The Who Newcastle Odeon 5th Nov 1973
This is a very famous and historic Who gig. The Who released the classic “Quadrophenia” double album in 1973, and went out on tour to promote it, calling at Newcastle Odeon for three nights. Demand for tickets was high with people queuing overnight outside The Queens for tickets. I remember queuing in a long line for several hours, and getting quite poor seats upstairs for myself and a group of mates. Simon Malia, recalls on Quadrophenia.com: “I was 16 when “Quad” came out, and I queued up overnight in snow, ice, sleet, driving rain and more snow to get tickets for the shows at Newcastle Odeon.”
We knew from reports in the press that The Who were planning to play the entire “Quadrophenia” album. This wasn’t uncommon at the time, with Pink Floyd and Yes, for example, doing similarly. We weren’t familiar with the album, so although we were looking forward to seeing the Who, we were a little unsure how much we would enjoy material totally new to us. Support came from Kilburn and the High Roads, featuring Ian Dury. I remember Ian was wearing a teddy bob drape jacket, and their music was pub rock cum rock’n’roll and they went down quite well, particularly considering that the crowd was waiting to see The Who.
The Who came on stage and started with “I Can’t Explain”, “Summertime Blues”, and then “My Generation”. Excellent, and a great Who gig thus far. They then proceeded to play Quadrophenia. They got as far as “5.15” when things went wrong. The backing tapes weren’t working correctly (apparently they didn’t work at all during 5.15) and Pete went crazy at this point, totally losing it. From upstairs we could see him shouting at someone to the side of the stage; he then started punching the guy and smashed his guitar to the floor of the stage. He then started ripping wires out of their equipment. Roger, Keith and John were just staring at him, wondering what on earth he was doing. The theatre obviously realised that something was going seriously wrong and they dropped the big white fire curtain. We sat in darkness for 15 or 20 minutes until the band reappeared. The Who launched into “Magic Bus” (I think) followed by a lengthy jam (possibly including “Spoonful”) and finished with by playing “My Generation” for a second time. Pete was in a crazy mood swearing at us all, calling us “f**ing bastards”. I recall being very upset with him and shouted back at him, as did many others. He then smashed his Gibson guitar, threw one of his amps to the ground, and Keith crashed through his drums, knocking them all over the stage. They received “thunderous applause” as they left the stage.
We went home on the train, everyone talking about what we had just witnessed. I remember planning to go along to the next night’s gig and try to buy a ticket outside, but I didn’t do so (wish I had done). It seems that no audience recording exists of the show, and there is some disagreement as to which songs The Who actually played when they returned to the stage. Several reports suggest that they played a set of “oldies” probably including “Magic Bus” and a reprise of “My Generation”. My recollection is of a quite lengthy jam, with several songs running into each other, and no breaks, other than a few short instances where Pete took a breath and swore at the audience. I think they may have played “Spoonful” which they sometimes included as part of the encore at the time. I read another report that suggests that they simply returned to play “Sea and Sand” from “Quadrophenia” and then left the stage.
My friend John remembers the gig thus: “We were sitting downstairs to the right of the stage and I can remember seeing Townsend going off to the side of the stage a couple of times and that something was up. Listening in the audience I could not hear anything amiss. Then after about half a dozen songs he went off stage and I think hit the guy on the soundboard, I swear I saw sparks and he stormed off. The rest of the band were stunned and for a few moments did nothing and then went off stage. Similarly the crowd did not understand what was happening and for a while was silent. Then I recall the safety curtain (it was white) came down and the crowd began to boo. Not sure if things were thrown at the curtain. After what seemed like a long time, perhaps it was only five minutes or so, with the crowd getting very restless, the band began to play Magic Bus with the safety curtain still down. Once the crowd began to cheer the curtain was raised and they continued with Magic Bus and then My Generation and I think that as the end of the show. I have seen reports which said they did Young Man and Summertime Blues but not to my recollection.”
Steve Hughes writing in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle the following day called it a “Ridiculous Display Of Unwarranted Violence” and went on to write: “The Who rock band lived up to its reputation for violence on stage with an expensive display of guitar and amplifier-smashing at the Odeon Cinema last night. The concert was stopped in chaos when guitarist Pete Townshend bawled out sound engineers, destroyed pre-recorded backing tapes and smashed up £100 worth of equipment [bet it was more than £100 🙂 ] during the group’s presentation of its latest rock opera. It was a ridiculous display of unwarranted violence witnessed by thousands of easily-influenced teenage pop fans. Townshend, a temperamental but brilliant guitarist, is quite notorious for sudden fits of violence on stage which have almost become accepted as part of the act by his many followers. But this time stage hands rushed to disconnect electric amplifiers and Townshend’s electric guitar after he swiped it into the stage floor. Tempers flared after drummer Keith Moon had trouble with headphones. He let the drumsticks fly as the sound engineers battled to fix them. Then Townshend intervened, yelling at the engineers behind control panels on the side of the stage. He ripped out backing tapes and heaved over equipment into the side curtains. The three other members of the band – lead singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon – just stared.
The safety net was lowered to the stage but the lights stayed out. Fans sat, quietly at first in total darkness and usherettes – obviously quite frightened – frantically flashed torch lights across the audience. After 10 minutes, with absolutely no trouble from the audience, the curtain was raised and Daltrey launched the band into a medley of ‘oldies’. Then he yelled four-letter words at the audience, calling them – among many other derogatory terms – bastards and tried to explain everything by singing ‘My Generation’, a song about the generation gap and how no one understands the younger generation. Then Townshend hurled his guitar against the upstanding microphone and smashed it into a score of pieces by banging it against the stage floor. He then turned on a row of piled amplifiers at the back of the stage and hurled a top one to the floor. Moon waded through his range of drums, spilling them across the stage and Daltrey took a last kick at his microphone. They all left to thunderous applause. It was, in my opinion, an extremely childish publicity stunt with potentially damaging effect on the thousands of youngsters who invariably follow their idols in all they do. Otherwise, they were musically immaculate, as always. Concerts tonight and tomorrow will go ahead as planned.”
Setlist: I Can’t Explain, Summertime Blues, My Generation, I Am The Sea, The Real Me, The Punk And The Godfather, I’m One, Helpless Dancer, 5:15.
Return to the stage: Magic Bus, jam, Spoonful?, My Generation.