When it's not eligible for the official classical charts - that's when! What am I talking about? Of course it can only be Classic Quadrophenia. Hotly anticipated, the classical reworking of The Who's 1973 rock opera which features Alfie Boe as Jimmy, was released this week and walked straight into controversy over its ineligibility for the official UK classical chart. The record label would have been well aware of this but a little bit of controversy in the form of the composer, Pete Townshend, getting shirty never hurt anyone. It certainly didn't hurt sales with the album shooting up the amazon classical chart (currently sitting at no. 2 and 3).
Never one to shy away from controversy himself, Alfie also waded into the row via twitter saying "Classic Quadrophenia apparently is not eligible for the Classical charts. It's moments like this that prove the classical industry is still run by narrow minded arseholes." Ever loyal, Alfie's legions of fans also tweeted their support and made their feelings known.
So, why is Classic Quadrophenia not eligible for the official classical chart? Taking a look at the rules, available on the Official Chart Company website, it states that
each album will be judged on the works performed on the album - and that these works must be composed by recognised classical composers and/or in a publicly-recognised classical idiom or form
A spokeswoman for the Official Charts Company said: "There's nothing unusual here, classical covers of pop/rock works have never qualified for the Official Classical Charts, and the rules are agreed in committee with the music industry (including the band's label). Classic Quadrophenia will be treated like any other album of contemporary music recorded in a classical style." The rules go on to further state that soundtrack albums are not eligible either. So, it would seem that the problem is not the orchestration but the fact that Pete Townshend is not recognised as a classical composer and that the work is a classical reworking of a rock album.
So why does the classical chart on amazon allow Classic Quadrophenia? The key to the disparity between the two charts is the phrase (in regard to the official chart) "rules are agreed in committee with the music industry (including the band's label)". Amazon, on the other hand is a retailer and can do what it likes.
Audiences and artists may rage against this apparent unfairness but if the music industry as a whole has agreed the rules then I don't see it changing anytime soon. Indeed, if it were to change in favour of classical reworkings of pop/rock works then we could well see a surfeit of those albums - and more traditional artists, including Alfie might well find themselves pushed out of the classical charts. Fpr the foreseeable future, I think the charts will be staying as they are.
This article first appeared on www.thoughtsofjustafan.com.