When the Who chose to play its 1973 rock opera, “Quadrophenia,” in its entirety on this winter’s North American tour, the band invited speculation as to whether it’s following the recent trend of musicians doing tours based around an album from their back catalogs.
Guitarist Pete Townshend and singer Roger Daltrey say, however, that the reasons they’re bringing “Quadrophenia” back to the concert stage (The Who also played the entire rock opera on a 1996-97 tour) are far more artistically driven.
“We’ve been trying to find something we could do together, Roger and I, for awhile,” Townshend said in a press conference. “We’ve gone off in slightly different directions. Roger’s been working with a new band. I’ve been developing new music and writing a book about my life (the newly published ‘Who I Am’). So we’ve really struggled to find something to do this time. In a sense, ‘Quadrophenia’ for us this time was something we both felt we could get together on and look at again … We’ve been anxious to work together before we drop dead.”
During press conference, the two founding members of the Who fielded a wide-ranging set of questions, most of which related to “Quadrophenia” and its lasting impact on rock.
“Quadrophenia” tells the story of a boy named Jimmy Cooper and his struggle to find his identity among friends and family, all set against that backdrop of early ’60s Britain. It was a time when two cultures — the mods and the rockers — were clashing and battling for supremacy.
It was also a time when the Who was getting started and Townshend was growing out of his period of teenage rebellion (against his parents and various forms of authority) into adulthood. The mod-movement died out around 1965. But the Who always has been identified with the mods, in part because of the link “Quadrophenia” provided to that period and because the story of Jimmy was seen as having parallels to the lives of Townshend and his bandmates.