inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #26 of 110: John P. McAlpin (john-p-mcalpin) Fri 24 Jun 11 18:23
Richie, what is it about the long-form song cycle and "rock opera"
that has kept Townshend at it through his career? Yes the band took a
break after "Quadrophenia", but he returned to it in earnest in his
solo career and even included a "mini-opera" on the "Endless Wire"
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #27 of 110: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Fri 24 Jun 11 23:33
If the Who had workshopped the material live and made "Quadrophenia"
the center of a spectacular stage show, my gut feeling is that wouldn't
have quite been enough to make it equal the commercial impact of
"Tommy" or "Who's Next." The songs simply weren't as accessible or
individually memorable, though collectively just as impressive given
time to digest.

I *do* think they should have given "Quadrophenia" material more than
just a few months as the core of their live show. Over time, the songs
would have sunk in, via both repeated listening to the album and
repeated exposure onstage. However, the Who seemed impatient when the
material didn't make a splash in concert right away, and easily
frustrated by obstacles (the trouble syncing backing tapes to the live
music, the audience's unfamiliarity with the songs) that have been
eased or overcome with some more time and dedicated effort. Because
they didn't play much live at all between early 1974 and late 1975 as
they got distracted by the "Tommy" film and various individual
projects, however, it might be that their heart wasn't in doing too
many concerts as a group after the burst of late 1973-early 1974
"Quadrophenia" shows anyway.

The Who did try to develop a spectacular stage show for "Quadrophenia"
that would have used film footage as a backdrop at concerts. The
group would have played in front of three giant screens. They didn't
end up doing this, in part because it was too hard to build screens big
enough with 1973 technology. It also would have been more spectacular
if the synthesizer parts could have been played live, instead of the
clunky incorporation of backing tapes, which sometimes screwed up
onstage. In these respects, 1973 technology just wasn't sufficient to
do what the band envisioned for ideal concert presentations, rather
like 1971 technology wasn't up to realizing the multimedia spectacular
that Townshend might have liked "Lifehouse" to have been.
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #28 of 110: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Fri 24 Jun 11 23:41
It's hard to say what drew Townshend to the opera/concept album format
time and again. But I think at least some of it's due to the influence
of Who co-manager Kit Lambert, an opera enthusiast (and son of
composer/conductor Constant Lambert), who was urging Townshend to
incorporate classical/operatic concepts into his songwriting as far
back as the mid-1960s. This ignited Townshend's enthusiasm for
elevating rock from pop music to art music, using operas and concepts
as vehicles.

This predated "Tommy" by several years, although "Tommy" was the Who's
first complete rock opera. Their 1966 UK hit single "I'm a Boy" was
originally intended as an opera called "Quads" about a future in which
couples could choose the sex of their child. "A Quick One While He's
Away" was a nine-minute mini-opera, though not a very sophisticated 
one in comparison to "Tommy" and "Quadrophenia." "Rael," the closing
track on their 1967 album "The Who Sell Out," was intended to be the
basis of an opera, but recorded before it could be expanded into one.

More generally, however, I think Townshend is a natural storyteller in
song. Even numerous early Who songs that didn't belong to any operatic
concept were (very short) stories of sorts, from "A Legal Matter" and
"Happy Jack" to "Pictures of Lily," "Tattoo," and "Dogs." He likes the
challenges and accolades that comes with making or at least attempting
works on a grand operatic scale, but also I think simply likes using
songs to tell stories.
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #29 of 110: David Julian Gray (djg) Sat 25 Jun 11 06:14
just joining and catching up - thanks all
it shoukd be mentioned that townsend's extended story telling started quite
early on with"a quick one while he's away"
regarding multi-media - my ontroduction to "tommy" was seeing it performes
live a few weeks before it was released in the us - i'm not sure i followed
it completely but this presentation was quite powerful and organic,
i'm sure townsend wasn't satisfied, because it appears he never is...
i completely missed quadraphenia ... by it's release my interests had
shifted and i paid little attention to what we'd call "rock'
n'rool" for about the next decade, but i believe i own it somewhere, and
will definitely catch up for this discussion ... maybe even watch thw film,
which i've attempted and abandon three times already...
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #30 of 110: Scott Underwood (esau) Sat 25 Jun 11 07:31
You mention "the band" and "they" above when discussing decisions about he
music and the shows, but how much of this all was a collaborative effort?
How much were the other members Pete's sidemen, even given John's arranging
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #31 of 110: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sat 25 Jun 11 08:30
While Pete Townshend had by far the most input and say about the music
and overall vision of the group's projects, the rest of the band did
make substantial contributions and have some sway over the
decision-making. One of the most interesting things that came up in my
research was when the band's publicist, Keith Altham, explained to me
that Roger Daltrey had quite a bit of power in the group, more than
outsiders realized. This was, Altham felt, wielded in that Daltrey was
a crucial reality check for Townshend's mighty and at times flighty
ambitions. Altham saw the dynamic between Townshend and Daltrey as
crucial to the band's success, even as it caused much tension and even
a well-publicized fistfight between the two during "Quadrophenia"

