The Who brings Quadrophenia, the world’s greatest rock album, to Vancouver

@shotbykevin

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, OCT. 24, 1996

By Steve Newton

If I had to choose one “desert island disc”—the all-time–favourite rock album to live out my days to while munching coconuts on some uncharted tropical atoll—it would have to be The Who’s Quadrophenia. Although its 1971 predecessor, Who’s Next, is generally regarded as the band’s tour de force, the sheer depth (not to mention length) of the Quadrophenia double album makes it my ultimate choice. A masterful portrait of ’60s mod culture and British teen angst as viewed through the unflinching eye of composer Pete Townshend, it is a vastly underrated work that towers over the group’s other, better-known concept album, the patchy and overblown Tommy.

My personal devotion to the disc has plenty to do with timing, as I was 16—and thus totally receptive to the album’s themes of alienation and rebellion—when it was first released in ’73. Although on previous tunes Roger Daltrey’s vigorous vocals or Townshend’s flailing guitar might have taken precedence, The Who’s rhythm section really came of age on Quadrophenia—every manic Keith Moon drum roll and unconventional John Entwistle bass run seemed vital and perfectly suited to the work as a whole. Its subtle orchestration, adventurous arranging, and inspired placement of recurring melodic themes helped make Quadrophenia a monument to what was best about ’70s rock.

When I learned that the world’s greatest rock band (forget the Stones) was going to perform my pet album in its entirety, I became captivated by the idea. And when I heard a report that Townshend—who has to play acoustic guitar due to a hearing condition called tinnitus—was back on electric, it seemed too good to be true.

Unfortunately, it was, and last Wednesday (October 16) at GM Place Pete was still banging on acoustic when—after the two-minute introductory montage of vintage Who footage and clips from Franc Roddam’s ’79 Quadrophenia movie—the band launched into (what else?) “The Real Me”. Entwistle’s lead bass was as stimulating as ever, and drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo’s kid) was keeping Keith Moon happy in heaven with his unfettered, rambunctious attack. After catching a live version of “Love Reign O’er Me” from a recent Prince’s Trust concert in the U.K., during which Daltrey strains to re-create the full-bore vocal performance on Quadrophenia, it was a relief to find that his sinewy throat muscles can, for the most part, still handle an extreme workout.

But as soon as the energizing strains of “The Real Me” finished reverberating around GM Place, it was clear that this wasn’t going to be the Quadrophenia homage I had hoped for. That would have required the seamless leading of one track into the next, but in a heavy-handed effort to get the themes of Townshend’s masterwork across, footage of a young mod (Quadrophenia star Phil Daniels) angrily quoting paragraphs from the album’s liner notes was injected between the songs. These rants may have been helpful, if not enjoyable, to Who fans unclear about the music’s message, but to this Quadrophenia junkie, they were distracting and eventually quite annoying. Thankfully, there were some well-advised theatrics to come.

Things improved considerably on Quadrophenia’s fifth track, “The Punk Meets the Godfather”, when big-haired British pop icon Gary Glitter strutted out in full black leather ’n’ studs regalia and garish facial makeup to pose grandiosely and trade off a few verses with Daltrey. Shortly thereafter another blast from the past, Billy Idol, swaggered out to wild applause, as if—in light of all the tabloid tales of drugs and debauchery—folks were cheering him for just being alive.

Strangely enough, Idol looked almost exactly as he did at the height of his Rebel Yell heyday 12 years ago. His well-practised Elvis Presley sneer is definitely intact, as are his cavortings from that old “Dancing with Myself” video. He would return to the stage a couple more times, including during “Bellboy”, when he rose up on a flashy motor scooter before shedding his green army coat to reveal a well-pressed bellboy’s uniform. He lugged suitcases around the stage until Daltrey sent him tumbling with a comical kick in the ass.

After a rousing “Dr. Jimmy” and majestic “Love Reign O’er Me”, the band encored with a set of four classic, non-Quadrophenia cuts, and it was on “Won’t Get Fooled Again” that the absence of Townshend’s electric guitar was most distressing. His younger brother Simon did a commendable job of handling the electric parts, but it just wasn’t the same without Pete himself bringing some of the noise.

