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Saturday, 12 May 2012
The Who "Quadrophenia" (The Director's Cut) (2011) (News, Views and Music 143)
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The Who “Quadraphenia” (Box Set 2011)
Discs 3 and 4: The Real Me/Overtures/Cut My Hair/Get Out And Stay Out/Four Faces/We Close Tonight/You Came Back/Get Inside/Joker James/Punk (And The Godfather)/I’m One/Dirty Jobs/Helpless Dancer//Is It In My Head?/Any More?/I’ve Had Enough!/Fill #2/Wizadry/Sea and Sand/Drowned/Is It Me?/Bell Boy/Dr Jimmy/The Rock/Love Reign O’er Me
In which Jimmy The Mod’s four-way split personality ends up on the psychiatrist’s couch for some extra analysis and seems to be in mixed health...
Only love can make it rain the way the beach is kissed by the sea – and only certain albums can carry off a full five disc deluxe box set. ‘Quadrophenia’, surely, is a candidate for a definitive box set – even as a double album it wasn’t anywhere near long enough to contain the complex sophisticated tale of Jimmy Cooper’s life form urgent pill-popping life-affirming teen to cynical suicidal mixed-up mod. Surely in five discs his story can be told with the thoroughness it deserves? Well, yes and no. What we get for our extra money is the Quadrophenia album still separated into two discs (because it runs a fan-annoying 30 seconds over the playing time for one disc – bear in mind that this album starts off with four minutes of sound effects), a 5.1 surround mix of only part of the album (because only part of it exists properly on master-tape to be remixed this way, allegedly, though that hasn’t stopped rumours of another even more definitive and ever more pricey box set in the works at a later date) and 25 Pete Townshend demos (only one of which has been previously released, surprisingly). Had the band put this out as a ‘deluxe’ edition at the same length and price as their excellent re-issues of ‘My Generation’ ‘Who Sell Out’ ‘Tommy’ ‘Who’s Next’ and the first ‘Live At Leeds’ then fans would still be singing the band’s praises. As it is, considering this is an album all about the power of music to move even the poorest and frustrated of fans, the price tag of £80+ has outraged much of the Who’s fan community. But is the set really so bad?
Well, overall the set is something of a disappointment. Unlike the ‘Smile’ set we reviewed last week there are no session tapes or band recorded outtakes to savour this time around (although, that said, ‘Smile’ only had one demo – not 35!) There isn’t even space for the band-recorded outtakes that have been out before, such as ‘Relay’ and ‘Long Live Rock’ (the ‘starting point’ for the album, according to interviews of the time) and one of my personal favourite Who songs ‘We Close Tonight’ (released on ‘Odds and Sods’ in 1974 and heard here only in demo form). There was also an outtake called ‘Ambition’ listed in early drafts for this director’s cut version (and listed with the other tracks for download on Q-Cloud, apparently) but taken off at the last minute with no word of explanation. The alternate, slower ‘The Real Me’ from the ‘30 Years Of Maximum R and B’ should also be here too, if only for completist’s sake too (after all, this isn’t an obscure album we’re dealing with here, but an album generally reckoned to be one of the defining moments of the 1970s). There isn’t even room for the remixes and three ‘new’ songs released as part of the film soundtrack for ‘Quadrophenia’ in 1979 (written alongside the others in 1972 but left off the album because of time and later re-recorded). Come to think of it, for that price shouldn’t the film itself be included in the contents somewhere?
The other bad news is that Pete Townshend’s demos aren’t as illuminating as, say, John Lennon’s or Stephen Stills’ are. That’s not because they’re bador rough or underdeveloped – quite the contrary in fact, these demos are so polished and so thought out that its only the fact that Pete sings these songs rather than Roger that makes them sound different all in some cases. Pete even has a pretty good go at overdubbing bass and drum parts in the style of colleagues Entwistle and Moon – sure they’re not as developed or complex as the final pieces but they’re clearly very similar. Pete has his own three volume set of demos out under the name ‘Scoop’ and by and large these are fascinating pot-pourris of discarded ideas and abandoned sketches. Even the demos released on ‘Who’ sets before, such as ‘Tommy’, worked well because they were so sparse and quite different to the all-out attack of The Who. But by 1972 ‘Quadrophenia’ and by extension The Who are firmly Townshend’s baby and he’s already put all of his thinking into the demos for the songs long before the others get involved.
So should we save our money for something else perhaps? Well, that said there are gems hidden away in this set if you look hard enough for them. Here and there are a few key lyric differences and abandoned song sections – ‘The Real Me’ (the only demo that’s been out before, on ‘Scoop’) has a whole new verse about how ‘rock did me an evil wrong’ back when it was still performed by the aging rocker, not Jimmy the mod; ‘Is it me or a moment?’ isn’t just a stray section in the middle of ‘I’ve Had Enough’ but a complete and pretty illuminating song about Jimmy’s confusion and impending collapse; also while Roger stuck pretty firmly to Pete’s delivery across the album Pete’s demo for ‘Bell Boy’ goes in a very different direction than to the gruff lived-in voice of Keith Moon. Best of all are pieces that never made the finished album but so should have done, even if had turned into a triple LP: ‘You Came Back’ is a sweet ballad that gives a calmer feel to the first half of the album and shows just how much Jimmy loses when things go wrong for him; ‘Get Inside’ is a bare-bones funk song quite unlike anything else on the album but pretty darn interesting all the same; ‘Wizadry’ is a record this instrumental made for the album using many of the same themes though not perhaps quite so good; finally ‘Fill no 2’ is just an instrumental snippet but still a basis for a good song had Townshend had the time and inspiration to work on it more. Only ‘Anymore’ disappoints and even that song cxould have been something – a couple of the other demos of some of my most loved Who songs don’t sound all that much as demos either. Together with the demos for ‘We Close Tonight’ ‘Joker James’ ‘Get Out and Stay Out’ and ‘Four Faces’, there’s enough material here for another whole slab of vinyl that really make the twists and turns in Jimmy’s character come more to life than ever before.
