Tag Archives: Roger Daltrey

Great Album Retro Review: Quadrophenia By The Who

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I should say that I’m no musical expert. I’m not some music critic who can dive deeply into the artistry (or lack thereof) of a musician’s work and poetically explain its merits to the reader. But, I know what I like. So, with that in mind, I thought I’d start a (perhaps monthly) series of retro reviews of what are some of my favorite albums.

Here’s my plan: Pick an album, give a brief overview on why I think it’s great, and then give an even more briefer review of each song on that great album. Sound like a plan?

I’ll start with my favorite album by my favorite band: Quadrophenia by The Who.

Released in 1973, Quadrophenia is the second rock opera released by this seminal band. It is the follow up to their classic Who’s Next (1971) and the use of a synthesizer, introduced on Who’s Next, continues to play a large part in the band’s sound. Quadrophenia also continues with the harder rock style that would influence the heavy metal of the later 70s and 80s.

Quadrophenia is also the only Who album entirely composed by Pete Townshend. He had always been the main songwriter, with John Entwistle as the second songwriter of the band, but this one was all Pete. That may contribute to why it’s my favorite.

The story is about a teenager who is having an identity crisis. The main character, Jimmy, is a Mod (it was a British thing dealing with fashion, drugs, and a certain attitude) who is staring ahead at adulthood. And he’s scared. He doesn’t know who he is, what his life is about, where he’s headed. He doesn’t know why he should care.

Isn’t he a bit like you and me?

I know. Wrong band, but it still applies.

According to Townshend, Jimmy may be messed up, but he gets better.

This album helped me out as a young adult and I’ll always be grateful to Townshend and the boys for that.

Now the tracks! It’s a double album, so be prepared.

I Am The Sea – This isn’t really a song. It’s an intro using the sound of the sea crashing against the rocks, in which we can hear snippets of Jimmy’s four personalities. These  personalities are expressed through four theme songs, each of which also represents a member of the band, which are peppered throughout the album. This is the first time The Who had used sound effects on an album. The sound effects (crashing waves, rain, trains, birds, etc) were recorded by Townshend.

Sitting on one of the rocks, Jimmy is at a crisis point as he contemplates his life…

The Real Me – Damn! What a great song! It has the fantastic bass work of Entwistle, Roger Daltrey’s voice is in fine form, and Keith Moon is out of his mind. In fact, listen closely, you can hear Moon shouting as he plays, something The Who have included on several songs, beginning with Substitute. The song presents Jimmy’s self-perceived craziness, his anger, and his frustration. And it rocks!

Quadrophenia – The title track is the first of two instrumental songs on the album. The synthesizer comes into play as this song explores the musical themes we’ll be hearing as we listen to the rest of the album.

Cut My Hair – The lyrics set up the conflict Jimmy was having with himself and with his parents. Townshend works in lyrics from early Who and High Numbers (an early name for the band) songs to help bolster the Mod connection. He does this throughout the album. And great drums with Moon yelling as he plays.

The Punk And The Godfather – Fighting against the system is difficult, because the system has all the power. Again Townshend uses early Who lyrics, this time from their legendary hit My Generation.

I’m One – This is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Townshend takes on the lead vocals as Jimmy acknowledges his shortcomings, but declares he will overcome them. “You’ll all see!”

The Dirty Jobs – Townshend’s ode to the working man. Some nice use of violin (or is that synthesizer?) And, seriously, Moon ought to get a backing vocal credit for all the shouting he does on this song.

Helpless Dancer – Listed as Roger’s theme, this song continues the theme of working against the system. It’s the struggle of the common person against the power. Nice piano and acoustic guitar.

Is It In My Head? – Ever conscious of his band’s history, Townshend precedes this track with a snippet of The Kids Are Alright, another early song from The Who’s catalog. The song describes a particular low point for Jimmy as Daltrey sings about numbering all those who love the protagonist and “finds exactly what the trouble is.”

I’ve Had Enough – This is the moment Jimmy breaks from his life and hops on his Vespa scooter to revisit places that remind him of better times. And, for the first time since the intro, we hear the phrase “love reign o’er me” from the final song of the album.

5:15 – This classic rock radio standard is fantastic. The horn fills provided by Entwistle give this song an extra punch right into your ears. It starts with the sound effects of Jimmy at the train station at the beginning of his journey to find himself. This one kicks ass!

Sea And Sand – Jimmy arrives at the beach on which he had participated in the riots between gangs of Mods and Rockers. A time of triumphant fun, but now he’s thinking of his hypocritical parents, his unrequited love, and his failure to be a leader in his gang. Lyrically Townshend again draws upon early Who and High Numbers songs.

Drowned – This was a sleeper track for me. It just didn’t grab me at first, but after multiple listens it became a stand out track. That rolling piano provided by English session musician Chris Stainton (he also plays piano on The Dirty Jobs and 5:15) is infectious. It’s a rollicking song about Jimmy contemplating drowning himself. I love it!

