The Who

CD CHOICE: Quadrophenia – Director’s Cut Polydor *****

CD CHOICE:Quadrophenia – Director's Cut Polydor *****

After the huge success of Tommy,Pete Townshend was a bit under pressure. Nothing less than an even bigger and bolder concept album would satisfy the fans, he reckoned, and so he began work on a project called Lifehouse,which quickly fell apart in a tangle of unfocused ideas.

But Townshend wasn’t giving up. He had another idea, in which each of the four Who members would “curate” one side of a double album.

Searching for a Tommy-like central character, Townshend came up with Jimmy, a troubled teenage mod on a Vespa ride to self-destruction, circa 1964. Instead of an album side, each Who would have their own “theme”, representing the four facets of Jimmy’s disturbed personality. The album would follow Jimmy’s decline over three days as he dropped pills, crashed his scooter, necked gin, joined in the Mods vs Rockers running battles in Brighton, lost faith in his heroes, and, finally, considered ending it all. So, a laugh a minute, then.


Quadropheniawas released in October 1973. The songs were harder-edged, more focused, with few light moments to break up the relentless drive towards death or glory. And it played well with rock fans hungry for sophisticated records of the order of Dark Side of the Moonand Houses of the Holy.

Townshend himself oversaw this 2011 remaster, so he obviously has some hearing left. What strikes you first is the band's punchy and confident musicianship as they rip through The Real Me, The Punk The Godfather, 5:15 and Doctor Jimmy.Keith Moon's drumming is a whirlwind of manic energy, while John Entwhistle's bass playing keeps the whole thing tightly wound.

Townsend has some of his best riffs here, and the remaster brings out the power of Roger Daltrey's voice, which was somewhat dampened in the original mix. And where many concept albums end up lost after side two, Quadropheniajust builds in intensity right up to its redemptive finale, Love Reign O'er Me.

This deluxe package also includes a book with the original photo essay by Ethan Russell and lots of pontificating by Townshend, two CDs of demos, a selection from the album in 5.1 surround sound, and a vinyl copy of 5:15, Quadrophenia'sonly single released in the UK.

Download tracks : I'm One, Doctor Jimmy, Lover Reign O'er Me

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist