Thursday, November 15, 2012

No Concert Hall For Old Men

Well, I had tickets to see Pete Townshend and Roger Daltry -- i.e., 50 percent of The Who -- perform 100 percent of Quadrophenia last night, at the fabulous new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Unfortunately, a last minute crisis (don't ask) intervened and I had to take a pass on the evening. I have mixed feelings about this, if truth be told, but that's sort of appropriate since I've had mixed (although mostly positive) feelings about Quadrophenia since the day it came out in 1973. For what it's worth, however, I will say that I would have liked to see the show. I mean fifty percent of The Who is still better than a lot of other bands I could mention. Oh well, maybe next time.

I should also add that if you've never read the little sort-of short story that Pete penned for the original LP, than your life is the poorer for it.

Brighton is a fantastic place. The sea is so gorgeous you want to jump into it and sink. When I was there last time there were about two thousand mods driving up and down the promenade on scooters. My scooter's seen the last of Brighton bloody promenade now, I know that. I felt really anonymous then, sort of like I was in an army. But everyone was a mod. Wherever you looked there were mods. Some of them were so well dressed it was sickening. Levi's had only come into fashion about a month before and some people had jeans on that looked like they'd been born wearing them. There was this bloke there that seemed to be the ace face. He was dancing one night in the Aquarium ballroom and everyone was copying him. He kept doing different dances, but everyone would copy it and the whole place would be dancing a dance that he'd only just made up. That's power for you, he was really heavy too, though. When the mods collected in Brighton, the Rockers would turn up too. There were never as many of them, but this geezer once took two of them at once and beat them. That didn't usually happen I can tell you.

I was in a crowd of kids once chasing three Rockers down Brighton Pier. As it seemed they were going to get caught anyway they stopped and turned to meet their fate. All hundred of these kids I was with stopped dead. I was the first to stop, but the rest ran, so I had to follow. There's nothing uglier than a Rocker. This ace face geezer wouldn't have run. He smashed the glass doors of this hotel too. He was terrific. He had a sawn-off shotgun under his jacket and he'd be kicking at plate-glass and he still looked like he was Fred Astaire reborn. Quite funny, I met him earlier today. He ended up working at the same hotel. But he wasn't the manager.

I never ever felt like I blasphemed. You know, in an old fashioned sense. But I was in a pretty blasphemous mood when I left for Brighton. Brighton cheered me up. But then it let me down. Me folks had let me down, Rock had let me down, women had let me down, work wasn't worth the effort, school isn't even worth mentioning. But I never ever thought I'd feel let down by being a mod. I pinched this boat, first time I'd ever been on a boat at sea. I had another few leapers to keep from coming down and I felt a bit bravado. So I headed for this Rock out off the coast. It was sticking up very jagged, but very peaceful. I didn't know then what I was up to, but I know now.

Schizophrenia! What a laugh. It must be alright to be plain ordinary mad. About halfway over I took a swallow of this Gibneys gin I'd bought. Booze never did help me much though. On the boat it did me right in, specially on top of the pills and the come-down. Anyway, the sound of the engine turned into this drone, then the drone turned into a sound like pianos or something. Like heavenly choirs or orchestras tuning up. It was really an incredible sound. Like the sort of noise you'd expect to hear in heaven, if there is such a place. I pinched myself and I wasn't really drunk anymore. I was floating. I felt really happy. I must have looked bloody stupid as it happens. I was waving me Gibneys around in the air and singing in tune with the engine. The sound got better and better. I was nearly delirious when I got to the Rock. I switched off the engine and jumped onto it. When the engine stopped, so did the music. And when that beautiful music stopped, I remembered the come-down I had, I felt sick from the booze, the sea was splashing all over the place and there was thunder in the distance. I remembered why I had come to this bastard Rock.

So that's why I'm here, the bleeding boat drifted off and I'm stuck here in the pissing rain with my life flashing before me. Only it isn't flashing, it's crawling. Slowly. Now it's just the bare bones of what I am.

A tough guy, a helpless dancer.

A romantic, is it me for a moment?

A bloody lunatic, I'll even carry your bags.

A beggar, a hypocrite, love reign over me.

Schizophrenic? I'm Bleeding Quadrophenic.

[No one in this story is meant to represent anyone either living or dead, particularly not the Mum and Dad. Our Mums and Dads are all very nice and live in bungalows which we bought for them in the Outer Hebrides.]

Seriously -- if I live to be 200, I'll still never write anything as evocative and poetic as that.


Gummo said...

Have no interest in seeing half of the Who, but big mad props to Quadrophenia. It came out when I was in my freshman year of college, and it helped define that transitional year. Easily the best bass-playing of Entwistle's career, and, while the album sags in the middle (always a danger for double albums), sides 1 and 4 are among the best music the Who ever did.

