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I have been an admirer of the writings of Pete Townshend for many years. I have lived with and listened to the music of The Who since the late 1960s. It is now thirty years (October 1973) since I first heard Quadrophenia. It is a work that fascinated and moved me then and it is something which has travelled with me through my own varied experiences since then. I can say without exception that this album bar none is my overall favourite in the non Classical catalogue. It is a work that I have attempted to review on several occasions but I have given up each time, disappointed in my own inabilities to express its full depths and complexities in mere words. Quadrophenia is a huge and difficult concept to get to grips with. It was written, produced, mixed and directed by Pete Townshend himself and was the first album that had no direct input from the other members of the band. Many commentators have said that it is really Pete's solo album using the other members of The Who as backing musicians. It is a single work containing seventeen sections, lasting eighty two minutes and spreading over two records (originally vinyl, now CD). It has an immensely complicated story line which can take on additional interpretations as you probe behind the words. It was produced at a time when the technological facilities of the industry were still relatively rudimentary for the demands of the recording. A LITTLE HISTORY. It is appropriate to step back for a moment and consider the early history of The Who to put Quadrophenia into a semblance of context. It was only eight years before that the group were causing a musical sensation with songs such as "My Generation" and gaining notoriety by smashing up their equipment and hotel rooms. There was a considerable disparity between the public face of the group and the private and artistic temperament of its members. John Entwistle (the bass guitarist) was also trained on brass instruments; despite h
is excesses, Keith Moon was acknowledged to be one of the most remarkable exponents of rhythm on a drum kit. Pete Townshend is a complex individual. He is the driving force of the band and its major muse and song writer. He started by playing banjo and ukulele in a folk group and progressed to rhythm and blues. Even in the early days, Pete was writing attractive music with thought provoking lyrics. He experimented with sound, often producing demonstration tapes of new songs that guided the final Who sound on the album. He came from a musical background - his father was a member of a band in the 1940s and 50s. A friend, mentor and manager of The Who in the early days was Kit Lambert (whose father was also a composer). Pete coined the term 'Rock Opera' in association with his 1969 opus 'Tommy'. He had been encouraged to explore the development of story telling and the use of rock themes on earlier albums but 'Tommy' was to become the turning point in both the idea of a concept album and in the history of The Who. After this, he turned to even more ambitious projects. His next idea in 1971 was to make a film and concert where the band and the music would interact with his audience. He based the story some time in the future on an imagined world wide entertainment network (scarily predicting the internet) and called it 'Lifehouse'. The project failed (Roger Daltrey always said that he admired Townshend?s enthusiasm but nobody else could understand what he was going on about) but many of the songs were released as the album 'Who?s Next'. Pete was distressed and depressed by the failure of 'Lifehouse' but never fully gave up on it. It was finally performed as a stage play and released as a CD set in 2000. In 1972, there were distractions aplenty for the band. Around this time it was decided that 'Tommy' was to made into a motion picture directed by Ken Russell. There were contractual
diffi culties (again). Pete needed another challenge, The Who needed another album, they needed material for a new tour. Initially conceived as a mini-opera 'Rock Is Dead - Long Live Rock', Townshend described the project: "The theme is a mixture of the history of the group and the story of a kid who?s going through adolescence, and then becomes very spiritually desperate, and then finding the secret to life. When he's a child he doesn't suffer from schizophrenia but from quadrophonia. The album will be quadraphonic and each different part of the guy's character will be a reflection of one member of the group" [Rolling Stone magazine. October 1972]. Quadrophenia was written to be a live performance vehicle for the group. Pete had hoped that each member of The Who would become involved with his own character part. He had also hoped that Kit Lambert would act as a stimulus and mentor as he had with 'Tommy'. That was not to be and Townshend took it upon himself to do everything from start to finish. QUADROPHENIA - THE ALBUM I Am The Sea (2:08) The opening track is pure atmosphere. There are the sounds of crashing waves, a cat, pouring rain and thunder. Against this are heard tingling keyboards and synthesisers and four snatches of themes from the work ('Helpless Dancer' on horns, 'Is it me' - a plaintive voice; 'Bell Boy' a close harmony; 'Love Reign O'er Me' a distant plea) (The album insert notes that each theme represents a part of Jimmy?s character, each character part is reflected by a member of The Who) Can You See The Real Me (3:22) From this surreal opening we plunge straight into a full throated rock number with the anger filled question of the title. The main verse features Daltrey's vocals accompanied by Keith Moon's drums and the bass guitar playing the percussion section. Quadrophenia (6:15) <