As Altham told me: “The whole creative aspect of the band was really
largely Pete’s bag, I guess, because he was the writer and came up
with all the ideas.But I pretty soon learned a lot of that stuff really
only was rationalized by Daltrey, and that his role in the band was
much more important than I thought it was on the first impression. Pete
would come up with these amazing cosmic, universal concepts, and would
say, ‘I’ve got an idea, we’ll conquer the universe with this.’ And
Roger would say, ‘Well, let’s start with Shepherd’s Bush’ [the modest
West London neighborhood where The Who had formed and built their

“And it would get done; it would get turned into something that could
actually be utilized by the media and put into practice. Because if it
had been just left to Pete, I think a lot of these things may not have
actually made it into everyday use. Pete had amazing ideas, all the
creative intellectual capacity in the world, but very little common
sense. Roger had all the common sense, and the practicality. That’s why
they were so good for each other, and why they were so often at war
with each other. Because there’s nothing a creative person hates worse
than somebody saying, ‘Well, look, you can’t do it that way. You got to
do it this way. You know, at least we can do a bit of it.’ But I saw
why they needed each other, and I still do. It’s exactly that
friction and that kind of editing that goes on between them that has
made The Who what they are.”
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #32 of 110: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sat 25 Jun 11 08:39
Musically, I think the substantial nature of the rest of the Who's
role in the band is demonstrated by comparing the numerous Townshend
one-man solo demos to the group versions, as I noted in an earlier
post. Townshend himself realized the group's value at the time, telling
Sounds magazine in the early 1970s:

“Roger would be the only one to say that the group probably relies on
me, thinking it to be true when in fact it isn’t. Roger feels that
perhaps he’s unsuccessful when it comes to creative things. It’s got a
lot to do with enjoying painting and writing compositions in school. I
don’t think Roger was ever like that and I don’t think today, because
he’s in a rock band and probably expected to come up with the odd song,
that he’s automatically going to be able to write. I mean, his talents
are elsewhere. And it’s not just standing holding a mic, it’s in
firing The Who, and he does it in a way nobody would understand. ... I
don’t think I’ve got control over The Who. I do feel I have a certain
amount of responsibility but at the same time the group would well
overreact if I said I had control, and I think rightly so. ...
Keith has as much control, because where would any of us be without

In the business and image sense, the rest of the Who had some
influence as well. One of the primary reasons "Lifehouse" was abandoned
and essentially cut down to "Who's Next" is that the rest of the band
were impatient to tour rather than wait indefinitely for Townshend to
figure out what he wanted to do with it. Certainly that was partly
because they wanted and needed the money, but perhaps equally or more
importantly, they thrived on live performance and couldn't stand to be
away from the stage that long.

The Who were more concerned with projecting a colorful image than most
bands, and the rest of the group were essential to this, as their four
distinct personalities added up to something greater than the parts,
more so for the Who than with any other band except the Beatles. Also,
although Townshend was renowned as probably the most interesting media
interviewee in rock, Moon was very important as well in being
accessible to and good copy for the media, especially in keeping them
in the press between albums and tours. Daltrey was also interviewed
quite a bit and at times the spokesman for updating the media on the
Who's plans; Entwistle had much less of a role in all this than the
other three, but he did do interviews.
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #33 of 110: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sat 25 Jun 11 08:46
Finally, I think the importance of the Who working together as a group
was also demonstrated by the relative artistic and commercial failure
of their solo projects. Although Daltrey had a bit of commercial
success with his solo efforts, nothing the other three did on their own
was going to match the Who, especially as Daltrey and Moon barely
wrote, and Entwistle's writing talents were stretched to cover entire
albums. In that sense, they needed Townshend far more than Townshend
needed them.

Yet while Townshend would seem to thus be the only one in a viable
position to have a solo career, when he did put out a solo album
between "Who's Next" and "Quadrophenia" ("Who Came First"), it made
barely any commercial ripples, despite getting generally good reviews.
I like "Who Came First" and Townshend's other released and unreleased
early-1970s solo work (some of which was initially put out on
limited-edition LPs aimed toward Meher Baba followers). But because he
was so identified by most rock listeners with the sound of the Who, and
maybe because Daltrey rather than Townshend's lead vocals were
identified with the sound of the Who, it didn't seem like his solo work
could attain the success of, say, Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison's
solo albums did in the years following the split of the Beatles.

In that respect, Townshend did need the Who, and there's no indication
that he wanted to split from the Who or was reluctant to keep on
working with them. He did view himself as very much a part of the band,
and the Who as his main outlet for creative work, even as he initiated
side projects for material that didn't fit so much into the Who's
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #34 of 110: Scott Underwood (esau) Sat 25 Jun 11 08:49
Moon is so interesting, because I think he was as limiting (musically)
as he was, um, liberating and visual to the band's image. Where would
Pete have gone musically if he'd had a less explosive, more
beat-oriented drummer?

I'm sorry I haven't gotten far enough in the book to see how you've
addressed this, but what was the role of Pete's interest (devotion?)
to Meher Baba and sufism on the storylines? As well as its effect on
the band members personally? This was essentially parallel with this
period, no?
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #35 of 110: Scott Underwood (esau) Sat 25 Jun 11 08:50
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #36 of 110: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sat 25 Jun 11 09:06
We might differ in our view of Moon's musical contributions. I think
he was absolutely essential to defining and powering the Who's sound,
and served Townshend's songs and the Who's overall vision extremely
well. While Townshend wouldn't claim his own placeholder-type drumming
on his solo demos to be great, by listening to those you get a sense of
how the songs might have sounded with more conventional beats.

I don't think Townshend's music would have been too much different if
he'd been working with a more beat-oriented drummer, but the
arrangements would have been less gripping and the overall impact
diluted. You also get some sense of this in the 1972 Who single "The
Relay," where Moon's drumming is unusually basic and controlled, and
the track in my opinion not among the Who's more memorable.
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #37 of 110: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sat 25 Jun 11 09:16
Pete Townshend's involvement with the Meher Baba faith in the late
1960s and early 1970s was of course a big influence on his life and, to
some degree, his music. However, on the records by the Who from this
era, its influence was fairly subtle, not overt. And fortunately,
Townshend didn't use the records as a vehicle to proselytize,
incorporating his spiritual messages with grace and respect for the
listener. In that way, the affect of his religious beliefs on his music
is similar to that of George Harrison's religious beliefs on the "All
Things Must Pass" album, though Harrison's specific beliefs were more
apparent from some of the songs.

Naturally, you can hear some specific influence of Baba on "Lifehouse"
and even "Quadrophenia" songs if you have the right background. The
"Baba" that "Baba O'Riley" was named after was Meher Baba (the "Riley"
was composer Terry Riley), though otherwise Meher Baba doesn't seem to
have too great an influence on the song. One of the more interesting
discoveries in the numerous obscure archive quotes I dug up for the
book is the heavy use of beaches and water in the second half of
"Quadrophenia" was influenced by Meher Baba, especially in "Drowned."

As Townshend said in the songbook "A Decade of the Who," "Drowned" "s
a love song, God’s love being the Ocean, and our ‘selves’ being the
drops of water that make it up. Meher Baba said, ‘I am the Ocean of
Love.’ I want to drown in that ocean, the ‘drop’ will then be an
ocean itself.”

