Friday, May 3, 2013

Song of the Week: The Who - Drowned and José Feliciano and Joe Cocker - Hitchcock Railway

Our final (of 5) days of looking at The Who songs and our removal of layers of the songs' onion to get a better understanding of their origin. We've looked at Young Man Blues, Zoot Suit, Daddy Rolling Stone and Anytime You Want Me. Each of those songs had origins dating to the earliest days of The Who. Today we jump to The Who's last great album, 1973's Quadrophenia.

One of the peppier songs on that album can be found deep on side three. The song is the wonderful Drowned. The dominant riff of the song was lifted from a song called Hitchcock Railway. Pete Townshend became familiar with the song when Joe Cocker and his band toured in support of The Who in 1969. Pete fell in love with the piano riff played by Chris Stainton and wrote a whole song around it. He was so enamored with it, Pete asked Chris to play on The Who's recording of Drowned, instead of the usual pianist, Nicky Hopkins, who had been on nearly every recording with The Who since 1964.

Chris Stainton:
Pete had watched the Joe Cocker set and seemed to be very impressed by the piano riff I was playing in Hitchcock Railway, which I lifted from José Feliciano's version. He never forgot it, and years later asked me to play in that style on the Quadrophenia album. (source: Won't Get Fooled Again: The Who From Lifehouse to Quadrophenia, Richie Unterberger. Jawbone Press, 2011. p. 213).
As author Richie Unterberger's research shows, "Townshend happily owned up to his influence in public" (ibid). Pete Townshend:
'We were just doing Drowned, which was using a Chris Stainton riff that I pinched from Hitchcock Railway, and we met a friend of his,' Townshend told Sounds. 'I said it would be really nice if he [Stainton] came down, and the next day he came down and we did that number, and he enjoyed himself so much that we used him on on a couple of other pieces.' (ibid)
Here is Chris Stainton playing Hitchcock Railway with Joe Cocker:
As Stainton references above, the song actually comes from José Feliciano who released the first version of Hitchcock Railway in October of 1968 for RCA Records. Here he is performing the number.
And, because we love you (strongly established already), here is Pete Townshend's demo for Drowned.  
Leave a comment below. Let us know what you think of all this. Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!


  1. Thankyou for an insightful piece. This article will be referenced for years to come.

    And I love the Jose Feliciano version of Hitchcock Railway.

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