br> Ta ken with the preceding two tracks, this comprises the overture. It is a remarkable piece of instrumentation and orchestration, taking the various themes mentioned above and melodies from the whole work and layering them with a lush wall of sound. There are controlled inputs from John on bass guitar and Keith (remarkably restrained but incredibly rich) on drums but this is Pete multitracking and overdubbing with guitars and string sounds from his synthesisers. The track fades out with further dripping water. Cut My Hair (3:46) We now reach the start of the story. This song is a counterpoint between the rather plaintive and vulnerable verses sung by Townsend and the harder, driven double tracked choruses sung by Daltrey. The background features a driving drum tempo and piano riffs. It terminates in a fictitious news bulletin from a background radio (read by John Curle - a BBC Radio 3 announcer of the time). The Punk And The Godfather (5:10) This track starts again with a volley of classical Townshend 'Slash Chords' and continues with a rhythm that drives the main song. Again Roger leads the vocal with a hard edge even including a stuttering reprise of the classic Who song "My Generation" while Pete sings a plaintive falsetto mildly echoed voice. Mid way through the drums and guitars reach a frenzied peak accompanied by the chants, cheers and whistles of what sounds like a rock concert audience. I'm One (2:39) The first verse of "I'm One" is a wistful country song accompanied by acoustic guitar. This deteriorates progressively into a darker sound laced with anguish and frustration and with a typical three chord guitar riff accompaniment. Chorus and verses are all sung by Pete. The Dirty Jobs (4:30) Here is another upbeat rocker with a bright and bubbly synthesiser accompaniment and strident string chords. At the end we hear music, a tiger roar,
horns and a pia no roll and strummed guitars suggesting a circus. Helpless Dancer (2:32) Against a hammered piano motif the lines of this song are sung by Roger. This was engineered in stereo so that alternate phrases come from left and right (try listening to this through headphones!). At the end 'You stop dancing'. [The sleeve notes label this as Roger's Theme ("violent and determined, aggressive and unshakable"] Is It In My Head (3:46) The entry into the next track is through the opening lines of the old Who song "The Kids Are Alright" ("I don't mind other guys dancing with my girl"). Back come hints of "Is It Me?". A slower paced but powerful ballad, this again is a counterpoint between Pete and Roger's voices. The backing features a buzzing synthesiser, piano rolls, rhythmic drumming and heavy guitar chords. I've Had Enough (6:14) The last track on the first album again opens with a relentless beat of the drums and driving monotone chords on the guitar. Roger's voice starts with an emphatic 'You' in his mid range and goes higher up the scale towards the peak of the verse. This track is again divided into four sections with short reminders of the main themes. In the middle there is a quite jolly refrain on a banjo which masks the depressive content of the words. It ends with one of Daltrey's full-throated cliff-diving power screams (somewhat reminiscent of the ending of "Won't Get Fooled Again") 5:15 (5:00) This was the single release from the album. Again it is a fast past rocker sung in typical aggressive fashion. Moon's drumming is quite relentless and at times suggests a train. There is a jangling piano (played by Chris Stainton) and an immediately recognisable brass wall of sound from John Entwistle. It is introduced and finished with the words 'Why should I care?' <
