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coverpic flag England - Full Moon 187 - 12/10/11

The Who
Quadrophenia - Different Deluxe versions
Track Record/Universal

It seemed my puberty torments lasted for years, starting sometime in late 1974 and didn't quite finish until somewhere close to the end of the decade, or something. Music was more important than ever. Quadrophenia stands as a defining album of that era. It was the new album of The Who at the time I discovered the group. John Entwistle's bass playing on "The Real Me" was the coolest there was. And lyrics like: 'You say she's a virgin, Well I'm gonna be the first in. Her fellah's gonna kill me. Oh, fuckin' will he!' was much more relevant poetry than what we were forced to read and analyze at school. The story of Quadrophenia, The Who's second rock opera, was a lot more credible than Tommy. There might have been some greater songs on Tommy, but all in all Quadrophenia had lots of strong songs and a couple of instrumentals and no weak ones. It soon turned into my favourite Who album. I've had several Quadrophenia revivals through the years. The first after seeing the film of the same name at the local cinema. Other highlights include the release of the film on DVD and even more so the Quadrophenia world tour in the late 1990s (the closest I've ever been to a Beatles concert, with Zak Starkey behind the drums; and guests including PP Arnold and Billy Idol). It was great! And recently the film was released on Blu-ray.

deluxepic I've enjoyed The Who albums in the Deluxe series, double CDs of the original albums with lots of great and relevant bonus tracks and thick booklets with lots of relevant writings about and around the albums, pictures etc. I've been waiting for the Deluxe version of Quadrophenia for quite some years by now... It turned out it was the favourite album of Pete Townshend, too, and he wanted to do something special when revisiting it. So in addition to a double CD with the mandatory thick booklet and a reprint of the double LP with the original thick LP-sized booklet we're offered a Director's Cut, a five CD box with a hard-bound book of 100 pages, a replica of the single "5:15" and a poster. Oh happiness! The first two CDs of the Director's box contain the tracks of the original double LP. There are two CDs of bonus material, demos of most of the songs of the original album and ten others that was written or considered for the album, but scrapped. The last CD includes a surround mix of eight of the seventeen tracks of the original album. This is surely a miss. It ought to have been a quadraphonic mix, of course.

After having read Pete Townshend's lengthy essay about the production, I understand that the quadraphonic version was a big thing for him back then. Pete planned and built - with help from his friends - one home and one "real" recording studio to realise a quadraphonic version of the album. The studios were finished and used for the recordings, but only a few of the 17 tracks of the album made it to quadraphonic version. Pete was a bit too early compared to the development at the time and anyway the quadraphonic format was abandoned soon after. Anyway, anyhow, the album was finished and released in stereo in October 1973. The project started in the spring the previous year, but some elements dates from pre Tommy or pre Who's Next days.

The main character of the story is Jimmy, a young Mod around 1964 and his agonies after being kicked out from home, left by the girl, quitting a job as a dustman after two days, crashing his beloved GS Vespa scooter and feeling abandoned by his friends of the mod movement, even by his favourite band, The Who. Filled with pills (uppers/blues) he goes back to Brighton, where he had had the time of his life participating in the beach-fights between mods and rockers a little earlier. He tries to drown himself and eventually steals a boat and ends on a rock in the sea while the tide rolls in. It's a bit different in the film, but the main issues are similar. The music, lyrics and picture book depicts his anguish and personality. Sorry, four personalities, he's not only suffering from schizophrenia, but quadrophenia. His four personalities might also reflect the four Who-members personalities; see them reflected in the back mirrors of Jimmy's scooter of the album front cover.

coverpic After having listened to the demos, recorded in Pete's eight track - at the time - home studio, it was a surprise to notice that several of them sounded quite similar to the finished album versions. But unlike many other demos I've listened to, the finished versions are better, all of them, at least to some extent. The similarities of those songs are explained by Pete's original recorded eight tracks of the demo recordings at least some of them - being transferred to the 16 tracks tape of the "professional" studio where the remaining three band members only have added drums, bass and vocals. Also, the demos are not only simple sketches of the finished songs with for instance only acoustic guitar and vocals. Most of them are fully arranged. The reason why the finished bands versions of the songs sound better might be that The Who was a professional band. The members knew what they wanted and what to do, and they did. In this instance it is hard to believe the saying of the time that the band was on the verge of breaking up, because of excessive consumption of alcohol and life style. On the other hand, both Pete's compositions, his demo recordings and the finished recordings speak of a well disciplined band.

Another striking issue is the songs chosen for the finished album. The Director's Cut suggests Pete and the band had 27 songs and instrumentals (there were even more) that was reduced to 17 to fit with the double LP format. And the box proves (well, to me anyway) they did all the correct choices. The songs omitted sound somewhat light-weight and pop oriented compared to the heavier rock oriented ones of the album. Most of them are great, and deserve to be released, but don't fit with Jimmy's troubled mind.

Any objections, then? Well, of course... There are more demos around. Scoop, Pete's first album collection of demos at least include one track called "Unused Piano: Quadrophenia" that's absent here. If you stick disc 1 of the Director's Cut into a computer and go to a certain web address, there is supposed to be additional bonus content. I haven't succeeded yet. The soundtrack album of Quadrophenia, the film, includes three songs ("Get Out And Stay Out", "Joker James" and "Four Faces") developed into complete Who songs that are not included either, only the demo versions. For some of us, it would of course have been better to cram as much Quadrophenia relevant music on the bonus discs as possible in the same way as the bonus discs of the Smile box last moonth. And all the big sized photos that depict the story of Jimmy seem a bit more coarse-grained than in the original LP booklet, as if the original photos have been lost and copies from an LP booklet had to be used. Jimmy's mother still looks very much like Queen Elizabeth II did, 40 years ago, though...

coverpicBut, after all, it's the finished production that is the greatest asset here. It still gives me a thrill. And by now what strikes me is Pete's innovative use of early synthesizers, British EMS VCS3 and American ARP. They don't sound like synthesizers on any other rock album I've heard, with a possible exception for Who's Next. And even today they don't sound twee or old-fashioned. There are also the great guitar-work throughout, Keith Moon's unmistakable drumming (and his hilarious role as/vocals on "Bell Boy"), Roger Daltrey's strong vocals and not least the vocal interchange between Roger and Pete. John Entwistle's bass playing has been emphasized earlier. He also handled the real horns of the album, that blend with the synthesizers to great effect. The album is Who's most cohesive, the only one where all the lyrics and music were written by Pete Townshend. But first and foremost it's the songs themselves. Strong and sturdy rock songs. "The Real Me", the instrumental title track, in four movements, of course, "The Punk And The Godfather", "I'm One", "5.15". Classics..., I could mention them all. If ever there is an album that deserves the label Classic Rock, Quadrophenia is it!

Copyright © 2011 JP e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Who articles/reviews: Endless Wire, I Can't Explain, My Generation, Who's Next.

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