Friday 4 July 2008

The Who "Quadrophenia" (1973) ('Core' Review #60, Revised Edition 2014)

You can now buy 'Gettin' In Tune - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of...The Who' in e-book form by clicking here!

The Who "Quadrophenia" (1973)

Track Listing: I Am The Sea/ The Real Me/ Quadrophenia/ Cut My Hair/ The Punk And The Godfather// I’m One/ The Dirty Jobs/ Helpless Dancer/ Is It In My Head?/ I’ve Had Enough!// 5:15/ Sea And Sand/ Drowned/ Bell Boy//Dr Jimmy/ The Rock/ Love Reign O’er Me (UK and US tracklisting)

'Can you see the real me?...Is it me? For a moment?....Bell Boy!....Love reign o'er me!...Where am I going?...Where am I going?...’

Yes, Jimmy, we've interrupted your soliloquy to get you to chat a bit about your Alan's Album Archives Desert Island Discs! Well, we couldn't afford a full desert island on our budget you see, just a rock - fancy you stumbling onto the right one, there must be millions out here at the end of Brighton pier!'

'What the? I must have banged me 'ead harder than I thought. Am I really going schizo-bleeding-quadrophnic and talking to meself? Or perhaps this is what happens when the pills start wearing off!'

'Not so fast there Jimmy - we know all about you, your hopes and fears, your frustrations and your dreams, your obstacles and your heroes, the people who let you down when you believed in them - the people you let down when they believed in you. You see, Pete Townshend wrote a whole album about you in 1973 that was recorded by The Who - a double one in fact there was so much going on inside your 'ead, sorry head!'

'But - why should I care? I'm not famous! I'm not anybody - well not anymore! I don't even have me bleeding bike, some geezer ran it over with his bleeding lorry! You look odd - and not just the long floppy ears. Are you a mod? Or a rocker?

'I'm a mod dog, sometimes a mad dog, always a mascot here at Alan's Album Archives - can't you see my cane? Or perhaps I'm a mocker? Have the Alan's Album Archives-sponsored timelines been playing up again? Or perhaps I'm your fairy modmother, I don't know. Oh and I know - bad luck. The bit about the bike I mean. Not the bit about not being famous because you are: well, to record collectors of a certain age anyway!'

'I ain't famous - I'm just a young man who ain't done very much and what's more my life's a mess. Me bird's run off with me best friend.  I got kicked out the house when me ma found me pills under me pillow.'

'I know how it is - same thing when my ma found my collection of top hats and canes sticking out from under the bed!'

'I quit me job to run up here, see, to go back to where I was happiest - when I was a mod. But the scene's moved on, man, and sooner or later - well, you just stop dancing. I've just seen the ace face who used to run our joint and do you know where he was working? Bleeding hotel! He's only a friggin Bell Boy innee? All me friends have moved on, from being a kid, from being a mod, from anything that used to mean something to me. They all act so pompous and serious all the time: mortgages, families, jobs, settling down. I mean, bleeding settle down to what? There ain't nothing to settle down too - just years and years of this and turning into me old man! I was looking for some action but I all I found was cigarettes and alcohol and scooters. I wish I'd died before I got old too - hah, turn that into a song my doggy friend!'

'Erm, think it's been done'

'Being a mod wasn't a fad with me, see? It was my life, my identity, the way I fitted in. I ain't never had much money - bleeding started at nothing and worked my way down with that job I was in - but I could just about afford a scooter and a bit of clobber and that's all I needed for my identity. You don't look too badly dressed yourself actually cobber!

'Yes - I am rather dashing aren't I?! I'm the face if you want it, baby!'

' Now set me free - I want to drown! Ah it's no good - it's time to end it! I can't face them all! I can't get on the 5:15 back home and go back to my old life! Responsibilities! Adulthood! Settling down! I can't do that. Can I?'

'There's only one way to find out - after we finish chatting - face your fears, they might not be as bad as you think.

'But my ma - my pa - my boss - my girl!'

'All temporary, a storm already blowing over as they get more and more worried that you're not going to come home. Your girlfriend is already feeling guilty - she'll be back on your side once the next 'scene' comes along with you at the heart of it. Your parents might do a bit of tut-tutting, but they would much rather have you home than dead. The mod revival should come along about 15 or so years away from now too - you'll like that. Oh and your boss is secretly very fond of you behind that gruff exterior - he's been holding your place open just in case you come back. Things aren't that bad really - they just got a little out of hand, came too fast, stopped you seeing proper.'

'But where do I go? What do I say?'

'You'll find out in time Jimmy - nothing is planned by the sea and the sand after all. It'll happen when it's meant to, how it's meant to.'

'Bleeding hell. What a mess. I still say I'm nobody important though. Who'd want to make an album about me? - go talk to the ace face when he's through carrying bleeding millionaire's bags.

'Importance is judged in more ways than money you know - anyway those millionaire's are boring - they've tidied their doubts and fears and scares away in a little box they don't even remember is there anymore, although it is, whatever they pretend and looking down their noses at you helps keep that lock hidden away. You though - you're different - all those different people to be cooped up inside one body, for your parents, your job, your friends, your girl. No wonder your head's exploding! And as for not being special - everyone's special. Well except the Spice Girls - they're more like special needs than special. Not that you'll know about them yet (huh, you think your time's got problems!) Anyway, there's one thing you ought to know before you go back though. You are loved. You might not feel it, you might not understand it, you might not appreciate it - but you are loved. And thanks to the power of music you will be loved by far more people than you could ever imagine.  And not just now, as long as whatever fashion lasts, forever - not just this impermanent existence even but through all of time and human civilisation and understanding, as long as people still listen to sings about what it means to grow older your story will never die. You might not know who you are - but 'we' do. Know something else? The world is more messed up than it looks. Nobody really knows what they're doing. Schizophrenic? Hah - the whole world's bleeding quadrophonic at least, pulled in at least four different ways at once. It could be worse though - I mean thank God you aren't old, right? You’ve got time to sort out everything. Anyway, there's a story all about it. Let me tell you about it - you'll feel less alone then.

'Before you do - there's one major thing troubling me about all this - you see, I think you’ve made a mistake. ‘Ere in 1965 I know The Who - they aren't going to last the rest of the year so they ain't, not with that many bust-ups onstage. And the drummer alone is surely going to explode long before he reaches the ripe old age of twenty! Anyway The Who aren't a mod band - now if it was me old favourites The Small Faces - bet you ain't heard of them, talking canine, but they're a real great group full of smartly dressed young lads, haven't released a record yet but they're gonna be big - you'd be talking!'

'Well, the intergalactic prog rock concept police did have a word with them, but it seems they chose to write a piece about a man called Stan who lives in a charabanc looking for the other half of the moon with the help of a fly that came out in a record that looked like a cigarette packet. Don't ask, long story. Anyway The Who got you instead. Hush, though, it's a good story. It starts out at sea...'

Ah, Quadrophenia. Just reading that word gives record collectors of a certain taste, a particular age and a capacity to house this mammoth biscuit-tin sized double album that sort of warm, cozy feeling inside that’s only kept for certain records. Many of us collectors spend our days just staring at the cover, getting lost in the inside photographs of the characters at play in the booklet or musing over Townshend’s intricate and complex but so so human lyrics. ‘Quadrophenia’ isn’t like most albums, well not those made nowadays anyway – it’s not atmospheric background music, it’s not even a collection of classy pop songs, it really is a journey, the last truly great concept album ever made at the time of writing starting and ending at sea and told in flashback as a young man wonders whether to drown - or give life one more go. Along the way 'Quadrophenia' celebrates and berates its main characters in equal measure as we follow their rise and falls, cheering and tutting as they go about their business in true pantomime style. But this is no mere pantomime or soap opera - this is the very highest of high drama, a kitchen sink tale for the ages in which a search for identity (that old Who favourite theme which they've been exploring ever since coming up with that name) becomes the most important story in the world. The album to go to for everyone whose ever felt just a little bit messed up and out of sorts with the world, 'Quadrophenia' is the most moving and eloquent album by perhaps the world's most moving and eloquent writer ever wrote. I put it to you, dear readerds, that ‘Quadrophenia’ is the closest we yet have to an instruction book on how to cope with life, an album that recognises our dreams, fears and paranoias, the desperate desire of every human being to fit into a world that clearly wasn’t made for them and gives us redemption all the same. The Who know that humans need to feel as if they belong to something – and so all fans who discover this album somehow ‘belong’ to Quadrophenia, tied to The Who in the most glorious sequel to [111] ‘Listening To You’ that anyone can possibly imagine.

Notably, though, unlike the contemporary setting of ‘Tommy’ and the futuristic one for ‘Lifehouse’, ‘Quadrophenia’ is set in the past. Rock and roll has been around for a while now, enough to be an institution and eight years on from [23] ‘My Generation’ The Who have been going long enough to have a ‘history’, dismissed as the bands of the parents of the people who buy the pop singles nowadays. Though The Who weren’t strictly a ‘mod’ band except in the eyes of first manager Pete Meadon (they tended to be laughed at by true mod crowds) nevertheless the band always felt like they ‘belonged’ to this era. They were England’s next big hope at the time of the mods versus rockers riots that were played out on Brighton beach in 1964 and the lone survivors of the musical bands that had grown up from the movement. Now that movement is playing out again, with the prg rockers versus the glam kids of the early 1970s re-enacting the war (if slightly less viomently and involving less broken deck-chairs) and yet for Pete Townshend the two are both sides of the same coin: he’s still the cynical young punk that wanted to destroy the world in three minute pop singles, but as he’s got older he’s realised that he can’t tell such a complicated story that short anymore – he needs a whole concept album to explain what used to be, back in 1964, unexpainable (see [4]). Pete can understand what went on in his bed better now but more than that he feels he understands his old audience enough to write about them too, now that they aren’t here. One of the big inspirations for this work that always gets forgotten is the David Essex film ‘That’ll Be The Day’, the first time that the 1950s of the band’s youth was treated like a ‘museum’ rather than as a part of living history. Keith Moon was hired to play in the Butlin’s holiday camp band in the film (and rather steals the show), while Pete was asked to write a song for the film based loosely on his memories of the 1950s. Pete wrote [146] ‘Long Live Rock!’ which an aging Billy Fury grapples with in the film and the soundtrack album, but the idea stayed in his head: actually, wasn’t the 1950s more complicated than this? Wasn’t the utopia of youth when all things seemed possible that everyone was talking about really a time when Pete felt confused, betrayed, unnecessary, a period of his life when he desperately struggled to work out who he was? Pete found his way through music and wonders out loud what his life might have been like had The Who not formed at his school and had Kit and Chris not discovered them: would he too have been as lost as Jimmy when the thing that made him want to be a musician moved on? Updating the story a few years to Brighton beach gave him a more visual aspect to the work though, while the mod scene had far more ties to The Who’s story as Pete sought to give us a magnum opus about what made him become a musician, what made The Who The Who and what it meant to be not just in a band but a fan of one. the result is an epic that laughed in the face of every Bay City Rollers scarf and every glam-hatted imp; back in the day being a fan of a fading genre called rock and roll was a matter of taking life into your own hands.  

