 5 Jul 11 10:55
David, you should probably get a CD version of "Quadrophenia" to start with as it's easily available and won't have the wear of a used vinyl copy of the double LP. But for both you and other readers, I'd suggest that if you really like the album and get into it, you track down a cheap used vinyl double album copy for the packaging alone. The inner booklet/gatefold really benefits from being at the 12X12 size, rather than the relatively puny size of CD artwork. There is one way, upon further reflection, that I find "Quadrophenia" a logical progression from "Who's Next." That's in the use of synthesizer, which really flowers on "Quadrophenia." Though synthesizer is a big part of "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" on "Who's Next," it's used relatively sparingly elsewhere. But on "Quadrophenia," Townshend really went to town on the instrument, and it's a very big part of the sound. Yet purposefully so -- I don't think there's any other rock album on which the synthesizer is so prominently that it's used so melodically, symphonically, and tastefully.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Tue 5 Jul 11 10:58
Here seems to be an appropriate place to note some news that broke too late (just about a month ago) to cover in the book. Townshend is working on a deluxe box set of "Quadrophenia." Details at http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/pete-townshend-announces-quadrophenia-b ox-set-20110602, highlighted by this quote from a Townshend blog on June 1: "I am shut away in my home studio at the moment working to restore the demos of Quadrophenia. Bob Pridden is doing surround-sound mixes of selected tracks. Jon Astley is remastering the original vinyl mix, and evaluating his own 1996 remix (the one where you can properly hear Roger's astonishing vocals). I am sitting in a pile of notes, desk diaries, photos (I took a lot of my own between 1971-1973 when Quadrophenia emerged), original lyrics and writing liner notes. I am really enjoying this work. Bob's mixes are mind-blowing. My demos are among the best I've ever done, and include some real quirky tracks that didn't make it onto the final album. I still find studio work strange I have to have the speakers very low in volume, not what I'm used to. This package, due in October if all goes well, is another Live at Leeds and Hull or even another Lifehouse Chronicles in the making. You are going to love it. I hope so, because I am missing this summer sunshine to get it completed on time. In my recent interview with my friend Simon Garfield for INTELLIGENT LIFE, I professed some difficulty in my interaction with fans as I grow older. What is so wonderful about working on Quadrophenia is that back in 1970, all the way through to the recording in 1973, the primary challenge for me was to tell the story of the Who's fans and at the same time address the wayward creative needs of the band as individuals and artists. The Who, and Jimmy as a kind of model for one or all of our fans, really had developed a powerful symbiosis that deserved a project like Quadrophenia both to honour the mechanism and address why it started to fail almost a soon as it had begun. So I am enjoying working with the music, but I'm enjoying writing about it too."
Kevin Wheeler (krome) Tue 5 Jul 11 11:12
The pictures from the original LP. Even one with the famous(more by Pink Floyd) Battersea power station. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yI3SyaqZwpE
Kevin Wheeler (krome) Tue 5 Jul 11 11:20
And here is the opening of the film. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzLky4U-xCg&NR=1
Kevin Wheeler (krome) Tue 5 Jul 11 11:23
And here seems to be a tolerably complete package for viewing: http://www.quadrophenia.net/album/album.html
David Julian Gray (djg) Wed 6 Jul 11 07:52
Thank you, Kevin - that's a great resource ... and thank you Richie for the book, the report of the forthcoming reissue (sounds like the one to wait for) and this discussion so-far .
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Wed 6 Jul 11 10:08
Since we're almost at the end of the time for this discussion, I hope it's okay to note some of the most interesting things I found out about "Quadrophenia" that haven't yet come up in the chat. I asked a couple of Townshend's good longtime friends about the possible inspirations for the main character of "Quadrophenia." One of them was Irish Jack Lyons, who was perhaps their most fanatical fan from the time they were just a club band in the Shepherd's Bush neighborhood of London. Lyons told me "Pete took my character and placed it in the embodiment of Jimmy...as Pete said in the Quadrophenia song 'I'm One,' Jimmy was really no more than one in the crowd. That was very much how I was as a mod, besides being a personal friend of Pete Townshend." Townshend himself told Hit Parader in 1974 that one guy who I used to think about a lot when I was writing Quadrophenia, [was] a friend of mine who is a very sort of uneducated guy ... hes Irish actually, but probably because he was Irish was always sort of lyrical and could always explain himself incredibly well." Five years later, he described Irish Jack New Musical Express as one of the original mods who Id left behind and who, Id discovered, was in pretty bad shape, and so I sat down and wrote about three days in his life." Richard Barnes, a close friend of Townshend's since they were both in art school in the early 1960s, thought "Quadrophenia" might have been "about someone like Pete Meaden, who was their manager (in 1964) when they were The High Numbers, who was a top mod. Meaden was really obsessed and spouting about it...[he] was flawed, and toward the end of his life [which ended in July 1978], he had mental problems." Meaden himself told writer Steve Turner in 1975, "I identified with ["Quadrophenia"] entirely. ... Hes talking about a mod, well, I am a mod, the mod who made mods out of The Who. Turner told New Musical Express in 1979: He had listened to [Quadrophenia] and thought: I am Jimmy. Townshends writing about me!'" Another candiate is Barry Prior, a 17-year-old trainee accountant who in May 1964 somehow fell to his death off a cliff near Brighton, where much of the action in "Quadrophenia" (including the scene where "Jimmy" is stranded in the ocean with his life flashing before his eyes) takes place. Quadrophenia film director Franc Roddam says in the DVD commentary, "Some mod drove off there and killed himself. That moved Pete Townshend enough to come up with the original concept." Jack Lyons, however, told me "I certainly dont recall ever talking to Pete about Barry Prior. It was a very sad death but nobody knows for sure what really happened to him. It may not have been suicide."
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Wed 6 Jul 11 10:11
There's also the possibility that Jimmy is partially modeled on Townshend himself. In his intro to the song "I'm One" at the Spectrum in Philadelphia on December 4, 1973 (you can hear much of the concert online at the Wolfgang's Vault site), he said, "Its all about the way I felt. When I was a nipper I always used to feel that the guitar was all I had. ... I wasnt tough enough to be a member of the gang, not good looking enough to be in with the birds, not clever enough to make it at school, not good enough with the feet to make a good football player. I was a fucking loser. I think everybody feels that way at some point. And somehow being a mod even though I was too old to be a mod really I wrote this song with that in mind. Jimmy, the hero of the story, is kind of thinking he hasnt got much going for himself but at least hes one." But he also said Jimmy wasn't a front for Pete Townshend. "I identify very strongly with Jimmy in several ways, but certainly not all," he told Cameron Crowe in Penthouse in 1974. "Hes a workshop figure. An invention. And while he may seem a lot more real than Tommy, he isnt. Tommy was set in fantasy, but there was something very real about its structure. Jimmy, on the surface, looks like a simple kid with straightforward hang-ups, but hes far more surrealistic. I dont fully identify with Jimmys early experiences ... his romanticism, his neurosis, his craziness. I never went through a tormented childhood." He was more emphatic on the In the Studio radio special about "Quadrophenia." Jimmy is very much the composite of a bunch of kids that I know by name, that I grew up with in my neighborhood, he said. That I know, and [are] not me, and are not like me. I am not like Jimmy in the story of 'Quadrophenia.' I am very clear about my role here as a writer, as someone that has observed the rite of passage that a group of young people went through." My own stance is that ITownshend might not have been writing about any mod in particular, or himself, but about all of them and everyone. As he emphasized in his introduction to 'Im One' in Philadelphia, "I think everyone feels that way at some point." And as he said when he outlined his idea in Sounds back in the summer of 1972, When you write about somebody that has EVERYTHING happening to them you somehow realize how everything does affect everybody. So "Quadrophenia"'s not just the story of Jimmy, The Who, and the mods. I think it endures as a classic statement of youthful quest for identity because its about all of us.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Wed 6 Jul 11 10:51
It was also interesting to trace how Townshend's plans for "Quadrophenia" evolved and changed over time. One idea was to use the album to actually document the Who's history, charting their first decade in song. A related one was to record the music in the styles they had used in their earlier work, especially mid-'60s mod rock. Ultimately, of course, the sound was very much 1973 Who with a lot of hard rock and progressive rock influences (especially in the synthesizer), and not a conscious re-creation of the mid-'60s mod rock with which the Who had established themselves. Irish Jack Lyons told me he felt "the album would have been a disaster if any other music idiom, say like covers or typical 60s music, had been used. People forget that the whole point of 'Quadrophenia,' written in 71 and 72, is that its a look back, a retrospective. And to arrive at where you were at, you need a vehicle. Pete Townshends choice of music to journey in that vehicle was spectacular." Also, while "Quadrophenia" is the only Who album on which Townshend wrote every song, "originally, it was a very ambitious cooperative project," he told Modern Hi-Fi & Stereo Guide. "I wanted everybody in the group to write their own songs and stuff. Everybody was supposed to engineer their own image, as it were...As always, the band kind of looked at me like I was crazy and walked away. Ive explained it to a lot of people and everybody seems to be able to understand it but them." He also briefly considered having just three sides of the four-sided double LP devoted to "Quadrophenia," with the fourth side consisting of unrelated songs that they had recorded in spring 1972. Thankfully, that idea was abandoned. He made so much of "Quadrophenia" being about four different sides of a personality, represented by four different personalities in the Who, that it would have been very odd indeed to have such a "fourcentric" album cover only three album sides.
Kevin Wheeler (krome) Wed 6 Jul 11 11:02
I am almost finished reading and may have a few more things to add before the discussion moves on, but I want to thank Richie for the book. I really appreciate a serious discussion of Quadrophenia. As I said at the beginning, I knew a lot of people who never owned the record but saw the movie. In particular, I recall a number of friends in Austin who openly disregarded Quadrophenia and so I didn't really talk about it much for years. These were punk rockers who really had no truck with anything smacking of sentimentality. I also wanted to point out that there are scooter cliques around, especially in San Francisco. Their fashion style is strict but it reflects the late fifties R&R of the US, ie Rockabilly, rather than modern pop. I still ride a motorcycle(a 20 year old BMW k-bike) so I can say that American motorcycle culture is more tied to pop sensibilities for the crotch rocket kids and some nebulous bluesy thing for the middle-aged harley riders that descend on some cities.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Wed 6 Jul 11 11:08
I find it odd that anyone would consider "Quadrophenia" sentimental. It's about a mod whose life is falling apart, and it's fairly unflinching in its detail. There's a lot of humanity in its portrayal, and some empathy/sympathy, but it's hardly done in an overly melodramatic or saccharine fashion.
Kevin Wheeler (krome) Wed 6 Jul 11 11:23
I couldn't agree more, but to some coming out of the disco culture and arena rock of the mid 70s it may have seemed sentimental since it wasn't overtly about fighting or dancing or politics *now*. It was more subtle than that. As Ed noted above, it may have involved more thought than the tons of pop or punk more easily accessible. Maybe many around me just didn't see themselves in the character(s).
