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The Who's Spooky Tour: Awe and Hassles

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The following Thursday in Los Angeles they played the "Fabulous" Forum, whence three days later a slick Pat Boone mass hymn-singing special would be broadcast. The show's adrenaline level took Peter to the point of smashing a guitar – something he hadn't done in years. Or planned to, either. "It was the only one budgeted for in the tour," he later explained somewhat sheepishly. The audience applauded for ten minutes steadily after the lights went up and finally got their encore. "For the first time we figured out how to play Los Angeles," Townshend remembered. "We hadn't realized before how many unexpected people go to rock concerts there – industry people, promotion people, arts people, Hollywood sorts. We'd never gotten so much response before."

In Los Angeles Daltrey and Townshend had started to include verbal transitions between the songs from Quadrophenia. "It was my idea," Roger said. "It helps people follow the new material. In a couple of months when everybody knows the album, we wouldn't have to explain."

"Roger and I have different ideas about Quadrophenia . . . we get different things out of it," said Peter, grimacing and gesturing as if pulling up handfuls of water to emphasize the difficulty of articulating the problem. "I think the story line isn't so complicated it bears much explaining. A kid sits on a rock and remembers the things that have happened in the last few days. I think if you explain the story line too much it demeans all the other things in the music, makes it too Tanglewood Tales. The story, after all, is just a peg to hang ideas on. When Roger gets too literal about the story, I have to cut in and make it lighter."

The practice continued, despite philosophical differences, throughout the tour. By the time of the Chicago Amphitheater concert, according to Al Rudis of the Chicago Sun-Times, Townshend was positively joking about "our new masterpiece" – and once when Roger was making a song introduction that had gone for perhaps two minutes, Entwistle stepped up to the mike and joshed, "Fuck it." In Detroit they were still telling the audience, "The performance is still evolving, bear with us." The crowd bore with Quadrophenia, in near silence, but at the end stood and applauded. Spooky, considering the lack of silence during the Who's oldies selection.

Townshend later called Montreal and Chicago "two of our solidest performances." Following the show in Montreal they put on another solid performance in the good old Who tradition – tearing up a hotel room. The reported $6000 damages inflicted at a wee-hours party were settled amicably with the Hotel Bonaventure. What the band still doesn't understand is why their whole party of 16 had to spend seven hours in jail, even utter innocents such as Roger Daltrey, who went to bed early every night of the tour to preserve his voice. No charges were pressed.

And so it went: Halls were sold out everywhere (in Detroit, for instance, there were eight applications for every seat), audiences respectful toward Quadrophenia. By Philadelphia Townshend was questioning whether the project, the Who's most ambitious ever, might have been too ambitious. "Every Who album has been a step," he said. "I wonder whether the step needn't be a monumental one."

"What the Mods taught us in the band was how to lead by following." Townshend was speaking in Dallas, the third city in the 11-city tour. "I mean, you'd look in the dance floor and see some bloke stop dancing the dance of the week and for some reason feel like doing some silly sort of step. And you'd notice some of the blokes around him looking out of the corners of their eyes and thinking, 'Is this the latest?' And on their own, without acknowledging the first fellow, a few of 'em would start dancing that way.

"And we'd be watching. By the time they looked up on the stage again, we'd be doing that dance, and they'd think the original one had been imitating us. And next week they'd come back and look to us for dances.

"That kind of feedback and interchange goes on in all the popular arts, I think, but particularly in rock & roll. Some kid writes in to me and says, 'I've got all your records and I listen to your music all day long and I look at your pictures all the time and I write to you and all I get is a bleedin' autographed picture. You don't know how much time I spend thinkin' about you lot.' I write him back and say, 'You don't know how much time I spend looking at and thinking about teenagers.' "

This story is from the January 3rd, 1974 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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