Not that people saw it that way at the time. Rather aptly for an album about a character who struggles so hard to fit in and find his way in the world, nobody cared much for 'Quadrophenia' when it came out. 'Tommy' was The Who's masterpiece and that was that, with 'Who's Next' a close second. By 1973 the music scene had turned lighter and frothier: two minute glam singles were in, not concept albums about events that were nearly a decade old by now (the Mods v Rockers battle of Brighton was as long ago as May 1964). An expensive double-album set that came with a booklet thicker than most books, Quadrophenia was a grand weighty statement, a parable at a time when logos and mottos and pop singles were in. The poor response to this album meant that The Who would never be the same again – and it would take until 1993 for Pete to write his next ‘rock opera’, long after the demise of The Who. But time has been kind to this album. The specific setting means that to some extent 'Quadrophenia' was always a 'history' project and the further away from it in time we get, the more we understand that Townshend was giving his own statement about 'his' generation and why they turned out that way (in effect 'Quadrophenia' is an eighty-two minute rewrite of that not-quite-three minute single, Pete's attempts to work out why his sub-conscious was wired that way at 20 now that he's pushing the big thirty and asking what it means to grow up by degrees while staying the same person inside). Ask a fan in the street to name a Who album now, after a well received film in 1979, several Who tours performing the whole album, multiple re-issues (a four disc director's cut no less), a TV making-of documentary (even ‘Tommy’ didn’t have one of those!), a weird classical re-interpretation and more growing respect each time, most people who know anything about music at least know of Quadrophenia. Pete's biggest project, the one he never quite recovered from making, has taken forty-plus years to get the respect it deserves, but 'Quadrophenia' has finally found its way home, love reigning over it at last.

Not that it sounds like a history lesson – this album feels alive. The Who know how to record themselves by now and this is surely their most physical LP, with every drum ripple, every bass rumble, every guitar explosion, every Roger roar sounding at their most intense and full-on. Every track sounds as if its being lived in, in all its widescreen glory, not merely ‘acted’ ‘Quadrophenia’ clearly means a lot to the whole band, not just its author: ‘Tommy’ was fictional and ‘Lifehouse’ a concept they couoldn’t always get their heads around, but they know the world of ‘Quadrophenia’ – they lived through it. Keith’s last great performance before a decade of wayward living catches up with him is matched by John’s last extended run of glorious brass embellishments and Roger’s best vocal work. Even the synth, so cold and alien on ‘Who’s Next’, is re-moulded into the piece as a warm beating heart, interwoven into the music like a thread in a tapestry rather than as something to fight. Though rehearsed far more than normal, almost all the songs on this album end up in glorious rock and roll jams, the band keeping themselves and us on their toes as they maintain the glorious excitement of rock and roll, never quite knowing themselves what’s coming next and keeping all those ‘happy accidents’ on the record (this is, more than anything, what’s missing from The Who after this and why their future records, however good, are never quite as popular). Even the vocoder, an effect that sdigitally alters the vocals which has since become so overplayed, sounds perfect here for the questioning confused soul at the heart of this album always trying to break through to be something else, to be himself rather than the good son, boyfriend, employee and even pop fan the world wants him to be. Jimmy is too authentic to modifiy himself and feels everything – and the closest way to feeling that musically is what The Who do to this album, making every beat, every note and every lyric puncture the listener like never before. This is not an album to sit back and listen to but one that demands audience interaction like never before to follow the ‘story’ (told in photos in the booklet, without any helpful captions) and to ‘feel’ the music like never before (especially in its originally planned ‘Quadrasonic’ four-speaker mix). For this is our story, whether we be young punk or wisened old Modfather.  

Jimmy, you see, is all of us. This teenage mod is one of the greatest creations of rock, a fully three-dimensional character you can believe in and his ‘journey’ throughout this double-album is one of the most moving musical adventures you will ever have. Tommy is another great character of course, but whereas his psychedelic journey as a deaf, dumb and blind pinball playing king is a moving allegory we can identify with, Jimmy is ‘us’, sounding like flesh and blood, a now adult Townshend's memories of his mixed up adolescence and those of the equally messed up kids around him looking for love and not knowing how to get it, with Townshend interrupting the text (and Roger) every now and again, narrator style, to comment on a scene ('I lived your future out by pounding stages  like a clown...the empty seats, the empty rows, it all belongs to me you know'). Jimmy is also a mirror of The Who's target audience: the messed up kids who didn't know who they were either, the geeks inside school bullies and the bullies inside geeks who longed to scratch and tear at the world but nobody ever listened to, longing to feel comfortable in their own skin. Fed up of living at home, fed up of being force-fed education by grumpy teachers in a backward school, fed up of mundane job prospects, fed up of his friends and his girlfriend and beginning to bow to parental and peer pressure ands with the one thing that made his life worth living – being a mod – now over and done with, Jimmy is one hell of an angry, disillusioned kid. His only solace, the only thing that makes sense anymore in his increasingly confusing life, is music and a feeling of ‘belonging’ to the mod movement of the 1960s that The Who always skirted on the edges of belonging to (adrenalin-filled short snappy singles yes, sharp dressers and daredevil scooter riders no). For everyone else mod was something cool before the next craze comes along, but to Jimmy it is the only thing that makes sense and he refuses to give it or the music it inspired up. Ironically Jimmy tries to grow up and act like an ‘adult’ for most of the record because that’s what his friends are doing and he wants in – only through his self-imposed exile from friends and family does he truly grow up and even then he ends the album on the verge of throwing all his hard work away by drowning. The album gets a lot more complex than that – this is a 1970s Who album after all – but that’s the gist of this album’s story, following Jimmy at a crossroads in his life, experiencing disappointment after disappointment and ending up ambiguous as he flings himself out to sea, nestled on a rock and enjoying the last of his pills while he tries to work whether to flow himself out to sea again and drown or come out the other side finding some form of redemption (although the album is deliberately left open-ended and redemption could be found in one of a number of different ways).

Undoubtedly ‘Quadrophenia’ is not to everyone's tastes unlike, say ‘Who’s Next’. There’s no humour here to lighten the mood (unless you count the black humour of ‘Bell Boy’ which remembers having the world and then rushes off to carry our baggage for less than the minimum wage). ‘Quadrophenia’ is complex, hard to dance to, comes with not but two lengthy instrumentals and it's also kind of ‘preachy’ album by Townshend standards, as any album that follows a renegade teen from stability to depression and possible suicide is bound to be. Yet by showing us life through the eyes of a fed-up mod called Jimmy and his desperate attempts to be loved through music and through relationships with his girlfriend, parents, friends and the mod ace face he looks up to, however tough his outside character and however calmly he seems to be dealing with life on the surface, this album rings true at just about every level. Townshend is obviously sympathetic to his main troubled character too (Jimmy might even be a loose version of him, actually, having read his autobiography, had he born just a few years later than he was) and he’s ultimately preachy in a big brotherish kind of way, not in a ‘go to your room and stay there’ way like Ray Davies or John Lennon sometimes are – its more of a sort of, ‘look what I did and how I messed up and make your own mind up’ way. For even by Pete's and The Who's standards, one hell of a lot of work went into this album. Practically every line in ‘Quadrophenia’ is perfectly placed, every melodic phrase turned just so, every performance balanced between angst sloppiness and note-perfect professionalism, every single chord ringing true with the subject matter. Along with The Beach Boys' 'Smile', it's the one album in my collection that never fails to move me to tears and it sits right near the top of my favourite all time albums, for never has music felt so remarkably, frustreatingly, brilliantly, noisily real as ‘Quadrophenia’.

Most Who albums work on masses of different levels and ‘Quadrophenia’ works on more than most. A good example is the amount of recurring ‘themes’ that link this album’s often contradictory songs like a paperclip. Forced to be so many different people and to never be 'himself', Jimmy's split personality is loosely based on the four sides of The Who even though Roger sings all the parts to some extent. In turn he's an eternally disappointed romantic who still yearns for tenderness (not sure I saw that in John’s character, but ok), an angry sneering rebel who tears down all attempts to reign him in (very Roger), a lunatic who is only interested in life for a laugh and hates it when things get too deep (hi Keith!) and a philosophical hypocrite who speaks of love and kindness but is too selfish to show any of these feelings to anyone but himself (the voices are in order Entwistle, Daltrey, Moon and Townshend, whose being characteristically hard on himself as usual). Each of these four split personalities come with their own musical 'theme' (most sleeve-note writers get pretentious and call this a 'leitmotif' but we've been pretentious enough so far already...) repeated throughout the album at key moments. These are respectively the winsome 'is it me for a moment?' (heard most in 'Dr Jimmy'), a 'helpless dancer', aka a tough front (' stop dancing!'), the whole of the slightly mad 'Bell Boy' and the emotional central theme to 'love reign o'er me' (heard in snippets throughout the album, like the 'See Me, Feel Me' refrain that kept cropping up throughout Tommy), while all four passages are mixed in together during sound effect filled opening 'I Am The Sea' and the two instrumentals 'Quadrophenia' and 'The Rock'. This makes what could have been a sprawling mass of a double album sound incredibly cohesive, each of these themes heard several times throughout the record (mainly on middle eights) before dominating these four separate songs towards the end of the set as Jimmy gets more and more confused. That makes the whole thing sound terribly complex, but all you really need to know is that Jimmy is never sure of himself from one moment to the next, hopping from one character trait to another and effectively holding conversations with his separate ‘selves’ in an attempt to discover the ‘truth’ of life (boy is this a fully fledged rock opera or what?!)

