Jan 062012

"Put a quarter in the jar, Pete!"

When you get to the 1:25 mark of Pete Townshend‘s demo for “Doctor Jimmy,” from the spectacularly fascinating Quadrophenia box set, listen closely and tell me what’s missing from the album version, the version we know so well and listened to while trying to make sense of our teenage angst.

[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/10-Doctor-Jimmy-DemoDemo-Version.mp3|titles=”Doctor Jimmy” (Demo)]

On the record, doesn’t Roger sing “Her fella’s gonna kill me/Ah, fuck him will he” or “…Ah, fuckin’ will he”? Growing up, couldn’t we (ie, those old enough to have lived in the post-prudish/pre-neo-prudish era from the 1970s to at least into the late-1980s) hear that nasty word on FM radio?* In the privacy of his home studio was Pete too prudish to sing the word, or has it been garbled for deluxe reissue purposes? It sounds to me like it was garbled after the fact. Was Pete that much a prude then, when he cut the demo, or has he become one now, perhaps in hopes that his demo version will begin getting airplay and outshine the sterling full-band version, the one on which Roger sings “fuck” as boldly as he does the previous couplet about deflowering a young woman? As I mentioned on last week’s Saturday Night Shut-In, there’s a treasure trove of psychodereliction evident in the 2 CDs of Townshend demos.

<small>*As an aside, does anyone else recall the “fuck” in The Who’s “Who Are You” the first curse word in a big United States FM radio song to be garbled? Or maybe it was the “black girls just want to get fucked all night” line in The Rolling Stones’ “Some Girls” that first got this treatment?</small>


  26 Responses to “Et tu, Pete?”

  1. cliff sovinsanity

    Interesting take on this demo. My impression is that he sang the line as if he was unsure of keeping that line in the song. Perhaps he thought it was lazy cursing.
    I don’t think he was prude considering some of the content in Tommy.

  2. Based on one listen, I think he muffled the line when singing it, rather than cut it out after the fact. I don’t know, maybe his family was in the room when he was singing this.

    I’m glad you opened this thread, Mr. Mod. I too have been having many thoughts about Pete and the Who after receiving the Quadrophenia reissue, even though I only have the two-disc version.

    I agree that the demos do sort of predict the sound of Pete’s great first two ’80s solo albums. I think the Scooped demo albums also have lots of stuff like this. Was he the first rocker to release demos commercially?

    I often wonder if Pete thinks of himself as a composer. If so, his released output in the last 20 years has been incredibly paltry. Practically everthing’s a revisit of something old, be it the Tommy Broadway musical or stuff like Psychoderelict and Endless Wire, both of which revist Lifehouse. He’s like Orson Welles, and Lifehouse is both The Magnificent Ambersons (the thing that got ruined by other parties) and Chimes at Midnight (the thing he can never quite finish or let go of).

    I’s also like to submit that the 1989 tour was the musical, creative and fashion nadir of the band. I submit: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1l2pp_the-who-pictures-of-lily-1989_music

    Interestingly, I also recently found pro-shot footage of the Who show I saw, on the tour right after John died. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gc7tofjlrIM

    I think this was the footage they were showing on the jumbotron as the show was happening.

    As you can see, they’re a lot less tight and together here, but they get a pretty good jam going at the end. And they just look way less embarrassing than in ’89.

  3. BigSteve

    Curse you, Oats, for making me hear Pictures of Lily smeared with horns!

  4. Someone in the Who must have pulled out their old Chase album prior to the ’89 tour!

    So refresh my memory: did they actually play the night after Entwistle died – and you were there? That’s not a bad performance at all.

    Glad you’re enjoying the opening of this thread, Oats. There’s so much that can be explored. So your gift didn’t include the 2 CDs of demos? If not, I will burn you my copies.

  5. John died the night before the opening night of the tour. I think they cancelled that show, then started the tour with the following show, with Pino Palladino in the band. This all happened on the West Coast. I saw them about a month later, when the tour reached the Philly area.

    My reissue copy of Quadrophenia has demos, but not as many as yours.

    I’d be curious to hear the others, though. Thanks.

  6. I forgot to mention that I had really good seats for that show (the best I ever had at an arena show) so I may be barely visible in any crowd shots in that YouTube video.

  7. misterioso

    Very interesting stuff. I tend to agree with Oats that Pete just partly muffs the line. Mod, I think on the record Roger things “Oh, fuckin’ will he?”

