YEAR IN ROCK: 2012

The Who in 2012


The Who closed out the 2012 London Olympic ceremonies on August 12th with a three-song medley, featuring "Baba O'Riley," "See Me, Feel Me/Listening To You," and "My Generation." Roger Daltrey, rather than Pete Townshend, sang the bridge to "Baba O'Riley" and changed the words to "Don't cry, just brace your eyes/There's more than teenage wasteland" in deference to the young Olympiads surrounding him. Veteran British keyboardist Chris Stainton joined the band onstage, along with longtime Who associate Billy Nichols on backing vocals. Drummer Zak Starkey played a clear multicolored drum-kit, with Townshend's younger brother Simon Townshend on rhythm guitar, and Billy Nichols' son, Muse bassist Morgan Nichols standing in for Pino Palladino. The finale of "My Generation" came to a bombastic conclusion with explosions and an incredible fireworks display while all the evening's acts joined the Who onstage.

To the chagrin of most U.S. Who fans, the band's performance was pushed to 12:00 am Monday morning so that NBC affiliates could air the premiere episode of a new sitcom, Animal Practice and its local news. The closing ceremony featured a production which saluted the past 45 years of British rock, and was represented with Ray Davies performing the Kinks' "Waterloo Sunset," Madness with the Hackney Colliery Band performing "Our House," a David Bowie montage and John Lennon tribute of "Imagine" performed by Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Choir and Liverpool Signing Choir, along with a life-size bust of Lennon created by the audience on the Olympic Stadium floor.

Released in August was the DVD and Blue-ray disc of the Who's 1979 mod coming of age drama, Quadrophenia. TheWho.com reported that "the new, high-def restoration. . . includes new interviews, commentary and behind-the-scenes footage." The disc features a new audio commentary from director Frank Roddam and director of photography Brian Tufano, along with interviews with the Who's long time sound man, Bobby Pridden, who supervised the new 5.1 mix and manager Bill Curbishley.

The disc also includes on-set and archival footage, behind-the-scenes photographs, along with a booklet "featuring an essay by critic Nick James, a reprinted personal history by original mod Irish Jack -- who inspired Pete Townshend's character "Jimmy" -- along with Townshend's original liner notes from the 1973 double-album.

Although the Who don't star in the film, one rocker who appeared in Quadrophenia -- starring as "Ace Face" -- was none other than Sting, in his first major movie role: "The movie came out just as the Police were having our first success, so there was a sort of double whammy of me (laughs) as a singer and then a figure in Quadrophenia -- which was quite a small part, but I seem to have made a big impact with a sort of iconic look. I'm not taking much credit for it, I didn't do very much in the film, but I thought it was a good film. I thought it was one of those films that summed up an era."

The Who: Quadrophenia - Can You See The Real Me? - The Story Behind The Album documentary premiered on June 15th at England's Sheffield Doc/Fest and hit select U.S. theaters for one-night-only on July 24th. The film, which went on to run on VH1 Classic, gives an in-depth look at the making of -- and tour behind -- the 1973 album, featuring the Who's Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, their manager Bill Curbishley, Quadrophenia engineer Ron Nevison, early Mod "Irish Jack" Lyons, Townshend confidante and biographer Richard Barnes, and rock journalist Howie Edelson, among others. The Who: Quadrophenia - Can You See The Real Me? - The Story Behind The Album is now available for download on iTunes.

The Who's 1989 25th anniversary reunion tour would've been a lot cooler if Joe Walsh hit the road with them as originally planned. Walsh shed some light on the offer by old friend Pete Townshend to supply lead guitar on the historic celebratory trek. We asked Walsh how close he came to actually joining the Who on tour: "They were real serious. It almost happened. I remember a phone call where Pete (Townshend), and (John) Entwistle, and Roger (Daltrey) were on that end -- and probably Bill Curbishley, their manager. And they asked me if I would seriously do it. They wanted to make sure that I had the right perspective."

Ultimately though, to the great disappointment of their fans, the Who went with the stylized and generally unknown Steve "Boltz" Bolton to supply lead guitar on the U.S. and UK dates. Walsh recalled how the Who gig slipped away: "It would be a job for a specialist to back up Pete. You'd have to be there where he needed ya and stay, stay the hell outta his way at the same time. And I said, 'Yeah, if you guys decide to go that way -- I'm in. I'm honored and I can do it. I know you guys as friends and I know your music backwards and forwards and I think I'm your guy.' They had one more go around in the decision making process. Yeah, so it almost happened. I'll always wonder where that would've gone."

