Album Review: “Quadrophenia” By The Who
The Who live at the Isle of Wight, 1970 - RockHippie1969 / Youtube
A landmark of The Who’s heyday, Quadrophenia was borne out of Pete Townshend’s gravitation towards rock operas, considering the double album was their second rock opera release. The album title points at multiple subjects, including a “wordplay” on schizophrenia, a surround sound technique, and even the members of The Who themselves. Thus, the teenage character Jimmy was born, representing the four personalities of the members, while also representing the current fanbase of the band.
Quadrophenia has the band on an entirely experimental perspective, with the band opting for more variety with instruments, employing the piano and keyboards on the record. Roger Daltrey, on the other hand, does his best at evoking the multiple personalities of Jimmy with his performances, with the band being backed up by manager Kit Lambert and his recording techniques.
You are greeted by the organic instrumental “I Am The Sea”, which feature snippets of soon-to-be-released songs which are imposed over sounds of nature, which Townshend personally recorded outdoors. “The Real Me” introduces the listener to Jimmy, with a thundering guitar riff and complementing bass line to boot. “Cut My Hair” references mod culture, even completed by a radio broadcast of an actual riot between mods and rockers. “The Punk Meets The Godfather” is indulgent in every way, from instruments to lyrics, and can be considered as one of Kieth Moon’s best recordings ever.
“I’m One” opens part two with a country-influenced acoustic progression, while “Dirty Jobs” is highlighted with Daltrey’s powerful performance and the usage of synths throughout the track. “Is It In My Head” follows a more radio-friendly acoustic format, and melds into the hard-rocking “I’ve Had Enough”. “5:15” is a musical gem with great orchestration, featuring the piano and some brass accents, with a narrative from a train-rider who gazes onto the landscape as it shifts through the journey. “Sea And Sand” is a continuation of the trip, with a folk and rock hybrid that tells Jimmy’s way of escaping the harrowing London scene.
“Doctor Jimmy” once again explores the multiple personalities theme, with the help of loose references from Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Daltrey commits to performing both of the roles, before commencing to the filler-esque “The Rock”, acting as an extended intro to the album closer while referencing the previous one. “Love, Reign O’er Me” closes the album with a philosophical approach, and we see Jimmy finding his real self amidst the classical and rock-driven foray of the song’s progression.
All in all, while Quadrophenia wasn’t the best performing album by The Who, it certainly painted their ambition of going to artistic lengths to express their intentions. Cultural and mental health references are put into a cohesive masterpiece that was delivered via a rock opera approach.