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The Who - Quadrophenia CD (album) cover


The Who



4.50 | 549 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Ask most lay people about their favourite Who moment, or record, and it's a fair bet that they will respond with Tommy (specifically Pinball Wizard), or Who's Next, or maybe a single such as Who Are You. However, to this, and I suspect other, long term Who fans, this wonderful album is the absolute pinnacle of an incredible band, but, more to the point I think, that of a hugely important and influential songwriter, one Pete Townsend.

On the face of it, this double album is a tribute to the young Mods who followed the band in the pill popping, bright lighted, halcyon days of the mid 1960's. The band were the very embodiment of cool then, and in these recession soaked days, it is easy to forget that in my lifetime, Britain, and London in particular, were seen as the cultural and social centre of the Western world.

In fact, this is the ultimate expression of the lyrical obsession Townsend had - that of youth, its traumas, its journey, and, very importantly, its end and the passage into death. It is split into four themes, with each band member identifying with that theme: Helpless Dancer (Roger's theme), Is It Me (John's theme), Bell Boy (Keith's theme), and Love, Reign O'er Me (Pete's theme). The narrative tells the story of Jimmy, a young mod utterly bonkers about Mod culture, and The Who in particular, and his descent into rebellion, and, ultimately, a quadrophonic split personality leading to his untimely demise.

It is, in my opinion, utterly essential for anyone wishing to explore, or in my case re-visit, the distinct and difficult adolescent passage for young men in our utterly dystopian modern culture. For the passages Townsend writes about in the 1960's (but actually written in the mid 1970's) are as relevant now as they were then, and that is the true genius of the man and his writing. The fact that one's parents either don't listen, or don't care, mates are not true mates, you have to "fit in" to be a "part of the crowd", and any failure is punished bleakly in life by accepting having to literally clean the shit off the streets in a no hope, no opportunity, dead end job/life, the way that many of us get sucked into "the system", when there is an innate and keen intelligence or talent just bursting to break out. Jimmy broke down under these pressures - to me, the real message that Townsend puts across is that the wonder is that any of us get out the other side, and huge kudos to those of us that do.

Musically, the band simply never sounded better. Just as I have described the poetical wonder of Townsend's lyrics, he, more than anyone else, realised the true value of the band that supported him in this journey. Entwistle simply never sounded better, on either his incredible bass, or on brass on 5:15. Moon, caught here just before his own sad descent into alcoholic and drug ridden torture/death, gives us a lesson in just how a rock drummer should sound. And, we must never, ever, forget just what an incredible voice that Daltrey possessed. On the aforementioned 5:15 and the album closer, Love Reign O'er Me, he comes about as close to vocal perfection as it is possible to get.

There are so many highlights, it does seem rather churlish to list them, because the album is never anything less than superb all the way through. However, Townsend's beautiful paeon to the the dreams of youth, I'm One, the walkout I've Had Enough, the pill popping, nightmare, journey of 5:15 which features the most incredible combination of hard rock and brass laid to record, the betrayal bitterness of Bell Boy, and the final act of the play and a life, Love Reign O'er Me, stand out.

Elsewhere, for more "traditional" prog fans, the superb title track features some distinctly proggy effects, to which could also be added the lengthy The Rock.

This, however, is a rock album, pure and simple. It is a hugely important rock album, and should, if there were any justice, be essential curriculum listening for all schoolboys over the age of twelve.

Five stars. Listening to it now, as I always do, I get a true sense of what songwriting and performing genius really means.

lazland | 5/5 |


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