br> Sea And Sand (5:01) We are back on the beach now surrounded by lapping waves and seagulls. This song is a reverie of Mod culture. It repeats a verse from "I've Had Enough" and includes Pete singing a line from "I'm The Face" - a single from the time The Who were known as The High Numbers. The song ranges back and forth between candid optimism to hopeless dejection. The run-out features some remarkable interplay between Pete and John on their guitars. Drowned (5:28) This is a fast paced ballad sung by Roger to an intricate backing which entwine around a piano theme. 5:15 themes again encroach towards the end of the track. We hear Jimmy walking up the beach singing as he goes. Bell Boy (4:56) It opens with strings of drum rolls leading into Roger's verses. This is a curious addition to the whole work - seminal in meaning - and features vocal retorts from Keith Moon (shades of his Uncle Ernie persona from "Tommy") in the chorus. [This is Keith's Theme ("insane and devil-may-care, unreasoning and bravado"] Dr Jimmy (8:42) The beach is now windswept with a howling gale and thunderclaps. At the quoted length this is the magnum opus of Quadrophenia. It is again a driving song with aggression, violent intent and bravado - Roger's voice at its very best on this track - the backing again is a symphonic wall of sound. The counterpoint 'Is It Me' is a short melodious but poignant interlude before the Dr Jimmy theme returns. [Includes 'Is It Me?' - John's Theme: ("quiet and romantic, tender and doubting") The Rock (6:37) Here is the second instrumental arrangement. It mirrors the track Quadrophenia and reprises the four themes but in a minor key giving a more atmospheric and reflective sense. Once again this highlights Townshend's compositional skills. There are grand swirls of
drums from Keith and horn riffs from John, but this is a showcase for multi-tracking and overdubbing of guitars, keyboards and synthesisers leading to a symphonic wall of sound. It is not rock either as the rhythms change dynamically almost from bar to bar - there is country and western, flamenco, jazz - There are some fuzz box distorted voices declaring "stars are falling" towards the end. Love, Reign O?er Me (5:48) The final track, introduced by a piano motif, loud drum rolls, gong clash and thunder. The rain is pouring down again, which is also referred to in the lyrics ("Only love can make it rain like the sweat of lovers laying in the fields"). This features Roger again in full flow with falsetto thrills and throaty growls. The climax is another ear shattering Who finale. [Pete's Theme: "insecure and spiritually desperate, searching and questioning"] PRESENTATION The original vinyl release contained two albums. It was also unusual in that the cover was monochrome. The front was a moody photograph of a youth sitting on a scooter. He has "Who" stencilled in white on the back of his parka and there are reflections of the four members of the band in the wing mirrors. These are the only references to The Who on the cover. The inside was a book of half plate black and white photographs of such uncompromising and unpalatable sights as a subway tunnel, a half eaten breakfast and a tumble down café. The booklet also contained the printed words. My current copy is the American CD release on MCA records. This is again a double album but somewhat unusually each CD comes in its own jewel box. QUADROPHENIA - SO WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT? The central character of "Quadrophenia" is Jimmy - a mod youth. Already we realise that this is a retrospective, Townshend's take on the life and times of youth ten years previously at a time of the band'
s formative years. He has said that he was never a mod himself but The Who were adopted as 'the' Mod band. Remember that the South coast of England was the playground (and hunting ground) of gangs of Rockers (leathers and motorcycles) and Mods (Lambrettas and parka jackets). The year 1963 was notorious for the gang warfare that broke out in Brighton and other resort towns. The story starts on the album cover. Pete penned an introductory sketch describing Jimmy's life and background and explaining where Jimmy is at the start of the music. The following is a short extract. "I had to go to this psychiatrist every week. Every Monday. He never really knew what was wrong with me. He said I wasn't mad or anything. He said there's no such thing as madness. One minute I'd be a tearaway, next minute all soppy and swoony over some bird. Schizophrenia, he called it. Nutty, my mum called it. It used to be alright at home. The rows at home started when I got back from the trouble at Brighton. I'd slept on the beach and me suit was ruined. I really cared about my suit, all my clothes, even though my mother said I didn't care about anything. Brighton cheered me up. But then it let me down. Me folks had let me down, Rock had let me down, women had let me down, work wasn't worth the effort, school isn't even worth mentioning. But I never ever thought I'd feel let down by being a mod. I pinched this boat, first time I'd ever been on a boat at sea. I had another few leapers to keep from coming down and I felt a bit bravado. So I headed for this Rock out off the coast. It was sticking up very jagged, but very peaceful. I didn't know then what I was up to, but I know now. So that's why I'm here, the bleeding boat drifted off and I'm stuck here in the pissing rain with my life flashing before me. Only it ain't flashing, it's crawling. Slowly. Now it's just the bare bones of what I am.