That's the theme of the album that always seems to get a mention (presumably because it's mentioned on the back cover of the original booklet). However there's another theme in 'Quadrophenia' that's always fascinated me: water. By now Pete Townshend isn't just dabbling with Meher Baba's teachings (as per 'Tommy'), he's a fully blown convert and the idea of life as a series of 'waves' is intrinsically entwined into the fabric of this album. The lure of the beach - a place of violence at first, then respite when Jimmy tries to recapture the glory days of the Brighton Beach mods v rockers fight on the album’s second half - pulls Jimmy in throughout the album, a special place where his 'character' can be 're-written' ('nothing is planned by the seas and the sand' after all, because the sea is always re-shaping the trajectory of the beach). The album even starts with a full three minutes of sound effects of waves lapping round a beach, with a song title declaring that 'I' (Jimmy - our everyman representative?) '...Am The Sea'). The sea is, of course, the ‘giver of life’ that can also take that life away if you are reckless enough to abuse it, as Jimmy seems to be by album’s end (he ends the album out at sea clinging on to a rock and wondering whether to give into his urge to drown or fitht his way back to the beach – the ‘death by Beach Head’ is in the film, not the original album). By the end of the album the water means love too though: Jimmy is sat alone on a rock looking back at his past life screaming for love - to 'reign o'er me'. The mod has spent so long pleasing his many selves (pleasing friends, family, boss and girlfriend) that he's forgotten what unconditional love is. But Jimmy is looking for something stable - and love isn't stable; it changes with each change of the tide of life and that might be why in Quadrophenia Pete uses the metaphor of 'rain', falling in different strengths dotted around areas of our life rather than the 'sun' metaphor most musicians use (the pun on the word 'reign' also suggests that Jimmy is 'ruled' by love, or his lack of it). Till the end of the record Jimmy has felt its cold rainy grasp often enough to let him know what love feels like, but it's all still so far out of his reach that he can’t immerse himself in it until he finds himself floating in it at the end of the record. No wonder Jimmy sings at various parts of the second album that he wants to ‘drown in your sweet sweet love’: he wants to be consumed by somebody who loves him for who he is - but nobody does, the people around him only love a 'part' of him. He sings in 'Cut My Hair' that 'though I don't want to hurt them, my [parents] want me their way'. His girl loves him only when he's popular (to be fair that's more in the film and not made explicit in the record). His friends love him when mod is in fashion and ridicule him for being behind the times when he isn't. His boss only cares if he turns up to work on time and doesn't make too much mess. However the fact that this album ends effectively in 'the water', trying to re-shape his identity, leads to another religious image: that of baptism. Jimmy might choose to drown at the end - that's left deliberately ambiguous. But another alternate ending has him re-emerging from the waves, Christianity style, with a new purpose, a new understanding of life and a new understanding of love in his heart. Jimmy can begin anew, should he choose, pick up the scattered pieces of his broken life and learn to move on, his 'identity' now shaped by more than being a mod (a sadly doomed species until the late 1970s anyway - and then it's back in fashion partly because the scooters and clothes in the film of Quadrophenia looked so 'cool'). Water is also traditionally seen as a 'healing' power - one aspect of 'love' - and while too much of it will drown or suffocate you, Jimmy is effectively 'cleansed' of his mistakes by the end of the work (that talk to Max The Singing Mod Dog clearly helped too).

The fact that we've got so high-falluting all of a sudden (Pete may or may not have realised all this; my guess is that most of 'Tommy' came as a surprise but he knew exactly what he was writing with 'Lifehouse' and 'Quadrophenia') shows what a complicated multi-layered album 'Quadrophenia' is. Roger drove the others mad on tour by breaking up the songs on stage by 'explaining' the story because he feared that fans wouldn't get it - chances are they didn't on first hearing, but 'Quadrophenia' is one of those albums with more to give whatever surface level you're after: spiritual quest, rite of passage, seaside tale, history of the mods, collection of heavy rock songs with a few prog rocky touches, Quadrophenia works as all of these. A lesser writer would have simply sat back and let the plot unfold prog-rock style, but the other brilliance of 'Quadrophenia' is how 'earthy' this spiritual album is. Jimmy himself is a character whose clearly never had a spiritual thought in his life - why would he? He's the archetypal young punk whose never had to 'grow up' and it hurts. Fittingly for the music Roger (perfectly cast - even more than on 'Tommy') gets to sing is right in his comfort zone: angry, nihilistic rock, the perfect sound of a messed up teenager battling against a world that doesn't want to know, the victim pretending to be the bully and shouting at a world he doesn’t understand so people don’t shout at him (with Pete occasionally joining in for Jimmy's softer inner conscience and Keith as the one outside character, the 'ace face' Bell Boy and John's brilliant song, the jazzy [164] 'We Close Tonight', sadly excised from the album at the last minute). Even after more than a decade playing with The Who on some level, Pete is true enough to his principles to remember where he started, ‘fingers so clumsy, voice so loud’, but so convinced by music that he belongs somewhere at last that he screams at us ‘I’m one!’ in defiance – not as a bare-chested Rock God as in ‘Tommy’, not as the saviour of mankind on ‘Lifehouse’, but as a weedy awkward teenager who feels that he has no hope of ever growing into a man. Jimmy is already struggling with how to be himself as a teen when he doesn’t care much for himself inside the school gates, but one of the hardest challenges he faces across ‘Quadrophenia’ is how to keep hold of his identity in a vast anonymous world of adults that don’t care two figs for himself. Everyone he watches entering the workforce loses a part of themselves in the dull monotony and Jimmy feels it happening to himself. He watches helplessly as one by one everybody who ever meant anything to him and who he once looked up to get sucked through the vortex too and ‘stop dancing’, Quadrophenia’s metaphor for people who stop enjoying life. He sees it in the weary heavy footsteps of the mod singer whose been on too many tours and survived too many fads to be popular or mean anything (the ‘failure’ of ‘Quadrophenia’ only compounding the sad lines of ‘The Punk and The Modfather’ as Pete pays penance for trying to ever overtopple existing superstars in his youth). He sees it in a world where his black and working class friends, who mean the world to him, are passed over for the decent jobs, with a life of menial work their penance for not knuckling down hard at school and knowing the right people. He feels it most when The Ace Face, the mod to end up mod, can only find humble employment as a bell-hop in the seaside resort where he used to champion (and who is celebrating getting even this lowliest job). Jimmy is a mod who desperately yearsn to change the world, but finds he can’t even change himself. ‘I’m not gonna weep again!’ snarls Jimmy – but it’s the only thing he can do. The Who then reach their hands out to all the little Jimmys out there listening to this album (‘it’s easy to see how you are one of us, ain’t it funny how we all seem to look the same?’) and give us that helpful hint, that underneath their confident façade, everyone is as lost and hopeless as we are. Thanks, Who.   

‘Quadrophenia’ is an album full of switches, veering from wrongful confidence (Roger at his best) to deep vulnerability (Pete at his most fragile) and going from deep intellectual focus to primal scream in a heartbeat: typically 1970s Who, the record starts with  sound effects and the most prog rock song in their canon ('I Am The Sea') before going typically 1960s Who and blowing the cobwebs away and arriving in the full scooter headlights blare of 'The Real Me', one of the angriest, hardest rockers The Who ever wrote (it's [4] 'I Can't Explain' - Pete's own 'Jimmy' moment - with louder drums). It’s also, notably, an album on the move as if Jimmy can’t sit still, feeling restless and rootless in any one place. During the course of the album he gets on the 5:15 to brighton and even a boat, searching out there in the world to ‘find’ himself, but he only really finds it when he is stationary, perched on top of an unmoving rock and looking deep within himself. ‘Quadrophenia’ is an album where the main protagonist spends the full two hours trying to run away from his problems, the world and ultimately himself – but only by staying put does he truly find the ‘real me’.

So far we've spoken about this album as if it's Pete's baby and it is - he writes every note and as the demos on the Quadrophenia 'Dirctor's Cut' set reveal, shaped everything: what the bass, drums and keyboards all play as well as his own parts. But while Pete is never better than in his main role as writer, director and bit player, the other members of The Who are rarely better either. Roger just is Jimmy even more than he was Tommy, inhabiting his angry snarl but also revealing his gentler side (his orchestral debut album having done his singing the world of good) and is exceptional in this role (his contrasting vocals on 'The Real Me' and 'Love Reign O'er Me' may well be his greatest work, both working on so many levels of bravado, fright and hope). Keith Moon is at the end of his really 'on the ball' albums, with his last truly sublime contributions for the band: mimicking a thundering train on '5:15', pummelling the tricky stop-start sections of 'Sea and Sand' into oblivion and finally hurling a gong into his drum kit right on cue in the epic dying notes of the album. Keith doesn't just play the surface noise role either: he's right in character, with more subtlety than anyone ever gives him credit for, not to mention his excellent gruff cameo as the 'Bell Boy', a character who has gone from hero to zero pragmatically and with a shrug of the shoulders and who surely deserves his own double-album rock opera. The album's unsung hero, yet again, is John Entwistle: his bass playing is the 'root' of this album, by turns thundering or empathetic and often doing whatever the rest of the band isn't, pointing at Jimmy's inner strength or inner confusion. His overdubbed brass section is at its most poignant here, turning this album in turns from a black and white film of starkness (most of the first disc) into full blown technicolour (most of the second). These are Pete's genius ideas, but he has the best band he could possibly have to help him out and the band's support is all the more surprising given the headaches explaining 'Lifehouse' to them caused (it probably helps that they all felt a stronger affinity to Jimmy, a character roughly similar to their background and age, than a bunch of music-censored hippies uniting the world through a bank of computers i the future a la 'Lifehouse').

Throughout, though, this is still clearly 'more' than just a rock album. One other overlooked aspect of this album is the sheer amount of sound effects, lifted not from some tape library but (for the most part) recorded by Pete himself on a portable tape recorder as he goes on long walks to think about this album. There are sounds of the beach, of the railway station, of cheering crowds, of circuses, of thunder – you name it, it’s here. This is a key element of the album's success and was there from his earliest demo tapes: it means on a practical level that the songs can run into each other with some ease, more like a 'rock opera' without the need to segue tracks into each other 'Tommy' style. On a deeper level it enables Quadrophenia to sound even more 'real', as if it's taking place in 'our' world surrounding things we walk past every day: the sound of the sea which runs throughout the album, an oompah-ing brass band, a whistling kettle, a radio, a train (arriving gloriously as the climax to the first side just as Jimmy speaks about suicide for the first time - what a cliffhanger, even if it turns out he's just boarded a train to Brighton to think things over and not hurled himself on the tracks as we fear), even a wandering Pete walking past, out for a stroll (and singing the opening words to 'Sea and Sand' as he goes - perhaps another mod with another similar story to tell if only he could drop his guard and 'talk' to someone about all this).

The Who had long been in a class of their own at writing sensitive, thoughtful ballads and take-no-prisoners rockers but here, more than any other LP, the line is blurred – Pete saves his most complex lyrics for the churning angry out-pouringly furious rockers and only on some of the slower songs does the now-calm Jimmy see the world through his clear-cut vision once again. This is a yin and yang world where rage and reflection are two sides of the same coin: Jimmy is railing at the outer world because he feels so utterly lost on the inside. He sees a world of what he will become and he hates it, but equally he doesn’t know how to stop it or have the power to change it. Every disaffected youth who ever wanted to scream at the world can enjoy this album – and equally every lost introvert kid who bottled themselves yup in their room to hide from it. At different times Jimmy does both and that makes him one of the most natural living breathjing three-dimensional characters in rock. As brilliant as the music and performasnces are on ‘Quadrophenuia’, it is the lyrics that make this album, showing Jimmy’s vulnerability, his warmth and need to be loved and his growing ‘darker’ side all the way through. ‘Tommy’ and ‘Who’s Next’ are classy, complex concept albums that show just how in tune Pete Townshend was with his audience – giving his frustrated fans exactly the sort of raw power and excitement they love in The Who, but recognising that this love is probably born out of a similar frustration about modern day living to his own. Even more than the abandoned ‘Lifehouse’, the Who album that was meant to unite band and audience with new interpretations of the material every night depending on the ‘vibes’ of people attending the show, ‘Quadrophenia’ shows a band firmly recognizing and responding to their audience. It's an album to cry to, delight with, to cheer you up and knock you down to the ground. Hah, multi-layered and multi-purposed? I think you mean bleeding quadra-layered and purposed!

In short (well, short-ish, this is us talking here!), Quadrophenia is as close an album to real life as its possible to find, without any of the cardboard cut-out one-personality trait characters you usually get in rock concept albums (even Tommy didn't get many songs after he 'woke up'). Furthermore, Quadrophenia is just about detailed enough to be believable—but vague enough for you to draw out your own interpretation of the story (‘We don’t tell you what the story is, we provide the music and you tell us what it is” said Pete at one point when working on this album and this from a guy who’d only just abandoned writing songs based around the lives of members of the Who audience fed into a computer two years before this record came out). This double set really should have been the killer Who moment, the point where the band grew a whole new level of respect and became the top of the musical tree, but it was not to be – Quadrophenia gets every single little piece of the puzzle spot-on except one little tiny thing, which to record buyers and statisticians means all the difference; timing. ‘Tommy’ came out at the perfect time, when rock was getting arty and fans were looking for the new big thing, but ‘Quadrophenia’ was too big, too grand, too unwieldy and too heavy to be the monster seller of 1973. But this is an album about howe everyone can find a way to fit in, eventually, somehow and things can change: ‘Quadrophenia’ is the record that keeps giving, delighting more and more fans with each release and in time may well come to replace 'Tommy' and 'Who's Next' as the most perfect Who album over time. After all, it might be clever but it's always believable, effectively one long angry lonely desperate wail (in common with the Who songs about inarticulacy of old) couched in such cleverly conceived, cleverly executed ways that it sounds like nothing less than Townshend’s grand instruction booklet for getting through life, it's problems and pitfalls and the moments to sit up and enjoy what's there. Magic. They ought to put Quadrophenia on the NHS - more than any other record it's a soothing tonic for troubled minds and proof that however desperate and isolated and confusing life gets, you are truly not alone.

The Songs:

The album starts ominously with the first of many classy sound effects heard on the album - lots of rolling waves at the seaside - and brief snatches of all four ‘quadrophenia’ themes that will be heard throughout the album. [147] 'I Am The Sea' is interesting in that it differs from the ‘overtures’ of both Tommy ([88]) and what – maybe – is the start of Lifehouse (‘[120] ‘Pure and Easy’). One is pure melody without words, the second pure story without character. ‘Quardophenia’ though notably starts with pure sound and atmosphere. We are, though we won’t know this until two tracks from the end of the work, inside Jimmy’s head in flashback as the drugs and booze he’s taken wear off and he beguns to go from being numb to wondering how he ended up on a rock in the middle of the sea. Jimmy is desperately trying to reconcile his four faces which is why we hear three of the four themes one after another which won’t truly make sense until we’ve reached the end of side two. Snatches of songs to come are here as ‘waves’ of thoughts that Jimmy keeps being splashed by, his old ‘selves’ coming back to haunt him (the ‘is it me for a moment?’ middle eight of ‘Dr Jimmy’ played on a French horn and then sung by Roger alone, the chorus chant of ‘Bell Boy’ and by the end we hear him reaching out for the finale of ‘Love Reign O’er Me’, rudely edged aside by ‘The Real Me’ in this version as Jimmy thinks about his life a bit more for now). Mostly, though, we just hear how small and insignificant Jimmy is against the sheer vast roar of the sea and how easily it would be for him to just slip away. It takes real bravery to go on living when all Jimmy wants to do is belong, to go back to ‘source’, to rejoin nature, but still he makes that small awkward step back to shore (or does he?) At first ‘I Am The Sea’ has you impatiently waiting to get to the heart of the plot, but the more you play this album the more you realise that this is Jimmy’s search for himself pared down to the basics, oddly shorn of ‘Roger’s theme’, and the more times you hear it the more moving it becomes. This is also a great way for a hi-fi buff to test his speakers (just remember to turn things down for Roger's screaming vocal at the start of the next track!)

Any dangers about this being a high-falluting confusing album are laid to rest as soon as the next track begins, however, with [148a] The Real Me is pretty much the last evidence of the Who power trio of musicians at their un-adorned best, with Daltrey screaming his lungs out magnificently over the top. The song is also, not co-incidentally, the last time the band ever properly use their [4/23] I Can’t Explain/ My Generation template of an angry rocky mask to cover up vulnerability, with Jimmy laying out his conflicting emotions and four-way-split of a personality from the first as a shrink is unable to undiagnosed him (because Jimmy is only an everyman suffering what we all go through?) A wail of desperation with a classic part-celebratory, part-sarcastic, part-frustrated yelled chorus of ‘can you see the real me?’, this song might sound like just another ‘noisy’ Who song but it isn’t, it’s cleverly setting up the themes of the album to come. Doctors, parents, girlfriends, passing vicars – they all claim they can help, but they can’t. The doctor stays silent, Jimmy’s mother talks about it being a faulty gene that runsw in the family ands the girl can’t cope. All Jimmy really needs is someone to feel his pain, but none of them do - Jimmy is a problem they’d rather sweep under the carpet. Nobody really truly understands Jimmy or the lots of little Jimmies that are out there and the only person who can solve his problems is Jimmy himself by looking inside himself. An explosive song, this is the grungiest of Who recordings and the one uses the sheer death-rattle of their power trio to it’s best. Pete’s guitar slashes are superb, Moon’s drum pounding clinging on with sheer noise and effort and Roger’s screamed vocal is one of the best he ever gavem ending on a throttled cry of ‘mother!’ that’s positively haunting. However the highlight is surely John’s completely unique off-the-wall bass playing, a series of notes that for the most part takes no notice of what the rest of the band are doing at all and is clearly out of synch with what the rest of the world are doing before finally ‘blending in’ near the end, yet still somehow fits perfectly. In all, the most glorious noise you will ever hear.

After a rock-out fade, in comes the first of two similar but subtly different instrumentals which clearly both take place as Jimmy is perched on that rock waiting to make his final decision, the title track of [149] Quadrophenia. Both instrumentals make a virtue out of some newly invented synthesisers (like Who’s Next, this album is absolutely central to their adoption as the instrument of choice in the world at large in the 1980s) and feature all four ‘quadrophenia’ themes in there somewhere once again in longer sections. This version is notably angrier than the more reflective sequel ‘The Rock’ despite being more tentative and awkward, as if Jimmy is still getting used to the arguments for and against drowning flowing through his agonised brain. The synthesisers help add to this mood, floating in where effectively Jimmy’s drug and booze high should be, distorting everything and making him seem only half-hnuman as they ebb and flow in his brain, sometimes disappearing for sections at a time and sometimes clouding the song with pure smog. The opening ‘Punk and the Godfather’ motif is particularly strong and it’s almost a shame that this switches some twenty seconds in to the ‘Is it me for a moment?’ section from ‘Dr Jimmy’. Note though how tentative this whole instrumental is compared to what comes later – the final ‘Love Reign O’er Me’ is positively operatic, but this version sounds closer to a 1950s amble, with some distinctly Chuck Berry-ish guitar licks by the end. By the time the sound effects kick in at he song’s end the drugs have truly worn off, to the point where you can even hear the distinctly human whine of speedboats and what sounds like an air conditioner. 

From here to the end everything is told is flashback as Jimmy remembers his life before things started happening to him. [150] Cut My Hair is though no rosy glow but the sense that one day it would all come to this. ‘Hair’ was one of the first pieces written for the album and it perfectly sets up the back history of Jimmy. He’s angry and frustrated about being stuck at home with a family who he feels is stifling him and no prospect of a better future, after what was for him a terrific summer hanging out with his mates in the famous mods and rockers fights on Brighton Beach in 1964. He admits that he secretly loves his mum and dad (well, they’re ‘really alright’) but they don’t understand him, the music in h9is head or the pills found in his bedroom. Jimmy keeps them contented, cleaning ‘my room and my shoes’, but the’s not contented with these rules, escaping at night to be the person he really wants to be – no longer still but ‘leaping along’ and dressed like a trendy mod should at brighton beach taunting greasy rockers (there references to a [1] ‘Zoot Suit’# a fan-pleasing reference to The Who’s first single as ‘The High Numbers’, the one and only time they tried to be a ‘mod band’). All the while though is ‘an uncertain feeling that lies here in my brain’, hinted at by Entwistle’s beautiful brass. Ultimately though even this lets him down, Jimmy succumbing to peer pressure and in one of Pete’s greatest couplets wondering to himself ‘why do I have to move with a crowd of kids who hardly notice I’m around – I work myself to death just to fit in!’ The rest of Quadrophenia answers that question for him though: Jimmy just wants to belong to something, to be needed by someone, to feel important and respected and here admits that his ‘new’ tough front he carries round with him at all times is really only that – a front.His peers are all or nothing – he’s either the height of fashion or an outcast and thanks to his already being an outcast in his ‘other’ life Jimmy wants more than ever to fit in and belong. By the end of the riot Jimmy is ‘coming down’, not just ‘on the very first train from town’ but from the artificial high of belonging to a group that doesn’t actually make him feel as if he belomngs anymore. What’s more, his parents have the news on (the voice of actor-turned-BBC announcer Jon Curle, who sounds olde English but was quite a hippie on the quiet thanks to his stints on John Peel’s show; he’s also almost solely responsible for the sudden promotion of Nick Drake from forgotten folk zero to before-his-time-hero come the 1990s thanks to his regular plugs for his favourite artist) and they know he’s been out fighting. ‘It’s all a game!’ Jimmy cries ‘and inside I’m just the same!’, but his life won’t ever be the same again – he’s let one of his ‘four faces’ reign out of control and now his parents know the ‘secret me’. In lesser hands this song could have been really nasty, dismissing everything Jimmy’s home-life represents, but not here – Jimmy is torn whether to leave a cosy world for one he only half-loves and instead it just sighs as the humdrum life as boiling kettles replaces his zestful ‘beach fights’ and even the criticism of his nagging parents who fail to measure up to his friends who ‘always seem so cool’ is met with the conundrum that ‘though I don’t want to hurt them – mine want me their way’. Reading between the lines, the listener soon learns that rather than the out-of-control rocker of ‘The Real Me’ Jimmy is a bit more subtle than that, too afraid of the unknown and –though he won’t quite admit it, even to himself – too fond of his family to make the final break from all he’s ever known without being pushed (and that break destabilizes and nearly kills him). Much as the themes of violence go against everything the albums archives list stands for, the listener even feels like joining in with the mods-rockers spills on Brighton Beach, thanks to the delirious excitement of the second verse of this song, which comes running fully charged out of the speakers in such contrast to the rest of the song’s surburban solitude (we never find out where Jimmy actually lives by the way, whose got a train map from 1964 to look up where the 5.15 to brighton starts from?!?)

