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Music / Quadrophenia

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Schizophrenic? I'm bleeding Quadrophenic.
"Can you see the real me,
Can ya? Can ya?"
—"I Am the Sea"

Quadrophenia is the sixth studio album by The Who, released in 1973. The group's second Rock Opera, Quadrophenia concerns itself with the story of Jimmy, a young Mod living in 1960s England who undergoes something of a spiritual revelation, thanks to The Power of Rock. Or more specifically, loud, progressive-influenced Who songs. The story, such as it is, is really an analysis of the trials and tribulations the British youth of the early 1960s had to endure: girlfriends, fighting to be popular and to fit in, being out of work, drugs, etc.

The plot follows Jimmy's quest for identity as he struggles with life. The opera opens as he sits marooned on a rock in the middle of the English Channel, contemplating what led him there. A large part of the plot is Jimmy looking at the past few days of his life, in particular the Rocker-Mod conflicts that he was a part of, and attempting to reconcile his four different identities-the quadrophenia of the title.

The album was adapted into a 1979 cult film starring Phil Daniels, Leslie Ash, and Sting, featuring the music from the album (touched up with horns and synthesizers), along with a number of Motown tunes.


Side One
  1. "I Am the Sea" (2:09)
  2. "The Real Me" (3:21)
  3. "Quadrophenia" (6:14)
  4. "Cut My Hair" (3:45)
  5. "The Punk and the Godfather" (5:11)

Side Two

  1. "I'm One" (2:38)
  2. "The Dirty Jobs" (4:30)
  3. "Helpless Dancer (Roger's Theme)" (2:34)
  4. "Is It in My Head?" (3:44)
  5. "I've Had Enough" (6:15)

Side Three

  1. "5:15" (5:01)
  2. "Sea and Sand" (5:02)
  3. "Drowned" (5:28)
  4. "Bell Boy (Keith's Theme)" (4:56)

Side Four

  1. "Doctor Jimmy" (8:37)
    • "Is It Me? (John's Theme)"
  2. "The Rock" (6:38)
  3. "Love, Reign O'er Me (Pete's Theme)" (5:49)

Principal Members:

  • Roger Daltrey - lead vocals, percussion
  • John Entwistle - bass, backing and co-lead vocals, horns
  • Keith Moon - drums, percussion, co-lead vocals
  • Pete Townshend - guitar, backing and lead vocals, synthesizer, piano, violin, banjo, percussion, sound effects

Tropeless Dancer:

  • Adults Are Useless: Though as this is about youth, it may be more that Jimmy can't accept help.note 
  • Album Intro Track: "I Am the Sea".
  • Alliterative Title: "Bell Boy", "Sea and Sand". "5:15" is downplayed, being not spelled out.
  • All There in the Manual: While Quadrophenia may be more straightforward than Tommy, it has much less dialogue and narration. Most people will have read the synopsis included in the liner notes, or seen the movie, before they even begin to figure out the plot.
    • This would present a problem with performing the record live. During the original 1973-74 tour promoting the album, Roger Daltrey would often take time between songs to describe what was going on in the story. For the early dates on the 1996-97 tour, they had Phil Daniels (the actor who played Jimmy in the film) as a live narrator onstage. For the rest of the tour, the narration segments were pre-filmed, with Alex Langdon as Jimmy.
  • Anti-Hero: Jimmy is actually quite an unpleasant person, being somewhat racist and homophobic (though this may be a case of Deliberate Values Dissonance, particularly as the album's storyline is set in the early-to-mid-1960snote ), and at one point he makes comments about desiring to rape a girl. However, the fact that he is likely saying these things because of his depression and drug addiction keep him from being irredeemable for most fans.
  • Arc Words: Being a rock opera, it carries a few recurring themes and motifs, each one supposedly referring to a member of the band.
    • Roger's theme: "Helpless Dancer"
    • Pete's theme: "Love Reign o'er Me"
    • John's theme: "Is It Me, for a Moment?"
    • Keith's theme: "Bell Boy"
    • "Why should I care?" also appears often.
    • A small bit repeats in both "5:15" and "Drowned".
    • This stanza, sung whenever Jimmy tries to reaffirm his Mod identity:
      My jacket's gonna be cut slim and checked
      Maybe a touch of seersucker with an open neck
      I ride a GS scooter with my hair cut neat
      I wear my wartime coat in the wind and sleet.
      • Gets expanded in "Sea and Sand", during one of the most conflicting moments of the album.
  • Be Yourself: This is what Jimmy's epiphany at the end amounts to. One of the more mature uses of this trope (interesting, considering its about the trials of youth, and the trope is mostly "for kids").
  • Broken Pedestal: Jimmy finds a mod he used to look up to ("Ace Face") working as a bell boy in a hotel he'd previously smashed the windows at.
  • Bury Your Gays: Invoked in "Helpless Dancer":
    If you complain you disappear
    Just like the lesbians and queers
  • Call-and-Response Song: The first three lines of "5:15"'s chorus:
    "(inside, outside) Leave me alone
    (inside, outside) Nowhere is home
    (inside, outside) Where have I been?
    Out of my brain on the five-fifteen!"
  • Careful with That Axe: At the very end of "I've Had Enough"
  • Concept Album: See the introduction above.
  • Continuity Nod: Several earlier Who/High Numbers songs are referenced lyrically:
    • "Zoot Suit", "Out in the Street", "I Can't Explain" ("Cut My Hair")
    • "My Generation" ("The Punk and the Godfather", "5:15")
    • "I'm the Face" ("Sea and Sand")
  • Crapsack World: Helpless Dancer paints the setting into this, at least to Jimmy.
  • Creator Cameo: Jimmy visits a Who show partway into the plot, as portrayed in "The Punk and the Godfather", which consists of him telling Pete Townshend off, and Townshend replying in kind. Very self-deprecating.
  • Dark Reprise: "The Rock" recaps all four of the four themes before going into "Love, Reign O'er Me".
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The front and back cover photos, along with the photo book that came with the album, are all in black and white.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Jimmy's stash gets him kicked out by his parents, and he spends most of the plot drunk, tripping, or spun. They are also one cause of his severe mood swings. Not explicit, but it's not hard to make a case for either.
    ...leaping along" (slang for amphetamine/speed is "leapers")
    But my mother found a box of blues
    And there doesn't seem much hope they'll let me stay
    Out of my brain on the 5:15/ Out of my brain on the train
    (...) Uppers and downers/ Either way blood flows
    (...) What is it? I'll take it.../Maybe something stronger could really hold me down
    (...) When i'm pilled I don't notice him, he only comes out when I drink my gin
  • Eleven O'Clock Number: "The Rock" is possibly the most energetic of the songs on the album, making way for the finale, "Love, Reign o'er Me".
  • Epic Rocking: "Quadrophenia" is 6:14 long, "I've Had Enough" 6:15, not to mention "Doctor Jimmy" (8:37), "The Rock" (6:38) and "Love, Reign o'er Me" (5:49). In live performances, "5:15" could last 10 minutes or longer, courtesy of John Entwistle's bass solo.
  • Fading into the Next Song: A lot of the album is gapless, which is par for the course with Rock Operas. There are, of course, gaps for LP side divisions.
  • Foreshadowing: "Helpless Dancer," "Bell Boy," "Is It Me?" and "Love, Reign O'er Me" are foreshadowed in the title track and "I Am the Sea".
  • Former Teen Rebel: "Bell Boy", where Jimmy finally realizes how stupid his former rebellious phase actually was.
  • How We Got Here: The bulk of the story takes place on a rocky outcropping in the middle of the English Channel, with Jimmy flashbacking to how he ended up there, taking stock of his life in the process.
  • "I Am" Song: "The Real Me" and "I'm One"
  • Instrumentals: The Title Track and its reprise, "The Rock". If you ignore the foreshadowing lyrics, "I Am the Sea" can count as one, at least until the end (though that can actually be considered as part of "The Real Me": it's very hard to draw the line).
  • In Vino Veritas/Jekyll & Hyde: "Dr. Jimmy" is all over these tropes. The song makes reference to reckless gambling and raping women, but it isn't clear if he actually does this or is just rambling or hallucinating.
    • "Doctor Jimmy and Mister Jim/When I'm pilled you don't notice him/He only comes out when I drink my gin"
  • It Runs in the Family: When Jimmy asks his mom about his problems in "The Real Me" this is the only thing she tells him.