A tough guy, a helpless dancer . A romantic, is it me for a moment? A bloody lunatic, I'll even carry your bags. A beggar, a hypocrite, love reign over me. Schizophrenic? I'm bleeding Quadrophrenic.? We find Jimmy marooned on a rock somewhere off the coast at Brighton. The first three tracks set this seen and introduce Jimmy as a character. The aggression, pain, frustration, anger and confusion is particularly defined in "The Real Me". Jimmy does not know where he is coming from or where he is going to. He is misunderstood by his mother, girlfriend, psychiatrist and priest ("I went back to the doctor, To get another shrink. I have to tell him about my weekend, But he never betrays what he thinks."). "Cut My Hair" is a diatribe against the pressures of two opposing forces - conventionality represented by his parents; and the changeability and individuality of fashion of his peer group. He has to conform to his own society and needs acknowledgement from his peer group. He cannot square the circle of establishing his own identity. He takes drugs ('uppers' or amphetamines; and 'downers' - barbiturates) to ease his pain. His parents despair of him and threaten him with eviction. Jimmy had hoped to find salvation in rock music but finds that it is only a hollow shell. "The Punk and the Godfather" is a fictitious but semi-autobiographical meeting between fan and idol (presumably Townshend himself). He uses this theme to deflate the overstuffed egos not only of performers but any leader who has power in the world (The punk says: "You declared you would be three inches taller, you only became what we made you"). The next three tracks all serve to deepen our understanding of the fixedness of Jimmy's position in life ("Ill fitting clothes I blend in the crowd"). He has a very menial job for a short time (looking
after pigs) but this only heightens his sense of apathy and exploitation in the workplace. He is young, unskilled and inexperienced. He tries to spur his colleagues to take some action to improve their lot but despairs when they do nothing. "Helpless Dancer" is written as a quotation - which suggests that it is some other authority lecturing to Jimmy. The world and society represent a no-hope place "People die from being cold or left alone because they're old - When your soul tells you to hide your very right to die's denied". "I've Had Enough" brings back the four sides of Jimmy's personality. Again there is the reminder of manipulation by society and then his acquiescence to his Mod culture. These musings lead to his yearning to 'give up' on all these aspects of his life and ultimately to thoughts of suicide. At this point in the plot (made explicit in the cover story Jimmy has lost his girlfriend, has run away from home, given up his job and crashed his scooter). He takes a handful of pills and sets off to Brighton in an attempt to capture some memories of previous trips and events there. "You were under the impression That when you were walking forward You'd end up further onward But things ain't quite that simple. My jacket's gonna be cut and slim and checked, Maybe a touch of seersucker, with an open neck. I ride a G S scooter with my hair cut neat, Wear my wartime coat in the wind and sleet." His train journey to Brighton is part surreal, part drug induced nightmare (the single was accompanied by a video release which had limited airplay because of the explicitness of the lyrics "girls of fifteen sexually knowing"). He partly realises that he is 'Out of my brain' on drugs but he hopes that the town will provide some form of answer or release. The following two tracks are again reflective of Jimmy's past -
he recalls the time when he 'looked righ t', was accepted by his fellow mods and 'got the girl'. It is however always tempered by his own self-doubt. "I am the face, She has to know me, I'm dressed up better than anyone, Within a mile." 'Bell Boy' is a purely descriptive song. Jimmy recognises one of the 'Ace Faces' (a mod leader that he idolised from his remembered previous trips) working as a lowly minion at one of Brighton's Grand(est) hotels. Here Ace's position is little better than Jimmy's which comes as a sobering realisation. Dr Jimmy and Mr Jim present a split in Jimmy?s personality (a play on the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde story). Here is Jimmy portrayed the way he would like to be - full of bravado, aggression and control but it is also tempered reflective little-boy-lost who is still trying to escape. This song is quite violent in its words and descriptions. It was one of the first that I heard with an expletive (the "f"-word) within it - sung only once, half hidden behind the wall of sound but none the less starkly powerful in its meaning. "What is it? I'll take it. Who is she? I'll rape it. Got a bet there? I'll meet it. Getting High? You can't beat it. Doctor Jimmy and mister Jim When I'm pilled you don't notice him, He only comes out when I drink my gin. I'm going back soon Home to get the baboon. Who cut up my eye, Messed up my Levis. I'm feeling restless Bring another score around Maybe something stronger Could really hold me down." The ending remains unresolved and open to your (the listener's) interpretation. It is not clear whether he dies (drowns on the Rock or commits suicide) or whether he is rescued. The final track could represent a new beginning, death, continued despair. It is possible that Jimmy has finally realised the folly of his ways (h