[151] The Punk and The Godfather is another phenomenal song, one that casts a bigger eye over a generation of Jimmy’s. The kids of the 1960s put such belief and investment into their heroes and Who fans more than most. Coming on like Cat Stevens’ Father and Son with a turbo-charged engine fitted to it, the song pits the young and hungry wannabe-rockers of the mid 1960s against the now middle-aged 1950s legends, who are becoming insulated from the harsh real life that made them turn to rock and roll in the first place (with more than a hint that the same thing is happening all over again a decade on when Quadrophenia came out, almost ten years after the period these events were set in). This re-write of [23] ‘My Generation’ has all the angry disaffected Who of old (I’m the punk with the stutter!’) turning on their current selves as ‘they grew and they bent’, disappointed that they claimed to be ‘three inches taller’ and a sea of Who fans chanting that ‘we own you’. The key line though is ‘you fell and cried as our people were starving’ – a slap in the face and a ‘how dare you!’ for not being super-heroes but ordinary mortals when a generation of disaffected youth needed bands like The Who oh so very much, to give them a voice when they don’t have one. The Who sound magnificent on the last time they truly tries to tackle their old sound, Roger clearly loving the chance to resurrect his old character. However this is no brief throwback to the 1960s but a reflection on what has changed since then. Pete knows that there is no easy path to success and honesty the way he once envisioned it. He tries to ‘teach’ without preaching’ but tells his younger self that ‘I lived your future out by pounding stages like a clown’, staring out at the empty rows of the people who don’t come to see the band’s shows anymore because they ‘sold out’. He is, though, at first accompanied by the vocoder as if singing in a language they won’#t understand (how can they? They aren’t old enough to be disappointed at the fact they can’t get things done in the world just yet). Roger as The Who’s younger self isn’t placated though, returning with even more energy as he sings the entire first verse again with even more taunting sarcasm and power. The song then fades before we get Pete’s middle eight again in what you presume is an ongoing cycle of one begetting the other – every band who ‘makes’ it sells their soul to some small extent and makes thei5r fanbase look for someone else, to support the rise of a new band who find themselves banging their heads against exactly the same fate (it is indeed the fate of many a band who came later on across our site, particularly Oasis who don’t even take as long to reach this point as The Who). The Godfather knows, however, that this is a generational thing that will keep on going and that he has ‘lived your future out’, knowing these youngsters too will end up in the same situation a few years down the line because there just aren’t any easy ways of solving the problem. In the end there is no resolution –the song downturns on a melancholy synthesiser riff with the two groups still at war. Daltrey and Townshend’s heavily contrasted vocals are spot on here, saying so much more than the already detailed accusatory lyrics tell us. The whole song, meanwhile, is held together by a terrific variation on [100] Pinball Wizard’s acoustic guitar riff and some counter-pointed rumbling bass lines from an on-form Entwistle, filing in any gaps in the sound like an echo of the song’s main riff. The result is a phenomenal song, even for this record, the story of The Who in a nutshell that’s both powerful enough to please fans of the ‘old’ sound that they haven’t changed too much and simultaneously a reminder of just how much they have. Note the use of the word ‘punk’ some three years before it became the rallying cry for a particular music genre (I like to think they ‘stole’ oit from this album – it would be fitting given that they ended up in the exact same cycle; certainly Townshend was a fan, befriending two of The Sex Pistols and egging them on to ‘destroy music forever one and for all!’ during a drunken night out that forms the basis for [179] ‘Who Are You?’)

Over on side two [152] I’m One is a highly welcome burst of simple optimism amongst all this philosophical musing. A typically pretty ballad from Townshend about knowing your inner strengths and being determined to prove people wrong, the tune suddenly gallops away on the back of Keith Moon’s drums in the second half and reverts back to a typical Who epic, but is none the worse for that.This is also surely Pete’s single greatest moment doing what manager Kit Lambert encouraged him to do, reflecting what he saw in the audience from the stage every night. In his eyes Jimmy is a teenager as mixed up as he used to be, who doesn’t fit in in his ill-fitting clothres, his ‘fingers so clumsy, voice so loud’, a ‘loser’ by his own admittance who has no hope of ever finding a girlfriend. But somehow, someway, by finding the music he finds something he can care about, shouting at the world that ‘this is me!’and that ‘you’ll all see I’m the one’, that he’s found a reason to be special at last, to not stand out in the crowd so much as belong there with the people he looks up to (who, tif he only knew it, are probably thinking exactly the same about him). It is a sad but true fact that it tends to be the misfits who become the mahjor record collectors of the world, with music often filling a hole you can’t get elsewhere, and nobody knew that need more than music fan Townshend who excels himself here with every word perfectly placed and shaped. It would be easy to make Jimmy just a rebel without a clue and a mnasty piece of work, but Jimmy is a good kid really – all he needs is love and self-worth. ‘I’m One’ is the song that more than any other on ‘Quadrophenia’ gives Jimmy rextra dimensions, making him more than the hooligan he longs to be and who his parents fear he is, but a Who collector instead getting off on the music (sadly it got cut but John Entwistle’s outtake [164] ‘We Close Tonight’ should be about here in the plot, with Jimmy oddly enough a collectyor of jazz). Though the song becomes a scream by the end, for the most part it is remarkable how soft and gentle this song is and how for all of Jimmy’s problems, his loneliness and inability to fit in, all four facets of his personality are still working together at this point and spurring him on to the same goal, letting him become ‘one’ whole person with being a ‘mod’ the one thing keeping him sane. Like many of Townshend’s later songs, this song shouldn’t sound so warm and optimistic – it is, after all, a list of complaints and Jimmy’s insecurities (the line ‘I’m a loser’ hasn’t sounded this real since being wrapped round John Lennon’s tonsils on ‘Beatles For Sale’) – but just that one title phrase stops the song dead in its tracks and makes the whole thing sound gloriously positive and hopeful. Whats’ great is that this track invites ‘us’ to belong too in some small way, all us little Jimmys out there who only feel as if we know our place in life thanks to the music flowing in our bones and through our eyes. No other song makes me quite as glad and grategful to have discovered music collecting as this track.

[153] The Dirty Jobs is Jimmy leaving school to get his first job – and realising with a joly that after eleven years of monotony and torture at school,  now he is going to have monotony, torture and responsibilities as an adult, clocking into back-breaking work at the same horrifically time every day until retirement or death because if he doesn’t he will starve and there will always be somebody ready to pick up a job if he can’t hack it. This is another glorious ‘Quadrophenia’ song of frustration mixed with hope, picturing run-down youngsters in low-paid dead-end jobs trying to make the most of things and only living for the camaraderie of their workplace and the dream of an escape, all the more remarkable given that Townshend never actually worked a day in his life until The Who’s first pay cheque. Pushed around by elder work colleagues who have even less hope of escaping the system but do at least have slightly more power, the lengthy booklet of ‘Quadrophenia’ makes it clear that most of the workers in Jimmy’s various jobs are content settle for second-best as either pig farmer, a bgus driver for a coal pits where everyone is on strike (this song’s lyrics) or dustman (the photos) - but Jimmy isn’t. He demands more from life. An angry rant for the most part, this song works on lots of different levels and is just as interesting for what goes unspoken in the song as, like their younger teenage selves, adults learn to hide their biggest fears from each other unless they too lose their small handouts in life (Roger sings ‘usually I get along OK’ in such a tearful, sighing way you know the reverse is true and his line ‘I’m not going to sit and weep again’ sounds like it’s sung through a volley of tears). So this is what being an adult means: hiding your true feelings in case someone uses it to backstab you and learning to be ‘put down’ and ‘pushed round’ without complaining. Fittingly this track is melodically as tough as nails, brittle and defebnsive, putting up a front thanks to a particularly heavy rhythm section while some synth strings add to the tension and Entwistle’s colliery band fits this song set in a miner’s town. Moon seems to spend most of this song screaming from his drumkit – not a scream of qwild joy and exuberance as per [38] ‘Cobwebs and Strange’ but something darker, deeper, someone forced on past breaking point in a society that hates those who crumble evn more than those doing the lowly dirty jobs of life. So far so miserable, but there is camaraderie here. Roger gets to sing another delightful middle eight offering advice, that ‘you’ve been screwed again – if you let them do it to you then you got yourselves to blame’ as he still works while his colleagues are out on strike, appalled at their working conditions and low pay (you can hear the sound of them marchoign together at the end and it’s a wonderful sound even if there isw no sense anywhere in the track that they will win and the march does indeed end with two explosions buried deep in the left hand channel). There’s another sense of belonging here too, if only Jimmy will look for it, which may be less exciting than the camerarderie of the mod fans but is nevertheless real  (‘It’s easy to see that you are one of us – ain’t it funny how we all seem to look the same?’ - a classic Townshend line about making connections between people, a theme that’s always run throughout his career). ‘I’m not going to get pushed round any more, I’m not going to weep again!’, sings the narrator (or narrators) – but the genius of the song is that you can tell in Daltrey’s voice that he’s been saying this every day the whole of his working life. The most devastating moment comes when, after all this elderly brother I’ve-been-through-the-mill lyrics he finally admits to us in the last verse ‘I am a young man, I ain’t done very much’ with about forty or fifty years left to go (longer if the Conservative party havew their way). Ouch! A classic sprightly backing from Entwistle and Moon and a classic barking but empathetic vocal from Daltrey show that Townshend’s complex message was in good hands on this track. After all this angry musing, you then get to hear Jimmy mentally running away to join the circus at the end of this track (or at least the Brighton pier version of a circus – technically it is a home recording of Sousa’s ‘The Thunderer’ being performed by a brass band in London’s Regents Park)), leaving behind the dull gray state of affairs he finds himself in for something more colourful – and who can blame him?

