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Bell Boy (song)

“Bell Boy” is a song recorded by The Who for the 1973 album Quadrophenia and 1979 movie of the same name. It was never released as a single.

Besides the main lead vocal by frontman 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.[2][3]

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[1]

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