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For other uses, see Quadrophenia (disambiguation).
Studio album by The Who
Released 19 October 1973 (UK)
1 November 1973 (US)
Recorded May 1972 and June–August 1973
Studio Olympic Studios, London, Ramport Studios in Battersea, London with Ronnie Lane's Mobile Studio
Length 81:36
Label Track, MCA
Producer The Who, Kit Lambert
Co-producer: Glyn Johns (on "Is It in My Head?" and "Love Reign o'er Me")
The Who chronology
Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy
Odds & Sods
Singles from Quadrophenia
  1. "5.15"
    Released: September 1973
  2. "Love, Reign o'er Me"
    Released: 23 October 1973
  3. "The Real Me"
    Released: 12 January 1974

Quadrophenia is the sixth studio album by English rock band The Who. Released on 19 October 1973 by Track and Polydor in the United Kingdom, and Track and MCA in the United States, it is a double album, and the group's second rock opera. Its story involves social, musical and psychological happenings from an English teenage perspective, set in London and Brighton in 1965.

The name is a variation on the popular usage of the medical diagnostic term schizophrenia as dissociative identity disorder, to reflect the four distinct personalities of Jimmy, the opera's protagonist – each said to represent the personality of one member of The Who. At the same time, the title is a play on the term quadraphonic sound, then a recent invention. Composer Pete Townshend has said: "The whole conception of Quadrophenia was geared to quadraphonic, but in a creative sort of way. I mean I wanted themes to sort of emerge from corners. So you start to get the sense of the fourness being literally speaker for speaker." [1][unreliable source?]


James Michael Cooper, or Jimmy for short, is first shown on a rock in the middle of the sea while a thunderstorm is taking place. He reflects his very dark past up to that point while the waves are crashing against him and the rock, in the end screaming out "Can you see the real me? Can ya? CAN YA?" ("I Am the Sea"). And so, Jimmy's past begins to show as he attempts to be understood, recalling his meeting with a psychiatrist, his mother and the preacher (all with no help whatsoever) while he also notes the ones in his neighborhood are just strangers and they cannot understand him ("The Real Me"). It is then revealed that Jimmy has a mental disorder nicknamed "Quadrophenia" as he has four different identities that are not him ("Quadrophenia", see "Musical Structure" section for more details). As a direction he feels is right to take, Jimmy decides to become one of the Mods that are around at the time and follow their music and fashion. Despite this, Jimmy is also rejected by his companions in the movement, but he deals with it (since it is all he's got) as he tries to become the perfect Mod ("Cut My Hair"). In search of a desperate relief, Jimmy heads to see a top Mod band in concert (in this case, The Who), however, it is only a matter of time before he realizes they are a reflection of their audience, and the band agrees to that, so this is yet another letdown. He wants, even needs, someone to look up to who faced his problems and dealt with them successfully. He finds out he was kicked out of the house he returned to by his mother who apparently found drugs (more specifically leapers) in his room ("The Punk and the Godfather").

Now really alone, Jimmy somehow still has the courage and the Modism ideas that these other people "weren't up to his standards;" he admits he has problems while also admitting he has the strength to overcome them ("I'm One"). He eventually gets a job as a dustman, but maintains his rejection over doing it and he quits after two days ("The Dirty Jobs"). Once again depressed, Jimmy starts to rage against life, and not finding any fairness in life that he is looking for. He ultimately decides that giving up is the best solution ("Helpless Dancer"). Jimmy then starts to think the problem lies with himself, and with no interaction with anyone around him as evidence, it "must have been his fault" ("Is It in My Head?"). Searching for a solution which seems unreachable, Jimmy rides his GS scooter, still declaring his Modism, striving to be a perfect Mod, but then sees the one girl he formerly loved with (who broke up with him in "The Real Me") with his former best friend named Dave; this is the last straw for Jimmy, who becomes upset and angry enough to crash his own bike. He even finds the Mods to be corrupt ("I've Had Enough").

At this point, Jimmy feels he lost everything and everyone he loved, being that this is the low point of his life, but despite that depression and frustration he still holds on to the idea of Modism as his savior, as the Mods are the only group he has and tries to find a group of true believers that are not corrupted. Thus, he takes his leapers with him and gets a train to Brighton, remembering everything as being a perfect Mod over there. The leapers make him go into a dreamy mental state as the whole journey is a trip primarily on observation, images put in through a haze. ("5:15"). As he arrived, Jimmy notices that the seaside has been less than perfectly Mod, as there are no Mods around the area, so he heads for the beach where he recalls the days where things were the way it should be while moaning about his current situation and thinking of evil on girls and more specifically his former girlfriend ("Sea and Sand"). Jimmy then considers the thoughts of drowning in the sea and eventually decides to get a boat instead ("Drowned", later on though). Jimmy has then becomes shattered to pieces when one of his heroes, a Mod nicknamed "The Ace Face", has become a Bell Boy, after being a rebel-like Mod whom he used to follow to being one working for & with rather than ruling out everyone in the Brighton hotels the Mods used to crash in 1963. Jimmy had truly had enough of the life he is in, where everyone he loved and looked up to, even the Mods, had let him down; it was nothing but a mockery of what he both wanted and needed and there was never any solutions from it. ("Bell Boy").

With nothing there to save him from which was never within, Jimmy gets a bottle of gin and begins to rage on with every weakness he sees and hates now denies, even every cruel & ugly behavior he can think of and all of the things he can't do despite wanting, he now claims as his own. Jimmy does nonetheless realize he released the beast that was within him, and it was time for it due to the lost connection to everything around him ("Doctor Jimmy"). Along with this, Jimmy also has flashes of rationality in which he wonders which of his four personalities is the real him. Jimmy however can no longer reconcile with these identities that he is, yet he comes to the solution he has been waiting for as it's all too much for his mind to deal with, all part of trying to figure what is going on now while still taking the pills and drinking the gin with aggravation ("Is It Me?"). Jimmy then steals that previously-mentioned boat being angry, disgusted & high like he is right now heading to a lone rock in the bay, where he thinks he could figure out and find the answer and solution; he has now cooled down and began to be reflective again. As he gets to the rock, the boat goes away and he gets stuck out there because of it, leading to where the story began before ("The Rock").

At this moment, Jimmy made a realization that all the problems and all its solutions come from within, as no one else can solve it. He should deal with one challenge at a time by himself and trust himself to do so. Still having all those problems, Jimmy now finds a way to deal with them as they are not crushing as they seemed, not impossible at all. He now embraces the rain running over him feeling overjoyed, free, and very spiritual, washing away all the pain and bringing in his soul; as this spiritual redemption is indeed showing, now he is drawing love instead of rejecting it and it cleans him as it happens. As only it matters in the end, Jimmy now notes that love, how fleeting and temporary it is, is a goal worth seeking anyway, and life is empty and dry without it ("Love, Reign O'er Me").


1972 was the least active year the Who had taken in the career to that point. The group had achieved great commercial and critical success with the albums Tommy and Who's Next, but were struggling to come up with a suitable follow up.[2] The group recorded new material with Glyn Johns in May 1972, including "Is It In My Head" and "Love Reign O'er Me" which were eventually released on Quadrophenia, and a mini-opera called "Long Live Rock – Rock Is Dead", but the material was considered too derivative of Who's Next and sessions were abandoned.[3] In an interview for Melody Maker, Townshend said "I've got to get a new act together ... people don't really want to sit and listen to all our past".[4] He had become frustrated that the group had been unable to produce a film of Tommy or Lifehouse, and decided to follow Frank Zappa's idea of producing a musical soundtrack that could produce a narrative in the same way as a film. Unlike Tommy, the new work would be grounded in reality and tell a story of youth and adolescence that the audience could relate to.[5]

Townshend became inspired by "Long Live Rock – Rock Is Dead"'s theme and in autumn 1972 began writing material, while the group put out old recordings including "Join Together" and "Relay" to keep themselves in the public eye. In the meantime, Entwistle released his second solo album, Whistle Rymes, Daltrey worked on solo material, and Moon featured as a drummer in the film That'll Be The Day.[6] Townshend had met up with "Irish" Jack Lyons, one of the original Who fans, which gave him the idea of writing a piece that would look back on the group's history and its audience.[7] He created the character of Jimmy from an amalgamation of six early fans of the group, including Lyons.[8]

Work was interrupted for most of 1972 in order to work on Lou Reizner's orchestral version of Tommy.[9] Daltrey finished his first solo album, which included the hit single "Giving It All Away",[10] which fuelled rumours of a split in the press. Things were not helped by Daltrey discovering that managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp had large sums of money unaccounted for, and suggested they should be fired, which Townshend resisted.[11]


The first tracks to be recorded for Quadrophenia were "Is It In My Head" and "Love, Reign O'er Me" in late 1972 with Glyn Johns.[12] In order to do justice to the recording of Quadrophenia, the group decided to build their own recording studio, which became Ramport Studios in Battersea. Work started on the studio in November 1972, but five months later still lacked an adequate mixing desk.[13] Instead, Townshend's friend Ronnie Lane loaned his mobile studio for the sessions.[14] Lambert ostensibly began producing the album in May,[15] but missed recording sessions and generally lacked discipline. By mid 1973, Daltrey demanded that Lambert leave the Who's services.[16] The band recruited engineer Ron Nevison, who had worked with John Alcock, an associate of Townshend's.[12]

Recording subsequently made progress, with each of the group recording their parts separately;[15] unlike earlier albums, Townshend had left space in his demos for other band members to contribute, though most of the synthesizers on the finished album came from his ARP 2500 synthesizer and were recorded at home.[12][17] The only song arranged by the band in the studio was "5.15".[18] According to Nevison, the ARP 2500 was impossible to record in the studio, and changes sounds was cumbersome due to a lack of patches, which required Townshend to work on these parts at home, working late into the night.[12] To obtain a good string section sound on the album, Townshend bought a cello and learned how to play it sufficiently well to be recorded over a two week period.[19] Entwistle recorded his bass part to "The Real Me" in one take on a Gibson Thunderbird[20] and spent several weeks during the summer arranging and recording numerous multi-tracked horn parts.[21] For the finale of "Love reign O'er Me", Townshend and Nevison set up a large group of percussion instruments, which Moon played before kicking over a set of tubular bells, which can be heard on the final mix.[21]

During the album production, Townshend made many field recordings with a portable reel-to-reel recorder. Some of the location sounds that made it to the record were waves washing on a Cornish beach and the doppler whistle of a diesel train was recorded close to Townshend's house at Goring-on-Thames.[8] The ending of "The Dirty Jobs" includes a musical excerpt from a brass band performance of The Thunderer by John Philip Sousa, which Nevison recorded in Regents Park.[12] Assembling the field recordings in the studio was problematic; at one point, during "I Am the Sea", nine different tape machines were running sound effects.[21] According to Nevison, Townshend produced the album single-handedly, adding that "everything started when Pete got there, and everything finished when Pete left".[12] Townshend began mixing the album in August at his home studio in Goring along with Nevison.[22]


The album was preceded by the single "5:15", which benefited from a live appearance on Top of the Pops on 4 October 1973. It reached No. 20 in the charts.[23] Quadrophenia was originally released in the UK on 26 October, but due to a vinyl shortage caused by the OPEC oil embargo, only a limited number of copies got to stores before production had to be halted. Most British Who fans failed to find a copy until after the UK tour.[24] In the UK, Quadrophenia reached the #2 position, being held out of the top spot by David Bowie's Pin Ups, which contained cover versions of The Who songs "I Can't Explain" and "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere".

Quadrophenia reached #2 on the US Billboard album chart (kept from #1 by then-labelmate Elton John with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album) and was the highest position of any Who album in the US as they would never hit #1 on the US album charts.[25]

The album was originally released as a two-LP set with a gatefold jacket and a thick booklet containing lyrics, a text version of the story, and photographs illustrating the tale. MCA Records re-released it as a two-CD set in 1985 with the lyrics and text story line on a thin fold-up sheet but none of the photographs.[26] The original Polydor CD issue included the complete booklet in miniature, as did the remastered MCA and Polydor CD reissues of 1996.[27]

Live performances[edit]

Keith Moon singing "Bell Boy" from Quadrophenia in concert

The band viewed the tour in support of the album as disastrous. To achieve the rich overdubbed sound of the album on stage, Townshend wanted Chris Stainton (who had played piano on some tracks) to join as a touring member, which Daltrey objected to, believing the Who should only consist of the four core members.[28] To achieve a rich sound without additional musicians, the group elected to employ taped backing tracks for live performance, as they had already done for "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again".[29] Initial performances were plagued by malfunctioning tapes. Once the tapes started, the band had to play to them. The band felt constrained in playing to these recordings, preferring a more free-form attitude.[30]

The tour started on 28 October 1973. The original plan had to play most of the album, but after the first gig at Stoke on Trent, the band dropped "The Dirty Jobs", "Is It In My Head" and "I've Had Enough" from the set.[24] A few shows later in Newcastle upon Tyne, the backing tapes to "5:15" came in late. Townshend stopped the show, grabbed sound engineer Bob Pridden, who was controlling the mixing desk, and dragged him onstage, shouting obscenities at him. Townshend subsequently grabbed some of the tapes and threw them over the stage, kicked his amplifier over, and walked off. The band returned 20 minutes later, playing older material.[31][32] On the first night of the US leg at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, Moon passed out onstage due to an excessive intake of alcohol and drugs. Scot Halpin, an audience member, was brought on to finish the show.[32][better source needed]

Critical reaction and impact[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[33]
Robert Christgau A-[34]
Clash 10/10[35]
Rolling Stone mixed[36]
Digital Spy 4/5 stars[37]

In 2000 Q magazine placed Quadrophenia at #56 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 2001, the TV network VH1 named it the 86th greatest album of all time. In 2003, the album was ranked #266 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. IGN placed Quadrophenia at #1 in their list of the greatest classic rock albums of all time.[38] In 2005, Quadrophenia was ranked number 314 in Rock Hard magazine's book of The 500 Greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time.[39]

The original mix had many of the vocals mixed a bit low and Daltrey was quoted at the time complaining. The initial CD release used the same original mix, but the album was remixed in 1996 bringing the vocals up, with good results, but some Who fans still prefer the original mix. In 2011, Townshend remixed the album yet again, and a deluxe box-set was released on 15 November that year. Notably, this 5-disc set contains some early test recordings of the band playing several songs that were written for the album but not included when Quadrophenia was released. These include such Who rarities as "You Came Back", "Get Out and Stay Out", "Quadrophenic Four Faces", and "Joker James", the latter three of which were recorded for the soundtrack of the Quadrophenia film. On 30 June 2014, the album was released on Blu-Ray Audio featuring a brand-new remix of the entire album by Pete Townshend and Bob Pridden in 5.1 surround sound as well the 2011 Deluxe Edition stereo remix and the original 1973 stereo LP mix. (8 of the remixed songs appeared on a surround sound DVD-Audio in the Director's Cut box set) However, the initial run of Blu-Ray discs were made in France and were defective in players.

Awards and honours[edit]

Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend received the Classic Album Award for Quadrophenia from the Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards at The Roundhouse, 9 November 2011, in London, England.[40]

Subsequent productions[edit]

In 1979 the film Quadrophenia was released, with three additional songs written by Townshend (see Quadrophenia (soundtrack)). The film was an accurate visual interpretation of Townshend's vision of Jimmy and his surroundings, and included the casting of a young Sting as the Ace Face. In the film, the music was largely relegated to the background, and was not performed by the cast as in a rock opera.

In 1995, the rock group Phish performed Quadrophenia in its entirety as their second Halloween musical costume at the Rosemont Horizon, Chicago, Illinois. The recording was later released as a part of Live Phish Volume 14. The jam band also covered the tracks "Drowned" and "Sea and Sand" on their live album New Year's Eve 1995 – Live at Madison Square Garden, and played an extended version of "Drowned" in several of their concerts since.

In summer 1996, The Who, with a large backing group featuring, among others, Zak Starkey on drums (his first appearance as The Who's drummer), Geoff Whitehorn and Simon Townshend on electric guitar (the former played lead guitar on almost all of the songs) and keyboardists Jon Carin and John "Rabbit" Bundrick, performed Quadrophenia in its entirety for the first time in many years in London's Hyde Park, with guest performers Phil Daniels as the Narrator/Jimmy, Gary Glitter as The Rocker, Adrian Edmondson as the Ace Face/Bellboy, Stephen Fry as the hotel manager (screaming, "Bellboy!"), Trevor McDonald as the newsreader and Pink Floyd's David Gilmour as the bus driver. Gilmour also played additional lead guitar for that first performance; he sang and played lead guitar on "The Dirty Jobs", plus performed lead guitar on "Sea and Sand", "Dr. Jimmy", "The Rock", "Love, Reign O'er Me", and "5.15" (reprise). A subsequent tour of the US and UK followed, employing most of the same players but with Billy Idol replacing Edmondson.

In 2005, a live performance of Quadrophenia from The Who's 1996/1997 tour was included in a three-disc DVD box set released by Rhino Entertainment, also featuring a live performance of Tommy from 1989 as well as other hit songs performed live. Townshend and Daltrey provided special commentary, and an interview with Billy Idol was also included.

The Who performed Quadrophenia at the Royal Albert Hall on 30 March 2010 as part of the Teenage Cancer Trust series of ten gigs. This one-off performance of the rock opera featured guest appearances from Eddie Vedder, lead singer of Pearl Jam; and Kasabian's Tom Meighan.[41] Tom Norris, jazz musician and violinist with the London Symphony Orchestra, played violin in the production.[42]

2012 tour[edit]

On 1 November 2012, The Who started a 37 date U.S. tour of Quadrophenia. Dubbed "Quadrophenia + More", the album was played in its entirety, with a selected hits encore included. As with the 1997 Quadrophenia Tour, Zak Starkey and Simon Townshend accompanied the two surviving founding members, playing drums and rhythm guitar, respectively. Pino Paladino, who replaced John Entwistle after his death in 2002, played bass on the tour.

Plans for sequel[edit]

There have been two attempts at a sequel — an earlier attempt, by the Who, and an effort in 2011 involving writer Martin Stellman.[43] The 2011 version, which has been referred to as "Quadrophenia 2", was to use Richard Jobson as a director, and was slated to start pre-production in 2011.[44][45] It was given approval by Pete Townshend, a friend of Jobson's, and involved film and music producer Bill Curbishley, who is reportedly also working on a biographical film focusing on Keith Moon.[46] It has also been reported that Bill Curbishley has recently been working on his own script for a Quadrophenia sequel, which would be based on a story that carries on 10 years from the original.[47]

Track listing[edit]

For the soundtrack album, see Quadrophenia (soundtrack).

