The Who Quadrophenia- 1973
RMR Album Rating- 9 (Excellent)
Quadrophenia is The Who’s seminal record.
It consists of 17 songs that function together in story form, but the songs are just as enjoyable as single tracks. Quadrophenia sometimes gets accused of being slow and even boring, which is a mystery to me because it features some of The Who’s heaviest tracks like “The Real Me,” “The Punk and the Godfather,” “I’ve Had enough,” “5:15,” and “Dr. Jimmy.”
“The Real me” starts with an amazing bass line from John Entwistle and then just explodes. “The Punk and the Godfather” showcases Townshend’s searing guitar proficiency, while “Dr. Jimmy” features a venomously anthemic chorus, with Daltrey screaming “What is it? I’ll take it/ Who is she? I’ll rape it/ Got a bet there? I’ll meet it/ Getting High? You can’t beat it.” Plus, Moon is on fire on all these songs.
There’s also the back to back combination of “Dirty Jobs” and “Helpless Dancer,” which bring some interesting variety to the album. “Dirty Jobs” has a bouncy background keyboard rhythm that provides a unique hook, and “Helpless Dancer” is soaked with enough provocative anger to make you want to join the fighting the song describes.
Although the album is great from start to finish, the real tour-de-force of the record is saved for “The Rock” and “Love Reign O’er Me,” the two songs that close the album. The songs flow into each other and form a 12+ minute stunning climax to the album. “The Rock” is completely instrumental, and its structure is extremely complex. Townshend is on fire on the track, and he weaves all the key instrumental passages of the record together into a seamless banner that is perfectly accompanied by Moon’s thunderous drumming. “The Rock” is one of Moon’s greatest performances, which makes it one of the greatest drumming exhibitions in all of rock. Then, “Love Reign O’er Me,” kicks in, and Daltrey’s repeated desperate cry of the “Love Rein O’er Me” lyrical chorus brings the whole album to a spectacular conclusion of true supremacy. All in all, the combination of the “The Rock” and “Love Reign O’er Me” is one of the true hallmarks of rock history.
Quadrophenia’s songs make it a classic, but the album is also a full rock opera. And for some listeners, the concept sometimes overshadows the music, but it shouldn’t. Although Townshend ties many themes together, the concept is actually quite simple and timeless.
Here’s the simple version of the concept. First, the only 2-songs that take place in the present are the “The Rock” and “Love Reign O’er Me.” During these songs, Jimmy (the story’s main character) is stranded on a rock at sea in the rain. While stranded on the rock, Jimmy thinks about different things that have happened to him during the last two years of his life. His thoughts are not always linear; they are just a series of flashbacks. During these flashbacks, Jimmy is trying to find out who he is, and he reflects on the different sides of his personality. There are 4-main sides to his personality (a tough guy, a romantic, a lunatic, and a hypocrite). Each of these four parts of Jimmy’s personality is also tied to the personality of one of the four band members, but that’s not really important, nor is the fact that Jimmy is a Mod, or that he rides a scooter, or most of the other details. The only thing that is important is that Jimmy is a teenager trying to find himself by reflecting back on this life, and that is a very poignant and timeless concept.
Despite going to #2 on both the UK and the US charts upon its release in 1973, Quadrophenia was not a critical success or a fan favorite right away, and many fans and critics still dismiss it. In fact, I dismissed it for the first two decades that I owned it. Personally, I focused too much on the concept, which I originally didn’t understand and couldn’t relate to. Thus, I missed all the power and emotion contained in the songs. Once I focused on the songs, I realized how great the album was, and then (to my surprise) the concept suddenly made sense, which just enhanced the record’s overall grandeur. Although Quadrophenia is not completely perfect, it is easily my favorite The Who album, and it is a pillar of classic rock.
Rate this album now! Scroll over the stars and click to rate.