Pick Up My Guitar and Play: The Who, Live in Orlando, 1982

This week, from contributing editor Joe Popp, comes a first-hand account of the transformative experience of seeing The Who in 1982, and the path one young rock ‘n’ roll convert took after seeing his favorite band live. Above, a young Popp, inspired by Pete Townshend, performing live at the Mr. Ugly Contest at Wolfson High School in Jacksonville, Florida, 1983.
The Who
with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and the B-52s
November 27, 1982
Tangerine Bowl
Orlando, Florida
$15.75
I’ve always loved The Who. Still do.
Primarily because of the performing, songwriting and guitar abilities of guitarist and co-singer Pete Townshend. Not only did I admire his high-flying jumps and destruction of equipment, but his musical diversity. Townshend penned great rock anthems that defined a generation, and wrote arguably the greatest rock opera ever with Tommy. He even proved his acoustic prowess as he flailed on a Gibson J-200 on The Secret Policeman’s Ball album.
He was my hero — the person I wanted to grow up to be.
I was an avid concertgoer during high school. I went to practically every show that came to the Jacksonville Coliseum. Nothing beat a live rock show with your buds. I remember sneaking a few Black Label beers from my dad, loading the crew into my ’72 Plymouth Satellite Sebring — windows rolled down, tunes cranked — and driving to concerts. It was all we needed — we were kings.
The Who announced their farewell tour in 1982, and the closest they would get to Jax was Orlando. I remember seeing the show bill in the Budget Tapes & Records store near my house. My friend Scott and I looked at the poster, turned to each other in true Animal House fashion, and yelled “Road Trip!” The concert was the tour’s second leg and they were out supporting It’s Hard, released that September. This was the one show in my life I knew I couldn’t miss, and it would be the first time I left town to see a band.
I remember driving in my friend Tad’s father’s 1981 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, with Scott and my other friend Steve. We took the car because all of our beaters would not have made the haul to Orlando. We all brought cassettes, only to find the Caddy had an 8-track player with one tape: Lou Rawls’ When You Hear Lou, You’ve Heard It All. We played that tape for the whole two-hour plus trip, which seemed to last forever. We laughed about it the whole drive, and as the tape looped and clunked, we all sang along.
We were in a great mood. We were going to see The Who.
Clicking through the turnstile and entering the stadium was one of the most powerful feelings I’d ever experienced. I was raised Catholic, and always had a tingle when I walked into the beaming lights thrown by the stained glass windows of San José Catholic Church, which my parents forced me to attend. But this was different, way different. This was my church — my new place of worship.
We ran up to the stage on the field as close as we could, and got up front. It was daylight and the opening bands began to play. The B52s got things going, but were instantly pelted with cups and other shit. Joan Jett didn’t fare much better.
This crowd was here for one thing:
The Who. Period.
The sun fell behind the stadium as we waited impatiently for the headliners, looking around at a crowd hungry with anticipation.
I noticed some college students next to us searching as if one of their group was missing. Finally a kid approached them screaming, “I found it, I found it!” High above his head he held in his dirty hands a collection of glass hip flasks wrapped in white medical tape, all covered in mud. Evidently, they’d figured out a way to bury a bunch of booze in the stadium prior to the show. This dude excavated the stash and now it was time to party. They shared some with us and we toasted to The Who. We also managed to sneak in a small parcel of something ourselves, which we mixed with Cokes and consumed quickly. But getting drunk was the furthest thing from my mind.
Then it happened.
The lights dimmed and The Who took the stage. The crowd erupted and the band cranked out what seemed to be a set created just for me. I’d been to tons of shows, but this was my first ever stadium concert. Everything was bigger. The sound system was thunderous and the lighting was brighter than the molten metal of a foundry.
I knew what was coming as I stood among the soon-to-be converted.
Then…
The instantly recognizable chords of “My Generation.”
I watched in awe as Pete jumped and shredded his Schecter Saturn, Roger whipped the mic around by the wire, John’s fingers blurred across the bass, and Kenny hammered his kit with precision. The songs flowed into one another — an endless chain of hits, and I knew every single word. I was screaming at the top of my lungs, singing the lyrics or cheering, and my voice stopped working long before the encore.
The song that connected with me the most was “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” I recall the lights flashing and the power chords blasting out of Pete’s Hiwatt stacks as they played the anthem of our youth.
We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
It was an uprising. The performance made me feel like I could do anything. My future was laid out in front of me and the Man was never going to hold me down!
I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
At that moment I had no doubts about what I would be — a guitarist. I felt the power and the glory that The Who were preaching. It all seemed to go by in a few minutes, like a dream you never want to end. This was my Red Ryder BB Gun, my salvation.
The Who, that night in Orlando, put on the greatest show I’d ever seen, and ever would see, for the rest my life. My highest expectations had been achieved. It changed who I was, and shaped my future as a musician, a person.
I’m 46 now and I look back on my musical career — ups, downs, close calls. I wasn’t able to do it for a living, yet somehow, music still gives me immense joy, both creating it and performing it. I’ve written rock musicals, love songs, hard rock songs and everything in between. I still try to maintain lightning speed of my right hand when I play acoustic, and still jump off amps when I play with my band, The Hornrims.
The Who, and more specifically Pete Townshend, taught me a lot that fateful night in 1982. The band shaped the way I write music and helped keep my mind open to create more than standard three-minute pop songs. Little did I know that rock music would become my religion, one I would practice for the rest of my life.
Life is full of questions that sometimes seem impossible to answer:
Who am I?
What am I supposed to be?
What is the meaning of life?
What is the best concert I’ve ever seen?
I am lucky that all of these questions have the same, resounding answer:
The Who, live in ‘82 at the Tangerine Bowl, Orlando, Florida.
Amen.
Joe Popp
Guitarist, Songwriter, Rock & Roll Evangelist
Due to the beauty of the internet, I found the setlist from the Tangerine Bowl show. “Classic” doesn’t even begin to describe it.
My Generation
I Can’t Explain
Dangerous
Sister Disco
The Quiet One
It’s Hard
Eminence Front
Behind Blue Eyes
Baba O’Riley
I Can See for Miles
Drowned
Tattoo
Cry If You Want
Who Are You
Pinball Wizard
See Me, Feel Me
5:15
Love, Reign o’er Me
Long Live Rock
Won’t Get Fooled Again
Encore
Magic Bus
Squeeze Box
The Who concert ticket, collection of the Rock File.
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11 Responses to Pick Up My Guitar and Play: The Who, Live in Orlando, 1982