This also means that we get more of a sense of what the ‘original’ concept of the album was all about, before the sub-plot about the new generation coming along and viewing the Who-like rockers as aging has-beens came along and the film forever cemented the idea of Jimmy as a pill-popping scooter-driving mod. You may recall in our review for the original version of ‘Quadrophenia’ (see no 60 on our original core reviews list) we talked a lot about how the original idea for thealbum was based heavily around Jimmy’s confusion, his ‘schizophrenia’ doubled to become ‘quadrophenia’ and how each of these four sides of his personality were summed up by the personality that just happened to match a member of The Who. It seems odd that in Pete’s hands, working solo, we hear that conceit about the band come alive, thanks to the addition of both ‘Four Faces’ (a comedy song that’s all about the split personality) and ‘Is It Me?’, which at long last gives us ‘John’s theme as a ‘proper’ song rather than a segue. Together with Roger’s theme (‘Helpless Dancer’) Keith’s theme (‘Bell Boy’) and Pete’s theme (‘Love Reign O’er Me’), you can really hear Jimmy’s personality pinball from one extreme to another now, hemmed in by what his girlfriend, his parents, his bosses and his friends all expect him to be, leaving poor Jimmy unsure just who he is. In fact, with the aforementioned outtakes now back into the story the tension leading up to Jimmy’s breakdown somewhere near the middle of the original album is palpable and his ‘breakdown’ after friends, family, job, mods and rock and roll stars have let him down and proved themselves to be mere mortals is much clearer.
Some parts of the story are murkier than ever, however. With only Pete giving us ‘his’ voice throughout it’s harder to tell when Jimmy’s speaking and when it’s another character – even on the songs we know really well. There’s also a sub-plot, dropped from the final version of the album (but restored, briefly, in the film) where Jimmy ends up in jail for his part in the Brighton mod vs rocker riots, distancing himself further from his family (who all but disown him) and his friends (who did much worse but got off scot-free and steal Jimmy’s girlfriend in the process). This happens on the album on ‘Is It Me?’, a reflective song cast here in the plot between the sorrow of ‘Drowned’ and the anger-renaissance of ‘Bell Boy’ and makes much more sense of Quadrophenia’s somewhat fragmented storyline, although alas we never learn how he gets out (he’s let off with a warning in the film – much to Jimmy’s horror, actually, because it won’t even give him something to boast about to his peers). There are some key songs notably absent from Pete’s early version though which is interesting for us Quad-heads too – ‘5:15’ being the biggest absentee, along with the sound effects collage ‘I Am The Sea’. It may be that Pete developed both of these songs late in the day to explain the story a bit more and certainly the jump from ‘I’ve Had Enough’ to ‘Sea and Sand’ (via two instrumentals) works much better than on the album. Perhaps that’s being a bit harsh though – these demos were never originally meant to be heard outside the band – but merely to say you need to know the album pretty well before you start work trying to follow the story from the ‘extras’. Even more notably, for the price you pay you’d expect to get some of the other previously available mixes of ‘Quadrophenia’ – sure most fans agree now that the CD mixes are better than the original record (which does Roger Daltrey’s vocals in particular a disservice) but the original mix is still ‘canon’ as it were and deserving of a re-issue for a project this size. The same goes for the now discarded 1990s mix which, to my ears, is still superior (that said, I don’t know the new mixes quite as well yet so they might still surprise me!) And in case anyone starts going ‘well, the box couldn’t handle any more discs’ there’s a full 78 minutes of space on discs one and two between them and another hour on discs three and four – given the £80 odd price tag this is just stinginess to my mind when there’s so many other tracks/mixes readily available.
The one thing most fans have been moaning about, however, is why more of the songs hadn’t been mixed into 5.12 surround sound – the modern equivalent of ‘Quadrophonic sound’ which was hailed to be the next big thing in the early 70s but never quite took off. ‘Quadrophenia’ is an album designed very much with the four-speaker element in mind and would have been suitable for even more reasons than the clever album title; thanks to the sound effects that roll through each track and the epic soundscapes literally stuffed with sound (and quite the opposite to Who’s Next’s wonderful clarity) have been dying out for such remixes ever since they were made. The reason there’s only a few tracks like this however, is honestly out of the band’s hands in that the session tapes simply do not exist in good enough quality to separate this way (thank God CDs came along to prompt remixes when they did or we would have lost lots of our beloved albums to time and decay and poor cataloguing systems this way). Like the fact that so many of our early Dr Who episodes are missing from the BBC, we just have to put up with it until they’re either found again and/or technology reaches the point where we can re-create them from what little we do have unfortunately. It would have been nice for them to actually point this out somewhere in the set, though, hence the amount of irate messages going back and forth on Who communities/online retail sites.
A word too about the packaging. The essay by Pete Townshend has been heralded as a masterstroke of analysis by some quarters, who praise it for its length more than anything else (for the record, our original analysis of ‘Quadrophenia’ still runs a few thousand words longer!) For me, though, the definitive Townshend explanation of ‘Quadrophenia’ is the ‘pop-up interview’ included on the live Tommy/Quadrophenia/Hits’ DVD set which would have been a really valid addition to this set: the concerts themselves are pale facsimiles of the original record but it’s worth the price of owning this set just to hear Pete talking about how Jimmy’s relates to his and how his whole career seems to have been spent coming to terms with a struggle for identity in his teenage years (the interview for ‘Tommy’ is just as good). In fact, as we said on our original review, ‘Quadrophenia’ is the logical culmination of The Who’s whole reason for being, a two-disc version of their very first single ‘I Can’t Explain’ and in many ways its a shame that this album arrived as ‘early’ in Pete’s career as it did, leaving him with little else to say after he’d finished it. Going back to the packaging though – nice as the booklet is why are the covers for the CDs themselves so hideous (Pete’s face superimposed onto a picture of his mixing desk, making for a very uneasy human-electronica hybrid that wouldn’t be out of place in a horror movie)? And why is the original booklet reprinted as ‘facsimilies’ that look like a bad mistake in the photocopying machine? The pictures look perfectly fine in my 1996 CD booklet – why not leave them like that instead of making it look like Brighton Beach only ever has thundery skies and the roads of London are too dark to drive a scooter down?