And yes, an album then was a full-immersion experience -- while you listened to the music, you'd also gaze at the artwork adorning the cover, read the liner notes, look at the artwork again, flip the record, re-read the liner notes....

John Fowler said...

Thanks for bringing back my memories of this story. My recollections are similar to Gummo's, poring over the entire package while listening to the music. Too bad this type of experience is mostly gone now, given the current transition to electronic files and distribution. It's true iTunes, etc. makes music =way= more convenient, and I wouldn't give that up at this stage of my life, where I don't really have time to gaze at album artwork, etc. But it does make me a bit sad. I wonder if high schoolers/college age students spend time looking at any of the (non-music) material distributed with their music purchases? My guess would be that, for favorite albums etc, that time that the 'older generation' spent with the essentially single-person experience of soaking up an album is now more likely spent on the web, perhaps sharing thoughts and interpretations via Facebook, etc. More communal, perhaps - but less interesting from the 'Album as Art' point of view.

As for the album, it's my second favorite by the Who, ranking only behind Who's Next. I don't even think sides 2 & 3 sag - when taken as a whole, the album works incredibly well. In fact, when checking my play count (dating back to 2004), I listen to this one quite a bit more than any other Who album - and it's not one I would ever break down into single songs or randomize the song order!

buzzbabyjesus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
buzzbabyjesus said...

(previous comment deleted for one typo too many)
I listened to "Quadrophenia" once when it came out. It wasn't "Who's Next", "Live At Leeds", or even "Meaty Beaty, Big, and Bouncy" so I
dismissed it.
I felt the same way about "By The Numbers".
I didn't even considered giving "Who Are You?" a chance, by then it was The Clash, and Sex Pistols on my turntable.
I never "got" "Tommy", but I love "Sell Out".
I have "Quadrophenia", so maybe I'll listen to the first 15 seconds of each song and see if anything grabs me.
Clearly it floats the boat for some.

Gummo said...

Funny, I had no problem in 1978 listening to The Clash, the Sex Pistols AND Who Are You?

Hannes A. Jónsson said...

I once felt the same as you, buzzbabyjesus: never quite "got" Quadrophenia. Had it for decades on vinyl, but this past summer I got the CD Deluxe version dirt-cheap at a sale and, to make long story short, it's been vindicated as far as I'm concerned; it's a fucking classic!
However, I do have one pressing question here: Does anyone know how come Roger's family name is sometimes spelled "Daltry" (often by Americans - no offense) when it is, I believe, in fact Daltrey? Or is it?!

buzzbabyjesus said...


I have the CD Deluxe version, but have never played it. Until now.
As for Roger, I think it boils down to the same problem Kieth Richard had. Ignorance? Laziness?

Brooklyn Girl said...

Sorry about the show.:-(

But I disagree with other commenters about the remaining half of the Who. They still sound GREAT. And Zack learned how to play from Uncle Keith.

buzzbabyjesus said...

Zak is the best Keith Moon Style drummer working today.

cthulhu said...

Well, I have to wait a while longer; the tour doesn't get to the Left Coast until February. But I have tickets! Unfortunately I was too young to see them when Keith Moon was still alive, so my memories are from the 1982 and 1989 tours (both highly memorable), plus seeing Townshend live at La Jolla in a solo acoustic show in 2001 (a true once-in-a-lifetime show). The live footage of the 2006 shows has me optimistic that Roger and Pete can still bring the fire...

Quadrophenia was my second favorite Who album (after Who's Next) for many years, after I discovered it in my teenage years. I eventually put it away for many years as I shifted from CDs to iPods, but dusted it off and ripped it a few years ago. My take is that it still mostly holds up; Side 2 is the low point (Pete still owes Roger for Helpless Dancer) despite the brilliance of I'm One, but the rest of the album still has plenty of scintillating moments (the lead bass on The Real Me! the gorgeous bridge on The Punk Meets the Godfather! Keith's jaunty-and-sad vocal on Bell Boy!), and I defy anybody with Romance in their soul to keep a dry eye when Daltrey snarls out "oh GOD I need a drink / of cool cool rain.."

And Zak is DEFINITELY the best Keith Moon style drummer around!

Elroy said...

Love Quadrophenia. Even in the middle sides there are several good songs. I'm also a surround music fan and was very excited to hear the surround disc that is included in the recent box set.

My favorite part in the story are the last lines about their mums and dads...

buzzbabyjesus said...

Pete was disappointed with "Who's Next" because it wasn't "Lifehouse", and turned out to be just a bunch of songs.
I listened to half of "Quadrophenia", and for me it has the same problem as "Tommy". It's not just a bunch of songs, it's a rock opera, and the songs together form a narrative arc, but none of them stand alone like "Won't Get Fooled Again", "Baba O'Reilly", or most of the songs on "Who's Next".

Brooklyn Girl said...

"Quadrophenia" may be of a piece, but "Who's Next" has some of the best rock songs ever written or performed.