Every Song On The Who's 'Quadrophenia' Ranked From Worst to Best: Critic's Picks


On today (Oct. 26) in 1973, The Who launched their largest and greatest rock opera, Quadrophenia. Spanning 4 sides, the album tells the story of a disillusioned working-class Mod whereas probing the inside psychology of the band’s guitarist and songwriter, Pete Townshend.

The principal character, Jimmy, is emblematic of the youth tradition that spawned the band itself. He “rides a GS scooter along with his hair lower neat,” pops amphetamines and spoils for fights. But Townshend’s character begins to unravel. Finding no aid from drink, medicine or his shrink and unable to mix into his environment, Jimmy sails away and lies down on a rock by the seaside, contemplates loss of life and finds religious redemption.

Since no less than 1966’s A Quick One, Townshend, a self-described sufferer of abuse as a boy, has used the canvas of a rock album to discover his traumas and insecurities. But if their first rock opera, Tommy, was a unusual patchwork of songs that hid darker hues, Quadrophenia kicked open a door into Townshend’s thoughts.

Each member of the Who was equally vital to bringing his emotions to the sunshine. Singer Roger Daltrey, essentially the most genuine Mod of all of them again within the mid-’60s, hollered identity-crisis anthems like “The Real Me” and “The Punk and the Godfather” prefer it was the top of the world. Bassist John Entwistle put his orchestral skills to work; the triumphal horn elements on jams like “5:15” are his. And their outrageous drummer, Keith Moon, turned what may have turn out to be a pretentious high-art doc right into a sustained explosion.

In honor of its 45th birthday, right here is each music on the Who’s double-disc masterpiece, ranked from worst to greatest.

17. “Doctor Jimmy”

The least-convincing music on Quadrophenia seems close to the top. Simply put, all of its concepts had been established on higher songs, sequenced earlier in this system. “Doctor Jimmy,” itself a drained riff on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, principally appears to exist so Townshend may have Jimmy say ribald issues. “You say she’s a virgin? / Well, I’m gonna be the primary in” isn’t the one cringe-inducing couplet.

16. “The Rock”

This instrumental is supposed as a bridge from “Doctor Jimmy” to the majestic nearer “Love, Reign O’er Me.” It principally does the trick. “The Rock” is meant to evoke a younger man considering the top on a precipice overlooking the ocean; the stormy sequencers and crash cymbals anticipate Quadrophenia’s triumphant finish. Until Townshend’s impossibly goofy faux-medieval guitar lick takes over, pulling you proper out of the misty, existential vibe.

15. “Quadrophenia” Quadrophenia’s title monitor is available in early to ascertain the remainder of the album’s moods and motifs. No Who fan jumps instantly for this instrumental monitor versus the full-fledged tunes it foreshadows, however then once more, “Quadrophenia” is supposed to be heard in context. The present begins.

14. “I Am the Sea”

If the instrumentals and interstitial works on Quadrophenia appear unfairly shoved to the again of this listing, it speaks much less to their out-of-context price than to the enormity of the songs they join. The opening monitor, “I Am the Sea,” is an excellent portal into Quadrophenia’s universe, principally simply distant sound results and half-heard foreshadowing.

13. “Is It In My Head?”

Not a significant monitor, nevertheless it fleshes out the disenchanted Jimmy’s headspace. He surveys a world the place nations can starve, however nonetheless see “a person with out a drawback.” He weighs issues of the pinnacle versus these of the center; are the 2 mutually unique? “Is It In My Head” principally succeeds on its gleaming, Badfinger-sounding concord from Townshend and Daltrey.

12. “The Dirty Jobs”

At this level, we all know all about Jimmy’s alienation from the established order, however the place’s it come from, precisely? His POV is well-explained in “The Dirty Jobs,” through which Jimmy observes the neighborhood males who “take care of the pigs” and “drive an area bus” with the intention to butter their bread. (“Ain’t it humorous how all of us appear to look the identical?” they crow.) Like Marlon Brando slurring “Whaddya received?” when questioned about his motivation to insurgent in 1953’s The Wild One, Jimmy sees resisting grim, working-class conformity as an working precept: something however this.

11. “Bell Boy”

In Quadrophenia’s unique liner notes, Townshend detailed “Bell Boy” and the way it represented a crossroads for Jimmy. “He meets an outdated Ace Face,” he wrote, referring to the chief of the Mods, ”who's now a bellhop on the very resort the Mods tore up.” Then, because the story goes, Jimmy exiles himself, feeling let down by his rebellious outdated chief going smooth and servile. Regardless of the dramatic arc, “Bell Boy” (additionally known as “Keith’s Theme”) is filled with enjoyable moments, particularly co-singer Moon’s ridiculous Cockney impression when describing the Bell Boy’s menial life: “I goh-ah maintain runnin’ now! / Keep my lip buh-ened down!”

10. “Helpless Dancer”

The title of Quadrophenia doesn’t simply consult with, as Townshend described it, a “naïve understanding of schizophrenia.” The album’s division into quarters was additionally imagined to signify the personalities of the Who themselves. “Helpless Dancer,” additionally known as “Roger’s Theme,” is an acidic little vignette, with Townshend stabbing the piano and roaring in regards to the ills of society: “Bombs are dropped on combating cats / And youngsters's desires are run with rats!” That would appear to sum up Jimmy and Daltrey each; robust guys with sturdy consciences.