[154] Helpless Dancer is perhaps the strangest and least typically Who song on the album, with two double-tracked Rogers criss-crossing lines about the unfairness of the outside world that Jimmy lives in sung over a strutting synthesiser, a harsh piano lick and a mournful French Horn riff from Entwistle. This song isn’t that well loved by most Who aficionados and doesn’t have the same range of melody of the rest of the album its true, but both lyrics and performance are first class. Townshend totally destroys any innocence that Jimmy has left by piling on the amount of horrendous things going on in the world that Jimmy can’t possibly change in his lifetime, from lonely OAPS to wars to racism to the suffering of people on the fringes of society to anti-suicide campaigns to robots taking over people’s badly needed jobs. The song is played to an unusual simple piano chord structure, later joined by an acoustic guitar, that sounds like someone being stabbed. The song reaches a climax as ‘you realise that within us all along something in us is going wrong!’, a line performed as a blood-curdling scream.Building up to a froth of indignation at the world he’s inherited, Jimmy breaks down at the end with the memorable line ‘you stop dancing’; Jimmy has lost his enthusiasm and expectations now, coming of age and losing his childish exuberance as he realises that his dreams won’t ever come true, that he can’t change the future and that he and his friends and strangers he doesn’t even know will be stuck in this position for years, probably forever barring happy accidents. This is an unjust world run by unjust people where the right-minded people he knows and lives amongst always suffer, singled out for being black or lower classed or who simply don’t fit in. Across the song we are watching the hopeful little boy who could have done so much to help the world be stamped out by laws and rules to the point where he is crawling as slow and wearily as the rest of us. If you’ve ever spent any time with anyone under about seven you will know how impossible it is for them to sit still for any length of time. There is too much of the world to see to spend it sitting down, too much of the world to explore, too many dance steps to work out. For scientists, toddlers have excess energy because their metabolisms work quicker, but for Pete he thinks its more that the world beats it out of them, making everything hard work so that you use all your energy for your work and lose all your excess enthusiasm. People stop dancing not because they can’t but because there is no reason to dance anymore, to be happy. In the context of this album, hearing Daltrey bark the hell out of that line is positively heartbreaking, summing up all the troubles, problems and confused undirected anger of the album’s many characters – no wonder it’s the last thing you hear in the film version of Quadrophenia, as this one line sums up this project’s overall themes up very well, Jimmy pushed to the very edge. Harder than the rest of Quadrophenia and less musical, this is the lecture the album needs to have the impact it does and while you won’t often play ‘Helpless dancer’ for fun you nevertheless need this song on the album for it to have the emotional impact it does.

[155] Is It In My Head? Always gets overlooked surrounded by so many greater noisier songs, but for me it is the true beating heart of Quadrophenia and the album’s unsung classic. This was the first song to be started for the album after [146] ‘Long Live Rock!’, Pete trying to work out the plot by diggin into the head and heart of his character and trying to remember how life felt for him when he was a mixed up messed up teenager. This clever and oh so true song has Jimmy so used to being slighted by the world that he fails to trust it even when someone is being kind to him or when something is going right. He longs for someone to make him feel loved and tomake him feel special, but he lacks the social tools to be able to do this for anyone else and so is doomed to loneliness and despair, seeing instead a world of people laughing at him. But does he? Is it all just in his head that he feels everyone is out to get him, or is it in fact his hardened heart refusing to let anyone get close to him? Like many people, he’s upset that he can’t change things for others, from those close to him to the ‘distant’ but somehow not so distant third world poverty-stricken, desperate to make the world a better place for everyone. However its too big a job for someone so small and insecure and he can only look on and suffer, as unlike most people he can’t distance himself from these problems in his daily life so instead the issues keep gnawing away at him as his guilt rises. Jimmy is left feeling unloved and unlovable, checking his ‘messages’ to see whose called (a rare line that dates this song after the mod riots of 1964 when phones didn’t do that sort of thing) and ‘dreaming of all the calls I missed’ – however the great irony is that he too is capable of making those calls, of reaching out to someone else. This song is like a more depressed version of [59] ‘I Can’t Reach You’, another highly revealing Townshend song, and like many a Who song is an expansion of debut single [4] ‘I Can’t Explain’. However it also sounds like no other Who song, driven on by the pure self-indulgent melancholy of a pedal steel guitar and a slow dramatic unravelling that’s usually reserved for The Who’s most bare and ballad-like songs, but which here just sounds as if the narrator has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Jimmy, like many people, thinks he’s alone in thinking about these issues (‘I see a man without a problem’) and that everyone else has their act together, but of course we know that’s not true – the world may be better at acting distant but the constant theme of ‘Quadrophenia’ is that everyone wants to be loved, from bullies down to their victims. Part of the brilliance of Quadrophenia is the way it speaks to its sometimes terrified audience and shows them that they really are part of a group – even if it is a group of misfits who have nothing else in common – and this song feels more personal than the other songs here somehow, as if Pete is letting us see what used to be such a part of himself too. Yet another exquisitely crafted ‘Quadrophenia’ middle eight offers a further clue to how Pete’s brains works: he’s innocently asked for directions by a stranger and struggles to know what to say. His head feels empty and numb and yetthe sheer joy of someone interacting with him makes him babble, ‘every word a sentence’ spoken at length and with great effort. Too soon though his old paranoia kicks in and he turns ‘from being helped to being questioned’. his section’s simplicity and anger bursting through the confused fog of the complicated verses.. One of ‘Quadrophenia’s most under-rated songs, this song’s mixture of bleak words and warm-hearted tune is enough to make you weep for all that is lost for Jimmy on this track.

Things all come to a head for the closing track on the first record, [156] I’ve Had Enough!, a song which more than lives up to its despairing title. Like many compositions on this album it’s split into several different sections as Jimmy splits into different characters, alternatoing between striding Who-like accusatory verses with the band at full throttle, a reflective banjo-accompanied chorus listing Jimmy’s different problems, a yearning middle eight return to the beautiful ‘reign o’er me’ phrase and a deliberately silly and shallow sounding rockabilly middle eight about how great mod fashions are, as if belonging is the only thing keeping Jimmy together. Knocking on every door, trying to find a way in, this is the sound of Jimmy falling apart before your ears, telling us that he’s sick and tired of his efforts being blocked throughout his life, tired of being under the control of employers, tired of everything in fact, but still desperate to satisfy each aspect of his personality in turn. Jimmy has to choose now who he is and what he will become, exploring each facet in turn. He starts off as Roger attacking the world, ‘get a job and fight to keep it, be so nice on the outside but inside keep ambition!’ in an unfair world where ‘there’s a millionaire above you and you’re under his suspicion!’ He yearns to be John, reaching out to be loved and for love to rain over him, doomed to be mistaken. He longs to be Keith, partying away like a mod who cares for nothing else except the seersucker suit he’s getting ready to wear. And he fears becoming Pete, depressingly telling us that he’s had enough of everything and reflecting bitterly that everyting is out to get him. Best line: ‘You thought if you kept on mocving onwards you would end up further onwards, but things ain’t quite that simple; the more Jimmy gives in to his facets the less pure and childlike and ‘Tommy’ ish he becomes, each step taken and each lesson learnt taking him further and further away from what he used to be. All of his personalities, though, the thing uniting them all, is that they just want to be loved, something he feels he will never have. Though ‘Had Enough’ is a little overblown in places, too obviously a medley compared to the usual pristine melody of Pete at his peak, nevertheless this piece is a real emotional kick in the teeth as Jimmy effectively goes mad. Even more than the use of ‘feel me heal me’ in Tommy, the use of the phrase ‘love reign on me’ (which is basically the same thing) is tremendously effective. Twice Jimmy asks for it, twice he gets knocked down and he has nowhere else to go. The song ends violently as Jimmy screams that he’s had enough of ‘trying to love’ (or ‘trying to jump’ if you favour the suicide interpretation of the lyrics) as the sound of a train suddenly lurches into view before zooming down a tunnel in the left speaker and you’re left bemused until you put the second album on. Has Jimmy leapt to his death under a train? Has he got a job on the railways?! Is he going on holiday to escape it all?!? Has he gone mad and now thinks he’s a train?!?! What?!?!? Best musical cliffhanger in rock and roll ever!

Actually the truth is a little more mundane than that, as Jimmy flees to Brighton, the scene of his past triumphs, in search of that magical feeling of ‘belonging’ he remembers, high on drugs and booze. Ironically the scene of the mods versus rockers riots on Brighton Beach is where he felt safest across his whole life. Though many casual fans know [157] 5:15 only as a raucous typically Who rocker about being ‘out of your brtain on the train’, the song works even better in context as surely the noisiest nervous breakdown ever recorded on vinyl. Jimmy has lost everything by now – he’s walked out on his job, been kicked out by his p[arents, lost his girlfriendto his mate and his beloved mod scooter has been run over so he has nothing left to lose. Actually this only sounds like a typical Who song, as lyrically it reads more like a Stones one as Jimmy gives in to every demon in his quest to have the time of his life. He spends most of the journey imagining the world around him to be more vibrant than it really is and all the great things awaiting him at Brighton: fifteen-year-old schoolgirls ‘sexually knowing’, hitching a lift on a lorry, stealing apples for some slight danger ands dressing up in outrageous costumes. Pete also writes one of his best couplets about what it means to be a teenager feeling belonging to a gang and acting surly together because you can, ‘magically bored on a street corner, feel frustration in our minds and our toes’. However, there is one important difference here: Jimmy is not a Rolling Stones character. He’s too nice to give in to his primal urges, too well brought up to be a hooligan and too insecure to have the confidence to pull it all off. While Roger sings the entire song with his greatest ever [23] ‘My Generation’ type sneer, the part of the song that most represents Jimmy is the occasional fleeting bits of conscience that keep pricking him. Pete’s opening audacious fuck-you line ‘why should I care?’ has, by the end of the song, become that last part of Jimmy keeping himself from doing something wild and dangerous, because he clearly does care and is responsible for his actions. Roger’s middle eight (‘Nowhere is home!’) is also heard twice during the course of this cleverly constructed song: the first time it’s full of rebellion, daring, the idea that Jimmy has no rules and no one to obey; by the time of the repeat it is the cold hard bitter reality that he has nowhere to sleep tonight. This song is highly important as the turning point of ‘Quadrophenia’, the moment when a childlike character truly turns into a man and starts thinking about the people around him – but it is even better as one last glorious burst of Who noise from a band at the peak of their powers. Pete’s raw snarling, snappish guitar is totally lost in this desert of what’s actually quite a wide and dense horn-drenched track, with John’s pompous brass perhaps mimicking the bowler-hatted gentlemen Jimmy is perched in-between in the Quadrophenia photo-booklet. Keith, meanwhile, is terrific sounding like a train at different stages of this rack – a wild runaway one for the most part, until the closing dur-dur-dur familiar to anyone ever woken up by a train ever getting into a station. Band friend Chris Stainton turns in some glorious swooping piano licks too on a rare Who piano part that isn’t played by Nicky Hopkins. All in all the Brighton Express is in top form as The Who unite the two very different strands of their sound, with this one of the moxt complicated demented rockers out there. Pete taped the station and train sound effects himself near to his London home in Goring-On-Thames.