In Rock magazine, Pete told Bruce Pollock that the song had actually
been written shortly after Tommy “as a kind of tribute to something
Meher Baba had said ... like God is like the ocean and that individuals
are like drops of water. They think they’re separate, but once they’re
in the ocean, they know they’re an ocean – but so long as they’re a
drop of water, they think they’re a drop of water. And that’s what
‘Drowned’ was about ...being a tear or whatever.”
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #38 of 110: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sat 25 Jun 11 09:24
Moving on to Sufism, the book "The Mysticism Of Sound And Music: The
Sufi Teaching Of Hazrat Inayat Khan" was a very big influence on Pete
Townshend and "Lifehouse" in the early 1970s. The whole idea from which
"Lifehouse" sprung, which made its way into what would have been its
keynote song ("Pure and Easy"), was that a certain musical note could
transform the world. Here are some passages from Khan's book that could
have directly influenced Townshend in this regard:

"Each person has his peculiar note in which he speaks, and that
particular note is expressive of his life’s evolution, expressive of
his soul, of the condition of his feelings and of his thoughts.” This
could have influenced Townshend’s first discussion of the idea that
lead to "Lifehouse," in Melody Maker in late 1970: “There’s a note, a
musical note, that builds the basis of existence somehow. Mystics
would agree, saying that of course it is OM, but I am talking about a
MUSICAL note.”

According to Khan, “All races, nations, classes, and people are like a
strain of music based upon one chord, when the keynote, the common
interest, holds so many personalities in a single bond of harmony.”
Townshend could have been thinking of this when he wrote, in the same
Melody Maker article first laying out the seed of the idea for
"Lifehouse," that “the key to this unexciting adventure that I’m
leading you on is that everybody hears it. Moreover I think everybody
hears the same note or noise. It’s an amazing thing to think of any
common ground between all men that isn’t directly a reflection of
spiritual awareness. The note it’s there, gently breathing and saying
annoyingly that it was there all along undisturbed. Being whole again,
however, you don’t mind listening and enjoying. It’s a note, it’s
notes, it’s music – the most beautiful there is to hear.”

Another passage from the book states: "All the trouble in the world
and all the disastrous results arising out of it – all come from lack
of harmony. This shows that the world today needs harmony more than
ever before. So if the musician understands this, his customer will be
the whole world.” Townshend actually had a means of reaching the whole
world – or at least the Western world and much of the rest – through
popular albums, concerts, radio, and (he hoped with "Lifehouse") film.
The passage could have fired his inspiration to change the world by
doing a project like "Lifehouse." 
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #39 of 110: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sat 25 Jun 11 09:31
Although the rest of the Who seemed fine with allowing Townshend's
faith to color some of their songs, especially since the material was
so fine and the influence not so overt, they themselves weren't
interested in Meher Baba, sufism, or religious/spiritual pursuits in
general. In fact, if one account is to be believed, they even mocked
them on occasion. Rock critic Nik Cohn accompanied them on the road for
a while in late 1971 in the US, and wrote the following in Cream
magazine (sic; not Creem magazine, but Cream, a different publication
that was issued for a while in the early 1970s):

Townshend “locked himself in his hotel room and talked to no one.
Onstage he moved and played like a zombie, in dressing rooms he
crouched in corners, deadeyed, drained, and twitched whenever anybody
came close or touched him. The rest of the group enjoyed this
immensely. Baba has always made them sick and now was their chance of
sweet revenge. So they took up the avatar’s basic slogan – ‘Be Happy
Don’t Worry’ – and rubbed Pete’s nose in it. A shattered shambling
wreckage, he tried to back off but they pursued him, harried him
relentlessly. ‘Be Happy,’ Keith kept chanting, exultant, flinging
it out like a scarlet rag. ‘Don’t worry, be happy, don’t worry, be
happy.’ Pete made no response. Just sat there and continued to suffer.”

That particular incident might sound insensitive, but in a way, the
rest of the Who might have been a useful reality check keeping
Townshend's spiritual inclinations from getting too spaced out or out
of hand. He knew he couldn't get too preachy or pretentious in his
music for the Who, who would have had none of it.