Bell Boy – Adding to Jimmy’s feelings of depression is this song in which he discovers his hero, a Mod leader in the days of the riots, is now a lowly bell boy, resigned to the job to earn a living. Well, what are ya gonna do? Gotta pay the rent. The song features Moon’s wonderful Cockney vocals as Jimmy’s fallen hero. Keith was never much of a singer, but he doesn’t do too badly on this his theme song on the album.

Doctor Jimmy – This is John’s theme and it’s my least favorite track. I still like it, but it’s a bit too long. The song is filled with blustery bravado as Jimmy tries desperately to convince himself that he is strong, but his self-doubt continues to plague him.

The Rock – We’re back on the rock surrounded by the crashing sea for this excellent instrumental. Will Jimmy give into despair? Will he take his own life? Is he going to be OK?

Love Reign O’er Me – Of course, Pete reserved this song to be his theme. Daltrey’s vocals are at their peak on this cathartic song, in which Jimmy has a break through. He realizes he needs to allow himself to love and to be loved. He is worthy. What do you know? The kid’s going to be alright.

After all, love is all you need.

I know! Wrong band, but it still applies.

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

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Join together with the band…one last time.

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Photo credit: Steve Cohen/CityPages

It was a long time coming.

The tickets for the Minneapolis stop of the North American leg of The Who Hits 50 Tour went on sale in October 2014. That meant it would be a yearlong wait for the rock legends to take the stage at Target Center (home of perennial NBA loser MN Timberwolves and perennial WNBA world champion MN Lynx) in October 2015. But, seeing as how this was likely going to be the last time my rock heroes would play in my town; Roger Daltrey, lead vocalist, had called the tour the “long goodbye”, I had to buy tickets and gird myself for the wait.

The wait got longer when in September 2015 it was announced that the tour was on hold due to Daltrey being hospitalized to be treated for viral meningitis. Fortunately, he recovered and the tour resumed in the spring of this year.

May 1st. Finally, the day had arrived. My wife and I and 10,000 plus Who fans would be treated to two hours of some of The Who’s greatest hits. Daltrey and Pete Townshend, songwriter and lead guitarist, took the stage joining the six other members of the now eight-member touring band. Townshend, sometimes taciturn when performing, actually skipped his way into the spotlight.

The rest of the band included Simon Townshend (Pete’s brother) on guitar and backing vocals and Zak Starkey (Ringo Starr’s son) on drums. Those two have been members of The Who since 1996. That means Starkey has been the band’s drummer longer than the original drummer Keith Moon. Pino Palladino continued his role, taken on in 2002 after the death of John Entwistle, as bass player. The other musicians were Loren Gold, John Corey, and Frank Simes, all playing keyboards and various other instruments and providing backing vocals. Simes is also the musical director for the tour.

Kicking off with one of their late 70s hits Who Are You which was followed by The Seeker, had this Who fan swallowing back quite a sizable lump in my throat. “This is it,” I thought to myself, “I’m never seeing these guys in concert again.”

I pulled myself together and witnessed these living legends rock the house with such classics as My Generation, The Kids Are Alright, Behind Blue Eyes, Bargain, You Better You Bet, and Eminence Front.

There was a chunk from their pioneering rock opera Tommy (1969): Amazing Journey, Sparks, Pinball Wizard, and See Me, Feel Me. That was preceded by a chunk from their 1973 masterpiece Quadrophenia: I’m One (to which I damn near lost it), The Rock (this instrumental track was the highlight of the night), and Love Reign O’er Me.

There were also a few songs the boys don’t normally play in concert: I Can See for Miles, Pictures of Lily, and the excellent Join Together. I had forgotten how great that song is! And many of the songs that night were introduced by either Daltrey or Townshend with explanations on their meaning or how they were written.

Also throughout the show were projected images on the big screen behind the band. For most of the first half of the show the images were of The Who in their early days. Images of Moon’s lunacy and Entwistle’s rock steadiness paid tribute to those absent original members.

While Daltrey’s voice may have lost some of his former range, I thought it was better than when I saw the band in 2002. However, from what I’ve read in other reviews, it is Daltrey’s voice that has garnered the negative criticism. Well, you try pushing your voice to its limits for the better part of 50 years, and let’s see how well it holds up. I thought he sounded pretty good.

Townshend was a monster! He played with the same ferocity he had when he was half his nearly 71 years of age. The leaps and stage slides may have long gone by the wayside, but his playing was at its windmilling best!

