My teenage years, my not-quite teenage daughter (she's 20) and our love of music collided this past Saturday night listening to The Who play Quadrophenia in its entirety. I watched Lauren take out her cell phone and record the band playing "Baba O’Riley" (aka “Teenage Wasteland”) during the encore. It was an
amazing personal rock and roll/dad and daughter moment. For this 50-year-old "parent," my teenage rock and roll journey had finally come full circle.
It was 1996 when The Who last toured behind Quadrophenia. A rare business trip to Cedar Rapids, IA forced me to miss that concert with my friends. Lauren had just turned 5 that same year. Given the history of the band, the death of two of the founding members and Pete Townshend’s documented problems with tinnitus, I figured I would never again get the chance to hear this classic album played live.
Sometimes the musical gods give us rock fans a second chance.
During my high school years, my mom was not a fan of my obsessive hobby of buying and playing my vinyl albums as I dreamed of attending my first live concert. If you’ve ever seen the movie Almost Famous, I could argue the mother character in that movie was based on my mom. Rock and roll shows attracted the wrong "crowd," while excessive drugs and alcohol were staples at these events, so I was told by my mom.
Before the concert, Lauren and I had dinner at a friendly pub next door to the legendary rock club JC Dobbs on South Street in Philly. From our table we
watched the street people and colorful characters walk by as we dined. While walking through the Linc parking lot towards the concert venue, two fans (my contemporaries) dressed in jean jackets and concert T-shirts (rock uniforms) walked beside us. Within a few minutes, they offered us some marijuana. We politely declined. However, I smiled as I thought about how our evening had started out and all those lectures I had to endure from my mom about my reckless and irresponsible "hobby."
Once the concert started, more memories came rushing back. I recalled listening to Who albums spinning on my turntable before I headed out into the unknown night with my best friends, or the time I convinced my parents to let me paint classic rock album covers on the gray cement cinder blocks in our basement. (For the record, the Who’s popular Union Jack logo was as one of the covers I chose.) Then there was the time I decorated my University of Delaware freshman dorm room with rock posters, which were routinely included as promotional items with certain records back in the day; one particular poster was from The Who’s The Kids Are Alright album.
It’s hard to believe Townshend wrote this rock opera when he was 28 years old. He and Daltrey are now approaching 70. While their iconic onstage moves of swinging the mic and windmill guitar motions are more deliberate and the notes are sung an octave or two lower, that’s not really the point. The two remaining bandmates still remain true to performing one of the most quintessential rock albums ever written, about the timeless teenage themes of isolation and insecurity, pain, awkwardness and striving to be accepted in a hard cold world. Except now, the modern-day performance has the perception of the passage of time. This new insight has been earned at a high cost.
During the show, the band chose to highlight the two deceased members—John Entwistle during “5:15" and Keith Moon during “Bell Boy”—with accompanying archived videos on the big screen of each performing alongside the current bandmembers playing on the stage. For other songs, we saw more archived symbolic images of iconic political, economic and social events, which defined generations of fans who have followed the band since its inception in the '60s. These images only strengthened the young brash band’s story almost 40 years later.
The teenage defiance and angst that existed when this album was recorded in 1973 has been replaced with aging perseverance and resolve in the year 2012, while still keeping all of the albums original core themes still intact. As I watched Daltrey and Townshend on stage, it seemed the epiphany of self-discovery that “Jimmy,” the record’s protagonist, has during the album's closing number, "Love Reign O’er Me," has been replaced with feelings of survival and legacy. In the end, it was just Daltrey and Townshend walking off stage together, the voice and the lyricist/guitarist. The music stands alone.
I hope I’m this good when I’m that old. I hope I can look back with the same determination and sense of purpose, when I look back at my whole life
experience in 20 years.
About a month ago, my daughter was at college listening to the radio. She sent me the following text: “Thanks for raising me on such great music.” When I asked her what prompted the text, her response was "'Hey Jude' was ending on
102.9 when Debbi Calton’s (DJ) voice came on and it just made me think back to
how both our lives mapped out on a musical timeline and you were the one to
It was my parent WOW moment!
When I was a teenager and I couldn’t find the words to describe how I felt, I turned on the radio or played my records to remind me. It’s still true all these years later.
In three weeks, my only daughter turns 21. I hope we can continue to spend many more nights in each other's company listening to our favorite rock bands old and new, enjoying the live concert experience together. It’s pretty cool that we both still dig this reckless and irresponsible "hobby."
Dad & Daughter