Set in 1964, London, Jimmy Cooper strives to become a "face". Focussing on Mod lifestyle, dropping "blues" (speed), and Scooters, the movie is set against the backdrop of the infamous riots of 60's Brighton.

With music performed extrodinarily by The Who, the movie has become almost a meme in modern music culture, one of the few quasi-rock operas to stay fresh even when viewed from the vantage point of today.

The movie focuses on alienation, the embrace of a subculture, and self-awareness.Quadrophenia's mods has always reminded me of the Geeks of today, though they dressed (way, way) better.

The album, released many years after Mod culture had been dead and buried, with its motifs borrowed/quoted from Debussy's La Mer and the theme of nostalgia for the band's younger selves confirmed that the Who had indeed given up the idea of dying before they got old.

The film, however, came out at the peak of Mod revivalism in 1979 - which was handy when it came to recruiting extras as well as audiences - and in the wake of more recent outbreaks of youth-culture tribal violence during ther punk era. It remains one of the all-time great movies for playing "spot the anachronism", with The Jam and Motorhead logos in evidence during the riot scenes, Brighton Marina (built mid-1970s) in the background and the director's desperate attempts to keep the Mark IV Cortinas in the background out of focus during the opening shots of Jimmy riding down the Seven Sisters Road. Phil Daniels plays Jimmy as an incoherent, gibbering mess who is not so much misunderstood as incomprehensible; the same character twenty years on and crossed with an Alexei Sayle monologue gets recycled on the voiceover for Blur's Parklife. The film is also a reminder that Sting was once considered cool, and punk princess/Teletubbies voice Toyah Wilcox gets a cameo role as well, as the girl that Jimmy should have been with all along instead of Leslie Ashe (later of Men Behaving Badly).

Some people above already noded something about this great album, but a list of the songs is still missing. Could be interesting for the people who are stealing their music off the internet. ;)

  1. I am the Sea
  2. The Real Me
  3. Quadrophenia
  4. Cut My Hair
  5. The Punk And The Godfather
  6. I'm One
  7. The Dirty Jobs
  8. Helpless Dancer
  9. Is It In My Head
  10. I've Had Enough
  11. 5:15
  12. Sea and Sand
  13. Drowned
  14. Bell Boy
  15. Dr. Jimmy
  16. The Rock
  17. Love Reign O'er Me

Quadrophenia (written in its entirety by musical god Pete Townshend) was The Who's next album release after Who's Next and was released on October 26 in 1973, reaching #2 in the UK album charts. According to, many british Who fans failed to find a copy because of an oil embargo. Whatever..

The Music

I find that this album sounds very different from Who's Next, which, being one of the first rock albums to use synthesizers, has an entirely other "character" than this release. While Who's Next had some rocking songs like Won't Get Fooled Again and Behind Blue Eyes, I think that Quadrophenia rocks a bit more, and that's what I like about it. Instead of tracks full of synthesizers, Pete wrote songs with heavy guitar parts and unbelievable bass lines (for example the amazing The Real Me).

I Am The Sea is an "instrumental" piece featuring themes that you will later on the album, so it's kinda like the Overture of Tommy, which (in my opinion) is superior though, because it ties the different themes together in one song, while I Am The Sea mainly consists of ocean sounds.

The Real Me, as mentioned, has a great guitar part and its bass line (by John "Thunderfingers" Entwistle) is one of The Who's best. Why Pete put the next song, Quadrophenia, which follows now as a kind of "late Overture", on the album as the third track is a mystery to me, but it fits perfectly. Cut My Hair and The Punk And The Godfather are two great rock songs, IMHO being two of the best songs on the whole album.

I'm One, a song that starts with acoustic guitar picking and a bit sad lyrics, is interesting, because it features parts of Sparks from Tommy, which Pete has reused very often. The Dirty Jobs is perhaps the weakest song on the album (that doesn't mean it's bad, but it's not as good as the rest), once again Keith's drumming is great and John's bass line is amazing, but I miss some guitar playing by Pete.

The 8th song, Helpless Dancer is piano-heavy, and is the first of the four band members' themes, namely Roger Daltrey's. It sounds a bit like a discussion between your loudspeakers and features a sample of The Who's The Kids Are Alright. Is It In My Head is a bit sadder again, but hearing Pete's riffs and typical Who-styled playing can't make you sad. ;)

I've Had Enough follows as a great rock song, including an interlude that is part of Love Reign O'er Me, the great ending of the album. 5:15 starts with some train sounds, piano, bass and Pete's singing. In newer live versions (for example on the Royal Albert Hall video by The Who) John Entwistle plays a rather long bass solo, showing his unbelievable skills on his instrument. 5:15 was also released as a single, did not chart in Britain and reached #45 in the U.S. Billboard charts.

