Tuesday, July 2, 2013


The Who: "Bell Boy"

For this entry in the Other Guy theme, you could almost say it's the Other Other Other Guy. Yes, when it comes to the Who, Roger Daltrey was the lead singer, Pete Townshend (The Other Guy) sang the songs that Roger couldn't interpret the way Pete heard them in his head (at least that's the way I've always figured it), and then John Entwistle (The Other Other Guy) would sing his one composition per album. But unlike the Beatles, where Ringo always had a song per album as well, Keith Moon typically didn't sing on Who albums.

But on "Bell Boy," from the Who's classic 1973 double-LP concept album, Quadrophenia, Moon took the lead for a good chunk of the song. Daltrey starts things off by setting the scene for Moon's entrance, letting you know that he (in the character of Jimmy, from the album's storyline), has found that his idol, "Ace Face," is now a bell boy at a resort hotel ("I can see The Face coming through the haze/I remember him from those crazy days"), no longer the anti-authority figure he had been as leader of the Mods. And then in comes Moon as Ace Face himself, singing in a gruff Cockney accent, bemoaning his current situation. Obviously, Moon is hamming it up, so his singing isn't really as off as this might lead one to believe. In fact, while he's thinking back wistfully ("Some nights I still sleep on the beach/Remember when stars were in reach") you can hear him channeling his inner Townshend. Clearly it's a part that would have otherwise been sung by Pete -- but Moon handles it quite well, showing that he did in fact have some melodic range, even if it was rough around the edges.

Townshend has said that he tried to get Moon to sing the song more seriously, but that Moon simply couldn't help mugging for the part, so he gave up trying to get him to do it any other way. And he should be glad he did, as it's certainly one of the most memorable songs on a very memorable album -- and, it should be added, has one of the greatest power-chord riffs in the Who's repertoire. Moon's moment in the vocal spotlight was no throwaway tune, by any means.

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