(All text via Wolfgang’s Vault)
Evolving from Pete Townshend‘s idea for a musical autobiography of The Who, the second of the group’s two full-scale rock operas, Quadrophenia, eventually developed into a social, musical and psychological exploration of the mid-1960s mod scene in England. Written from the perspective of a British teenager, Jimmy, the band member’s role in the storyline became symbolic via Jimmy’s four personalities. Like much of Townshend’s work, Quadrophenia examined the universal themes of rejection, rebellion, and the search for identity. Released in October of 1973, the resulting double album, Townshend’s last magnum opus within the context of The Who was greeted with acclaim and featured some of the most majestic music the band ever recorded.
Upon Quadrophenia’s release, The Who took to the road in support of the album. Touring the U.K. and then North America, this tour turned out to be one of the most legendary and monumentally frustrating of their entire career. The technical requirements of performing Quadrophenia were extremely demanding and performances were often plagued by malfunctioning equipment. Because sound effects and backing tapes were incorporated into the performance, they were constrained to playing along, reducing the spontaneity that had always been a key ingredient to their live sound. Technical issues aside, The Who also faced challenges putting the concept, story and characters across to North American audiences. Unfamiliar with the Mod scene that was so central to the concept, Daltrey and Townshend’s lengthy explanations of the plot between songs diverted the flow and intensity of the band’s performances. Despite these challenges, this tour featured many moments of brilliance and experienced sell-out crowds all along the way.
The North American leg of this tour got off to an inauspicious start when on opening night in San Francisco, Keith Moon collapsed on stage several times and was replaced on drums by a volunteer from the audience. As the tour progressed and Townshend began paring down the Quadrophenia material to its essential elements, the performances improved. Toward the end of this tour, they were more consistently engaging and on a good night, The Who remained the most powerful and captivating band on the planet.
Which brings us to the second-to-last night of this tour, when the band took to the stage of the Spectrum in Philadelphia before a sold-out house. Excerpts of this show, recorded for broadcast by the King Biscuit Flower Hour, have been the primary source of high quality recordings from this tour. The KBFH recordings from this night and the final tour stop in Largo, Maryland, have also been the source of collector confusion and the subject of debate for nearly 35 years. Ubiquitously bootlegged ever since the initial broadcasts in 1974, only those excerpts of this night’s recordings have ever circulated. Here for the first time ever is the vast majority of The Spectrum performance, from the original King Biscuit masters and sounding sonically superior to all other versions of this material in existence. Not only does this include all but one of the songs from this legendary night, but the final reel included the entirety of the encore, previously unknown to have been recorded.
The performance kicks off in fine form with a double dose of primal Who, first with the opener “I Can’t Explain” followed by a ferocious “Summertime Blues” to warm things up. Next up is an expanded version of John Entwhistle’s “My Wife,” before they cap off this initial segment of the performance with their signature song, “My Generation.” Both feature impressive instrumental exchanges between Townshend, Entwhistle and Moon, with the latter taken at a furious tempo and pummeling in its delivery.
Next, Townshend addresses the audience directly and prefaces the performance of Quadrophenia by way of explaining, “The better part of an album what we wrote about ourselves being Mods. When we were little. The story about the Mod kid and we call it Quadrophenia. Being Mod meant a lot more in England, I think, than it ever did in America. I think you think of it being a Carnaby Street thing. It’s not just a looking back, it’s a kind of bringing up to date. Quadrophenia’s about where we all are today, maybe you, too. The story is set on a rock in the middle of a stormy sea. In quadrophonic, as well!” With that said, the backing track of “I Am The Sea” leads into the full blown performance of “Quadrophenia.” Townshend jumps in a bit early, but “The Real Me” and “The Punk And The Godfather” both cook with a fiery intensity. Daltrey’s vocals are full of raw passion and the rhythm section of Entwhistle and Moon is explosive. Townshend delivers another explanation prior to “I’m One” revealing some of his own childhood perceptions. This song, much like his classic “Behind Blue Eyes,” begins as a solo vehicle for Townshend’s voice and guitar alone, before the entire group kicks in to dramatic effect. The remainder of the “Quadrophenia” material here features plenty of great ensemble playing and those familiar with the KBFH broadcasts will welcome the appearance of the never-before-heard “5:15,” the riff-heavy “Sea And Sand” and a 10- minute “Drowned” that includes some inspired jamming.
Despite the technical limitations of the equipment, which are more prominent during the latter parts of “Quadrophenia,” this portion of the recording concludes with a humorous “Bell Boy,” featuring Keith Moon altering his lyrics to recall the hotel room destroyed in Montreal earlier that week, followed by an engaging performance of “Dr. Jimmy.” Unfortunately the sole missing item is the grand finale of “Love, Reign O’er Me,” but otherwise these are the finest 1973 era “Quadrophenia” performances anyone is likely to have ever heard.
Following the “Quadrophenia” presentation, they launch into a powerful “Won’t Get Fooled Again, before wrapping up with two classic tracks from Townshend’s earlier magnum opus, Tommy. First they deliver a frenetic rendition of “Pinball Wizard,” here humorously introduced as “Pineball Blizzard!,” followed by a majestic set closing finale of “See Me, Feel Me,” that leaves the ecstatic audience clamoring for more. For nearly eight solid minutes this audience roars it’s approval . Unison chants of “WE WANT The Who!” are heard over and over again. When the band returns to the stage amidst thunderous applause, they cut loose into a smoldering version of “Naked Eye” with Daltrey leading the way. For a solid 13 minutes, this encore burns with intensity, culminating in the destruction of Townshend’s cherry sunburst Les Paul Deluxe.
01. Introduction 0:58
02. I Can’t Explain 2:27
03. Summertime Blues 3:45
04. My Wife 7:24
05. My Generation 7:09
06. Quadrophenia Introduction 1:14
07. I Am The Sea 1:51
08. The Real Me 5:50
09. The Punk And The Godfather 4:58
10. I’m One 3:55
11. 5:15 6:25
12. Sea And Sand 7:34
13. Drowned 10:07
14. Bell Boy 4:56
15. Doctor Jimmy 9:03
16. Won’t Get Fooled Again 8:53
17. Pinball Wizard 2:56
18. See Me, Feel Me 5:37
19. Encore / Crowd 8:31
20. Naked Eye 13:35
Click here to listen to the entire show
Pete Townshend – vocals, guitar
Roger Daltrey – vocals, harmonica
John Entwistle – vocals, bass
Keith Moon – vocals, drums