They capped off the night with their two biggest anthems, both from their most commercially successful album Who’s Next (1971): Baba O’Riley and Won’t Get Fooled Again. Incidentally, Daltrey nailed that scream at the end of Won’t Get Fooled Again, proving he could still do it. Take that, critics!*

However, by the end, the old fellas were drained, but seemed to have really enjoyed themselves performing for us. The crowd, also feeling drained, graciously accepted the band’s thank you’s and goodbye’s. No encore. The lights went up and we made our way home.

I cannot overstate what this band means to me. I’m so glad I have been able to see them one last time.

My only complaint is that they didn’t play longer.

“Rock is dead they say, LONG LIVE ROCK!” ~ Pete Townshend

*Update 5/13/16: As much as it pains me to say so, it appears Roger didn’t nail that scream. I was quite surprised when he hit it when I was at the show, due to the lessening of his vocal range, but I wanted to give him credit. However, it was nagging at me. Was it live or was it Memorex?

I found video of the entire concert. It’s not the best quality, but it’s the whole show. At the 1:55:18 mark is the scream. It’s not clear if he is lip syncing. However, there is another video from the same tour in June of last year of the boys playing Won’t Get Fooled Again. At the 9:09 mark he doesn’t quite get the scream synced up right. He didn’t have the microphone near his mouth when the scream starts and he begins to close his mouth before it ends. Plus that scream from June 28, 2015 sounds like the exact same scream from May 1, 2016 to me.

Oh, well. He is 72. I guess I’m OK with being fooled this one time.

Packing Peanuts!

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The Who Ranked By Me!

Whenever I’m involved in the age old debate as to which was the better rock band: The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? My answer is always the same, “That’s easy! The Who.”

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Since October 2, 1982, the night I saw The Who in concert for the first time, I have viewed the world through Who-colored glasses. They are my favorite band of all time. And Pete Townshend is my favorite songwriter, singer, and guitarist of all time. Hence my answer to that debate.

The Who have turned 50 recently and, to celebrate that achievement, they’ve released another “best of” compilation and have embarked on a North American tour. (The tour is on hold until Spring 2016, due to Roger Daltrey having a wee bit of the viral meningitis. We’re told he is doing well, but needs to rest a while before resuming the grueling task of performing live in front of thousands of adoring fans, of which, this coming May, I will be one.)

The British music magazine NME recently ranked the ten best albums by The Who. That struck me as odd, because The Who released a total of 11 studio albums, so why not rank them all? You know, this list goes to 11. Get it?

However, their list would have to go to 12, if they had featured them all, because they included the band’s seminal live album Live At Leeds (1970).

These kind of lists can’t help but be a little controversial. Not everyone will agree with the ranking choices. (Really, NME? Tommy number one? How pedestrian.) My listing will probably do the same for other Who fans, but it’s my list so I get to pick ’em!

I will include Live At Leeds, but none of the many, many compilations the band has released over the years. Most notable among them are Meaty, Beaty, Big & Bouncy (1971) and Odds And Sods (1974). Both are excellent, but I will not include them here.

So here it is: My ranking of the albums released by the Greatest Rock Band in the World!

12) Endless Wire (2006): This album feels more like a Townshend solo project with Daltrey doing most of the singing. With John Entwistle not being involved due to a wee bit of a case of death, this feels less like The Who than their early 80s, post Keith Moon albums. It does have plenty of good stuff on it though. ‘Black Widow’s Eyes’, “God Speaks Marty Robbins’, ‘We Got A Hit’ are all very good. Roger’s voice has aged, but Pete’s seems ageless. Maybe it’s just me.

My favorite track: ‘Endless Wire (Extended)’

11) It’s Hard (1982): This and Face Dances were criticized unfairly. Yes, the manic drumming of Moon was replaced by the steadier beat of Kenney Jones, but Townshend was still churning out some great tunes. Daltrey’s voice was in excellent shape and Entwistle’s writing contributions were very good. ‘Athena’, ‘Dangerous’, ‘One At A Time’, and ‘Cry If You Want’ all make this album an enjoyable, if uneven, listen.

My favorite track: ‘Eminence Front’

10) Face Dances (1981): Fans probably weren’t sure what to expect with this first album since Moon’s untimely death, but the opening track, for me, is one of the best of The Who’s albums’ lead off songs. Still a bit uneven, but I think it’s much better than some critics were willing to admit. ‘The Quiet One’, ‘Daily Records’, and ‘Another Tricky Day’ are all stand outs.

My favorite track: ‘You Better You Bet’

9) My Generation (1965): The title track was the song that made it likely that if The Who had never produced another song, they would still be remembered as making one of the strongest, angriest, spit-in-the-facest songs ever recorded. The rest of this debut album demonstrates The Who’s early maximum R & B sound. Aside from the title track there are a few other gems worth checking out including ‘The Good’s Gone’, ‘A Legal Matter’, and the driving instrumental ‘The Ox’.