Sea And Sand is IMHO one of the greatest songs on the album, starting with the sound of the ocean and an acoustic guitar. John plays the hell out of his bass under Pete's amazing guitar riffs. What I especially love, is the moment before "My jacket's gonna be cut slim and checked..." as the bass notes seem to drop down. Am I crazy?

In Drowned the band is great once again, Pete rocking hard and John playing wild bass (he's playing some kind of bass solo actually). It's a love song with desperate lyrics as "I Wanna Drown In Cold Water", though the music doesn't seem that sad. Pete is playing this song alone with an acoustic in some newer live sets.

Bell Boy is the next theme, Keith Moon's, who is also "singing" some lines in this track. On the 30 Years of Maximum R&B video, there's a great live performance of this song available. IIRC, Keith once sang his part in french, when The Who played in the french parts of Canada.

The next song is Dr. Jimmy (Jimmy being the main character of the story), a part of which is John Entwistle's theme, "Is It Me?". The track is rather long (8'42, nine seconds longer than Kashmir by Led Zeppelin, yey), but it's great the way it is. The song features lyrics like "You say she's a virgin?/Well, I'm gonna be the first in".

The Rock, the track right before the final, is an instrumental piece, a bit like Quadrophenia. It has some great guitar parts by Pete, and other sweet stuff.

The last song, Love Reign O'er Me, fits just as well into this album as any other song, and is the perfect ending for it. The track starts with rain samples (Riders On The Storm-like), and a piano playing an intro, later the whole band enters. Roger's vocals are the album's best in this song, he really gets into it. As PMD says in his amazing writeup about his song, this is the part where "the punk (Jimmy) reaches his final enlightenment".

Being Pete's second full-length rock opera, Quadrophenia has to get compared to Tommy, the first one. It seems to me that The Who matured a lot since Tommy, and that the songwriting is on a higher level sometimes. Musically, Tommy's studio version is not really as good as Quadrophenia. Live versions of Tommy are unbelievably amazing, but I can't say anything about Quadrophenia, because I've only heard a few songs live. Anyway, this could be The Who's best studio album, and it sure is one of the best rock albums ever, from one of the best rock bands ever.

The mod scene, and thus Quadrophenia, had another revival in the UK in the mid 90's, thanks to men's magazines such as FHM and Loaded pushing sharp suits and the whole new lad mentality.

Lots of people bought/rented the film, watched it, then went away thinking "Mods are cool" and started scouring boutiques for sharp suits and charity shops for Crombies.

In reality, this is not the message the film tries to give at all. Jimmy says he became a mod to "Be someone different", but as the film goes on he realises, with the aid of drink, blues and psychosis, that the mods are all the bloody same. They don't have minds of their own, they follow the hive mind of peer pressure, which Jimmy is sucked into to the point of helping beat up a childhood friend just because he's a rocker.

Eventually, Jimmy goes crazy, achieves a bizzare form of individuality, then symbolically chooses life over being a mod. The final scene is, like the one in Thelma & Louise, much loved and much parodied. The central theme is still valid today - how many Goths or Punkers got into the scene because they wanted to be someone different?

It's a good film, but it's a shame that most people leave it thinking that suits are cool, and rockers should be beaten up.
Quadrophenia was an album released by The Who in 1973. It was the 2nd rock opera from the man who practically invented them himself-Pete Townshend. It was supposed to be his third, but with the fail of Lifehouse, Townshend had a nervous breakdown, and instead of making a film-script, made this concept album. It was complete with sound effects and a picture booklet to supply images-because he thought this, too, would never be made.

The idea of "Quadrophenia" itself was first conceived back when Tommy was being recorded- Pete planned to have aspects of Tommy's personality represented by the Who-which is what happens with Jimmy in Quadrophenia. Originally, Quadrophenia had about 50 songs-it could have been a quadruple album-again leaving impressions of fours-four members of the Who (representing Jimmy's personality), The quadraphonic sound, etc.

Quadrophenia was originally released in the U.K. as Track 2657 013 on October 26, 1973. But, due to a vinyl shortage due to the OPEC oil embargo, production was stopped, and only a few copies made it to stores. Most Brits had to wait until after the Who's U.K. tour to get a copy. In the U.S., Quadrophenia was MCA2 10004 released on November 3, 1973.