The Who performed their 1973 double-album Quadrophenia in its entirety during its 2012 North American Quadrophenia And More tour. In addition to the classic album, the band also performed a handful of fan favorites on the 36-date trek. The first leg of the tour kicked off on November 11th in Sunrise, Florida and wrapped on December 9th at Uncasville, Connecticut's Mohegan Sun Arena. The second leg is set to begin on January 28th at Anaheim, California's Honda Center with the tour wrapping, as of now, on February 26th in Providence, Rhode Island at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. The tour marks the band's first tour since 2008.

In addition to original members Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, the band will be joined by longtime bandmates Zak Starkey on drums, Pino Palladino on bass, and Pete's kid brother Simon Townshend on guitar and backing vocals. Joining the Who's usual touring ensemble will be keyboardists Loren Gold and John Corey, horn players J. Greg Miller and Reggie Grisham along with Roger Daltrey's guitarist and bandleader Frank Simes, who'll perform and serve as the tour's musical director.

Pete Townshend explained why the Who is revisiting Quadrophenia as a full scale piece for the first time in 15 years: "We've been trying to find something we can do together, Roger and I. Y'know, we've gone off on slightly different directions; Roger's been working with a new band, I've been developing new music and writing a book about my life, so we've really struggled to find something to do this time. So in a sense, Quadrophenia, of course this time is something that we both felt we could get together on and look at again, 'cause last time we did it was in 1997. So we've been anxious to work together and -- before we drop dead!"

Roger Daltrey explained that rather than being tied to the past, he finds the prospect of diving into Quadrophenia a liberating prospect: "What's great about doing it now is that it's still a work in progress and hopefully it will keep developing and we might even get it into some really kind of up to date modern show very different than what we had back in '97. And I don't know how many more years I'm going to be able to sing this music. My voice is great at the moment, so I'm just going to explore the possibilities that one time I might sing Quadrophenia and it it's a little bit easier (laughs)."

Ultimately Townshend is looking forward to the musical challenges he'll face reviving Quadrophenia onstage: "The Who have played the same music for such a long time onstage, and although you can keep coming back and reviving it, it's lovely to have new challenges. This is a new challenge, funnily enough, playing this piece. As Roger says, I think we can cook up a new way of putting this across. That will bring up musical issues, there's no question to . . . musical challenges, musical problems, musical excitement and, y'know, some extraordinary moments. Now, that's what I hope for."

On October 8th Pete Townshend published his long-awaited autobiography, called, Who I Am. Townshend, who began posting excerpts on his website several years back, talks candidly about his the sexual abuse he suffered as a child, his creative process both with and without the Who, his personal life -- and for the first time in detail, his 2003 arrest and caution for logging on to porn sites believed to carry images of children.

Townshend explained that in addition to making the book a good read, the truthfulness needed to ring true to his life: "I had to write the truth as I saw it and I remembered it. Now that's a very strange truth, because everybody's memory is different and then I knew that there would be arguments with my friend Barney (Richard Barnes) later on, when he said, 'That didn't happen this way' or 'That didn't happen that way.' I'm getting a bit of that now with old friends who say, 'No, that's not what happened.' And I said, 'Listen, I have to tell my story my way.' But this was an honest. . . for me, it had to be what I believed to be the truth."

The Who released its latest vault concert on DVD on October 9th, called Live In Texas '75. The show was videotaped during the Who's November 20th, 1975 concert at the Summit in Houston during the band's tour behind that year's The Who By Numbers album. The footage was shown on the Summit's in-house video system and has been one of the most popular video bootlegs of the Who's career. The sound for the show has been cleaned up by Pete Townshend's former brother-in-law, longtime Who engineer and archivist, Jon Astley.

The tracklisting to The Who's Live In Texas '75 is: "Substitute," "I Can't Explain," "Squeeze Box," "Baba O'Riley," "Boris The Spider," "Drowned," "However Much I Booze," "Dreaming From The Waist," "Behind Blue Eyes," "Amazing Journey/Sparks, "The Acid Queen," "Fiddle About," "Pinball Wizard," "I'm Free," "Tommy's Holiday Camp," "We're Not Going To Take It/See Me, Feel Me/Listening To You," Summertime Blues," "My Generation," "Join Together," "Naked Eye," "Roadrunner," "Won't Get Fooled Again," "Magic Bus," and "My Generation Blues."


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