With a plot as dramatic as any classical opera, Tommy is an extraordinary work, packed with memorable songs that both depict Tommy’s nightmare world and show him real compassion. As well as Tommy, the Who performed a one hour concert of their hits including Substitute and Won’t Get Fooled Again. Rough Boys should have been a Who single and other songs include Face The Face, John Entwistle’s Boris The Spider and, from Quadrophenia, Love Reign O’er Me. From the same year comes a three song encore from the Giants Stadium including Pete Townshend singing The Acid Queen.
Following the success of Tommy, the Who delivered Quadrophenia in 1973. At the time it was regarded as a poor relation to Tommy (“First Tommy and now Tommy rot” said one critic) and the concert version in which Pete and Roger Daltrey put the songs into context was not what fans wanted. To some degree, the score was rehabilitated with a very good film version with Phil Daniels and Sting.
Quadrophenia is a difficult work, lacking both the plot and the anthems of Tommy, and designed to show the confusion in a young mod’s mind. The mod declares that schizophrenics are lucky as they only have two personalities: he has four. There are no Happy Jacks here but the music is very good and many of the songs are first-rate. It occurs to me that unlike most songwriters, Townshend is uncomfortable writing love songs but totally at home recreating childhood and adolescent life whether it be masturbation fantasies (Pictures Of Lily) or being raised as a girl (I’m A Boy).
Maybe even bigger bucks were on offer around the time of the new concert version of Quadrophenia in 1997. A “making of” documentary with the director, Aubrey Powell, explains how the live music was being integrated with documentary footage of the Who and the mods and rockers conflicts in the 60s, with scenes from the Quadrophenia film, and with linking material from the young actor Alex Langdon.