My Top 1000 Songs #302: Drowned

[I've been writing up my Top 1000 songs on a daily basis--you can see them all in descending order by hitting the All My Favorite Songs tag.]

The Who are probably the single most important band in creating and shaping my life-long obsession with rock & roll music, the band whose catalog I first waded into back in middle school, on the cusp of my teen years, and made a conscious decision that, yep, this is what I need at the core of my very soul. And 1973's Quadrophenia has long been my favorite Who album. Yet here we are, nearly 1/3 of the way through this twisted 1000-song journey, and the record has yet to be represented in the list.

I think that's partially due to the record's amazing consistency; there are a ridiculous number of equally great tracks over the course of its 4-LP sides (decades of digital reissues later, I still hear it in my head as 4 separate chapters, the way I first heard it as a kid away at summer camp, one more aspect of the album's quad-themed concept). Nearly every song is a a great stand-alone number as well as a key component of the concept album's broader thematic flow. So picking one invariably feels like I'm somehow slighting the rest, and I just kept putting it off. (Indeed, as I sat down this morning to write this, there was a different track intended for this slot.)

Still, I've pulled the trigger and opted for "Drowned." Again, not because it's necessarily better than other Quad tunes I might've selected; but on a personal level, it's taken on a more versatile shape--in its original, arena-rock version on the record, as well as in the stripped-down acoustic version Pete Townshend has often played in his solo sets (not to mention as a live mainstay for Phish, one of my favorite live bands of the past couple decades, who performed the entire album for a 1995 Halloween show and have since likewise settled on "Drowned" as the one song to remain in their repertoire).

Like the rest of Quad, the original version is a showcase for the band's individual players at their very best--Daltrey's forceful vocals, Entwistle's blazing bass runs, Moon's more-fills-than-rhythm acrobatics, and some showy Townshend licks. Plus, long-running session musician Chris Stainton adds some unforgettable piano--and kudos to Pete & the band for giving the session player the flashiest part of the song.

Live in 1982 (Pete on vox, Kenney Jones on drums):
Pete solo, 1979 (from the Secret Policeman's Ball concert record I played to death):
Phish, live 2012: