was an album released by The Who
in 1973. It was the 2nd rock opera from the man who practically invented them himself-Pete Townshend
. It was supposed to be his third, but with the fail of Lifehouse
, Townshend had a nervous breakdown
, and instead of making a film-script, made this concept album. It was complete with sound effects and a picture booklet to supply images-because he thought this, too, would never be made.
The idea of "Quadrophenia" itself was first conceived back when Tommy was being recorded- Pete planned to have aspects of Tommy's personality represented by the Who-which is what happens with Jimmy in Quadrophenia.
Originally, Quadrophenia had about 50 songs-it could have been a quadruple album-again leaving impressions of fours-four members of the Who (representing Jimmy's personality), The quadraphonic sound, etc.
Quadrophenia was originally released in the U.K. as Track 2657 013 on October 26, 1973. But, due to a vinyl shortage due to the OPEC oil embargo, production was stopped, and only a few copies made it to stores. Most Brits had to wait until after the Who's U.K. tour to get a copy.
In the U.S., Quadrophenia was MCA2 10004 released on November 3, 1973.
I AM THE FACE
So, Jimmy is a regular guy in the dwindling days of the mod scene. The story of Quadrophenia is a flashback, told by Jimmy on The Rock...
"So that's why I'm here, the bleeding boat drifted off
and I'm stuck in the pissing rain with my life flashing
before me. Only it isn'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 o'er me.
Schizophrenic? I'm bleeding Quadrophenic."
So Jimmy thinks he's crazy. He knows it. The doctor says he has Schizophrenia (note: this is a technicality on Townshend's part, because Multiple Personality Disorder is simply a characteristic of some, but not most, schizophrenics, but anyway...)-but Jimmy feels he's got four parts to him.
I AM THE SEA
There are four different personalities Jimmy has,
introduced in the very beginning of the album...
the helpless dancer
is it me?
the bell boy
love, reign o'er me
The four themes are each assigned to a member of the band as well...
Helpless Dancer (Roger's Theme)-this is Jimmy's side of him that's dependent and sappy. It's demonstrated in songs like "Helpless Dancer", "Is it in my head?", "Sea and Sand", and sort of flows into "The Punk and The Godfather" as well, which brings us to...
Is it me? (John's theme). Jimmy constantly struggles with his identity, it's the whole premise for this album. It's first brought to light during track 2, "The Real Me". He feels, like most teenagers, that no one knows or understands him, and he sure as hell doesn't himself. He seeks mental stability in a holy man, his parents, his friends, and in the original concept-rock and roll. There was a verse, which can be found in the demo, that goes:
"Rock and Roll's going do me in;
do me an evil wrong.
Funny how your best friends turn out;
it was good for oh so long.
I stop myself getting letters
and then the people try to turn me back.
Publisher wants my memoirs and the limousines are black.
Can you see the real me, rock and roll?"
The next three songs sort of go with the flow on that theme.
"Cut My Hair" is the most straightforward, talking about fashion, hair, and drugs. Jimmy is dealing with the fact that his parents won't let him do "cool" stuff like the other kids. And after a fight and his mother finding blues (speed) in his room, he gets kicked out. Although he's happier like this, he starts to get an "uncertain feeling" in his head. "It's all a game, and inside I'm just the same," he says.
The album picks up toward the end of the mod culture's prime, which means that this was probaby Jimmy's first inkling that something was very wrong with all of it.
And his frustration continues still, trying to fit in:
"Why do I have to be different to them,
just to earn the respect of a dancehall friend?
We have the same old row again and again.
Why do I have to move with a crowd
of kids that hardly notice I'm around?
I work myself to death just to fit in."
"The Punk and The Godfather" is-interesting.
The literal meaning of it is that Jimmy goes to a concert, and feels like he's been blown off and let down by rock and roll.
But, if you want to look deeper, it's about conformity, and The Who themselves. The "punk"-representing culture-is telling the "godfather" how to live, what to do, and that they are living off of each other.
"breathe the air we have blown you", "only earn what we gave you", and that Townshend wields an "axe of dying nation".
The Who-at least Pete, their driving force-were never mods. But the mods liked them. He was being made by the culture-sort of a role reversal. It seems like this to me, because of the last part sung by the "godfather":
"I have to be careful not to preach
I can't pretend that I can teach,
And yet I've lived your future out
By pounding stages like a clown.
And on the dance floor broken glass,
The bloody faces slowly pass,
The broken seats in empty rows,
It all belongs to me you know."
That line sums up the whole concept. Townshend himself becomes part of the opera, and the fact that he's not mod just furthers Jimmy's perception that the whole thing is bloody fake. How can a non-mod lead mods?
Townshend is the "phoney leader". He owns the mod culture-and the mod culture owns him.
"I'm One" is Jimmy being the "helpless dancer" again, but it's definitley about identity. He knows he may not be "the face", but he knows he's him. He's starting to grasp reality...
The next few songs skip around a bit...
"The Dirty Jobs"- this is just again about how Jimmy's a "loser". Yet now he realises that it's his fault-his karma being screwed- for lying to himself.
"Is it in my head?"- another "Is it me?" song. Jimmy is realising again that his problems are his fault. As long as he envisions lies, he's going to live lies. He needs to see "a man without a problem."
"I've Had Enough" is the beginning of the end for Jimmy. He's had enough of the fakeness, of the bull. This is the epitome of his frustration.
5:15 is the first song of the "bell boy" theme. It's the side of Jimmy that's gregarious and crazy. He snaps when he sees the girl he likes with one of his friends.
But, in the next song, "Sea and Sand", Jimmy realises, again, that he's a screw-up. He seeks solace on the beach, and "Drowned" is his reflection on it all. "Drowned" could stand alone on itself, it's really a song about God.
"When the tragic hero of Q(uadrophenia) sings it, it is desperate and nihilistic. In fact, it's a love song, God's love being the ocean and our 'selves' being the drops of water that make it up....I want to drown in that ocean, the 'drop' will then be an ocean itself."
Then, he's back to the Bell Boy. This, appropriatley enough, is Keith's theme. This song is also sort of about the Who themselves. In the beginning, Jimmy talks about knowing them back in "the crazy days." Oh, and Keith sings, too. It's sort of scary.
But, right in the middle of the song, Jimmy goes back to the helpless dancer-remembering his night on the beach.
Yet, in the next song, Doctor Jimmy, he's ambitious again, and going just about mad (This song is definitley the Bell Boy, Pete even wrote it about Keith). He takes more speed and tries to head home, but then decides to go to The Rock (he is pilled, after all).
So here it is. Jimmy's on the rock, sick, tired, and cold.
Here, his epiphany comes. He realises that the whole lot of it- the clothes, the hair, the scooters, the dancehalls, the pills- the whole bloody scene-is fake, and that everyone else is the same. So how is he supposed to find himself?
All You Need Is Love
This is where "Love, Reign O'er Me" (Pete's theme) comes from. This is the realisation-the enlightenment the epiphany-that love is the only thing that matters-that only love should control you.
Only love can make it rain
the way the beach is kissed by the sea.
Only love can make it rain,
like the sweat of lovers,
laying in the fields-
Love, Reign O'er Me."
Love is the only thing that's real.