My favorite track: ‘The Kids Are Alright’

8) Who Are You (1978): This was to be the last of the “real” Who albums, and for me it feels a bit disjointed. The title track was written after a drunken encounter by Townshend with members of the Sex Pistols. At the time, Townshend was a great fan of Punk Rock as he felt that the kids could now take care of Rock’n’Roll while he could explore different ideas in music. He did that on this and future albums. Some of the songs play almost as Broadway theater fare. Stand out tracks are ‘Had Enough’, ‘Sister Disco’, and, of course, the title track.

My favorite track: ‘905’

7) A Quick One (1966): This was The Who’s second album and their label thought that since The Beatles were writing all their own songs The Who should, too. They asked that each band member write two songs for their new release. Townshend and Entwistle had the gift, but Moon and Daltrey weren’t quite ready. (Roger only managed one and that was with Pete’s help.) The result is slightly uneven, but there is some nice stuff on here. ‘Run Run Run’, ‘Boris The Spider’, ‘Cobwebs And Strange’ and ‘A Quick One, While He’s Away’ are very satisfying. The song ‘A Quick One, While He’s Away’ is a nine minute track that is made up of separate parts and helped lay the groundwork for Tommy.

My favorite track: ‘Sad So About Us’

6) The Who Sell Out (1967): One of the first concept albums in rock music, Townshend’s idea was to link the songs together as though this was all part of a pirate radio station’s playlist. There are commercials and announcements woven in between the tracks with some of the tracks themselves being commercials. The concept tails off in the second half of the album which includes the song ‘Rael’. That song has many musical elements that Townshend would later use on Tommy. Some of the best tracks are ‘Mary Anne With The Shaky Hands’, ‘Tattoo’, ‘I Can’t Reach You’, and ‘Sunrise’. I recommend getting the deluxe version of this album as it pulls off the concept more thoroughly than the original release.

My favorite track: ‘I Can See For Miles’

5) Tommy (1969): This was the release that made the band rock superstars and finally got them out from under the debt accumulated from all that instrument smashing. The album sounds a little under-produced, but it’s the under-produced nature of this album that made it more suitable to be played live. The story of Tommy (a blind, deaf, and dumb boy) is meant to take the listener on a spiritual journey. I’m not sure it worked out that way, but with such tracks as ‘Christmas’, ‘The Acid Queen’, ‘Go To The Mirror!’, ‘I’m Free’ and ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’, Tommy became a landmark album.

My favorite track: ‘Pinball Wizard’

4) Live At Leeds (1970): This is the best live album I have ever heard! The Who are at their height of musical exploration. The track for their song ‘My Generation’ lasts nearly 15 minutes as Townshend wends his way through a monster guitar solo. The original release contained a mere six songs, but it managed to show the world this is what a live rock album should be. Half of the songs are covers including ‘Young Man Blues’ and ‘Shaking All Over’. Again, I recommend getting the deluxe version. It has much, much more! Plus it gives the listener a chance to hear the band members bantering with each other as they introduce the next song to be played. Damn! I wish I could have seen them then.

My favorite track: ‘Summertime Blues’

3) The Who By Numbers (1975): This is kind of the forgotten Who album, but I think it is outstanding. Much less ambitious that all those concept albums and rock operas that had gone before, this collection of songs finds The Who a bit quieter and coming to terms with getting older. At the time, there were some who worried this might be a sort of suicide note from Pete. Apparently, they didn’t listen much to the uplifting ‘Blue, Red, and Grey’. Lots of good stuff on here including ‘Slip Kid’, ‘Squeeze Box’, and ‘Success Story’ (a great Entwistle tune). Let’s try to remember this one, OK?

My favorite track: ‘However Much I Booze’

2) Who’s Next (1971): This album was the leftovers from Townshend’s very ambitious and confusing project Lifehouse. The project sent Pete into an emotional spiral and it had to be put off. (Pete has never completely given up on it, though.) So, Who’s Next was put together. And, wow! These are leftovers? Townshend’s early embracing of synthesizers led to their greatest opening track ever! This album is full of great rock moments. ‘Bargain’, ‘My Wife’, ‘Behind Blue Eyes’, and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ all became staples of rock radio.

My favorite track: ‘Baba O’Riley’ (Still gives me goosebumps!)

1) Quadrophenia (1973): Tommy be damned! This is The Who’s greatest album! Completely composed by Townshend, this brilliant album has helped a lot of young people deal with the awkward times of their lives when they just didn’t know who the f@#k they were. As a concept album, Quadrophenia is the most fully realized effort by The Who. There was some criticism that the album was over-produced, but that doesn’t matter to me or the many, many other Who fans who pick this one as their favorite. Its stand out songs include ‘The Real Me’, ‘I’m One’, ‘I’ve Had Enough’, ‘5:15’, and ‘Love Reign O’er Me’. This is an album that must be listened to from beginning to end.

My favorite track: ‘Drowned’

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50 years of The Who. Not too shabby.

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