e seems to promise to give up the drink and drugs) ; he may have decided to give up his style of life and 'conform'. CONCLUSIONS. Quadrophenia is Pete Townshend's most dramatic, most complex, most mature work. Opera, clearly, it is not - in either form or content. The closest analogy would be to call it a Symphonic tone poem with words. It is not unknown in the classical context for characters to be identified by melodies - Richard Wagner used the leitmotif in many of his operatic works; Richard Strauss does the same in his tone poems ("Till Eulenspiegel's Lustige Streiche"). Here Townshend uses each of four songs to describe the four parts of Jimmy's personality which in term acknowledge a member of the band. Several commentators have criticised th is aspect as being either superfluous to the story or not sufficiently developed in form. This work has had a chequered career. It was perhaps too far ahead of its time as a concept album (who else would have dared to attempt such a piece 30 years ago?). The tracks were deemed too long to find easy air play. It seemed to fall out of favour with the other members of the group. Its live performance was not fully realised until the late 1990s (yes - I saw Quadrophenia at Wembley Arena; I still have - and wear - the T-shirt!). It was made into a film some years later - which is a story in itself. It starred a number of rock and punk worthies (Sting, Toyah, Lesley Ash, Phil Daniels) just starting out on their career. Quadrophenia is a story of teenage angst. For all its frustration, heartache and black despair the sound is glorious. Although set in the 1960s and the 'mod' era, it is just as topical a parable today or for that matter for generations before that. I see elements of Jimmy in me (nowhere near as radical I hasten to add) and parallels of his life and experiences in my own. What's more, my seventeen year old son has discovered The
Who from his rummaging in my record collection and dec lares similar feelings about his surroundings. He is a fervent admirer of this work. Isn't it ironic too how the Mods have never really gone away? Pete Townshend's music is for ever appearing as sound track for TV programmes (CSI; CSI - Miami) and advertisements. There is even an advertisement for the youth employment at the moment offering a scooter as a prize. The Who roundel is prominently displayed. It will be interesting to see how history treats this piece. "Tommy" has achieved a life of its own. Quadrophenia is much more personally Townshend. I suspect that in a hundred years from now, this will be the album used to characterise the rock concept album, the Mod movement and be recognised as The Who's greatest achievement. If you haven't listened to this work before, do so now. If you haven't listened for a long time, now is the time to renew your acquaintance. This is music that transcends labels. It defies categorisation. It is rock, it is symphonic, it is atmospheric. Who but The Who could have recorded such an opus? Who else but The Who could have staged it live? Play it, and play it loud. QUADROPHENIA - The Who (1974 - remastered 2000) Polydor CD AMAZON.CO.UK £11.99
Graham Greene's tales of gangland warfare aside, Brighton has never seemed so exciting that when seen through the eyes of Quadrophenia's confused hero Jimmy, a pill popping cockney mod. Dedicated in part to the crowd who attended The Who's '65 London Marquee and Brighton's Aquarium clubs, the film is a tale of teenage rebellion, set in that most British of seaside resorts during the mods V rockers conflict. More cohesive than the groups '69 rock opera Tommy. Quadrophenia reaches fever pitch as a speed crazed Jimmy loses it on the Brighton express 'out of my brain on the train'. He only just makes it back.
Well bang me silly and call me RANDY if this aint one of the best goddarn cotton pickin albums i aint ever damn heard. This album is totally 'mod-a-licous' AND IT RULES. I am telling you it just reeks of plain absolute awesomeness. It makes me hark back to days when i was younger, and in fact not born. Maybe i was born in the wrong era - WHATEVER - but i still love this crap. Ya cant beat it, from the first coupla super cool tracks, to the epicness of ...of...well others....god i dont even know the names of the songs cos it doesnt matter - you just listen to the album start to finish all day!!!! Now one track i really do know well is 'The Real Me' and my god - strike me down with lighting whil e i am holding a random metal object and thus am quite QUITE sure to die - if it aint a bona fide numero uno song of absolute classicness. U CANNOT get that sound on a GEEEE-TARR in this day i can garan- damn -tee it. The baseline makes me wet myself in my sleep just thinking of it. Yes it is that DAMN good. It smells of rebillousness and i like it. It is 'real brother' and the singing is really quite top and it all rocks nicely. I like, i mean really do LIKE when a singer....just for a few moments - takes the effort to really scream and really mean itand get in to it all so bad that nothing else matters. All in all , there are so many moments i could go on about - but i wont, i will trust you to go and listen, cos it rocks, reflects, AND ROCKS...basically its all good. Oh and it rocks. BTw its a four anna half - cos u always gotta have room for SOMETHING better...... but still put on your levis and be like the face - u know you gotta be cool.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 I Am the Sea
2 Real Me
4 Cut My Hair
5 Punk and the Godfather
6 I'm One
7 Dirty Jobs
8 Helpless Dancer
9 Is It in My Head?
10 I've Had Enough
Disc #2 Tracklisting
2 Sea and Sand
4 Bell Boy
5 Doctor Jimmy
7 Love, Reign o'er Me