Scott Underwood (esau) Wed 6 Jul 11 16:39
Sounds like there's a whole story in the finding and meeting of Irish Jack Lyons.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Wed 6 Jul 11 16:43
Irish Jack is an interesting fellow, but there wasn't any drama involved in finding him, to be honest. He's not that low-profile; he's been interviewed about the Who before, and he even co-authored a pretty good reference book about the Who's live work about 15 years ago, "The Who Concert File." I was able to get my interview request to him fairly easily by finding an interview with him on-line, and getting contact information from the interviewer. My interview with him was done by email, which is a little unfortunate, as I have the feeling he'd be a pretty entertaining raconteur in person.
no disrespect to our friends the chum (wiggly) Wed 6 Jul 11 19:10
Delurking to mention that our guest will be appearing live (I think) around the San Francisco library network and beyond this month -- I saw the notice at Park branch for the 20th of July, but the library calendar says there are many more events. http://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=1006261901
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Thu 7 Jul 11 08:28
Here are the full details of my next library event: On Wednesday, July 20 from 7pm-9pm at the Park Branch of the San Francisco Library on 1833 Page Street, I'll discuss "Won't Get Fooled Again: The Who from Lifehouse to Quadrophenia." Rare audiovisual material of the Who from this era will be featured, and signed copies of the book will be available for purchase. Admission is free. I've been doing about a few dozen events a year at San Francisco Bay Area libraries (and sometimes other venues/libraries in other cities). These feature rare vintage rock film clips, and are sometimes (but usually not) based around my books. The events are always listed on my website, at http://www.richieunterberger.com/whatsnew.html. I don't have any other Who events scheduled yet, but the San Jose Library system wants to schedule some soon. I've also started teaching community education classes at the College of Marin, beginning with a six-week course on the history of the Beatles this summer (it's already started, but I'll be doing it again for their September 6-October 11 session). I could easily do a course on the Who too, but I'm not sure public interest would meet the minimum enrollment for that.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 7 Jul 11 11:58
Many thanks to Richie, John, Kevin, and others who contributed to this great conversation about The Who. We're at the end of two weeks, which means that another Inkwell conversation is starting today, and this one can end. However you're welcome to continue if you have more to post.
Rob Myers (robmyers) Fri 8 Jul 11 11:43
Yes, thank you. It's been amazing to follow this conversation.
paralyzed by a question like that (debunix) Fri 8 Jul 11 12:34
I've got the book on my wish list on Amazon for when it comes out as a kindle book! And I fixed the quadrophenia shaped hole in my collection so now ready to read and listen along....
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Wed 20 Jul 11 19:52
Just watched Quadrophenia for the first time since college, and I'm still left wondering whether Jimmy died at the end or not. Also, how realistic is this? Did gang activity like that really happen around then?
Scott Underwood (esau) Wed 20 Jul 11 21:02
Second question first: yes, Mods and Rockers was a real occurence, and riots between rival mobs happened in a few cities, including Brighton (where Quadropenia is set). First question, spoiler discussion: It's purposefully ambiguous, and the scene is unique to the movie. I prefer to think he does not, but rather sends the scooter off the cliff as a symbolic rejection of his former, split lives. But I'm Pollyanna.
Kevin Wheeler (krome) Thu 21 Jul 11 00:44
I with Scott; it is intentionally ambiguous. One can take away whatever one wishes from it. At least it represents the end of the era of which the movie and record speak.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Thu 21 Jul 11 07:00
The ending of the "Quadrophenia" film is ambiguous, but I think it's fairly clear that Jimmy does *not* go over the cliff with his scooter. The first shot of the film, even before the core opening sequence of him riding the scooter in London, shows him looking over a cliff at sunset, and then walking away from the edge of the cliff. To me, that probably indicates that he got off the scooter before it went over the cliff, with the rest of the movie told as a big flashback in a sense. Interestingly, according to the director's commentary on the DVD, that shot wasn't in the script, and shot spontaneously. The film as a whole seems like a fairly accurate re-creation of 1964/1965 mod culture, though there's an infamous faux pas where a two-LP reissue combining the Who albums "A Quick One/The Who Sell Out" can be seen in the party scene. That reissue didn't come out until 1973. It also sticks fairly closely to the story of "Quadrophenia" as laid out/inferred in the album, Townshend's short story in the inner gatefold of the album, and the booklet of photos in the album. I'm generally not a fan of adaptations like this (including the film version of the Who's own "Tommy"), but found "Quadrophenia" a major exception.
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