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Pete Townshend On Rock Operas Vs. Rock Musicals & CLASSIC QUADROPHENIA

The Who gets classical!

Iconic The Who songwriter and lead guitarist Pete Townshend opens up about his legendary rock operas TOMMY and QUADROPHENIA as well as comments as on the new CLASSIC QUADROPHENIA album as part of a new interview.

Towshend shares of rock operas versus rock musicals, "I think a rock opera has to have a more specific story, or theme. The first two concept albums for me were Pet Sounds and Sergeant Pepper. No story, but very clear resonance and sense of time. But by the time they were released I had already begun toying with the idea of rock-opera, and so had a number of other writers, especially in the UK."

Townshend adds, "A rock musical, like Hedwig for example, or Rent, might use music alongside spoken story telling, or as with Jersey Boys or the Abba musical, celebration of an artist or band's work. A rock opera should really be music, and only music. No talking!"

Townshend also muses on rock operas in general, relaying, "One thing that might surprise people is that I believe it gives me a chance to embrace the wonderful-but apparently limited-pop-rock song form more fully. A great rock or pop song can stand on its own. Its function is to grapple with whatever issue is on the table, but bring release, empowerment and mutual acceptance in the audience. So when you string a bunch of songs together to help tell a story, you are really just starting where we all spend most of our time in any case, in one of the many days of our lives. One way to appreciate our own 'story' is often to immerse ourselves in other stories. This is what art has always done I suppose."

As for CLASSIC QUADROPHENIA and what composers inspire him, Townshend says, "In this case, that's probably a wrong-headed question because it might infer that I played a grand part on the orchestrations on this new version. I played no part at all, apart from trying to make sure the music retained the original mood and harmonic sense of the Who version. However, when I wrote the original songs it's perhaps obvious I looked to Wagner for inspiration for some of the instrumental passages that were intended to evoke Jimmy's uneasy mix of paranoia and grandiosity. Elsewhere, where the music is lighter, I refer to Bach (especially his preludes) here and there. The overall story of Quadrophenia was inspired to some extent by one of my favorite English composers, Benjamin Britten. His opera Billy Budd is also about a young man enduring a difficult rite of passage, and is set by the seaside, and on the sea itself."

Check out the original article on the matter here.


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