Thursday, June 5, 2008

GMVW # 22: "Always Running at Someone's Heals"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 22: Always Running at Someone’s Heals
Song: Bellboy by The Who
(Songwriter: Pete Townshend)
June 5, 2008

Back in 1996, the Who announced that they would be performing their 1973 double album Quadrophenia in it’s entirety for 6 shows only, all at Madison Square Garden, New York City (the tour was later expanded).  This was a certified BIG EVENT, and I was determined to get tickets.  Picking up on a tip, I called a local ticket agency (instead of one in NY) and was able to secure 4 tickets rather easily.  Mac and Kurt were also able to get tickets.  In the month or so leading up to the show I eagerly counted down the days.

Bec and Dave, Nancy and I made the trek down to Manhattan, with Dave driving.  The conversation swayed to home life and our kids.  It would likely have continued along these lines with plenty of driving ahead of us.

Dave had other ideas……

About half way thru Connecticut, roughly the demarcation between Red Sox fans and Yankee fans, as we entered the gravitational pull of the Big Apple, Dave casually reached into a side compartment, slipped disk 1 of Quadrophenia out of its sleeve and popped it into the his hi-fi player.  He turned up the volume.  Way up!  Conversation-impossible up!  It was clearly time to get focused on the task at hand.

The remainder of the ride proved to be almost as intense as the real event later that evening.  Dave’s timing was impeccable, as we sucked in the riveting sound of Quadrophenia all the way to the city.  The high volume ride was also a reminder of many a great road trip over the years, which at that stage in our lives, were already beginning to thin out. 

The concert itself was fantastic.  Zac Starkey, Ringo’s son, played drums, and for the first time I got a taste of what the Who must have been like with Keith Moon (I had already seen them with 2 other drummers through several shows over the years and neither compared).  The show picked up steam as it lurched through each song on the album.  Entwistle’s bass playing was superb. 

Quadrophenia is a concept album with a clear story line, but it’s great primarily because of the music.  Pete Townshend brings the best out of every member of the Who in this album, including himself.  Gem Music Video of the Week ‘Bell Boy’ was so well written and performed, that the Who were able to get away with Keith Moon singing half the song (as the Bell Boy character).  'Moon the Loon' was a horrible singer, but he pulls it off with Bell Boy, including this live video footage from 1974.  It’s the only footage I’ve ever seen of Moon singing on stage with the Who.  You can hear the backing track synthesizers playing thru the song, which Moon had to monitor via headphones.  The Quadrophenia tracks were difficult for the band to follow, and they soon scrapped the album from their shows, only to resurrect it 22 years later in New York.

I’ll say this about the narrative…. it’s a testament to Townshend that he was able to put so much passion into a story about the earliest fans of the Who (smart-dressed, scooter riding “Mods” from early 60’s London) 10 years after the fact, when so much had changed in his life in the interim.  Also, Townshend worked on Quadrophenia immediately after putting 2 years into a failed concept album, “Lifehouse”, that did not see the light of day until 20 years later.  It was quite a rebound.  The story is about a fictional Mod, Jimmy.  The song Bell Boy, one of many great songs on the album, is about the final straw of disillusionment, when Jimmy realizes the lead Mod daylights as a bell hop in a glitzy coastal hotel.

I’ve also included 3 other versions of Bell Boy: The studio version (with still footage from the Quadrophenia movie), the movie version (with Sting as the Bell Boy… this abbreviated version of the song can be seen between time stamps 1:10 and 2:40 on the 3rd url link); and finally, the 1996 version in Madison Square Garden, with Billy Idol as the Bell Boy.

“Ain’t you the guy who used to set the paces
Riding up in front of a hundred faces
I don’t suppose you would remember me
But I used to follow you back in ‘63”


About the Video: Live 1976 concert showcasing Keith Moon on vocals.  The others are explained above

Video Rating: 2

Best Feedback: Steve

I love your stories! Quad is still one of my favorite albums!


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