  • Journey to Find Oneself: Interesting is that Jimmy does this mostly in his head; he sits in the middle of nowhere and takes stock of the past parts of his life.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "I've Had Enough", the last song on the first disc. Out of nowhere comes a loud, distraught "LOOOOOOOOOOVE", which fades into cacophonous dockside noise.
    • "Love, Reign o'er Me" has two: the first is Roger Daltrey's explosive "LOOOOOOOOVE!!!" followed by Keith Moon's drum solo finally climaxing in a booming horn sting, accompanied by the sound of shattering glass.
  • Lead Bassist: John Entwistle's performance on "The Real Me" has been described as "a bass solo with words". In addition, from 1996 until his death in 2002, he would take a lengthy bass solo (accompanied only by drummer Zak Starkey) during live performances of "5:15".
  • Lighter and Softer: Okay, so the identity crisis, emotional turmoil, and social trials aren't exactly "light" per se, but compared to Tommy this album has no torture or rape and an overall happy ending.
  • The Mirror Shows Your True Self: The album cover has each of the mirrors on Jimmy's scooter showing a different face (one of each member of The Who, each representing one of his personalities).
  • Mushroom Samba:
    • "5:15" depicts Jimmy taking the train to Brighton while on an acid trip. Intoxication Ensues is also implied in the movie version.
    • His mood swing personalities are also fueled by drugs (well, sometimes).
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: "Helpless Dancer" has a little bit of this.
  • Non-Indicative Title: While "5:15" lists the time the ideas leave Jimmy's head, the song itself doesn't last that, being 12 seconds short.
  • One-Man Song: "Bell Boy", "Doctor Jimmy".
  • Precision F-Strike: The only f-bomb on the album is used highly effectively in "Doctor Jimmy":
    You say she's a virgin, but I'm gonna be the first in.
    Her fella's gonna kill me? Oh, fucking will he?
    • From the 1997 live version of "5:15"
    Where the fuck have I been, out of my brain on the 5:15
    • There's another one on a 2013 live version of "The Punk and the Godfather"
    We're the slaves of the phony fucking leaders
  • Product Placement: One for Gibson and GS.
  • Progressive Era Montage: Since the 2012/13 Quadrophenia And More tour, "The Rock" features one on the video screens, showing a montage of events that have taken place from the era of the story up to the present including The Vietnam War, Richard Nixon's resignation, the deaths of Elvis Presley, Keith Moon and John Lennon, Margaret Thatcher becoming Prime Minister of England, Prince Charles & Princess Diana's wedding, the Berlin Wall coming down, Desert Storm, Waco, Princess Diana's death, Columbine, the new millennium, 9/11, John Entwistle's death, Hurricane Katrina and the Occupy Wall Street movement.
  • Progressive Rock: Rather unusually for The Who, though this was an album released just over half a year after The Dark Side of the Moon.
  • Questioning Title?: "Is It in My Head?"
  • Recurring Riff: The four "themes" of Jimmy's personalities echo throughout the album.
  • Redemption in the Rain: Jimmy gets this while standing in the rain.
  • Rock Opera: Naturally. However, it does have less dialogue than Tommy did.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: Every other track. Subverted at the end.
  • Self-Deprecation: In "The Punk Meets The Godfather" Jimmy goes to a Who concert and mocks the band for cannibalizing his lifestyle for their music, including a mocking version of the chorus of "My Generation."
  • Siamese Twin Songs: "I Am the Sea"/"The Real Me".
  • Special Guest: In 1996, the band performed the record in Hyde Park with a number of special guests:
    • David Gilmour as The Bus Driver ("The Dirty Jobs") and would also play guitar on several other songs.
    • Trevor McDonald as The Newsreader (at the end of "Cut My Hair")
    • Gary Glitter as The Godfather ("The Punk Meets The Godfather", "I've Had Enough")
    • Adrian Edmondson as Ace Face ("I've Had Enough", "Sea And Sand", "Bell Boy")
    • Stephen Fry as the Hotel Manager ("Bell Boy")
    • Phil Daniels as The Narrator
      • For the 1996/97 tour, guest singers handled the roles of the Godfather (Gary Glitter, PJ Proby) and Ace Face (Billy Idol, Ben Waters).
      • For the 2012/13 tour, they used archival footage to allow appearances from the late Keith Moon ("Bell Boy") and John Entwistle ("5:15").
  • Split Personality: The titular quadrophenia is a play on the older (incorrect) use of the term schizophrenia and "quad" for four. This isn't a strict case though, as the separate "personalities" of Jimmy are implied to be closer to mood swings than anything. Also possibly a play on "quadraphonic", a new style of recording that was popular at the time.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Keith Moon sings co-lead vocals on "Bell Boy", one of very few Who songs where he sings lead.
    • Pete Townshend sings lead on "I'm One" and co-lead on several other songs. Although Roger Daltrey sang it on the album, Pete would usually handle lead vocals on "Drowned" in concert, often performing it solo, just himself and an acoustic guitar.
    • On the 1996/97 and 2012/13 live performances of the album, second guitarist Simon Townshend (Pete's younger brother) would sing the first half of "The Dirty Jobs".
    • Averted with John Entwistle; this was the first Who album since their first on which he had no lead vocal (as well as the first on which he contributed to none of the songwriting). The cut song "We Close Tonight" featured him and Keith Moon singing lead vocals, but it was removed for being seen as too lighthearted for the album.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted - Jimmy visits one in "The Real Me." This isn't the first time, either. It doesn't help, and so he visits a vicar and his mom too. But then...
  • Title Track: Though its an Instrumental.
  • Train Song: "5.15". The slow beginning of the song symbolizes the train at the station before departure, then picks up tempo with the train in motion, then slows down again near the end to symbolize it arriving at its destination.