Townshend also had the wisdom to separate his most Baba-influenced
songs from the Who and onto his solo work of the period, on "Who Came
First" and the limited-edition Meher Baba organization albums. This
also allowed him to use more low-key, acoustic-oriented arrangements
than would have been suitable for most of the Who's records.
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #40 of 110: Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Sat 25 Jun 11 09:37
And I may be permitted a brief commercial interruption, for those in
the San Francisco area who might be interested:

Tonight (Saturday, June 25) from 7:30pm-9:30pm, to mark the
publication of my book, the band Mushroom will play an entire set of
material from "Lifehouse" in concert at the Make-out Room at 3225 22nd
Street in San Francisco. I'll be there to sign copies of the book that
will be available for purchase. I'll also read a couple brief passages
from the book to intro Mushroom's performance. Admission is $6.
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #41 of 110: Kevin Wheeler (krome) Sat 25 Jun 11 10:28
As I was reading the comments about the band being necessary for full
exploration and power into Pete's music,I am listening to Melancholia
off The Who Sell Out.  I would like to point our readers there to hear
a perfect example of why he needed(and desired) Keith on the kit.  If
the demos' percussion sounds as boxy as I've heard, Keith makes this
tune as he did many others.
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #42 of 110: Kevin Wheeler (krome) Sat 25 Jun 11 20:40
I would just like to note that I had no problem finding a torrent DL
of Tommy but can't find one of Quadrophenia which leads back to the
original question of lack of popular appeal.
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #43 of 110: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 26 Jun 11 05:58
It's available, I have been told.
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #44 of 110: Kevin Wheeler (krome) Mon 27 Jun 11 05:14
Just read Pete's explanation of how the Baba O'Reilly synth rhythm was
cut together.  Thanks for including that.  I never knew how it was
done.  Likewise I never knew how much he was playing around with

It is apparent that Townshend was planning for Lifehouse to be a
transformative experience for others as R&R was/is for him.  It's a
very young and romantic notion that I may have even shared long ago.

Listening to Baba O'Reilly again.  I can't even imagine how many times
I have heard that number come on the radio and every time it does I
smile.  Not many numbers on medium/heavy rotation do that for me.
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #45 of 110: Ari Davidow (ari) Mon 27 Jun 11 12:42
I remember being really bored by Quadrophenia when it came out. It was 
probably among the least-played LPs in my collection at the time. But, 
today, it is easily the album I am likeliest to listen to. Tommy, alas, is 
so over-exposed for me that I may never own a copy again.
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #46 of 110: John P. McAlpin (john-p-mcalpin) Tue 28 Jun 11 16:58
Kevin, have you ever heard the symphonic version of "Baba O'Reilly" or
the nine-minute demo version? Both take the rhythmic interplay of that
intro to interesting places.
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #47 of 110: Kevin Wheeler (krome) Tue 28 Jun 11 18:02
Haven't.  I'll look on You Tubes but any are welcome to send over.
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #48 of 110: Kevin Wheeler (krome) Tue 28 Jun 11 18:19
I found this

and this
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #49 of 110: Kevin Wheeler (krome) Tue 28 Jun 11 18:33
Both of them seem to be done after the fact.  Pete talks about
establishing the rhythm with splices much as was done with the Money
track on Dark Side of the Moon. 
inkwell.vue.411 : Richie Unterberger, "Won't Get Fooled Again"
permalink #50 of 110: paralyzed by a question like that (debunix) Tue 28 Jun 11 22:43
I have been following this conversation with interest, but haven't yet
had a chance to check out the book (not yet available on Kindle). 
Despite being born a little late to have heard the Who's rock operas as
they came out, I was helped along by the  not-so-tender mercies of
older brothers with loud stereos and I was properly indoctrinated into
the rock classics.  I didn't start buying Who albums for myself until
the 80s, and had no idea about the Lifehouse project or it's connection
to Who's next (always my favorite Who album, and a favorite album,

Considering that it was written for the Lifehouse project, how did
Baba O' Reilly fit into the [plot/story/theme] of Lifehouse?  'Teenage
wasteland' seems to fit so well with the spirit of Quadrophenia too.


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