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Old 9th November 2020, 04:52 PM
Susan Foreman's Avatar
Susan Foreman Susan Foreman is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Basil Fawlty country: The English Riviera
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Album #7:
Quadrophenia

After the Mod album, the experimental album, the themed concept album, the narrative concept album, the live album and the progressive rock album, we get the hard rock album!

The Who were often accused of being obsessed with their own history, and while 'obsessed' is too strong a word, there is no doubt that their experiences as a band and a bands experiences of life offered Pete a rich stream of subject matters to chronicle in their songs. No better example of this can be found in the 1973 release 'Quadrophenia' which brought together several essential elements of Pete's style: the song cycle; the synthesizers he pioneered on 'Who's Next'; adolescent frustration; the search for spiritual contentment and effort to try and make sense of his own past, especially the Mod experience which the band had observed in 1964 and were so closely associated with. In doing so, he created a minor masterpiece and one which continues to fascinate new converts almost 50 years after its initial release

Unfortunately, while the timing for the release of 'Tommy' was perfect, 'Quadrophenia' arrived at a time when lengthy rock works (such as this) were beginning to lose their charm. In 1973, rock fans seemed less inclined to sit through and assimilate so much material in one stretch as they were in 1969. A few years later, in 1976, three minute explosions would be all the rage, courtesy of Punk, and works like 'Quadrophenia' roundly vilified not that the Who hadn't blazed a trail of three minute explosions of their own, of course, but that was conveniently forgotten by their critics

There were also problems playing the album live. As has already been noted, at their best, The Who were a free-flowing, high energy machine, capable of improvising at will and flying off at remarkable tangents. However, great chunks of 'Quadrophenia' used a lot of backing tape synth music and sound effects which dictated a different approach on stage a more rigid style which allowed little room for the band to play together in the style they excelled. When the band didn't gel with the tapes, or the tapes didn't gel with the band or even worse when the tapes came in at the wrong time, and threw everyone off balance, the live 'Quadrophenia' came crashing down, reducing Pete to a spluttering rage. While Roger, John and Keith were always eager to please, they were also concerned that Pete was aiming too high, and they grew equally frustrated.

'Quadrophenia' is the story of the journey of a Mod named Jimmy, whose relentlessness, frustration and ultimate disillusionment drive him almost to suicide. It takes in many Mod concerns clothes, styles, trips to Brighton, pills and even a concert by The Who themselves and ends with a triumph when Jimmy manages to free himself from the shackles of the Mod cult. Each member of the band has their own musical theme on the album, and each one represents a facet of Jimmy's quadrophonic personality (although this aspect of the album is never fully investigated). Of course, no-one in The Who was ever a Mod. Roger and John were rockers, Keith was a fan of surf music and wanted to be a Beach Boy and Pete was an art student with an inquisitive mind who latched onto the Mod movement at the suggestion of early manager Pete Meadon as a way to further than bands career. But that didn't stop him from observing the Mods way of their life, their rituals and dances, and sympathising with their attitudes. 'Quadrophenia' was his debt to Mod culture and as such it has become a lasting Mod icon

The front cover of the album featured a Mod (23 year old Terry Kennett, a paint sprayer from Battersea who was discovered by Pete in The Butcher's Arms pub near Ramport Studios) sitting on his scooter, wearing a Parka jacket with 'The Who' spray painted on the back. The faces of the band members can be seen in the mirrors of the scooter


The back cover was a simple wrecked scooter, almost completely submersed in the sea. [As you will see, the concept of 'water' plays a big part in Quadrophenia]


Also included with the release was a gorgeous 22 page booklet of evocative black and white photos illustrating Jimmy's odyssey. Song lyrics and copious sleeve notes complete the package


'I Am The Sea', which opens the album, is a short seascape sound that contains the faint echoes of the four principle 'Quadrophenia' themes. The sea and storm effects are captured perfectly, and (on a good stereo system) sound wonderfully realistic. There is a dramatic cry of 'Can You See The Real Me? Can ya? Can ya?' from Roger before John's bass comes dancing in and the guitars take over. 'The Real Me' is pure unadulterated rock, lifting and descending with asymmetrical drum patterns and sharp guitar chords, plus the brass section that features heavily throughout the album. Towards the end, Pete, who is never obtrusive on the song, cuts out completely to let John and Keith carry the rhythm as only they can do

The song was later covered by W.A.S.P on their 1989 album 'The Headless Children'


"I went back to the doctor
To get another shrink.
I sit and tell him about my weekend,
But he never betrays what he thinks.

Can you see the real me, doctor?

I went back to my mother
I said, "I'm crazy ma, help me."
She said, "I know how it feels son,
'Cause it runs in the family."

Can you see the real me, mother?

The cracks between the paving stones
Look like rivers of flowing veins.
Strange people who know me
Peeping from behind every window pane.
The girl I used to love
Lives in this yellow house.
Yesterday she passed me by,
She doesn't want to know me now.

Can you see the real me, can you?

I ended up with the preacher,
Full of lies and hate,
I seemed to scare him a little
So he showed me to the golden gate.

Can you see the real me preacher?
Can you see the real me doctor?
Can you see the real me mother?
Can you see the real me?"


The title track of the album, 'Quadrophenia', is the first of two instrumentals that appear on the album. This track works in the same way as the 'Overture' from 'Tommy' did - it gives a musical taster of the songs that are to come. The arrangements are surprisingly sophisticated, and the pounding version of 'Love Reign O'er Me' is incredibly powerful

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