Night Music: Petra Haden, “Tattoo”

Lawr’s impassioned defense of the Who Sell Out, an album that has fantastic highlights, but also shows the unsightly spread of Pete Townsend’s ambition to warp the pop machine to large scale narrative. In any case, there are many great moments in Sell Out, and one of the most delightful and out of left field is the album’s inspiration of the singer Petra Haden to cover its entirety in multitracked vocals, she singing all the parts.

Perhaps if Keith Moon was more of a tick-tock machine this would come across as deracinated, but I imagine a young woman creating these complex arrangements, using her voice to mimic the whole of the sounds, in the dark night of her idea, realizing just how crazy the whole thing was. And then she pushes the record button and sings again. There are more tracks to be laid down.

9 thoughts on “Night Music: Petra Haden, “Tattoo”

  1. I had a feeling when I posted this you’d trod this turf before Lawr, but no harm in citing Petra again. I’m sure you agree.

    The idea of Quadrophenia as a single album is an interesting one. Maybe my devotion to Who’s Next, which I think is nearly perfect (even if those killer songs aren’t the band’s best) would have been diluted if Townsend had been able to make it a larger work.

    Certainly Pete’s ambition to tell a bigger story in song meant creating all kinds of unrock moments. I think Tommy is a great album, for show tunes, but it really has little to do with the “rock” part of opera.

  2. I always loved “a quick one” from “happy jack,” which is really “tommy” in 15 minutes.

    I just related heavily to tommy. I was in the sixth year of crohns with no end in site (I had surgery that finally corrected a year after it came out, during Woodstock). I was miserable. books, movies, and music (and baseball) were all I had.

    I already loved the who so much, and then Townshend does this over the top arty thing, and man, he skyrocketed in my 15-year old (summer of ’68 I was still just 15) brain. put him up there with jd salinger and f scott fitzgerald.

  3. Just curious about two things Steve: did you ever see the original cover of the album Petra is riffing? And, two, did you ever actually listen to the entire album end-to-end?

    It was an early Townshend concept thing where he was trying to mimic a BBC Radio 1 radio program, so he put commercials in between the tracks, and wrote a couple of tunes (Odorono being one) that sort of alluded to the theme.

    But, on the original cover, each member is pictured in one of those TV ad/song homages (Daltrey sits in the beans on the original) so, Petra really outdid herself by mimicking that, too.

    There are also ads for Rotosound strings (which I proudly have on my Hofner) and Coke (who the Who did ads for at the time as part of the drinks “attempt to be cool.”

  4. No Lawr, I have never heard nor seen “The Who Sell Out.” Nor have I ever heard of a band or individual imitating a classic album cover. Brilliance, both!

    (As a matter of fact I had an album by a band called The Fast that did the “Who Sell Out” thing long before Hayden Tetra. Have you ever heard of or seen that album? I doubt it.)

    I’ll go back to my Beyonce singles now.

  5. Yes, I LOVE Kansas and Styx and Toto. I’ve never heard of Marilyn Manson. Is she new? Can you enlighten me?

    I know I don’t appreciate the true essense of musical bullshit like you do Lawr. I just like rock ‘n’ roll.

  6. lol.

    I was watching “a clockwork orange” with Lindsay over the holiday. she had read the book (my copy even) and she knew it was my favorite movie. but, I had to watch it because lots of times during movies I explain the shit out of it (all the literary/historical/philosophical refernces I can see, which are usually a lot, as you note). but, she has said more than once, “just let me watch the movie, ok?”

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