The Who: Quadrophenia

Rating: 8.1/10
Rated as
: Album
Album Status
: Genre Classic
Released: 1973
Specific Genre: Hard Rock, Rock Opera
Main Genre: Rock
Undertones
: Progressive Rock, Symphonic Rock
Label: Track

1.1 I Am the Sea 1.2 The Real Me 1.3 Quadrophenia 1.4 Cut My Hair 1.5 The Punk and the Godfather 1.6 I’m One 1.7 The Dirty Jobs 1.8 Helpless Dancer 1.9 Is It in My Head? 1.10 I’ve Had Enough
2.1 5:15 2.2 Sea and Sand 2.3 Drowned 2.4 Bell Boy2.5 Doctor Jimmy 2.6 The Rock 2.7 Love, Reign o’ver Me

Can you see the real me?

Where Tommy (1969) staked its claim as progressive rock by fusing the posture of hard rock with the aesthetics of an all-frills, no-shame broadway show extravaganza, Quadrophenia decidedly takes its cues from Richard Wagner – in posture and attitude, I mean, less in musical terms. A Ring of the Nibelung with a cockney setting, this is Rock Opera with capitals. Everything about it is enormous: the riffs, the vocal arcs, how it shifts between ethereal, foggy gentleness and hard-driving rock&roll with in a song (“Punk and the Godfather”, “I’m One”), the way the motifs and choruses built up and intertwine within a song and across the double-LP. And Wagner does loom large musically on Entwistle’s valkyrian, otherworldly French horn motif dominating the album (it shows up throughout, but check out “Helpless Dancer” for quick reference).

Re-using the overture/”underture” idea from Tommy with recurring motifs, it is difficult to single out songs as highlights – what I’m left with after going through the first two sides is just an overall sense of high-quality music (again, a ‘classical’ reception mode transported through a number of pure hard rock riffs). I remain slightly suspicious of how they beef up the songs with big horn sections and the symphonic keyboard element (pretty new stuff for this context back then) – the Who’s unique strength lay in both mass and volatility, and while this is a massive album, its tide-like, imperative pull is dampened somewhat the longer it runs, as evermore mass comes at the cost of sustainable excitement. Yet this is possibly the Who’s “largest” realized project, and as such: a sure classic in the field of high-concept hard rock.