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Pete Townsend: ‘Quadrophenia’ Wasn’t Meant To Be Rite Of Passage

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As Pete Townshend gears up for a handful of Classic Quadrophenia dates next month, he looked back at creating what most fans consider his — and the Who’s — creative masterpiece. Classic Quadrophenia features a symphony orchestra backing Townshend and vocalists Billy Idol — portraying the “Ace Face” — and acclaimed tenor Alfie Boe taking on Roger Daltrey’s parts. The show plays in Lenox, Massachusetts; Rosemont, Illinois; Manhattan, and Los Angeles only.

Townshend, who composed and recorded a full series of one-man-band studio demos for 1973’s Quadrophenia before presenting it to the band, recalled to Newsweek where the Who was at prior to recording the acclaimed double album: “We were in terrible trouble. The band had lost connection with their neighborhood, with their audience. We’d become superstars. We needed to be regrounded. . . A lot of people feel they have a proprietary claim on (Quadrophenia). It’s quite surprising the number of people who have confessed to me that the record made a difference. That was never really the idea. It wasn’t meant to be a rite of passage.”

Although the Who’s recent series of North American dates truly thrilled the band’s fans to the bone, Townshend, who’s now 72, admits he’s happier off stage: “I could spend eight months at a computer desk writing a book, lyrics, poems — that’s what I love to do. . . I must have circus genes. I know I’ll do a good job (on stage) — I always seem to. I don’t know how the f*** I do it, because my heart really isn’t in it.”

Pete Townshend told us that Quadrophenia was never intended to be an easy listen, with it’s lead character, “Jimmy,” facing very real changes in drastic way: “He cast off religion, family, work, politics — and of course, rock n’ roll. He cast off everything — the Mod movement, fashion, girls, the lot. And he ends up in a very bereft place. But it’s a new beginning for him. So, although it’s not a proper symphonic-through, composed piece of work, it’s as close as I’m ever gonna get in my entire life.’

Photo Courtesy of Ross Halfin

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