Quadrophenia is a concept album that spans two records and which has 17 songs. It tells the story of a young mod named Jimmy who faces an existential dilemma, aggravated by the fact that he has four different and conflicting personalities, and each one of these reflects the personality of a member of The Who: a fighter, a romantic, a lunatic and a spiritual seeker. That is why there are four songs which are labeled as a member of The Who’s individual theme.
The story is not cohesive enough as it stands here – the movie was to be cohesive and to make sense, but that was to come much later on. In any case, Pete has come up with an emotional setting that is enough to make for any narrative deficiency. The Who are one of the best exponents of music that is internalized and felt, and Quadrophenia does not fail to deliver in that sense.
We get to see Jimmy as he his maturing, and that stands as an excellent analogy of the transition of music from the idealistic ’60s to the somehow starker ’70s. The Who were one of the longest-standing bands at that point, and they had not only the insight but also the right to articulate such issues. Continue reading →
I consider Quadrophenia the biggest cultural contribution The Who ever made. That is a bold statement if we take into account that they also sang “My Generation” and recorded the defining album “Who’s Next“, adding new melodic resources to the world of music as a whole.
When I say that Quadrophenia was (and is) a significant cultural contribution, I take into account the fact that nobody else had taken the time to look back at the mod days and present them in such a representative light. Mod was the one and only aspect of British life in the ’60s that was not absorbed by America. Everything else was. Without Quadrophenia, that knowledge would have been somehow lost. And what was all the more remarkable was that when the album was originally issued the Who’s cohorts were adopting a lyrical posture that was to end up in total disconnection, singing about the dark side of the moon and stairways to heaven. That is, music would begin to lose its immediate link with those that bought it, and that disconnection would end a couple of years down the line in the punk revolution that placed both sides on an equal level. Continue reading →