January 28, 2010

Pete Townsend opens up on Quadrophenia and being a mod

When I first started listening to The Who in the early 80s it was Pete Townsend that was most Mods favorite. Keith Moon looked like a mod, but Pete to me was the one who always sounded like a mod. And yet, I don't think he very often has ever confirmed that he considered himself one -- during the sixties or ever. Until now.
I was a mod. No question about it.
There's a really great and lengthy interview with him from last summer in Brighton Magazine, about the new stage musical version of Quadrophenia.

Quadrophenia was originally released in the U.K. on October 26, 1973. It reached the #2 position being held out of the top spot by David Bowie's Pinups. In the U.S. Quadrophenia was released on November 3, 1973. Again it only reached #2 in the Billboard charts being beaten out of first place by Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

Regardless, Quadrophenia looms large not just in rock and roll, but specifically in the history of the mod movement. It was a rock opera, which the band never performed in its entirety until some 20 or more years after it was written. It was turned into a film during the first punk era and helped to launch the mod revival. And, it's been a sort of how to manual for countless young mods wondering about what to wear, what to ride and what pills to pop. So, it's interesting that at long last it's getting the full stage treatment.

Here then are a few intersting quotes from Mr. Townsend.
I was a mod. No question about it. The other three guys in The Who were not. My best friend at art college Nick Bartlett and his older brother Tim were the sharpest mods I came across, I hung out with them as much as I could. The thing is that anyone could be a mod. You didn"t need to be working class. I once hung out with a group of mods in Brighton with a girl, and we slept under the pier and chased rockers. The rest of the band had gone home. I wanted to feel a part of something, I always have. The mods allowed me that. When I went our clubbing in Soho, dancing I came across some of the Faces of the day. Phil the Greek, Julie Driscoll, Rod Stewart, David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Micky Tenner, Sandie Sargent and, of course, the Small Faces themselves. I was always close to the greatest Face of them all, Peter Meaden, and if The Who hadn"t got in the way I would have embraced the mod movement far more deeply. But my position on the stage allowed me a good view of what was going on. I became someone who gave a voice to some of those mods. But I was a part of what was happening. When LSD hit London I moved on, like so many others.


I want the show to entertain, of course, but a grander mission is to see it connect with the audience as well. Good rock music, as we now call my kind of pop, must be functional, it has to do something more than just entertain.


One thing is certain, in my original book Jimmy did not die at the end of the story, but I have no idea what happened to him. Any sequel will have to make a huge and arrogant leap to decide what happens to him and I hope it doesn"t spoil our individual fantasies about what Jimmy might have done when he got off that rock in the rain.
Quadrophenia Trailer