[158] Sea and Sand is another complex stop-start rocker which finds Jimmy on Brighton beach reflecting on how his life keeps changing, experiencing the delights of Brighton, his brief sojourn with his brief girlfriend and - after his glorious dreams of escape fade away - the sheer ugliness of being jobless, friendless and homeless. The key line here is that by the sea and sand ‘nothing ever goes as planned’ – which is why Jimmy went there, to start again, but with the song eking out all of the exciting spontaneity and paranoid dread that is the underside of that same coin entails. Jimmy has lost his safety net and is now at the mercy of the elements, waiting to be re-shaped by the sea that keeps arriving in waves. |The young mod finally reveals to us that he’s now been kicked out of his family home – in the Quadrophenia film Pete makes it clear this is because of Jimmy’s parents horror at his (largely innocent) part in the riots and because they have discovered his growing drug habit, while on the album his dad lectures him while his mum does what he does, get drunk! ‘I’m wet and I’m cold, but thank God I ain’t old’ screams Jimmy, in one last desperate attempt to break free from the world around him, echoing the now ancient mod cry of My Generation (Townshend now being the ripe old age of 28). He boastfully wishes thaty he’d left home at fifteen, but the cleverness of ‘Quadrophenia’ is that we know he doesn’t really mean that: he has nothing without his family. Jimmy turns to the girlfriend he pursued in Brighton, but now that he is here reality hits: even if he sees her how can he ever match her? She was a ‘perfect dresser’ who ‘wore everything to the tee’ – he’s broke, unemployed, only dreaming of the coat and scooter he will get to win her over. He’s well aware too that other mods are more fashionable than he is even on lower incomes and kicks himself for even ewanting a girl anyway (with Pete’s teenage frustration coming over again on the line ‘How come the girls come on oh so cool yet when you meet them every one’s a fool?’) This wordy song is nicely driven on by another terrific band performance, slower than most on this album and more reflective, with a plaintive air of pedal steel and acoustic guitars as well as the usual electric bombast. Roger is at his true best across this track, perfectly believable as the teenager who knows he’s lost everything and is realising it bit by bit but refuses to admit defeat, his roar of ‘oh yeeeeeeeeah!’ into Pete’s middle eight truly pulled from somewhere deep within his soul and every bit the equal of his more famous scream on [136] ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’. The song seems to draw to a natural close, but Jimmy is too out of control to be that neat and ends up diving back into fantasy again, with Townshend filling in for Jimmy’s bruised ego with his taunting cries of ‘I’m the face if you want it!’ A sort of re-interpretation of the Who’s first ever released B-side ([2] ‘I’m The Face’ recorded as the High Numbers and available on the Who compilation ‘Odds and Sods’), it refers to the ‘king’ or ‘face’ of a local mod movement, the one who set all the new trends and fashions and was hilariously borrowed by another mod band who put the deprecating word ‘small’ in front of their name to deflect accusations of ego! It’s a terrific and unexpected finale from a band having far too much fun to stop, while providing one last taunting moment for Jimmy who is too in denial to stop. On such a carefully programmed and sequenced album it’s quite delightful, a last charge of scrappy improvisation from a band who still manage to stay perfectly in character.

[159] Drowned keeps the debate going, a bluesy rocker with some terrific bass playing from Entwistle going on as a deep bass rumble. Jimmy is still looking for redemption at Brighton beach, the chance to be baptised in its icy waters and start again anew, but he’s struggling to work out where he should go and what he should do next now that his high of drugs and booze is wearing off. The other side of the coin of ‘I’m One’, this song finds him contemplating suicide, desperate to jump back into the waves. Jimmy’s cry of ‘let the tide in and set me free!’ along with his dreams of drowning in the sea may be referring back to the opening song’s theme of emotions hitting Jimmy like waves, with the mod desperate to experience everything in one go, not suffer his emotions in ‘waves’ that keep knocking him backwards and confusing his addled mind with conflicting impulses. However Pete also wrote the lyric with half an eye on Meher Baba and the idea of the world being bigger than us. In this song Jimmy feels so small and insignificant and so tired of the responsibilities wearing him down that he just wishes he could drown (the concert interpretations of this song add the tag line ‘drown in your sweet sweet love’, making this a more obvious religious and spiritual quest). Jimmy feels as if he has fallen out of synch with nature and longs to be a part of the world again, Pete adding concert the lines ‘over mountain, under ocean, under sea, let me be!’ Jimmy feels as if he is all parts of the universe at once, something bigger than himself – the point where Tommy reached on waking up, though in this song Jimmy desperately wants to sleep forever and die. Along the way Jimmy becomes Pete’s mouthpiece as he wonders about the need of artists to suffer and feel things so intensely. Other people might think they know how to live, dipping their fishing rods into the murky surfaces of life occasionally with small risk getting them the occasional tiny fish, but Jimmy is the sort of soul who feels everything deeply and dives into life headfirst,. Even now, at his lowest point, he still sees how beautiful the world is as he ‘drowns’ in his emotions and finds himself ‘diving for pearls’ that no one else seems to even know are there. This onomatopoeic song sounds like one of those songs you can quite happily drown in too, with every possible space filled up with noise, be it Entwistle’s proudly throbbing bass, a sea of Townshend screams, another fragile-yet-rootsy Daltrey vocal and Moon playing along with the song before suddenly deciding on a whim that he wants to be The Who’s lead instrument again and adding some truly ridiculously virtuoso drum fills. The result is a quite brilliant noise which ends with Pete walking qaway from us whistling the start of the next song to a passing flock of seagulls (taped on a writing holiday in Cornwall).  

Just as Jimmy is rallying again, [160] Bell Boy brings him down to earth even further with as fourth noisy track in a row. Jimmy walks past a hotel and bumps into the mod’s darling, the ace face, the ‘cool’ leader of the Brighton march that Jimmy and the others all looked up to in the summer. But since then their glorious leader has ‘sold out’, he’s got a job as a lowly bellboy, always at the beck and call of the upper classes Jimmy despises and the young mod is horrified, watching his last hope, his last valid hero, his mod dream, being dashed before his eyes. The ace face himself isn’t too upset though. In the guise of Keith Moon he tells us that he is ‘newly born’ as an adult with adult needs like wages and family, he’s got a good job that pays and although it might not be what he really wants to be and he’s liable to dream about the old days too (when ‘stars were in reach’), he’s realistic enough to know it’s the best he’s going to get and he’s content with that – even if he is ‘always running at someone’s heel’. Jimmy is horrified not just at The Bell Boy’s lowly position but that he’s accepted it and is so pragmatic about it – whatever happened to changing the world? The result sounds not unlike Pete’s 1965 [23] ‘My Generation’ self confronting his 1973 persona and shrugging, saying ‘sorry – the world was harder to change than I thought so I changed careers and now I write about how I used to be for other people who grew up’. As with ‘The Punk and The Godfather’ Pete tries to offer brotherly advice to his younger self, telling him ‘you could learn a lot from a life like mine’ as he runs at the heel of a record contract – however his younger self isn’t going to listen to someone like him who ‘sold out’ (I’m surprised Pete didn’t make the Bell Boy a rock star one-hit wonder actually, as that would be even more in character). Keith is perfect here as Pete’s alter ego though, finding just the right balance between philosophical shoulder-shrugging, incurable dreamer and deranged lunatic. It’s by far the best of his small handful of lead vocals for The Who and this song’s slightly manic and out-of-control feeling makes the main hook of this song the perfect candidate for ‘Keith’s theme’ on this album. Roger is perfectly cast as Jimmy in this song too, in turns optimistic, contemptuous and downright terrified, in awe and contemptuous of this person he used to know. The result is a fan favourite driven by some superb drumming, some terrific ice-cold synthesisers, the first appearance of a wordless robotic vocoder to represent Jimmy’s impossible dreams when ‘the stars were in reach’ and some Entwistle bass runs to die for – something which Jimym very nearly does by the end of the song.

All this bad news pushes Jimmy even further over the edge now. [161] Dr Jimmy is the nasty, desperate song the album has been putting off till now, suddenly breaking through this album’s see-sawing debating, cutting to the chaste as only the Who can. Even more than 5:15 it is The Who at their most ‘substitute Stonesy’ and as a result has confused many fans to the point where the lyrics regularly come up for debate in the Who forums and facebook groups of the world. ‘How can Pete write so readily about rape and robbery and violence and having non-consensual sex with virgins?’ people ask, as if they are assuming a) that The Who could see the #metoo movement of the 21st century back in 1973 and b) that Jimmy represents the band’s sane and rational viewpoint, instead of a lovesick betrayed teenager who has a mental condition exacerbated by too much drink and drugs. The world has nothing to offer Jimmy now that he has even lost the thrill of being a mod so he gives himself fully over to his dark side, refuses to admit any adult responsibilities and is out purely to enjoy himself and damn the consequences (the ‘Dr Jimmy’ title alone is a clue that he isn’t himself, a pilled-up mod re-write of Entwistle’s even more sinister B-side [81] ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’). Anyone whose ever been around someone with addiction problems and how the primal need to fill themselves up takes over their empathy and kindness will relate to this song as Pete, at the start of an alcoholic addiction of his own, tries to show us how even the greatest nicest people can be drawn to this point if pushed too far. Jimmy’s tough guy ‘Roger’ persona takes over him here, the Hyde to Jimmy’s usual gentlemanly Jekyl, with Jimmy now angry and uncontrollable, too freaked out to care. ‘Dr Jimmy’ is, like many songs on this sprawling album, an epic split into three parts with Jimmy’s romantic side bursting through in the middle eight to briefly wrestle control from its capsizing owner (listed as ‘John’s theme’ in the booklet, this is the ‘is it me for a moment?’ line, one Pete lists as being ‘romantic’ on the album sleeve, but qwhich surely makes more sense if John is the ‘reliable’ and trustworthy part of Jimmy’s character) and control Jimmy’s urge to fight, gamble, drink and do the other things he normally has enough control over to prevent himself from doing. Roger sounds if anything a little bit too convincing here as he draws on memories of his past as a school bully and fighter, gradually becoming more deranged by each verse. Another key turning point of the track, this song is a rare song you wouldn’t listen to outside of the context of the album though, that bit too ugly for comfort and a bit one-note-ish by the rest of the album’s high standards. Still, the album had to have a song like this to show how far over the edge Jimmy has become. He is in fact so over the edge that he has nicked a boat and is setting out at sea to start a new life for himself before the booze and drugs kick in, the tide sweeps him away and he finds himself clinging for dear life onto a rock. Jimmy has the confused idea that somehow he can escape his problems, whether by going elsewhere, having a close encounter with God or simply falling into the sea and drowning he’s not quite sure himself – but instead finds himself fighting for his life.