So, Jimmy is a regular guy in the dwindling days of the mod scene. The story of Quadrophenia is a flashback, told by Jimmy on The Rock...

"So that's why I'm here, the bleeding boat drifted off
and I'm stuck in the pissing rain with my life flashing
before me. Only it isn't flashing, it's crawling. Slowly.
Now it's just the bare bones of what I am.

a tough guy, a helpless dancer,
a romantic, is it me for a moment?
a bloody lunatic, I'll even carry your bags,
a beggar, a hypocrite, love reign o'er me.

Schizophrenic? I'm bleeding Quadrophenic."

So Jimmy thinks he's crazy. He knows it. The doctor says he has Schizophrenia (note: this is a technicality on Townshend's part, because Multiple Personality Disorder is simply a characteristic of some, but not most, schizophrenics, but anyway...)-but Jimmy feels he's got four parts to him.


There are four different personalities Jimmy has,
introduced in the very beginning of the album...
the helpless dancer
is it me?
the bell boy
love, reign o'er me

The four themes are each assigned to a member of the band as well...

Helpless Dancer (Roger's Theme)-this is Jimmy's side of him that's dependent and sappy. It's demonstrated in songs like "Helpless Dancer", "Is it in my head?", "Sea and Sand", and sort of flows into "The Punk and The Godfather" as well, which brings us to...

Is it me? (John's theme). Jimmy constantly struggles with his identity, it's the whole premise for this album. It's first brought to light during track 2, "The Real Me". He feels, like most teenagers, that no one knows or understands him, and he sure as hell doesn't himself. He seeks mental stability in a holy man, his parents, his friends, and in the original concept-rock and roll. There was a verse, which can be found in the demo, that goes:
"Rock and Roll's going do me in;
do me an evil wrong.
Funny how your best friends turn out;
it was good for oh so long.
I stop myself getting letters
and then the people try to turn me back.
Publisher wants my memoirs and the limousines are black.
Can you see the real me, rock and roll?"

The next three songs sort of go with the flow on that theme. "Cut My Hair" is the most straightforward, talking about fashion, hair, and drugs. Jimmy is dealing with the fact that his parents won't let him do "cool" stuff like the other kids. And after a fight and his mother finding blues (speed) in his room, he gets kicked out. Although he's happier like this, he starts to get an "uncertain feeling" in his head. "It's all a game, and inside I'm just the same," he says.

The album picks up toward the end of the mod culture's prime, which means that this was probaby Jimmy's first inkling that something was very wrong with all of it. And his frustration continues still, trying to fit in:

"Why do I have to be different to them,
just to earn the respect of a dancehall friend?
We have the same old row again and again.
Why do I have to move with a crowd
of kids that hardly notice I'm around?

I work myself to death just to fit in."

"The Punk and The Godfather" is-interesting. The literal meaning of it is that Jimmy goes to a concert, and feels like he's been blown off and let down by rock and roll. But, if you want to look deeper, it's about conformity, and The Who themselves. The "punk"-representing culture-is telling the "godfather" how to live, what to do, and that they are living off of each other. "breathe the air we have blown you", "only earn what we gave you", and that Townshend wields an "axe of dying nation".

The Who-at least Pete, their driving force-were never mods. But the mods liked them. He was being made by the culture-sort of a role reversal. It seems like this to me, because of the last part sung by the "godfather":

"I have to be careful not to preach
I can't pretend that I can teach,
And yet I've lived your future out
By pounding stages like a clown.
And on the dance floor broken glass,
The bloody faces slowly pass,
The broken seats in empty rows,
It all belongs to me you know."

That line sums up the whole concept. Townshend himself becomes part of the opera, and the fact that he's not mod just furthers Jimmy's perception that the whole thing is bloody fake. How can a non-mod lead mods?
Townshend is the "phoney leader". He owns the mod culture-and the mod culture owns him.

"I'm One" is Jimmy being the "helpless dancer" again, but it's definitley about identity. He knows he may not be "the face", but he knows he's him. He's starting to grasp reality...

The next few songs skip around a bit...

"The Dirty Jobs"- this is just again about how Jimmy's a "loser". Yet now he realises that it's his fault-his karma being screwed- for lying to himself.

"Is it in my head?"- another "Is it me?" song. Jimmy is realising again that his problems are his fault. As long as he envisions lies, he's going to live lies. He needs to see "a man without a problem."

