In addition to the 1973 rock opera, Peter Townshend says, the band will close “with a few of the really well-known anthems,” as selected by Roger Daltrey — “this is an area I tend to leave to Roger; he’s very good at it.”
Key tour stops are in Washington, D.C. (Nov. 13), Brooklyn (Nov. 14), Toronto (Nov. 23), Chicago (Nov. 29), New York Madison Square Garden (Dec. 5), Los Angeles Staples Center (Jan. 30), and Denver (Feb. 12).
“Quadrophenia” was envisioned as a musical profile of each of the Who’s four members, to be rendered in the quadrophonic surround sound format. Both concepts were scrapped. It emerged as a story about a disillusioned Mod, Jimmy, who tries to cope with his four personalities. “I’m all mixed up,” the pill-popping hero declares. “But I know what’s right.”
The most popular songs from “Quadrophenia” are “The Real Me,” “5:15” and “Love Reign o’er Me,” all considered Who classics. The double album sold well, but couldn’t repeat the remarkable success of “Tommy.” (Many fans consider the songs on “Quadrophenia” better superior to those on “Tommy,” taken as a whole.)
With the sprawl and inherent pretense of a rock opera, “Quadrophenia” soon provided a broad target for the U.K. punk movement.
The mix for “Quadrophenia” remained in play over the years, with singer Daltrey unhappy with the treatment of his vocals. It was remixed several times, most recently by Townshend for an MCA “Deluxe Edition” rerelease in November.
The film version is getting the Criterion Collection in late summer. The cineaste label has set Blu-ray and DVD versions of “Quadrophenia” for Aug. 28. “I’ve come to appreciate that the film has become almost more important than the album in some ways, especially in the visual age we live in,” Townshend said during preparations for the tour.
Writer Townshend reflected on playing “Quadrophenia” live, in a quote sure to give any Who fan chills:
“The real high point for me is always the final song ‘Love Reign O’er Me.’ Roger and I now stand almost alone together, representing not only the original band, but also its Mod audience, and of course all our other early fans. We are connected by it, in what is the most clear cut prayer for redemption, and it feels like an acknowledgment that rock music has managed to deal with the highest emotional challenge: spiritual desperation.”
The Who recorded “Quadrophenia” in May and June 1973, undertaking a short fall tour for British audiences that was plagued by misfiring backing tapes.
The film version debuted in the summer of 1979. In the summer of 1996, the Who performed the rock opera at a Prince’s Trust event, and then toured the show on both sides of the pond for the rest of the year and into 1997.
The Who last toured North America four years ago.
The band for the new tour includes Zak Starkey (drums), Pino Palladino (bass), Simon Townshend (guitar/backing vocals), Chris Stainton (keyboards), Loren Gold (keyboards/backing vocals) and Frank Simes (musical director, keyboards).
For the full list of tour dates, check the Who’s “Quadrophenia” tour page.