Quadrophenia: The Original LP track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Pete Townshend

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "I Am the Sea"   2:08
2. "The Real Me"   3:20
3. "Quadrophenia"   6:13
4. "Cut My Hair"   3:44
5. "The Punk and the Godfather" (Entitled "The Punk Meets the Godfather" on the American version) 5:10
Side two
No. Title Length
6. "I'm One"   2:37
7. "The Dirty Jobs"   4:28
8. "Helpless Dancer" (Roger's theme) 2:33
9. "Is It in My Head?"   3:43
10. "I've Had Enough"   6:14
Side three
No. Title Length
11. "5:15"   5:00
12. "Sea and Sand"   5:01
13. "Drowned"   5:26
14. "Bell Boy" (Keith's theme) 4:55
Side four
No. Title Length
15. "Doctor Jimmy (containing "Is It Me?")" (John's theme) 8:36
16. "The Rock"   6:37
17. "Love, Reign o'er Me" (Pete's theme) 5:48

Quadrophenia: The Director's Cut track listing[edit]

On 15 November 2011, a deluxe edition of Quadrophenia was released.[48] The release was also available on Double vinyl, Mini-Deluxe Digi-Pak edition, and as a digital release.


The Who
Additional musicians

Sales chart performance[edit]

Year Chart Position
1973 US Billboard Pop Albums 2[49]
1973 UK Chart Album 2[50]
2011 US Billboard 200 110
Year Single Chart Position
1973 "Love, Reign O'er Me" Billboard Pop Singles 76
1974 "The Real Me" Billboard Pop Singles 92
1973 "5.15" UK Singles Chart 20[50]
1979 "5.15" Billboard Pop Singles 45

Sales certifications[edit]

Organization Level Date
RIAA – U.S. Gold 29 October 1973[52]
BPI – UK Gold 1 December 1973[53]
RIAA – U.S. Platinum 2 February 1993[54]
SNEP-France Gold 1979 [55]


  1. ^ "Remainder" is guitars, keyboards, banjo, cello, vocals, sound effects[15]
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  3. ^ Marsh 1983, p. 396.
  4. ^ Neill & Kent 2002, p. 315.
  5. ^ Atkins 2000, p. 177.
  6. ^ Marsh 1983, pp. 396,397.
  7. ^ Marsh 1983, p. 399.
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  19. ^ Unterberger 2011, p. 186.
  20. ^ Unterberger 2011, p. 203.
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  28. ^ Marsh 1983, pp. 425-246.
  29. ^ Marsh 1983, p. 247,359.
  30. ^ Jackson, James (20 April 2009). "Pete Townshend on Quadrophenia, touring with The Who and the Mod revival". The Times (UK). Retrieved 20 May 2009. 
  31. ^ Neill & Kent 2002, p. 336.
  32. ^ a b Perrone, Pierre (24 January 2008). "The worst gigs of all time". Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
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  39. ^ [...], Rock Hard (Hrsg.). [Red.: Michael Rensen. Mitarb.: Götz Kühnemund] (2005). Best of Rock & Metal die 500 stärksten Scheiben aller Zeiten. Königswinter: Heel. p. 85. ISBN 3-89880-517-4. 
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  44. ^ "Converge’s Richard Jobson signed to direct sequel to Quadrophenia". EOSHD.com. 2011-05-08. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  45. ^ Jane Graham. "Film industry gatecrashers | Film". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  46. ^ "Quadrophenia : Townshend Interview : November 2011". Nakedeye-online.com. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
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  • Atkins, John (2000). The Who on Record: A Critical History, 1963–1998. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-78640-609-8. 
  • Marsh, Dave (1983). Before I Get Old: The Story of The Who. Plexus. ISBN 978-0-85965-083-0. 
  • Neill, Andrew; Kent, Matthew (2002). Anyway Anyhow Anywhere – The Complete Chronicle of The Who. Virgin. ISBN 978-0-7535-1217-3. 
  • Unterberger, Richie (2011). Won't Get Fooled Again: The Who from Lifehouse to Quadrophenia. Jawbone Press. ISBN 978-1-906-00275-6. 

External links[edit]