The Who – Quadrophenia

Generally speaking, The Who have been met with some very supportive critical acclaim from those who look back on their illustrious career. Over the course of their career, they went from spearheading the British Invasion sound of rock, to becoming one of the dominant forces in rock in the early ’70s, to music that could be safely labelled as progressive rock. However, possibly the most notable thing that The Who contributed to music was the development of the rock opera; a concept album that told a narrative story through rock music. While this was innovated with the classic ‘Tommy’, it could be said that The Who finally mastered this with ‘Quadrophenia’, their sixth album, and without a doubt, the greatest thing that this band have ever released. While each of The Who’s albums receive some sort of respect from listeners, it is only fair that ‘Quadrophenia’ receives the crown; it is an engaging, involving story told through music that features alot more depth to it than I would typically expect from The Who. Suffice to say, ‘Quadrophenia’ is considered a masterpiece, and rightfully so.

The story of ‘Quadrophenia’ revolves around the trials and tribulations of Jimmy Cooper, an everyman adolescent of the early ’60s, wrapped up in a petty struggle between subcultures, as well as his own recurring doubts. The album’s refers to the character’s split personality disorder; four personalities that each are meant to represent each of the band’s members. All of this is very ambitious for an album to tackle, but (admittedly with a little help from the booklet at first) the story is easy to follow, and lets the music take the listener on a nearly- cinematic experience, ranging from angry hard rock to the subtle beauty of the album’s symphonic moments. There is no full-fledged orchestra at work with The Who here, but the symphonic undertones still add a great deal of depth to the sound, especially coming from a band that was very used to giving an in-your-face approach to rock music.

The album flows almost perfectly, as if they were scenes from a film. The obvious highlights here are when the band takes that cinematic feeling and runs with it, culminating in the gorgeous closer ‘Love Reign O’er Me’. The title track features some incredible ideas that firmly placed the band in the realm of prog rock, and while The Who has been more of a band that I would put on when I want some powerful hard rock and nothing more, the lyrics here really strike a chord with me. As someone with many of the same insecurities that Jimmy Cooper voices in the album, it really makes parts of this album really blossom into heartfelt things. Pete Townshend meant to write this album to be the soundtrack to a thousand different lives, and at times, it almost feels as if the album was partially written about my life. Although that’s obviously not true, the fact that the feeling can get across like that is powerful, suffice to say.

The more rock-based tracks here are more along the lines of what I would expect from The Who, and while the less subtle and melodic moments on ‘Quadrophenia’ do not shine to me as brightly as the times where The Who breaks out of the rock convention, they are as good as anything that one would hear on ‘Who’s Next’. In other words, the harder tracks here still rocker harder than ever, and they do well to underline the main character’s anger in parts. Of course, the band’s performance here is unquestioned; I do not believe I have ever heard The Who in such tight form as they are here. Roger Daltrey’s voice in particular in incredible, and manages to hit even the most trying notes with ease. The writing here was already excellent, but with such a great performance to go along with it, ‘Quadrophenia’ shines even brighter.

The album is truly fantastic, and while The Who may have had an excellent career, this certainly takes the cake in terms of the music they have made. Here, they take all of their best aspects and emphasize them, as well as introducing the listener to other amazing sounds that sadly would not be heard again from them. A proud masterpiece of rock music, and to anyone back then or even now who doubted what could be done with the rock medium, look no further than this.


Disc 1:
1. I Am the Sea
2. The Real Me
3. Quadrophenia
4. Cut My Hair
5. The Punk & the Godfather
6. I Am One
7. The Dirty Jobs
8. Helpless Dancer
9. Is it in My Head?
10. I’ve Had Enough

Disc 2:
1. 5:15
2. Sea and Sand
3. Drowned
4. Bell Boy
5. Doctor Jimmy
6. The Rock
7. Love, Reign O’er Me


* Pete Townshend – guitar, vocals
* Roger Daltrey – lead vocals
* John Entwistle – bass, brass
* Keith Moon – drums, vocals (disc 2, track 4)

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