Pete Townshend on New 'Classic Quadrophenia' Album and Putting the Classical in Classic Rock

Pete Townshend
Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

Pete Townshend performs at the 11th Annual Musicares Map Fund Benefit concert  at Best Buy Theater on May 28, 2015 in New York City. 

Pete Townshend's Classic Quadrophenia apparently won't be eligible for the classical charts in the U.K., and Townshend is none too pleased about it.

And The Who guitarist railed about in a recent Facebook post about the orchestral adaptation of the band's 1973 rock opera: "Classic Quadrophenia is not allowed in the U.K. classical charts? Musical snobbery in the classical elite still alive and kicking then. F*** 'em, There's a huge team behind this, rooted in the practical world of recorded classical music, who deserve better than this slap-down. I know I'm a rock dinosaur and I'm happy to be one, but the team behind Classic Quadrophenia are all young, creative and brilliant." 

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The orchestral adaptation of the band's 1973 rock opera was released Tuesday, June 9, scored by Townshend's girlfriend Rachel Fuller and performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Oriana Choir conducted by Robert Ziegler, with Alfie Boe singing Roger Daltrey's iconic parts and guest appearances by Townshend (as The Godfather), Billy Idol (Ace Face/Bell Boy) and Quadrophenia film star Phil Daniels as Dad. Classic Quadrophenia will qualify for placement on Billboard's Classical Albums chart next week. 

Outside of the U.K. chart issue, however, Townshend has been pleased with the reception Classic Quadrophenia is receiving from the classical world. "I was encouraged by the fact that a few people I spoke to who ran orchestras, particularly around the U.S. but also in the U.K. and in Europe, were really excited about the idea of having something like Quadrophenia available for large orchestras," he tells Billboard. "They all said that the subscription audience for orchestras was getting into difficulty because the new music that's being written by modern composers is very radical, generally. It's not easy on the ear. So having something that sat in the middle between the established repertoire of Bach, Wagner and Mozart and the more radical stuff by contemporary composers, that it would help them. I think they're hoping that they will play this and bring people into the symphony hall who wouldn't otherwise go, and it might open up a world for them. So there was a lot of encouragement to see this through."

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And the feedback from the Royal Philharmonic musicians was equally favorable. "They seemed so worldly about it all," explains Townshend. "They take all this stuff in stride, so when we put (Quadrophenia) in front of them and they realize that they could have fun with it and they could play it and really bring it to life, they started to get excited about the idea of playing it, and the fact that it would, I suppose, give them a way of jacking into a completely new audience. Some of those tracks on the album are the first take -- not all of them, but some of them are."

Classic Quadrophenia will have its live debut on July 5 at London's Royal Albert Hall with the full album cast, and Townshend tips that "there are some more shows in the cards. I can't really talk about them, but there are some happening for Alfie, and there's another possibility of a big show in New York at some time in the future. It's still being discussed."


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