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Pete Townsend Recalls Roger Daltrey Creating A Who Classic

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Although Roger Daltrey will not be part of Pete Townshend’s fall Classic Quadrophenia symphonic dates, he can’t help but credit the Who frontman for breathing life to the piece’s finale. Townshend — who along with Daltrey — launches the Who’s latest set of gigs next week, recalled Daltrey laying down the vocal to 1973’s “Love Reign O’er Me,” telling The Los Angeles Times, “When he did the take, I was about to go out into the studio and say, ‘Can you try this with more tenderness and soul?’ I wrote a song about a boy on a rock who is frightened and anxious, and praying. This kid might commit suicide, and Roger was singing it like he’d just conquered the Earth. What he’d done was to find a new way of expressing fear and anxiety and loss, and it was coming deep, deep, deep from his soul. It’s something Roger happens to be very, very good at.”

Townshend went on to explain how the Who initially struggled to adapt Quadrophenia for the stage, with the cumbersome and unreliable use of backing tapes: “The thing about Quadrophenia is that it was very ambitious and orchestral-leaning anyway. I used synthesizers and played violin myself, playing some of the score. John Entwistle added a lot of wonderful brass, since he also trained as a music student. So it had an orchestral flair anyway. . . We had great difficulty with just two real musicians — Entwistle and me — the two others were completely useless musically. They just got in the way. Only recently, in the late-’90s, did we manage to bring it to the stage, and using quite a lot of jiggery-pokery we managed to reproduce the record.”

Townshend, who has never shied away from writing full blown classical scores, revealed that today’s technology has finally made orchestral composing somewhat easier: “In the last 15 years, with music composition and orchestrations being something you can do successfully on a computer, I’ve returned to it and I’ve become more like Frank Zappa in a sense. Plus my wife (Rachel Fuller) is a trained classical organist and she gave me the confidence to do more.”

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.’

September 2 – Lenox, MA – Tanglewood
September 9, 10 – New York, NY – Metropolitan Opera House
September 16 – Los Angeles, CA – The Greek Theatre

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