So yes I’m really annoyed at the price (£40 or even £30 would have been nearer the mark), the much-lauded packaging could actually have been done with more care and there’s a bucket-load of missing tracks that should have been here. But some care has been taken here – I’m particularly thrilled that the compilers have chosen to put the demos in some form of chronological order rather than composition order, so that we get a much better feel for the story – and it’s great to hear so many demos for songs that we’ve never ever heard before, even on bootleg as far as I know. That’s already several gold stars ahead of the last Who deluxe release (‘Live at Leeds’, back out at £60 with a two disc gig the night before from Hull University where the band are having a really bad night and even use the same stage patter for the most part). And oh the music is superb – regular fans will know that I often cite this album as my second favourite only to ‘Smile’ and it’s easily the best Who album, even with other so many classic albums to go for (basically everything between 1965 and 1978). Jimmy’s story is one of the very best in rock and roll and is basically the story of rock and roll too; how music heals the soul and yet how distant celebrities will always be from their fans despite the effort on both sides. Jimmy has always been a great character, as flesh and blood and flawed and wonderful and hopeless as anyone you could ever meet – and now he sounds even more alive. Even at a huge cost learning more about his story would be a bargain at twice the price – the best I ever had.
For the purposes of this review, we’re going to look at ‘Quadrophenia’ in the order the songs appear on discs three and four of the new set and not in quite so much detail this time, except to tell you where the ‘new’ versions differ from the old ones (if you’re here for a view of the overall story and a true analysis of each song please see review no 60). Without the atmospherics of ‘I Am The Sea’ to distract us that means we start with ‘The Real Me’, well known for being one of the Who’s harshest, noisiest rockers and all the better for it, with some of the greatest lyrics Pete Townshend ever wrote on his favourite subjection of identity. This demo version – previously released on ‘Scoop 3’ – has plenty of lyrics, thanks to an extra fascinating verse about how rock and roll actually makes the problems of identity worse, with stars losing touch with his ‘real’ friends and getting more and more cut off from the real world (who only contact him by letter or from the other side of a blacked-out limousine), which sounds more like a verse from Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ than anything by The Who. Its hinted that this song is being sung by a musician not a ‘fan’ as Jimmy is here – indeed one of the puzzling features of Jimmy’s breakdown is why he didn’t go all out and try to become a musician rather than be co-erced into an office job he hated; that’s what everyone else his age was doing in 1964/65! Another change is that the ‘preacher’ is here just a ‘holy man’ though the lack of outcome is still the same. Alas this demo version doesn’t have much rock and roll about it, being taken at a slower pace and with Pete’s synthesiser up front rather than his guitar (like a lot of these demos, it has to be said) and rather loses something without Roger’s screaming vocal and John’s ridiculously complicated bass part.
‘Quadrophenia’ – here listed as ‘Overture’ – is so close to the finished version, however, it might as well be the same recording. There’s only a slightly more busy bass part on the ‘is it me?’ theme, slight cymbal washes on the fade, two notes of difference on the guitar solo and a rhythmic guitar part on the opening to differentiate the two from each other. In other words, you have to have lived with this album and played it as many times as I have to notice a difference at all (though admittedly there quite a few fans who live by this album like I do who may even spot more differences). Even the horn parts are here already and sounding identical. For me, this instrumental filled a hole where ‘We Close Tonight’ should have been anyway, given that we hear almost all these themes again in the rather more urgent instrumental ‘The Rock’ near the end of the piece – hearing an almost identical version of this song may show how wonderfully versatile and clever Pete Townshend is (playing everything here almost as well as on the finished version), but it doesn’t add much to our understanding of the album.
‘Cut My Hair’ is a terrific song, summing up the character of Jimmy and the others around him in a little under four minutes. It would have been easy to make the ‘mod’ side of Jimmy the enjoyable side and the family the problem, but Townshend’s a much more subtler writer than that (‘though I don’t want to hurt them, mine want me their way’ sighs Jimmy about his parents in a line most people can probably identify with well, whilst the effort he goes into trying to keep up with his friend’s fashions and moodswings aren’t worth the effort when they ‘hardly notice I’m around’). Pete sang all but the fashion-related middle eight on the album anyway, so there aren’t many differences here either, although the whole of this demo is noticeably rougher than the finished version (or indeed most of the other recordings here). Some of Pete’s vocal inflections are different too and he sings slightly higher, which makes Jimmy sound more naive than worldly wise and weary of life as per the finished version. There’s a few synthesiser differences too – like most of the demos its much louder in the mix than the finished version – and there’s not the same rollercoaster ride between the song’s ‘melancholic’ and ‘angry’ sections. As far as I can tell all the lyrics are the same, however.
‘Get Out And Stay Out’ only ever made the film version of ‘Quadrophenia’, where it was used as a bit of film music to accompany shots of Jimmy’s mother discovering the teenager’s stash of pills and throwing his belongings out the window as a result. I’ve always loved the film version of the song, slight as it is, and the way it manages to sound first angry, then defiant, then sad without changing a single line. This early version of the song is even more sparse than the film one though, with a drunk-sounding Pete warbling the lyrics at the top of his voice and singing alone with a piano rather than the crew of overdubs he has with him for the finished version. Alas there aren’t any more lyrics than on the better known version and even more so than the 1979 model this is nothing more than a ‘fill’ – as the name of the demo correctly suggests. A shame, because there’s the basis for a really good proper song in here somewhere, with Jimmy rather forcibly shoved into growing up before he’s ready, even if he’s been trying to leave since long before the start of the album.
