Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Who Quadrophenia 1973

Usually when I write about a record from 1973, I bought it in 1973. So this is a little different, and it feels weird. I heard this record once in 1973, and frankly, coming on the heels of Who's Next, I was unimpressed. I've been familiar with the classic rock radio cuts, Real Me, 5:15, and Love, Reign O'er Me, and I always liked them.

So recently, an expanded deluxe remastered 4-CD Quadrophenia was released, and there's been plenty of press for the record. I was talking to my friend Bob, and he starts raving about the record, saying it's the Who's best album. I respect Bob's opinion, and although our tastes are pretty different, there are some areas where our musical interests overlap (Zappa, XTC, Elvis Costello, The Proclaimers).

But don't think for a minute I was going to buy some new-fangled 4-CD extravaganza with a boatload of useless extra tracks that should have never seen the light of day. No, I went to and picked up a used vinyl copy for a very reasonable price. It got here a few days ago.

It turns out I was wrong in 1973, and Quadrophenia is darn good. The aforementioned radio-friendly tracks are still solid, but many of the album tracks are equally excellent. The title track, Cut My Hair, The Punk Meets The Godfather, I'm One, Is It In My Head, I've Had Enough, Sea And Sand, Drowned, and Doctor Jimmy are all killer, and any of them could have coexisted nicely on Who's Next. There's a few weaker cuts, but not many, and only Bell Boy, with Moon's exaggerated Cockney vocal, is unnecessary.

Speaking of Moon, like all great Who records, and perhaps as much as any of them, Kieth Moon sounds like the best rock and roll drummer ever on this record. With all of Townsend's self-aggrandizing, sometimes you forget how important Moon was to this band.

I'm not so sure I'm ready to give up my opinion of Who's Next as their finest hour, especially since I've always felt that it was, track by track, near perfect. But Quadrophenia certainly surpasses Tommy, if not in story, definitely in song quality. And the recording sounds more like Who's Next, with the power and dynamics that Tommy lacked.

The record can probably never be for me what it may have been if I'd bought it in '73. There's something about those records you loved and listened to in your teens and twenties that feels burned into your musical DNA. But there's no denying that The Who's best work includes 1969's Tommy, 1970's Live At Leeds, 1971's Who's Next, and 1973's Quadrophenia. You might want to hear the earlier stuff, but anything after 1973 should be approached with reduced expectations.

Thanks for the head's up, Bob.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post, JW.

    I certainly can't take credit for your re-discovery of this album, but for me, it remains one of the best thematic rock records of all time. Now, go find a copy of the occasionally spotty but true to era, 1979, Franc Rodham film of Quadrophenia.

    It really pulls the room together...