9. “Cut My Hair”

“Cut My Hair,” sung by Townshend to a jazzy backdrop, units the scene for Jimmy’s sad identification disaster: “Why do I’ve to maneuver with a crowd / Of children who barely discover I’m round?” The Zoot-suited youth heads to high school dressed to the nines, however nonetheless, an “unsure feeling” persists. His house life isn’t rather more fulfilling; his mom discovered a “field of blues” in his room, which means Dexedrine tablets, and there’s hell to pay. Something’s received to offer.

eight. “5:15” Musically, “5:15” is a stone-cold rocker powered by Entwistle’s horns. Lyrically, it finds Jimmy on a chemically assisted practice journey to Brighton. It appears to run on the identical working system as Velvet Underground’s “Heroin,” through which the flying-high narrator surveys the straight world and deems it contemptible. Except right here, Daltrey sneers at “the ushers sniffing / Eu-de-Cologning” and “fairly ladies digging prettier ladies.” The paranoid, questioning vibe of “5:15” was fantastically rendered within the movie model of Quadrophenia; because the music performs, Jimmy (performed by Phil Daniels) boards his commute wanting a tad worse for put on.

7. “I’ve Had Enough”

One of essentially the most attractive moments on Quadrophenia comes someplace in the course of “I’ve Had Enough.” It lets up the power for a smooth, glowing raga about mortality. Townshend and Daltrey sing in concord about being prepared to go away the cycle of life altogether: “I’ve had sufficient of childhood / I’ve had sufficient of graves.” Somehow, these outdated associates don’t sound grim and fatalistic singing their loss of life music collectively, however impossibly candy.

6. “Drowned”

In 1968, Townshend declared himself a disciple of Meher Baba, an Indian religious grasp who claimed to be a human avatar of God. Almost instantly, the songs of the Who adopted prayerful overtones, with Townshend imploring the next energy to sand away his tough edges and produce him peace of thoughts. The climactic “Drowned” is one in every of his greatest in that lane; it’s about reaching enlightenment in an oceanic netherworld, with a cool, bluesy backing to carry the entire thing again to Earth.

5. “Sea and Sand”

The reflective “Sea and Sand” begins in a solitary, beachside setting for Jimmy, the place “nothing goes as deliberate.” Then, the band makes use of this introspective scene as a launching pad, altering tempos and moods at a breakneck tempo with out ever shedding momentum. Meanwhile, issues are bleak for Jimmy — he’s been thrown out of the home by his soused dad and mom. He even calls again to a traditional Who axiom: “I’m moist and I’m chilly / But thank God I’m not outdated.” Every second of this dynamic, enveloping music works; it transports you to Jimmy’s new refuge among the many seagulls and crashing waves. The climax of Quadrophenia begins right here.

four. “The Real Me

A psychological rocker from the vantage level of a therapist’s sofa, “The Real Me” boils down a central theme of Quadrophenia: figuring out your true self in an detached, uncomprehending world. Daltrey is in blazing, confrontational type on the mic, taking Townshend’s inward-looking poetry (“The cracks between the paving stones / Look like rivers of flowing veins”) and lobbing it like a missile. In the context of Jimmy’s story, “The Real Me” indicts each main determine in his world: the preacher, the shrink, his mom and father all fail to grasp his true self. It boils over on the very finish: Daltrey lets unfastened his best scream this facet of “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” These are combating phrases.

three. “I’m One” Townshend’s most riveting songs had been at all times written from the attitude of savants and loners; it gave the band an existential air that almost all of their ‘70s hard-rock friends lacked. And “I’m One” could possibly be the template for all of it. It begins with moody, Travis-picked acoustic guitar and weeping synthesizers, with Townshend describing his glum self-image: he’s a loser, no probability to win. But take heed to how he pumps himself up when he sings that title, rolling that two-word phrase in his mouth till it turns into a struggle cry. That’s Townshend’s superpower as an artist: on the Who’s peak, he may attain into his deepest, most insecure locations and discover power and bravado. “I’m One” distills that magical means of self-actualization into ferocious rock.

2. “Love, Reign O’er Me” Nothing a listener’s beforehand heard on Quadrophenia can metal her or him for its resplendent nearer, “Love, Reign O’er Me.” It wraps up Jimmy’s religious journey with a query mark. Does Jimmy discover last-minute solace or a brand new lease on life via the ability of affection? Whichever the case, it’s their most overtly religious music with out turning into hectoring or tiresome: all dynamics, all environment, and Daltrey’s lead vocal is pure godhead. Townshend later mentioned that the Who would by no means make one other work on the caliber of Quadrophenia once more, and there’s some fact to that. If that is actually the final name for the Who at their explosive, brainy peak, then what a end.

1. “The Punk and the Godfather”

It’s no query that “Love, Reign O’er Me” is the pièce de résistance of Quadrophenia from a manufacturing, vibe and narrative standpoint. “The Punk and the Godfather” is simply the quintessential Who music of this system. It even breaks the fourth wall by happening at a Who present itself; in Marc Leaman’s unique liner notes, he describes Jimmy as going to see “the highest Mod band at a stay present — The Who, in fact,” earlier than he realizes the band is “nothing greater than a mirrored image of their viewers.” With all due respect to Sgt. Pepper, had every other rockers of the period damaged the fourth wall and questioned their very own function in music? It’s an argument between generations, between the Who and their viewers, of authenticity versus inauthenticity. And Townshend even swoops into the body to inform disillusioned Mods “I’ve lived your future out / By pounding phases like a clown.” Then, Daltrey screams, “Okay!” A large Moon fill overwhelms. The crowd goes wild. And Quadrophenia really lifts off.