‘Four Faces’ makes perfect sense here, picking up on the last song’s mournful cry ‘they kicked me out’. This is another song that only ever made the film soundtrack and really should have made the album proper, being a jokier take on ‘The Real Me’ and seemingly sending up Jimmy’s mixed up madness lightly, as if the four-way-split personality hasn’t properly taken over yet. Some of the lyrics here are Pete at his funniest, mixing the catchiness of ‘I’m A Boy’ and ‘Substitute’ with the theme of 1971 B-side ‘I Don’t Even Know Myslef’ (another strating point for ‘Quadrophenia’ that never seems to get it’s due) and telling us about Jimmy trying to decidewhat drinks to make, splitting his pocket money four ways to cover his interests, trying to date four girls, writing four replies to all his letters, suffering four hangovers and trying to work out which ‘him’ he really is (the answer, of course, is all four at once). For the moment this schizophrenia doubled sounds like a bit of fun (Jimmy even sings about how wonderful it is how all that experience of the world on many facets gives him ‘four-dimensional dreams’). Or at least it does until a typically yearning middle eight (‘I get so lonely and turned around...’) suggests that even after hearing about Jimmy’s four personalities we’re still only just getting a true glimpse of his true self as a mixed up kid who just wants to be loved and appreciated. By the end the refrain ‘they kicked me out’ sounds like it really hurts. Four Faces really should have made the record and is a welcome treat for all the fans of the original record who never saw the film or bought the soundtrack, although that said there really aren’t that many differences between this demo and the film version.
‘We Close Tonight’ is another song that deserves to be better known and Pete at his observational best. Poor Jimmy wants to impress a girl he fancies but hasn’t got a clue what to do so pretends to be someone he isn’t to win her over and fails badly. With others laughing at his attempts he tries harder and harder to impress her, with each lie getting him further and further into trouble even though chances are she’s like the real him better (hell, how can you not like someone whose real hidden passion is a – for the times – huge record collection of 200 LPs, even if his tastes are jazz not rock! The fact that ‘this’ version of Jimmy actually plays in a band is surely enough to win him a girlfriend circa 1965 anyway, even if he is a bit, well, mad to be blunt).By the end Jimmy’s so lost in his made up world that he hasn’t noticed that she’s moved on. Of course, what Pete doesn’t spell out is that the whole thing is probably Jimmy making it up anyway – he thinks she’s interested in him because of body language but never hears her say anything in words and hell, body language has always been the hardest language to learn (someone should invent a translation code. In fact I might do it myself one day, though it might take me rather more than a top five!) I’ve adored this song ever since hearing it on ‘Odds and Sods’ and it makes perfect sense of Jimmy’s character, desperate to please but scared of losing the love of his life (this week, anyway) and not wanting to show his weaknesses. Only Pete Townshend could have written this song (well, OK, so could Ray Davies but his version would have her as a little rich girl and him becoming a millionaire who then loses a fortune winning her over by the end) which is perfectly observed. Alas, though, this solo demo version isn’t up to the ‘Odds and Sods’ one -for a start John Enwtistle is perfectly cast as the sensitive jazz buff on the version intended for ‘Quadrophenia’ (with Keith taking over for the choruses) and the bass and drum parts on the finished product are far and away better than anything Pete can play here. The fact that Pete doesn’t sing on the original and rather struggles with the song here, throwing his vocal away instead of crafting it as elsewhere, suggests he isn’t that close to this song. He’s entirely wrong though – ‘We Close Tonight’ is the song that makes Jimmy likably hopeless instead of just a frustrated angry kid and, especially placed here in the story, tells us more about this fascinating character in three minutes than any of the longer, more epic songs do.
‘You Came Back’ has never been heard before – well, actually that’s not true; it leaked on Youtube about a month before the box set came out and I’ve loved it ever since then. But for 99.9% of people this is the first time they’ll hear what surely must be one of the greatest ‘lost’ song from Pete’s impressive run of songs. A quiet ballad, not unlike the stuff he’ll end up writing for his first few solo records in the late 70s, it’s a rare moment of happiness for Jimmy when the girlfriend he thought he’d lost comes back to him. In fact, its hinted in the song that they parted company way way before this – that this is a real childhood sweetheart Jimmy lost touch with and that the two of them became close as the ‘dirty’ and mainly avoided pair on the street who had nothing but each other. There’s a particularly moving middle eight (Quadrophenia has the best middle eights of all time!) where Jimmy sees her and is immediately hit with memories of ‘being dead and alive’, loving her company so much it cost him dearly to lose it and how thrilled he is to have a seemingly happy ending to a rough patch in his life. Given how well drawn Jimmy’s character is and how miserable he becomes later on, it’s a real delight to hear him sing of ‘things falling into place’ here. Listen too to the lines about rock and roll making sense of everything – another subplot abandoned early on and already heard in ‘The Real Me’ and ‘We Close Tonight’ (which somehow survives the cull as part of ‘The Punk and The Godfather’). This being a Who song, however, it’s not a straightforward love song – even now she’s come back Jimmy’s girl has a ‘mischievous look in her eyes’ (a then-unknown Lesley Ash plays this part in the film and really does have a mischievous look in her eyes – perhaps this song helped with the casting?) There’s also a kind of unspoken pact between them that they won’t ever mention their past as ‘losers’ – a bad mistake, you’d think, given Jimmy’ s hopeless attempts at trying to avoid his real self in the previous few tracks. Without saying a word, you know this song’s going to end in heartbreak for both of them. Another excellent song that really should have made the album – and its amazing Pete didn’t pick it up again in the late 70s when he was under some pretty fierce duress to make both Who and solo albums in the same period.
‘Get Inside’ is another song that’s never been heard before. Sketchier than the past few lesser known tracks, it’s still a strong composition with Jimmy the bitterly shy kid hiding from the outside world and keeping to his own little world. Symbolically, it’s only when he meets the love of his life that he starts taking up his mother’s mantra (‘c’mon c’mon get inside’). (there’s a rather odd last verse about a man with a mandolin too, but hopefully that’s just a ‘filler’ lyric nestling here before something better came along – which sadly it never did). It’s closer in style to the three songs that made the film soundtrack, this one, being a lighter and fluffier take on how messed up Jimmy is (its hinted that he’s afraid of being with people because they all expect him to be different people – and having four personalities means Jimmy’s never sure which one to bring out in conversation). It’s not quite up to the other ‘new’ songs here, but it’s intriguing nonetheless. The rather aggressive chorus is quite different to anything else on the rest of the album – indeed, it’s different to anything else The Who ever did - and you could easily imagine Roger barking this song and bringing it to life (perhaps with Pete on the later, happier verse).
