Popular Culture (Music) 20110902: The Who. Quadrophenia Part I

( – promoted by TheMomCat)

I apologize for posting late tonight, but a very rare event happened.  The International Space Station made a transit directly overhead at posting time, and I did not want to miss it.  Besides, my lovely friend wanted to watch it with me.  It was a spectacular sight, and the ISS was not bad, either, LOL!

Second, I was going to add a new crosspost site that is run by our friend ninkasi23, but never figured out how to make it so.  I trust that she will email or call me to help me over my stupidity.

I was going to write about the compilation album, Meaty, Beaty, Big, and Bouncy this time but we have already discussed every song on that record.  However, I will make a comment about the title.

Most people think that the title was just sort of a dirty joke, but it actually was a description of the band members.  I think that Lambert came up with it, but I am not really sure.  Here is the meaning:

At the time, and still, Daltrey was pretty fit, so he was Meaty, meaning all muscle and no fat.  Moon, of course, kept the beat, so he was Beaty.  Entwistle, aka The Ox, was a really big guy, and of course Townshend was always leaping about the stage, so he was Bouncy.  Now you know, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story.

Since we are not going to discuss MBBB, the next album is Quadrophenia.  This is a very ambitions album, and many people declare it the opus both for Townshend and for the band.  This is a very difficult piece to write, and because of the length of the piece I shall break it up to two installments.  Before we get going into the background, I should tell you my personal feelings about the record.

I LIKE Quadrophenia.  The band were at their peak as far as their talents went, and Townshend was at his zenith as a writer.  However, I think that it more than just a bit depressing, so do not often listen to it any more.  My real beef with it is that I find it to be overproduced.  The genius of The Who was their raw sound, and Quad (as many of us affectionately call it) was way too refined for my taste.  That is why I remarked to a commentor during the Tommy series that I preferred Tommy to Quad.  That is in no way saying that I do not think that it a great piece of work, but it WAS sort of the next phase for The Who, and I liked the first phase better.  It is personal preference.  If we all agreed on everything, some of us would be unnecessary.

Unlike Lifehouse, Quad was much more retrospective of the early days of the band, and their environment, whilst Lifehouse was extremely experimental, at least in Townshend’s original concept.  Quad is actually somewhat historical, but historical fiction.  It centers around the protagonist Jimmy, who was a misfit from day one.  Perhaps that is why I find it rather painful.

Because of the failure of the Lifehouse project, Townshend wanted to vindicate himself and write something that not only would be critically and financially accepted, but also something that his fellows could understand.  To a large extent, it worked as a studio release.  The live tour was less that spectacular because of the complex technology that was required to provide backing music.  We shall talk about the tour next time.

It is an interesting fact of history that vinyl records became very expensive at the time.  Quad was released 19731019, at the height of the OPAC oil embargo.  Since petroleum is the major starting material for vinyl, and also because this was a double album, that was a real problem.  If my research is correct, 8 track tapes were much more common in the early days.

I happen one of the few folks to have all three formats, 8 Track, vinyl, and CD.  Because of Townshend’s attention to detail, the very difficult format of 8 Track had the exact same song lineup as the vinyl.  Townshend was very careful to keep the times for the songs in sync with the 8 Track format.  Those of you who remember them know that lots of albums were sort of rearranged to accommodate the format.  Because the order of songs were so important for the story, Townshend was relentless in making it work.  That is part of his genius.

Kit Lambert is credited with being the producer, and most likely contributed some significant ideas.  However, the band and Lambert had already had a bad series of disagreements, and it not certain how much he actually did to put the album together.  Longtime associate producer Glyn Johns was probably more involved, and the sound of the band is more in the Johns mold than in Lambert’s.  Kit was a serious narcotics addict and alcoholic, and I am not sure that he was very useful by 1973.  Please do not take this as an indictment of Lambert.  If not for him, no one would have known about The Who.

Anyway, let us get to some of the music.  Townshend crafted this to be important, and he is the sole writer for EVERYTHING on it.  That actually caused a bit of a rift with Entwistle, who was an excellent writer himself.  He later complained that to get a song performed by The Who, he had to write it for Daltrey to sing.

The album chronicles the life of Jimmy, a wannabe Mod.  Evidently he is not very good at it, and this is sort of ironic because although Lambert passed The Who off as Mods, they really were not.

