Last month saw the fortieth anniversary of the film of The Who’s rock opera Quadrophenia. The original album was released as a double-album in 1973 and is based in London and Brighton telling the story of a young mod named Jimmy and his search for self-worth and importance. Quadrophenia is the only Who album entirely composed by Pete Townshend.
The group started work on the album in 1972, trying to follow up Tommy and Who’s Next, both of which had achieved substantial critical and commercial success. Recording was delayed while bassist John Entwistle and singer Roger Daltrey recorded solo albums and drummer Keith Moon worked on films. Because a new studio was not finished in time, the group had to use Ronnie Lane’s Mobile Studio. The album makes significant use of Townshend’s multi-track synthesizers and sound effects, as well as Entwistle’s layered horn parts, in addition to the group’s typical playing styles, especially from Keith Moon.
The album was released to a positive reception in both the UK and the US, but the resulting tour was marred with problems with backing tapes replacing the additional instruments on the album, and the stage piece was retired in early 1974. It was revived in 1996 with a larger ensemble, and a further tour took place in 2012. The album made a positive impact on the mod revival movement of the late 1970s, and the resulting film adaptation, released in 1979, was successful.
The original release of Quadrophenia came with a set of notes that explained the basic plotline…
The story centres around a young working-class mod named Jimmy. He likes drugs, beach fights and romance and becomes a fan of the Who after a concert in Brighton. However he is disillusioned by his parents’ attitude towards him, dead-end jobs and an unsuccessful trip to see a psychiatrist. He clashes with his parents over his use of amphetamines and has difficulty finding regular work, doubting his own self-worth – he quits one job as a dustman after only two days. Though he is happy to be “one” of the mods, he struggles to keep up with his peers, and his girlfriend leaves him for his best friend.
After destroying his scooter and contemplating suicide, he decides to take a train to Brighton where he had enjoyed earlier experiences with fellow mods. However, he discovers the “Ace Face” who led the gang now has a menial job as a bellboy in a hotel. He feels everything in his life has rejected him, steals a boat and uses it to sail out to a rock overlooking the sea. On the rock and stuck in the rain, he contemplates his life. The ending is left ambiguous as to what happens to Jimmy on the rock.
This is the finale to the album, Love, Reign O’er Me…
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