‘Joker James’ is the third and final film soundtrack piece and is both maddeningly silly and frustratingly powerful all at the same time. The Jimmy we feel we know from the rest of Quadrophenia doesn’t sound like the madcap practical joker heard in this song, but perhaps its another (fifth?) side of his personality that got written out early on. Unusually, it’s told by a narrator, similar in feel to ‘Sally Simpson’ from ‘Tommy’, seemingly shaking it’s head at the puerile antics of the wayward youth who plays jokes to all the girls. Hearing verses about itching powder and whoopee cushions always sounded wrong in the grown up world of Quadrophenia, but the cautionary ending where Jimmy finally falls in love with Alice but gets jilted at the altar when she replaces the registry office pen with a rubber one makes a lot more sense of Jimmy’s personality breakdown and fear of people laughing at him. There’s a great chorus in this song, that should sound really funny but instead sounds really stern (lots of Pete’s laughing ‘he’s a joker!’ while the main one sings ‘you did it again, caused somebody pain’. Listen too to the line about ‘living up to your name’ – it never gets mentioned on the album again so either a) Pete realised early on this song wasn’t going to work and got browbeaten into using this song in the film or b) the jolt of having to grow up from this incident means Jimmy loses the ability to laugh at himself, which is the all-time killer in terms of coming to understand your personality. I’ve always regretted the fact that Pete didn’t write a deeper set of lyrics to go with his lovely lilting hummable tune but on its own terms ‘Joker James’ is quite fun. I much prefer the demo to the film soundtrack version by the way – Pete sounds much more comfortable with these whacko lyrics than Roger ever did and this de mo has had an awful lot of work spent on it compared to the other non-album songs that were seemingly abandoned early on.
‘Punk and the Godfather’ is a key song, not just for Quadrophenia but for rock and roll as a whole. This is basically ‘My Generation’ write large and taken from the ‘other’ point of view, with the aging rocker reluctantly giving way to the newer and the more dangerous coming along in its wake. Given that Quadrophenia was written a good four years before punk came along, when a ‘punk’ was just another term for a juvenile delinquent than a term for a whole musical generation, Pete Townshend excels himself with his lyrics here, especially the aching middle eight that cuts from the punk to the rocker and finds him contemplating ‘I’ve lived your future out, by pounding stages like a clown’. Interestingly all the elements of the song are here already in the demo version (legend has it the ‘godfather’ bit was added later – which would figure given that the demo is just called ‘punk’). The key difference though is that the song is sung in the first person – instead of ‘you only became what we made you’ its ‘I only became what you made me’ etc. Despite the similarities with ‘My Generation’ telling an older age to ‘f-f-f-fade away’ Pete identified with the aging star here from the beginning. Otherwise there’s not too many differences between this version and finished product, with Pete doing a great impression of Roger’s deeper, growlier vocals and even adding a touch of echo to his demo which sounds remarkably like the real thing. There’s an intriguing gulping bass guitar part too that gives the demo a psychedelic twinge that will be long gone by the time Entwistle adds one of his best-ever counterpoint bass-lines.
The demo for ‘I’m One’ sounds even closer to the finished version, given that Pete sings lead on both. ‘I’m One’ kind of does the job that we’ve already heard from some of the cut songs from this third disc of demos already, making Jimmy out to be a sweet, caring individual whose brought down because of what others say and think about him, but still determined to become...something. In the film this is Jimmy’s belief in everything ‘mod’ being set up before it’s taken away again with the next fashion that comes along, and Jimmy’s belief that being part of a ‘gang’ means he can belong to something without having to balance his four-way personality. Like the other demos for the better known songs here, the rhythm and drive of this song is a bit more muted and sounds more like a walking pace trot than the ballad-to-noisy rocker transformation this song should possess. There’s also no harmony vocals on the last verse and its great summation of Jimmy’s character: ‘fingers too clumsy, voice too loud, but I’m one’. The ending is notably rougher on the demo than on the finished version too.
‘The Dirty Jobs’ sounds very different however. In the original this is the first ‘real’ song to sound epic, with every overdub known to man from sound effects to brass parts and seemingly every piece of percussion known to man or Moon. Here there are no sound effects, basic bass and drums and a synthesiser doubling for the bass and strings. Pete notably sings this song in ‘his’ voice, not a copy of Roger’s and without the power of Daltrey, Entwistle and Moon’s contribution, this bleak song about narrow futures ends up sounding more like a reflective ballad than a forceful rock and roll song. The lyrics are exactly the same, however, even the middle eight which to me always sounded as if was if it was added in later (‘my karma tells me you’ve been screwed again...’) The lines ‘I’m getting pushed down, being pushed round’ sound less like a cry for help here than an existential problem in need of an answer. Clearly a work in progress but still a very lovely track, with a notably shorter end that just kind of ends, without the sound effect segue, Roger’s agonising screams or the battle royale between Keith and John over whose got the loudest instrument in the band!
‘Helpless Dancer’ is the real curio among the Quadrophenia pack, a rare piece of looking outside Jimmy’s inner world to a world that’s suffering and dislocated every bit as much as this album’s protagonist. This demo loses something by not having the marvellous criss-crossing vocals from the left and right speakers, which on the record sound like Roger’s talking to himself and answering his own ideas. Pete does a good job at sounding like Roger again, though, and clearly has this song’s final, unusual brass-synth-piano accompaniment worked out to the letter, although the stabbing piano chords are a bit softer this time around. In fact Pete does an even better job at the song’s second and final verse than Roger, packing all the bitterness, confusion, injustice and anger of his teenage years into one great list of problems with the world and ending it with the ultimate childhood-ending sentence: ‘you stop dancing!’