    I look forward to hearing all of this one of these days. I have not compared what has now been released to the circulating Quadrophenia bootlegs and demos. Pete’s demos are almost always great and really interesting, even if at the same time they underscore why Roger needed to sing them–such as this Dr. Jimmy demo. It’s fantastic! But it needs Roger’s macho bluster.

  8. misterioso

    I fear to watch or listen to any ’89 live Who. That was the only time I saw them–if one can call them The Who at that point, which is sort of debatable–and despite the madness of all the unwelcome backup singers and percussionists and everything it was a tremendously memorable experience, helped by being about 20 rows from the stage in a huge stadium. But deep down I know if I saw it now I would know how dodgy it was.

  9. We’ll have to run a Where’s Oats thread.

    This reminds me of the fact (if memory serves) that Gus Cordovox, as he was known in Ben Vaughn Combo, was up front in the crowd at Woodstock and is visible during Country Joe & The Fish’s big number. chickenfrank can probably confirm this memory and the experience of us trying to freeze the video on the crappy old TV in “Head House” circa 1986. We were pretty sure we saw him. Maybe we can have a thread in which Townspeople post videos from concerts they attended and were caught in the audience. HVB and machinery, I believe, appear in that Minutemen documentary. I bet Happiness Stan appears in footage from at least one of his festivals…

  10. Yes, that may be what Rogers says. I’m never sure because I too quickly get distracted by the excitement of hearing him curse at the thought of the boyfriend.

    One thing that is troubling about some of these demos – and to be honest I need to read the backstory a little more carefully after shying away from what I’m about to tell you: Pete added drums to some of the demos in recent times, in preparation for their release on this box set. I think I find that practice even more distasteful than the Stones completing half-finished tracks. Demos should be released as demos – no ifs, ands, or buts.

  11. mockcarr

    In addition to belting out the f-bomb, I wonder if Roger changed “messed up my levis” to “tore up my levis” which sounds better and angrier too. Man, the older I get, the more credit I give Roger. That stuff seems hard to sing.

  12. True about Roger, mockcarr! I was listening to “Helpless Dancer” on the drive in and marveling at Daltrey’s ability to yell in slightly musical way. I mean, what melody is there in that song that anyone could feel good about singing?

  13. misterioso

    Agreed. Messing with demos is just stupid. And I find the vision of you getting all antsy in anticipation of swearing in rock songs extremely entertaining.

  14. misterioso

    Like a lot of Who fans, I think, I had many years of love-hate relations with Roger. Somehow I had the idea for a long time that The Who were great despite Roger. Some time in the past 20 years I came to understand finally how completely essential he is to The Who’s greatness. I don’t think it’s just his glasses, either.

  15. cliff sovinsanity

    And here I thought it was generally understood that Daltrey has(had) one of the greatest rock and roll voices of all-time. And it just wasn’t all yelling or hamming it up.
    One day I’ll share with y’all my endorsement for Robin Zander as the best rock and roll singer ever.

  16. Let’s not forget that Roger is also the cute one. He also can toss a microphone higher than anyone else in rock.

  17. tonyola

    I listened to the Quadrophenia demos recently and while Pete doesn’t do a bad job on the vocals, I realized that Roger had the power needed to sing over Pete’s frequently-blustery backing tracks.

  18. tonyola

    The two of you mistakenly assume that creativity is always a linear process. Is it wrong if an author puts a partially-completed manuscript in a drawer, then decides to finish it years later? How about that half-finished painting in an artist’s closet. Must it always remain unfinished? If he wants to revisit it a couple decades on, should he start all over again from scratch?

  19. Happiness Stan

    Not that I’m aware of, but I only ever watched about an hour of the Glastonbury TV footage once with the kids so they could admire the mud. I was on the news footage outside Bury St Edmunds Cathedral for John Peel’s funeral, although not the clip that’s on Youtube.

  20. I see your point but writers and painters are less affected by time, place, and technology. And they typically work alone. And in the case of books, they last for days, not minutes.

  21. The Towser-in-a-box tour! I had great seats to that one as well, directly behind the WMMR air staff. I think you’re right that being that close to the stage blunted how truly bad that tour was.

  22. I like Townshend’s voice in general and it definitely gives his demos a different feel that the full-Who tracks. But Daltrey is absolutely necessary for the Power & Glory stuff.

  23. misterioso

    It isn’t wrong, no. But let’s be up front about it. If tracks are presented as Quadrophenia demos or Some Girls outtakes, then let them be as such.

  24. misterioso

    Yeah, and my memory is that Pete spent no more than half the entire show complaining about is inability to hear and to play electric guitar.

  25. hrrundivbakshi

    That version of “Pictures Of Lily” is excruciating.

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