The Who – Quadrophenia
Something that they just can’t face
Some folks spend their whole lives trying to keep it
They carry it with them every step that they take”
Story (from Wikipedia)
- “I Am the Sea/The Real Me” – The opera opens with Jimmy Cooper’s introduction with his four personalities. The listener then gets a quick look at his visits to a psychiatrist, his mother and even the local vicar. Mental security is unfortunately not attained by the protagonist.
- “Quadrophenia/Cut My Hair” – Jimmy recalls an argument with his parents that culminated in his leaving home. We also hear a news broadcast mentioning riots in Brighton between the Mods and the Rockers, events at which he was present the previous week.
- “The Punk and the Godfather” – Jimmy goes to a rock concert (supposedly The Who themselves). He queues up, pays his money and then decides he is going to see the band backstage as they come out the stage door. Sadly, the group is rude to him. He realises that there is nothing really happening in rock and roll; it is just another thing in his life that has let him down.
- “I’m One” – Jimmy contemplates how he has not really got much going for him, but at least he has the Mod lifestyle.
- “The Dirty Jobs” – Suitably disenchanted with his former ‘religion’, he gets a job as a dustman. Unfortunately, his extremely left-wing views are not appreciated by his workmates and he is forced to pass on to greater things.
- “Helpless Dancer/Is It in My Head?” – The listener gets a real look at where Jimmy’s aggression comes from, as he switches into one of his multiple personalities (The Tough Guy). Jimmy has a conscience that bites fairly deep. His frustration with the world only makes him angrier than he already is. The listener sees that he also possesses self-doubt; he worries about his own part, and feels that his outlook is clouded by pessimism.
- “I’ve Had Enough” – Jimmy finally snaps when he sees the girl he likes with one of his friends. In a desperately self-destructive state, he smashes up his scooter and decides to go to Brighton where he had such a good time with his friends chasing Rockers the week before (as recited through the news broadcast earlier in the story).
- “5.15” – This song recites Jimmy’s train journey down to Brighton, sandwiched between two city gents and notable for the rather absurd number of amphetamines he consumes in order to pass the time. He goes through a not entirely pleasant series of ups and downs as he contemplates the gaudier side of life as a teenager.
- “Sea and Sand/Drowned” – Arriving at Brighton, Jimmy’s mood heightens. He talks about the rows at home and is a little sarcastic as he recalls the evening on the beach with his former girlfriend. The Mod scene is already falling apart and all he can do is stay in Brighton just to remember the days when the Mods came to Brighton; it was only three weeks ago, but he is already living in the past. It is here that Jimmy goes down to the sea and sees it as a mirror of a higher power in which he is going to submerse and lose himself in the ocean.
- “Bell Boy” – He meets a former Ace Face who now holds the position as a bell boy at the very hotel the Mods tore up. He looks on Jimmy with a mixture of pity and contempt. The two argue, as Jimmy feels the Ace Face has “sold out”. Jimmy is now feeling that everything, even the Mod lifestyle, has let him down.
- “Doctor Jimmy” – Jimmy begins to damage himself so badly on drugs and alcohol that he gets to the point where he is so desperate that he will take a closer look at himself. This part of the story shows the lunatic within him. The chorus line “Doctor Jimmy and Mr. Jim” is an ambiguous reference to “DoctorJekyll and Mr. Hyde”, which closely links to the multiple personality theme running through the story.
- “The Rock/Love, Reign O’er Me” – Jimmy steals a boat and takes it to a rock in the middle of the sea. Here, when he comes down off his high, he finds the boat has drifted away and that he is now stranded, alone and forgotten. As a storm rages around him, Jimmy has an epiphany. After all the different people he has been, he finally knows for sure who he is: “himself”.
Musical structure (from Wikipedia)
Townshend noted in 2009 that, rather than Jimmy’s personalities representing a Who member, he chose the personalities of each member to illustrate each of Jimmy’s four personalities, or “personality extremes” or mood swings.
The liner notes illustrate this concept as follows (names added):
- A tough guy, a helpless dancer. (“Helpless Dancer” – Roger Daltrey)
- A romantic, is it me for a moment? (“Is It Me?” – John Entwistle)
- A bloody lunatic, I’ll even carry your bags. (“Bell Boy” – Keith Moon)
- A beggar, a hypocrite, love reign o’er me. (“Love Reign O’er Me” – Pete Townshend)
In addition to describing a personality/band member, the four descriptions refer to four musical themes that portray Jimmy’s personalities in the opera: “Helpless Dancer”, “Is It Me?”, “Bell Boy”, and “Love Reign O’er Me”. The four themes (or “leitmotifs” as described by Townshend) are mixed together in both the title track (bridging “The Real Me” and “Cut My Hair”), and the penultimate track, “The Rock” (bridging “Doctor Jimmy” and “Love, Reign O’er Me”). The two pieces were the most musically complex pieces that Townshend ever wrote for The Who, combining all four themes into two six-minute instrumentalmedleys. The two pieces have neither a definite beginning or end, as they begin with a fade-in from the previous track, starting with the theme of “Bell Boy” (Moon’s theme). This is followed by the themes of “Is It Me?” (Entwistle’s theme), “Helpless Dancer” (Daltrey’s theme), and “Love, Reign O’er Me” (Townshend’s theme). “Quadrophenia” fades into rain sound effects after the “Love Reign O’er Me” theme. “The Rock” however ends with a combination of the four different themes, using the “Bell Boy” theme as the chord sequence, the “Helpless Dancer” theme as the melody, the “Is It Me?” theme as a lead (played on guitar and synthesiser), and the keyboard part to “Love Reign O’er Me” as a countermelody. The whole song abruptly ends on a downbeat layered with the sound of thunder and descends into “Love Reign O’er Me” proper.
The four themes also surface on many other songs throughout the album; the most subtle example being when the “Helpless Dancer” theme appears on “Bell Boy” (the main song) played on synthesiser as a brief interlude. Some themes from other songs also make “surprise” reappearances here and there. These leitmotifs help give the work an impression of a cohesive unity.