Of all the tracks on Quadrophenia, my favourite is one of the most overlooked. ‘Is It In My Head?’ was allegedly the first complete song written for the album and it sums up both Jimmy’s struggle between his ‘tough nut’ exterior and his kind heart and the confusion that ultimately leads him to believe the world isn’t worth living in. Nothing in certain in the Quadrophenia universe, everything seems to exist in a sort of grey area in the middle where you can’t rely on what your senses tell you and everyone seems to be playing games with you rather than talking to you straight. The key question here for Jimmy is whether the doubts he feels about life are imaginary or heartfelt. This demo is largely like the finished version, if a tad slower like a lot of these demos, but there’s a big surprise with the final verse which replaces the album version about Jimmy dreaming that his phone might actually ring and someone wants to make contact with him: ‘I see a man without a problem, I feel the dryness of the sun, I know he must be close to dying, and yet his work is just begun’. There’s a lot to take in with this ‘new’ verse – is this Jimmy now so distanced from himself that he’s suddenly singing about himself in the third person while looking at himself in a mirror? (Don’t forget the cover of the original album, with the Who reflected in Jimmy’s scooter mirrors). Or is it more of the so-many-people-around-the-world-dying-and-we-can’t-help-them-all imagery from the first verse, with Jimmy suddenly aware of all the people who are hardly ever spoken about at the other end of the globe dying of starvation and disease? Certainly that’s what the ‘sun’ imagery suggests, but why is his work ‘just begun?’ Either way, ‘Is It In My Head?’ was always my very favourite song on the album, with its gorgeous melody, observant empathetic lyrics and powerful surges from helplessness to aggression – with the extra verse this song has now become my favourite of the demos too.
‘Anymore’ is a never-before-heard song that sounds mightily scratchy and unfinished in demo form but has a lovely tune and some intriguing lyrics on a similar theme to ‘Is It In My Head?’ and could really have become something special had it been worked on just a little bit. Asking the question ‘why am I here?’, the fast growing-up Jimmy tries to come to terms with the fact that the world isn’t the safe and secure place he used to think it was and which every parent, teacher and friend seemed to re-inforce. Aware that he’s been living in a fantasy world for much of his life, this is him finally saying goodbye to his safety net after the niggling hole in the back of mind has grown to full size. As you can tell, this is quite a key song to the story and really should have made it to the album, even if the song itself is more like a Cat Stevens number and the arrangement on the demo seems to be closer to a Lloyd Webber power ballad than a Who song (like the other discarded songs, its much closer to what Pete will go on to write on his solo records). Pete’s shrill vocal struggles with so many held notes in the song, however and this is the one time on the ‘new’ songs where you’re crying out to hear what Roger would have done with this song, giving it a power and determination Pete doesn’t vocally have. I can hear Moony giving his kit a good wallop across this song too, though here it’s just a simple piano with a bit of strummed guitar. Not something I’ll be playing many times, but fascinating to hear as part of the overall story that got axed early on.
‘I’ve Had Enough’ is an epic song indeed, made up of no less than four main sections: the angry there’s-always-someone-keeping-you-in-your-place verses, a reprise of the fashion statement from earlier (‘My jacket’s going to be...’)the reflective country-ish list of problems (‘Had enough of living, had enough of dying) and a final section previewing ‘Love Reign O’er Me’. All are present in the demo, although the segues between them are much rougher here than the finished version and Pete’s performance of all the main instruments (even his guitar part) are among the most different to the whole album, without the tight tension between the bass and the rhythm guitar. There’s also a whiny guitar part that plays more or less throughout instead of suddenly coming out of nowhere to powerhouse the song onto the next section. What’s interesting, though, is how much is here already: the ‘had enough...’ part of the song already has the banjo accompaniment and the harmony vocals, even though it has a different arpeggio guitar introduction. The lyrics are here complete again too, even though the end line ‘had enough of trying to jump’ is sung here like the rest of the song and given a rather cheesy ending of ‘I’ve Had Enough!’ (on the album Roger screams this line before the song is suddenly wiped out by the sound effect of a train rattling through from our right speaker to our left in double-quick time).
‘Fill no 2’ is a simple piano instrumental that in truth could have come from any number of Who or Townshend solo projects and there are dozens of these things on Pete’s ‘Scoop’ collections of demos. This is one of the nicer ones, however, with a pretty piano phrase that sounds like it should be playing under a Green Party Election Broadcast and one that would have made for a fine accompaniment to the film (one of the scooter sections?) if not turned into a full song. Ultimately, though, it really is just a fill and a chance for Pete to show off his piano chops, which are pretty darn amazing to be honest given that he hadn’t been playing the instrument that long and is still now much better known for being a guitarist. In fact, Pete plays in a flowing block chord style very similar to what ‘Rabbit’ Brundrick’ will play on the late 70s/early 80s Who and Townshend albums and its clear why the pair got on so well, possessing very similar styles all round.
‘Wizadry’ is less successful as an instrumental, despite having copious overdubs and sounding much more like a traditional Who song. To be honest having so many instrumentals really drags the album down and the ‘wizadry’ feel of the title and synthesiser bleeps is something that would have been much more fitting on ‘Tommy’ (not the original, perhaps, but its very close to the 1975 film soundtrack version). Basically the sound of Pete playing around with a new toy, there’s not that much to enjoy here and not even that much of a tune, despite some rather fine double bass playing a la Pentangle and some distinctly 1990s acidhouse drumming that makes for quite a departure from The Who sound. To be honest I’d have felt short-changed hearing this on ‘Scoop’, never mind a £80 box set of one of my favourite albums. Oh well, I guess we should just be thankful this curio didn’t make the final album.
