Pete Townshend says he’d never been happy with the 1979 movie version of Quadrophenia.

The Who guitarist explained that was one of the reasons why he’d developed a ballet version of the storyline, which was first exposed via the 1973 album.

“I was never happy with the film,” Townshend told NME in a recent interview. “I felt the film was lazy. It was not based on my story and it didn’t include much of my music. So I thought here was an opportunity to do something that honours the music, but also possibly takes it into a new era, a new place.”

READ MORE: When the Who’s ‘Quadrophenia’ Movie Premiered

He added that Quadrophenia: A Mod Ballet had excited him from the time it made its way to the creative workshop stage. “There was a poetic sensibility to what I was seeing,” he said. “I was just shocked and surprised. I thought, ‘Hey, there’s new shadow here, there are new shades; there’s new optimism.’”

Townshend recalled attending ballet performances with the Who’s then manager, Kit Lambert. “I won’t say I was a disciple of it, but I loved good ballet certainly,” the guitarist said. “It was part of my education process. Kit Lambert was really keen that I tackled the issue of snobbery and inverse snobbery in rock – that I just battled it head on.”

To that end, he added: “I’m working on an opera at the moment. I’ve been working on one for a long time – The Age Of Anxiety – and I’m very fearless now about calling it an opera. It’s a fucking opera. Sorry. My friend Rufus Wainwright writes operas; I can write operas.”

Townshend, who previously described Quadrophenia as the Who’s last great album, went on to discuss the idea he’d had in mind when he wrote it.

The Main Reason Pete Townshend Wrote ‘Quadrophenia’

“[O]ne of my remits… was to wake the band up to the fact that we’d really lost connection with our core audience,” he said. “We’d become bloated rock stars. Laser shows and frilly jackets and flying fingers and Keith Moon dressed as Adolf Hitler – it was all very, very strange.

“Whether, in the middle of all that, my arty-farty ideas were an equal embarrassing self-indulgence had to be weighed out. There was something wrong with The Who and it had to be fixed. I felt that Quadrophenia would help fix it.”

He recalled the “real lesson” when “bands like U2, The Clash and Bruce Springsteen came along and their connection with the audience was much more actual, much more human, much more physical. That was a wake-up call as well for me. I don’t know that the Who ever managed to get back on track, but that was the function of Quadrophenia.”

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Gallery Credit: Michael Gallucci

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