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The Who - Quadrophenia (1973)

Undeterred by the failure of the Lifehouse project, Pete Townshend was determined that his next idea for a rock opera would not be so easily thwarted.

Built around themes of social inadequacy, identity crisis, teenage rebellion, and eventual psychological disengagement, Quadrophenia – another double album released in October 1973 – would be the story of a teenager named Jimmy, ostensibly based on Townshend’s own idealised version of himself, and set around the pill-popping London and Brighton Mod scene of 1964. While the title of the album was a play on the word schizophrenia - a diagnostic term for multiple personality disorder - reflecting the four distinct and often conflicting personalities of the Who itself, it also tied in with Townshend’s fascination with the then new Quadrophonic hi-fi systems originally intended to replace stereo (but which eventually failed to catch on).

Once you got past the unwieldy storyline, however, the album’s real strength lay in its simple if brutal exposition of the new ’70s-style Who rock aesthetic, as begun on Who’s Next and carried to its logical conclusion here on classic tracks like the rip-roaring opener, ‘The Real Me’, the incredible single, ‘5.15’ – with its unforgettable ‘out of my brain on the train’ refrain – and culminating with the cathartic ‘Love, Reign O’er Me’, the sound of crashing waves symbolising both the death of his idealised youth and Townshend’s own rebirth as arch Mod chronicler. Like Tommy, in time Quadrophenia would also inspire a film (starring Phil Daniels in the title role and a young Sting as the ace-face ‘Bell Boy’ character) and an elaborate theatrical stage-production, peformed in Los Angeles in 2005 and starring Stephen Shareaux as Jimmy.

It is now rightly regarded as one of the defining and most enduring rock releases of its era, and it's no surprise that The Who keep revisiting the record on tour.

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 / Doctor Jimmy / The Rock / Love, Reign o'er Me

  • The Quadrophenia tour included one incident which has now become rock folklore - after a booze and tranquillizer laden Keith Moon passed out during a show near San Francisco the band's manager Bill Graham asked the audience whether anyone could fill in for a few songs. 19 year old Scot Halpin volunteered and played the last three songs of the set. A shot of brandy helped him overcome his nerves and he was given a Who tour jacket as a "thank you" for stepping in.
  • The album was kept from the number 1 spot in the US by Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - it would be their highest placing album on the Billboard charts.
  • The album features four themes, based around the personalities of the four band members: "A tough guy" - Roger Daltrey; "A romantic" - John Entwistle; "a bloody lunatic" – Keith Moon; "a beggar, a hypocrite" - Pete Townshend.


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