"I've Had Enough" is the beginning of the end for Jimmy. He's had enough of the fakeness, of the bull. This is the epitome of his frustration.

5:15 is the first song of the "bell boy" theme. It's the side of Jimmy that's gregarious and crazy. He snaps when he sees the girl he likes with one of his friends.

But, in the next song, "Sea and Sand", Jimmy realises, again, that he's a screw-up. He seeks solace on the beach, and "Drowned" is his reflection on it all. "Drowned" could stand alone on itself, it's really a song about God.
"When the tragic hero of Q(uadrophenia) sings it, it is desperate and nihilistic. In fact, it's a love song, God's love being the ocean and our 'selves' being the drops of water that make it up....I want to drown in that ocean, the 'drop' will then be an ocean itself."

Then, he's back to the Bell Boy. This, appropriatley enough, is Keith's theme. This song is also sort of about the Who themselves. In the beginning, Jimmy talks about knowing them back in "the crazy days." Oh, and Keith sings, too. It's sort of scary.
But, right in the middle of the song, Jimmy goes back to the helpless dancer-remembering his night on the beach. Yet, in the next song, Doctor Jimmy, he's ambitious again, and going just about mad (This song is definitley the Bell Boy, Pete even wrote it about Keith). He takes more speed and tries to head home, but then decides to go to The Rock (he is pilled, after all).

So here it is. Jimmy's on the rock, sick, tired, and cold. Here, his epiphany comes. He realises that the whole lot of it- the clothes, the hair, the scooters, the dancehalls, the pills- the whole bloody scene-is fake, and that everyone else is the same. So how is he supposed to find himself?

All You Need Is Love

This is where "Love, Reign O'er Me" (Pete's theme) comes from. This is the realisation-the enlightenment the epiphany-that love is the only thing that matters-that only love should control you.

Only love can make it rain
the way the beach is kissed by the sea.
Only love can make it rain,
like the sweat of lovers,
laying in the fields-
Love, Reign O'er Me."

Love is the only thing that's real.

By its musical structure alone, Quadrophenia opened my eyes and my intellect to the endless possibilities offered by the metaphor; add to that its compelling and challenging narrative structure, and you've got something that, to my mind, qualifies as a masterpiece.

Quadrophenia centers on a young kid in 1960s England named Jimmy. Jimmy comes from a hard-luck, working class family. He wants to be popular among his friends. He also wants to be a good son, a good worker, and a great lover. In the midst of trying to be all things to everyone, he realizes that he presents four very distinctive personalities to the world over the course of his days: the tough guy, the romantic, the crazy fun friend, and the troubled son. All of these separate personalities are represented by a distinct musical theme, and each personality encompasses only one aspect of the real Jimmy; none of them represent who he is in his heart. On top of all this, he's saddled with having a deeper insight into the human spirit than most people think a person of his station is capable. He admits that even he doesn't know who he really is. Being a confused angry young man with rampaging hormones, it doesn't take long before certain aspects of his other personalities start bleeding over into the parts of his life where they don't belong.

There's much, much more to Quadrophenia's story, but that's the spine of it.

This sounds like a ham-fisted cliché, but hearing this album for the first time changed my life. On side 4 of the album there's an instrumental piece called "The Rock" which remains for me one of the most amazing and moving pieces of music–and that's music, period, not just rock music–that I've ever heard.

In Tommy, the central character's epiphany is conveyed through words and music; but in Quadrophenia, it is conveyed solely through music. "The Rock" starts off by repeating each of the four themes separately, then, one by one, begins overlapping them until the four themes blend seamlessly into one, creating a fifth, unique, defining theme as Jimmy finally realizes who he really is.

That was a revelation–ahem…uh, er…discovery–for the 12-year-old me. Pete Townshend and The Who had pulled an incredible musical sleight-of-hand, created a musical Rubik's Cube that I hadn't even realized existed until the puzzle was completed.

I knew then that I wanted to someday create a piece or body of work that did what Pete Townshend had done with Quadrophenia's music; present you with a group of seemingly disparate pieces/themes that in the end converged into a unified whole that was not only rewarding in and of itself (as "The Rock" most definitely is), but also enriched the sum of its parts.

"The Rock" is a perfect metaphor for what we as human beings strive toward during every moment between that first slap on the ass and the last handful of soil tossed on the lid of the coffin; call it the psychological equivalent of string theory or whatever you will: we strive to bring the various Selves together to form the whole that is uniquely 'me' or 'you', all the while treasuring the journey that has led to this time, this breath, this moment.

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