  1. Joe Popp says:

    It is an honor to be a guest on the Rock File! Thank you!

  2. Tom Popp says:

    Joe:

    Great article…. I was there as well and agree that it was the greatest concert I ever went to. Even if the guy I was standing next to on the field busted my glasses when he threw an apple core at Joan Jett.

    Tom

    p.s.: Why did you have to cut the sleeves off of my Tony Dorsett jersey?

  3. mark says:

    great piece joe! i was at that show, a 15 year old kid, strung out on quadrophenia and wanting to be a mod in the worst way. i was the kid wearing levis, white socks and black loafers, a white button down shirt with a skinny black tie and my dad’s old army parka with target painted on the back in the 85 degree weather. that was a special time. before mtv changed music for better or for worse and that was back when tony dorsett and joe had hair!
    those were the days.

  4. McCabe says:

    Great article Joe. I remember being there that day too. It was a great concert, maybe as good as the Stones in the same venue 13 months before. I remember the B-52’s being out of place and getting boo’ed and pelted with shoes and cups and Fred Schneider saying “Now we’re going to take you to Planet Claire whether you like it or not!” I also remember when Roger put on the guitar, you knew they were going to play Eminence Front. And Entwhistle’s crazy bass lines sounded great coming out of those giant stacks of Sunn cabinets (that I would go on to purchase one of the same style a few months later.)

  5. BIG says:

    can joe jump that high now without hair?

    great who memories. you never know WHO was in the audience 30 years later.
    you have started something joe popp!!!!!!!!
    back in 1969 dec. filmore east, tickets $3.00 (i don’t have the stub) was insane.
    they played everything they could and distroyed the stage stage.
    ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh THE WHO

    keep on rockn’

  6. Scott ludden says:

    Omg….I was just telling my brother in law about this concert. I drove down front Jax by myself. What a great concert! The B-52s did get killed with the cups, but Joanna Jett also got boo’d. I remember when she sang “do you want to touch me” I saw people with signs that read “NO”….lol! Great artical…thanks for the trip dowas memory lane!

    I still have my ticket stubroker as well.

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