‘Sea and Sand’ is one of the better sounding demos, with Pete much more sure of himself with the vocal and with a rollicking backing track full of piano, bass, drum and acoustic guitar parts, making this surely one of the most comprehensive demos ever made! The piano is much more dominant in the sound than the record, though, and effectively replaces the harsh electric guitar, turning this song into more of a ballad. There’s still a real swing to this song, however, with the piano parts really showing off this song’s jazz tendencies toned down for the record. Heard on the record this song swings between the three main parts of the song quite clumsily at times, with a real start-stop quality that those of you who’ve come to this song from the game ‘Rockband’ will know is really hard to play along to! Like the other demos there’s less difference between the parts of the song and I’d go so far as to say that this demo version might even be better than the record – it’s certainly easier on the ear, with Pete much more sure of this complex character than Roger often sounded! The unexpected reprise ‘I’m the face!’ (which catches so many people on the game out!) is there in the demo, incidentally, despite sounding like a neat piece of jamming by the band, although it doesn’t run anywhere near as long. Overall, one of this set’s better examples of how a demo can really illuminate and sometimes even improve on a later recording and more than overdue for a release!
‘Drowned’ is a song that must have been played in every possible permutation on stage by now, surviving into the Who’s set list longer than most Quadrophenia songs and being performed as ballad, rocker, blues, acoustic blues and more or less everything in between. Therefore my hopes were high for hearing what the demo version would sound like – and I wasn’t expecting this, a sort of grunge-jazz-blues fusion! The electric guitar part plays the former, the acoustic part plays the latter, while Pete’s vocal is going for a bit of a Leadbelly sound! While bouncier than many of these demos and taken at a fast trot much closer to the album than most, the fusion of styles doesn’t work as well as on the record (or the acoustic version Pete sometimes played at solo concerts) and the instrumental section in the middle is a bit of a mess to be honest, with the instruments all tripping over themselves in an effort to keep up. Still this is only a demo – something you have to keep reminding yourself given the amount of work that’s gone into recordings like these – and it’s fascinating to hear a song you’re so familiar with being played in quite a different way. Listen out especially for some charming falsetto harmonies from Pete that never made the final arrangement (gargling ‘aaah’ in a way that’s somehow a drowning man’s cried for help and upbeat at the same time – a bit like the song as a whole in fact) and a comical ending that has a whole new stop-starty tag of duh duh duh-duh-duh-duh-duh that never made the final version (which simply fades).
‘Is It Me?’ is the final unknown song and is an existential reflective song looking back on what’s happened to Jimmy to date and why his life’s about to go irreversibly downhill (or does it? Quadrophenia has a fascinatingly open-ended conclusion!) Jimmy’s gone back to the scene of the Brighton riots but this time to appear in court for his (minor) part in the mods vs rockers fights and he starts the song being carted off to prison. By the middle the song ends up in the familiar refrain of ‘is it me or a moment?’, the snippet that represents John’s theme on the album and can also be heard as part of ‘I’ve Had Enough’ and by the end even falls into the middle eight of ‘Bell Boy’. This is fascinating because this song really does fill in what happens between these two songs and may well have been the starting point for both of these compositions. The lyrics are fascinating too, giving Jimmy a reflective pose before the ‘betrayal’ of Bell Boy and the uncontrolled anger of ‘Dr Jimmy’, back on his own again in a prison cell with no one else to talk to but his own disintegrating personality. Jimmy even talks to the listener directly, opening with the lines: ‘I guess by now you’re feeling sorry for me, well that’s the way this story’s meant to be’ before talking about how everyone has multiple personalities of some sort or another (using the odd metaphor of a boy scout in the day beating people up at night). Jimmy is clearly being set up as an everyman here, reflecting on what’s gone wrong with his life when all he really wants to be is this ‘helpless ro,mantic’ as the original back cover listed it, who learnt through the harshness of life to cover up his ‘weaker’, more vulnerable side. This is the one and only time Jimmy gets to speak to us direct (unless you count the drunken side of Jimmy in Dr Jimmy) and its very moving, especially the warning lines about the fact that Jimmy ended up this way because ‘society put me in the bin’. Given what’s been happening recently with the London riots and the high youth unemployment rates of a ‘lost generation’, Quadrophenia is beginning to sound more relevant than ever, even if the mod revival is no more these days. A fascinating composition and one of the highlights of the set, this is a great song though not perhaps a great Who song, the equivalent of the ‘Trial’ section of ‘The Wall’ that sounds more like a musical outtake than a rock and roll song. Still, the tension , atmosphere and character analysis are all spot-on and Pete could have gotten away with this track on the album had he needed to, as a sort of soliloquy before the finale. What’s odd, though, is that far from being an early idea for the piece and later discarded, the demo for ‘Is It Me?’ was actually the last to be made for the album, along with ‘The Rock’ – was Pete having second thoughts about how easy it was to follow his grand masterpiece?
‘Bell Boy’ is the turning point in Quadrophenia when even being a mod lets Jimmy down and leads to his mental collapse. Picking up on the phrase that tantalisingly ends ‘Is It Me?’ (‘a beach is a place where a man can feel he’s the only soul in the world that’s real’), it finds Jimmy let out of prison and determined to go back to the scene of the fights, the only time he really felt ‘alive’. He even sees his hero the ‘ace face’, the leader of the mod movement and prince amongst his generation (weirdly played by Sting in the film in a woeful piece of mis-casting) – but without the mods and rockers around he’s reduced to the only job he can get, working as a bell boy at the beck and call of the ‘elder’ generation. The Bell Boy doesn’t mind – in truth he wasn’t that into the mod scene anyway – and for Jimmy, who lived and breathed that world, this fact is even more of a betrayal and more evidence that he’s got no chance trying to follow his dreams in real life. Listen out for the way Pete sings about ‘always running at someone’s heels’ while wistfully trying to remember times of a more innocent way of life – if this isn’t the perfect summation of growing older I don’t know what is. Keith Moon excels himself with this part on the record, a mixture of cackling lunatic and gruff realist, but here Pete sings the song much straighter, offering a much greater contrast between the demo and record than most examples here. This song has a real verve and kick to it throughout, as if Pete knows he’s onto something special and the middle eight (heard in the last track as well) about ‘remembering when stars were in reach’ is one of the most moving moments of The Who’s canon, especially here with Pete taking on both parts so that it could just as easily be Jimmy from the future talking to us. The music and lyrics are pretty much the same as the finished version (only ‘gaffe’ has become the more boring ‘place’), although the arrangement is a little different, especially the opening where the synthesisers offer the song its deep bass rumble rather than its pretty twinkling bits of starlight. In all ‘Bell Boy’ is one of the better demos here.
