It was 39 years ago today (October 19th, 1973) that the Who released their second double album, the watershed 1973 collection, Quadrophenia. The set featured such classic Who songs as "The Real Me," "5:15," "I'm One," "The Punk And The Godfather," "Drowned," "Sea And Sand," and "Love Reign O'er Me," among others. A film version based around the album was produced by the band and released in 1979.
On October 31st, the Who's new documentary, Quadrophenia: Can You See The Real Me?, will premiere on VH1 Classic. The film gives an in-depth look at the making of -- and tour behind -- the 1973 album, featuring the Who's Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, their manager Bill Curbishley, Quadrophenia engineer Ron Nevison, early Mod "Irish Jack" Lyons, Townshend confidante and biographer Richard Barnes, and rock journalist Howie Edelson, among others.
The Who's 37-date Quadrophenia & More Tour kicks off on November 1st at Sunrise, Florida's Bank Atlantic Center.
Last November, the Who released the critically acclaimed Quadrophenia "Director's Cut" Box Set. The collection maked the first release of all of Pete Townshend's fully produced one-man-band demos for Quadrophenia -- including the tracks which ended up on the 1979 film soundtrack, along with previously unheard titles.
For Quadrophenia, Pete Townshend created a song cycle chronicling the life of "Jimmy" -- a pill-popping fashion conscious R&B loving "Mod" from London in the mid-'60s. The album focused on Jimmy's battles with his parents, the mod nightlife, his demeaning office job, and the mods' legendary beach rumbles against their cultural nemesis, the "Rockers."
The character of Jimmy was supposed to represent the four facets of the Who: Keith Moon (insane), John Entwistle (romantic), Roger Daltrey (bad), and Townshend (good).
During his guest lecture at 2007's South By Southwest festival, Townshend was asked which he prefers; the band's 1971 album Who's Next, which features only a selection of tracks recorded for his unrealized sci-fi follow-up to Tommy, called Lifehouse, or the more grounded Quadrophenia: "I like Quadrophenia better because it's purer. Y'know, it's complete. I had complete control of it, and I think that hurt the band a bit that I had such control over it -- particularly Roger, who had a feeling that he was on the outside, even though he is very much a pillar. Quadrophenia is also an iconic rock piece. Quadrophenia was also more self-contained. If in a way the failure of Lifehouse led to Quadrophenia then I'm happy, because I think I will never surpass it."
Daltrey's tour-de-force lead vocal on the album's finale "Love Reign O'er Me" is one of dozens of examples of him taking a Townshend song and completely reinventing it as his own: "That's what I used to try and do is to leave people with a mood in a note, and a passion in the song. That in somehow or the other, either went against the lyric, or took the lyric to somewhere where you didn't think. . . It's like 'Love Reign O'er Me' for instance. Pete never, ever saw that as a loud screaming plea, the way I sang it. He saw it as a quiet song -- which obviously you can do. In the terms of the way Quadrophenia was, I saw it as that scream of desperation from the street. He didn't like it. He didn't like what I did with it (laughs) probably still doesn't!"
The Who began performing Quadrophenia as a whole in 1973, but eventually cut many of the songs out of the live shows due to problems in syncing the various live tapes and synth loops to the band's performance. Using various guest stars and supplemental musicians, the Who reunited in 1996 and 1997 and performed Quadrophenia in full. A stage production of Quadrophenia is currently running in the UK.
During the Who's 2006-2007 tour, the band dropped most of the material from Quadrophenia from their set lists after Daltrey complained that singing the material from their then-new album Endless Wire along with songs from Quadrophenia was too taxing on his voice. For their 2008 dates, Daltrey was back on board, tackling both "5:15" and "Love Reign O'er Me."
The Who last performed on Quadrophenia on March 30th at London's Royal Albert Hall.