After a typically enchanting version of “Behind Blue Eyes”, however, he proved the existence of a god in heaven by strapping on a red Strat, damning the doctor’s order, and rocking out with his 1966 ear-buster “Substitute”. Then he made my night by ending with “Who Are You”, and tossing in some trademark windmill chords for old times’ sake.

 

I’ve never managed to interview a member of the Who, unfortunately, but I have interviewed Pete’s kid brother. To hear the full audio of my 1984 interview with Simon Townshend subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 275 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

John Bush of Anthrax, 1993
Aldo Nova, 1983
Steven Adler from Guns N’ Roses, 2011
Mick Ronson, 1989
Tom Morello, 2011
Jakob Dylan of the Wallflowers, 1993
Colin Hay of Men at Work, 1983
Mark Kelly of Marillion, 1986
Luther Allison, 1995
Lee Rocker from the Stray Cats, 2007
J. Geils from the J. Geils Band, 2006
Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, 1997
Jason Newsted of Newsted (and Metallica), 2013
Marshall Crenshaw, 2013
Dan Hartman, 1984
Sean Costello, 2006
Roger Hodgson from Supertramp, 1998
Tommy Stinson from the Replacements, 1993
Brian Blush of the Refreshments, 1997
Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, 2003
Craig Northey of Strippers Union, 2021
Melissa Etheridge, 1990
Joe Jackson, 2003
Pepper Keenan of Corrosion of Conformity, 2001
David Ellefson of Megadeth, 1992
David Lee Roth, 2003
Grant Walmsley of the Screaming Jets, 1991
John Popper of Blues Traveler, 1991
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 2012
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1993
Ellen McIlwaine, 2001
Derek Trucks of Tedeschi Trucks, 2012
J.D. Fortune of INXS, 2006
Fernando von Arb of Krokus, 1984
Gary Holt of Exodus, 1985
Dizzy Reed of Guns N’ Roses, 1992
Scott Ian of Anthrax, 2012
Gary Lee Conner of Screaming Trees, 1992
Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, 1985
David “Honeyboy” Edwards, 2003
Rudolf Schenker of Scorpions, 1992
Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, 2001
Jeff Keith of Tesla, 1988
Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton of Arc Angels, 1992
Marc Bonilla, 1992
Mike Smith of Sandbox (and Trailer Park Boys), 1996
Dewey Bunnell of America, 1983
Robert Randolph of the Family Band, 2003
Keith Strickland of the B-52s, 2008
David Johansen of the New York Dolls, 2005
Nathan Followill of Kings of Leon, 2003
Todd Kerns, 2016
Bill Payne of Little Feat, 2002
Robbin Crosby of Ratt, 1989
Tommy Shannon of SRV & Double Trouble, 1998
Alejandro Escovedo, 1997
Billy Duffy of the Cult, 1989
Dave Martone, 2020
Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, 2006
Joss Stone, 2012
Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, 2005
Jack Blades of Night Ranger, 1984
Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, 1992
Colin James, 1995
Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, 1983
Ed Roland of Collective Soul, 1995
Taj Mahal, 2001
Tom Wilson of Junkhouse, 1995
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
Jeff Healey, 1988
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Roy Buchanan, 1988
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joe Satriani, 1990
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, 1998
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Alex Van Halen, 1995
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
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Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Roy Buchanan, 1986
Gary Moore, 1984
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
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Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001

…with hundreds more to come

3 thoughts on “The Who brings Quadrophenia, the world’s greatest rock album, to Vancouver

  1. This is a really cool site Mr. Newton. I really like this story in particular – the headline says it all. But here comes the but. Quadrophenia reminds me alot of another album, one I consider my other favorite album of all time. It was written and recorded by Vancouverites in Vancouver. I scanned your list of artists and I do not see them – in any of their 3 names. I sure hope you can correct this oversight.

  2. Who’s Next is the best, it is their number one…but for the real wholigans …..quad is the best they ever done.

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