‘Dr Jimmy’ was always a song too far, I felt, with Jimmy angry and drunk and determined to cut off the last pieces of his vulnerability and put his hard suit of armour on one last time. The original sounded like a bad hangover itself at times – bass heavy, murky, un-coordinated and determined to make as much of a nuisance of itself as possible. This demo goes a stage further without Roger’s deliciously unhinged vocals to enjoy, although Pete does a good job here, especially with the peaceful middle eight and last reprise of his inner self (the theme from ‘Is It Me?’) before bidding himself goodbye for good. Like the record, though, there’s too much happening here for one song and a rare lapse of inspiration in the second verse (‘I’m going back soon home to get that baboon who cut up my eye, tore up my Levis...’). Even drunk and mad we know Jimmy can come up with better than this! Pete even gets the giggles by the end of the song as he knows he’s going way over the top – thankfully Roger sings everything completely straight on the record and really does sound like a threat.
‘The Rock’ – listed here as ‘Finale’ – is the album’s final instrumental, which in the original story finds Jimmy adrift at sea perched precariously on a rock with the booze and drugs wearing off, wondering whether it’s better to drown or swim back to shore a changed figure. This demo version loses much of the drama without the sound effects to enhance the mood but otherwise sounds more or less note-perfect, as close to the finished record as the title track instrumental was. For the most part only some hand-claps near the end, replaced by more Moon percussion and a much more muted and less vocalised vocoder-sound are significantly different (it is there, but isn’t obviously mouthing ‘where am I going?’ over and over as it does on the record). The ending, however, is quite different: there’s a third reprise of the main ‘Love Reign O’er Me’ riff which kind of drunkenly staggers through it’s paces before getting swallowed up by the familiar tsunami of watery emotion and there’s no clean cut to the sound effects that start the next song. It’s hard to say whether this version is better than the finished version but it is still terribly moving, as if Jimmy is trying one last time for redemption and, finding none, reluctantly slumps into the water and drowns, rather than the moment being one of choice and clarity as per the record. Even the brass parts are here, which seems amazingly forward-thinking for a demo. Incidentally, I’ve just been doing a bit of research on this album and came up with the following description of what musically is going on this track, something which sums up how complex this piece is: “[The Rock] uses the "Bell Boy" theme as the chord sequence, the "Helpless Dancer" theme as the melody, the "Is It Me?" theme as a lead (played on guitar and synthesiser), and the keyboard part to "Love Reign O'er Me" as a countermelody.”
We then end with ‘Love Reign O’er Me’, surely one of the greatest songs ever written and Jimmy’s cry from the heart for someone to love him for who he is. As the sea has been such a key theme throughout the album we don’t know if this ‘drowning’ is death and re-birth or simply a baptism of sorts, washing the defects of Jimmy’s character away. What we do know is that Roger Daltrey’s vocal on the recording can never be bettered and although Pete tries hard he’s simply not got the power in his lungs to be up to the job. That said Pete reaches his crescendo much later than Roger and that’s very effective, especially with Pete’s comparatively tinny voice spiraling up against the descending chords of the main riff. Everything else is in place already, though, from Entwistle’s inventive bass parts to the opening sound effects to the flying majestic guitar solo which must surely rank as one of the most moving ever recorded in either version. The only thing really missing is the long long ending, where Pete’s guitar howls over and over and the song just keeps on coming before Moon ends everything by hurling a gong into the heart of his drum kit (I kid you not!) Without that ending this song sounds, well not ordinary (this song could never be that), but certainly more of a song and less a matter of life and death as per the album. There also isn’t that underlying sense of conclusion and finality, something that was doubly true live when the band used to end their long sets with their weary, world-heavy, majestic song. Still, the demo is great to hear, if only for how Pete, it’s composer, channelled the words rather than Roger, his chief actor.
So ends 100 minutes of some of the finest demos ever produced. In some cases that fine-ness rather works against itself (was there really any point including demos for ‘Quadrophenia’ or ‘I’m One’ when there’s virtually no difference?), in others these songs sound even more amazing than they did on the record (‘Is It In My Head?’ ‘Sea and Sand’ and ‘Bell Boy’). Along the way we get to hear discarded parts of the story, something which really comes alive with the trio of film soundtrack pieces, ‘We Close Tonight’ ‘You Came Back’ and especially ‘Is It Me?’ songs that are more than deserving of being exhumed from the vaults after all these years. Even the obviously filler instrumentals aren’t bad and if nothing else this ‘alternate version’ of Quadrophenia shows just how much effort and skill Townshend put into crafting ‘his’ baby before handing it over to the others. Had this set come out at a ‘proper’ price, like most of the other Who deluxe editions, I’d be urging you all to go out and buy it. But for £80 music fans like me (and like Jimmy) surely deserve something a bit more, well, life-changing for our money – after all there’s only perhaps four tracks here that are truly essential and if you need to buy the album you can still get it on two CDs for less than a tenner (and if you don’t own this album in some form already, it’ll be one of the best £10s you’ve ever spent). There’s so much empty space going spare on this set that they really should have been filled, even if its with stuff that have already been out before (there’s three other mixes of the album they could have used, without having to do any extra work whatsoever!) Other than that, drop the price for goodness sake – if ever there was an album about the horrors and pressures of capitalism, the jobs market and the ‘millionaires above you’ then surely it’s Quadrophenia, so why become part of the problem not the solution? The Who don ‘t need the money as badly as they did when Entwistle was alive and Pete and Roger have other things to keep them going far more lucrative than re-issues of a 40-year-old album that’s been released on CD four times already anyway. That said, it’s hard to get cross with anyone who makes music as life-affirming, honest and downright moving as this. Let’s just hope that if there is another definitive box set version of ‘Quadrophenia’ next time around they pack it with much more stuff than this and release it at a much lower price.
A complete collection of Who reviews:
'The Who Sing My Generation' (1965) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/the-who-sing-my-generation-1965.html