 [162] The Rock has brought the story up to date now that Jimmy has seen his life flashing past his eyes and finds him forced to choose between drowning as a teenager or surviving as an adult. This song reprises the four quadrophenia themes again but in a very different way: ‘Quadrophenia’ itself sounded distant and organised, as if the pills were still working, but this song is devestating chaos as Jimmy becomes each of his character traits in turn looking for a solution. Keith starts the song with the huge powering sound of the sea and everything just feels so much bigger, grander, more emotional, desperate and unhinged. In order the pieces we hear are ‘Dr Jimmy’ (Roger’s theme) played as a duet for synthesiser and drums till Pete’s guitar lashes out for a truly breath-taking minute, ‘is it me for a moment?’ now played on guitar (John’s theme), a new s5tacatto section with not one but two Keith Moons hurling everything at his drumkit representing the roar of the sea (the essence of life?) while Pete plays what sounds like a Bach riff and a final section that works as a precursor to ‘Love Reign O’er Me’ (Pete’s theme) played as a muchangrier, primal howl on a very Claptonesque-sounding solo. The best of this instrumental though is oddly enough the words – that isn’t the contradiction it sounds though as we can’t quite hear them. Jimmy is no longer himself, his soul fighting its way out of his body as the vocoder kicks in and a robotic Pete howls just out of ear-shot ‘Where am I going?’ over and over as he tries to make his mind up what to do. There is only one answer though, the song violently closing on him like a door of realisation that suddenly opens up in the right-hand speaker accompanied by a loud thunderclap (storms do come on suddenly in Brighton), but what that answer is is left deeply ambiguous…

The album closer [163] Love Reign O’er Me needs to be good to tie together all the album’s loose ends and give the story some kind of happy ending without being totally unrealistic. Pete positively excels himself here with one of the album’s better known songs and one of the all time true classics. Jimmy - via Roger Daltrey - simply screams out his desire to let the past go and for love to come and save him, with a breathtaking vocal that like the rest of Roger’s work on this album is magnificent; angry, thoughtful, energetic and weary all at once. None of these tiny little problems heard throughout this double album really matter enough to drive us to our own rock in the grand scheme of things, the song says - the mod-ness, the keeping in with friends, the impressing parents, the getting a good job, the getting a good education, not even the music – all that matters is love. This isn’t some gloriously innocent re-write of  All You Need Is Love’ though – this a realisation born of suffering, misery and hardship and it doesn’t pretend that life is going to be easy – just that the suffering might be worth it. What with the album ending there we never find out what this entails though, Pete leaving it up to the listener. A series of very clever lines could mean the love of family and friends (who do care for Jimmy really and are just mad at him temporaily) or God, as Jimmy decides to ‘get back home’ without telling us which home he means (the one with fried eggs and whistling kettles or the one of source, where Jimmy once came from and where he will one day end up – but is the day?) So what does happen? Does Jimmy find his way back to shore and starts again anew like the bellboy? Does he swallow his pride and goes back home to the people who do love him really underneath it all? Does he die of exposure by sitting on the rock and finds redemption in some other world? Pete can’t decide and leaves it as your call. That Jimmy reaches an epiphany of sorts can be in no doubt when you hear this song which sounds simply HUGE; all that’s in doubt is how Jimmy is going to interpret the signals he has just seen.This album needs to have an open-ending, rather than a safe and cosy one, but I still take great cvomfort from this song. One thing The Who were always great at was surviving (no one around the band expected them to last five minutes) and this is the ultimate song of survival that offers comfort like few other Townshend songs. Even at its worst, even when you’re petrified, even when you have no one, even when you’re facing fifty years of hard work and a miserable retirement, even when the world has moved on without you, even when you are an emotional wreck, life is too precious to throw away.The chance of love is just too great to give up on life – and when our time comes and we’re at the end of our natural lives then surely something is waiting out there for us because, again, love is too big to exist just in one planet or one dimension, something that huge cannot possibly be extinguished. The result is the closest Pete ever came to writing a love song whilst in The Who, but typically it is one on a much higher concept that boy meets girl as its really a song about salvation, about the sheer depths of love and humanity’s desperate need to have it. The melody line for Love Reign O’er Me (note the title pun as love ‘rules’ Jimmy and every other being) is simply glorious, like the water of love sounding equally at home when played sparsely on a tinkling piano at the beautifully poised outset or when thundered by a band at their loudest at the end. The piano lick that underpins most of the song is also magical, sounding like the tiny droplets of rain falling on Jimmy as he sits on the rock and wrapping its icy fingers around the warm heart of the rest of the song before becoming a torrential flood of emotion by the end. The song – and the album – ends in the best way imaginable, with an incredible guitar solo from Pete that suddenly zooms in out of nowhere, being completely on the edge and just about a millimetre away from turning to feedback, sounding like it’s being wrenched out from the guitarist’s own soul with every note and yanking Jimmy’s head back upwards to the future with every return of its distinctive riff. Pete never regarded himself as much of a ‘lead’ guitar player in the traditional sense, but he’s poured out so much of his own self into Jimmy that he gets the vibe of the song spot on here, with his angry, desperate but still yearning and hopeful solo arguably his best on record. The band – and Jimmy – just can’t let this life-defining song go though and this song ends time after time after time after time after time, Jimmy making his mind up and regaining his composure, only for a howling guitar snarl to collide with a Keith Moon special (the drummer literally hurling a gong into his drum kit and kleaving it to smash in stereo), finally bringing Quadrophenia to the  gigantic, dramatic, exhausting finish it needs. The onoly thing for me this song doesn’t get quite right is that it peaks a verse too soon: Roger is already at maximum crescendo by the line ‘tears that fall from on high’, runining the surprise that after six songs and thirty-five heavy minutes The Who very much aren’t going out on a slow ballad but are throwing their rock and roll might behind this track too. That is however one small rain droplet of wrongness to an entire ocean made up of four of the greatest musical minutes of anyone’s life.

‘Quadrophenia’ is practically perfect from start to finish then, flying high whilst digging deep and with The Who at their scary best, with each member sounding perfectly in tune with each other and pre-empting what their musical partners are about to do. The album also has a fantastic sound and production, with some seriously impressive polished arrangements and sound effects and leitmotifs that make this sound like an epic work but still with enough bite and one-take energy to let the band fly when they need to. The Who always sounded loud, even on their quiet songs, but here they sound humungous, so much so that its hard to believe there really is just the four of them and a passing pianist playing on this album. This album takes eighty-one minutes to say what [23] My Generation said in three, but that doesn’t mean it rambles – every part of ‘Quadrophenia’ is perfectly cast and gloriously sequenced, full of typical depth and detail as Pete fleshes out his treaty on why the 1960s generation turned out the way they did. Like ‘Tommy’ everyone is numbed by the war, desperate for humanity and compassion from a universe that has greown too cold for that and while Jimmy has no disabilities and he doesn’t live in isolated pockets of civilisation as on ‘Lifehouse’ he is every bit as cut off from the one thing he craves: love. He thinks he’s found it in the girlfriend, the friend, even the music that helps him to live but he only really finds it when he stops demanding it and starts asking for it. In that moment at the end the crazed teenager becomes a true man, not the moment when he is warning elders to stay away from him, and it is through great upheaval and suffering that Jimmy can understand how important love is. In short, ‘Quadrophenia’ is as real and three-dimensional (four-dimensional?!?) as a flimsy thin bit of vinyl can ever get, full of a sound that feels physical as if you are engaging with it with all your senses, a storyline that keeps you engaged and characters you feel you know inside-out. Sadly this album was the end for The Who in many ways, a summing up of their history, the audience’s history and music’s history up to that point so well; the quartet really couldn’t go much further without repeating themselves and the rest of Pete’s material in the years to come seems to be saying that too – just check out the next highly depressed Who-related album’Who By Numbers’ which is in such torment it doesn’t even try to hide behind a character anymore. That may be because everyone yawned in 1973 when The Who came out with yet another double-album concept record at just the wrong time. However ‘Quadrophenia’ was always meant as a history lesson and it works as well today as the day it came out – arguably better after a further four-five decades of little Jimmys trying to challenge the system and failing and having to come to terms with being middle-aged juveniles. This record should be played, in fact, to anyone who ever wondered how juvenile delinquents formed: as tis record demonstrates its through entrapment, paranoia, desperation, frustration and a lack of love and understanding. The critics and fans of the day were wrong – of course they were, as what’s not to like on this journey of the soul? Concepts don’t come any better or any better performed than this masterpiece which even by Who standards is made from special stuff indeed. Highly highly highly recommended.

A complete collection of Who reviews:

'The Who Sing My Generation' (1965)

'Sell Out' (1967)

‘Tommy’ (1969)

'Live At Leeds' (1970)

'Lifehouse' (As It Might Have Been) (1971)

'Who's Next' ('Lifehouse' As It Became) (1971)

'Quadrophenia' (1973)

'The Who By Numbers' (1975)

'Who Are You' (1978)

'Face Dances' (1979)

'Empty Glass' (Townshend solo 1980)

'It's Hard' (1982)

Surviving Who TV Clips 1965-2015

Non-Album Recordings Part One 1964-1967

Non-Album Recordings Part Two 1968-2014

Pete Townshend “Scoop” 1-3

The Best Unreleased Who Recordings

Live/Solo/Rarities/Competition Albums Part One 1965-1972

Live/Solo/Rarities/Competition Albums Part Two 1972-1975

Live/Solo/Rarities/Compilation Albums Part Three 1976-1982

Live/Solo/Rarities/Compilation Albums Part Four 1983-1990

Live/Solo/Rarities/Compilation Albums Part Five 1991-2000

Essay: Who Are You And Who Am I?:

No comments:

Post a Comment