Bell Boy (song)
|Song by The Who|
|from the album Quadrophenia|
|Released||19 October 1973|
|Recorded||1 June 1973|
|Studio||Olympic and "The Kitchen" in Battersea, London|
Music and lyrics
Besides the main lead vocals by lead singer Roger Daltrey, the song features vocals by drummer Keith Moon (most of whose relatively few vocals for the band dated from the '60s). Moon mostly talks (or sings) his lines in a cartoonish voice with an exaggerated cockney accent, however, the bridge and the last line are sung in his natural voice. The shouts of "Bell Boy" are the lines of Jimmy from the disgusted realization of what the Ace Face actually was, symbolic of the theme of disillusionment throughout the album.
Lyrically, this is the final straw for Jimmy, having just found out that the Ace-Face he had looked up to as a Mod was now a Bell Boy, working for everyone rather than ruling over everyone at the same Brighton hotel the Mods had smashed up back in 1963 ("I don't suppose you would remember me/But I used to follow you back in '63"). The previous lines ("Ain't you the guy who used to set the paces/Riding up in front of a hundred faces") refer to the "Hundred Faces", a fan club set up by the Who's managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp to promote the group in their early days.
In the short story written by Townshend in the album's libretto/liner notes, it is explained that Jimmy never thought he'd be let down by being a Mod (given everything else had let him down). Pete Townshend said of the song's meaning:
He meets an old Ace Face who's now a bellhop at the very hotel the Mods tore up. And he looks on Jimmy with a mixture of pity and contempt, really, and tells him, in effect, 'Look, my job is shit and my life is a tragedy. But you - look at you, you're dead!'— Pete Townshend
The band performed this in The Who Tour 1973 and 1974 as part of their Quadrophenia set. This quickly became a fan favourite because of Moon's comedic vocals, and fans persisted on requesting it even after it was dropped in 1975 until Moon's death. The song was revived for the 1996-1997 Quadrophenia world tour, but with the Ace-Face guest replacing Moon's role. The song was performed once more at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 30 March 2010 at a benefit concert for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Tom Meighan of Kasabian sang Moon's part during the show. At Quadrophenia and More shows and 12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief, it was performed with archival video footage of Keith Moon in Charlton.
- Roger Daltrey – lead vocals, backing vocals
- Pete Townshend – lead guitar, backing vocals, synthesizer, piano
- John Entwistle – bass guitar, backing vocals, brass
- Keith Moon – co-lead vocals, drums
- Cady, Brian. "'Quadrophenia' liner notes". The Hypertext Who. Archived from the original on 2010-07-02.
- Motion, Andrew (2012). The Lamberts: George, Constant & Kit. London: Faber. p. 57. ISBN 0571296351.
- "Irish Jack" (28 November 2012). "Sad week in Whoville". PeteTownshend.net. Retrieved 22 January 2016.