The opening piece is “I am the Sea”, mostly instrumental.  If you listen carefully, you can hear the phrases “I am the sea”, “Help”, “Is it me, for a moment?”, “Bellboy, bellboy”, “Love, reign o’er me”, and the lead in into the next song, “Can you see the real me?”.   Here is the studio version.

I could not find a demo, but since it is mostly sound effects and a little instrumental, I doubt that Townshend made one.

As I said, the next cut is “The Real Me” and there is no doubt that this is vintage Who.  Entwistle was perfect on bass.  Here is the studio cut, with “I am the Sea” again at the beginning:

Here is Townshend’s demo.  This song changed a lot from demo to album:

Here is a nice live version from 1973:

There is also a version that was released on their 30 Years of Maximum R & B album with Kenny Jones drumming, but I could not find it on You Tube.  If anyone knows where it is, please put it in the comments.  This is significant because the other three band members were having Jones audition because even as early as 1973 they were concerned about Moon’s reliability, if not his health.

“The Real Me” pretty much sets up Jimmy’s persona and his struggle with mental health issues, along with relationships.  Since Quad was designed to reflect each of the band members’ personalities to some degree, some of those questions are asked here, but no answers given yet.

“Quadrophenia” is the central theme of the album and is a wonderful instrumental.  Townshend was in many respects like Gene Roddenberry in that he never wasted a good idea.  If you listen very closely at around 3:00 in this studio version, you can pick out traces of “Underture” from Tommy:

I was unable to find a demo for this cut, and if you have one please add it to the comments.  I was also unable to find a live version, and make the same request.

“Cut my Hair” is next, about Jimmy having to make some decisions and arguing with his parents.  This is the first song on the album that Townshend sings, the others so far by Daltrey.  This is the studio with some video that I presume came from the film, for which I did not care very much as so about which will have little to say:

Here is the demo:

I was unable to find a live version, except a 1999 one by Townshend, which I did not include.

Cut #5 is “The Punk Meets the Godfather”, about Jimmy trying to see the band backstage.  This did not go well for him, and he became disillusioned with them.  It is implied that the band are The Who.  Oddly, multiple online sources call this song “The Punk and the Godfather” rather than the proper title.  My vinyl MCA copy does not lie.  Here is the studio version, once again with Daltrey singing, with Townshend singing some:

There is the demo.  Note that the lyrics are somewhat different, in particular the first and seconds persons are reversed from the studio album:

Here is a very nice live version from 1973 (there are several different ones on You Tube, and this one has very good acoustics):

I added this live version even though the acoustics are not that good because Townshend stops in the midsong and shouts something at Moon:

“I’m One” comes in at the #6 spot, with Townshend singing.  Jimmy is obviously depressed here in the studio version:

Here is Townshend’s demo:

Here is a nice live version from 1973, with good acoustics and pretty fair black and white video:

At #7 comes “The Dirty Jobs”, about Jimmy working and not fitting in very well.  He talks too much, probably from amphetamine, and alienates his coworkers.  The line is “…I am a man who reveals all he digs, should be more careful what I say.”  This studio version is also combined with the next cut, “Helpless Dancer”, which is the Daltrey persona.  In “Helpless Dancer” you can also hear some references to “Underture” from Tommy.

Here is the demo version.  Be sure and look at the first comment, as I think that is very apt:

I could not find a contemporaneous live version, but here is one from 1999:

Here is a live 1996 version of “Helpless Dancer”:

I was unable to find the demo for “Helpless Dancer”.

The ninth song is “Is it in my Head”, with Daltrey singing for the most part:

Here is the demo:

Here is a fairly recent live version:

The last song of the first side, #10, is “I’ve had Enough”, a really good song.  Jimmy just about loses it and wrecks his bike.  This is one of the very few songs by The Who with banjo in it, the other two that I can think of off the top of my head being “Tommy’s Holiday Camp” and “Squeezebox”.  There was a later Entwistle song called “Had Enough”, written for Daltrey (remember the observation that I made about this earlier).

I really like the line, “You were under the impression that when you were walking forwards that you’d end up further onwards, but things ain’t quite that simple.”  How true!  Here is the studio version:

Here is Townshend’s demo.  Note that it had not been for his electric guitar, writing, and singing skills, he would have made an excellent bass player for other bands.  He was GOOD, but Entwistle was without peer:

I could not find a live version that I though was good enough to present.

Well, here is the first half of Quadrophenia.  Next week we shall tackle the second half, and discuss some of the technical problems that the band had when trying to perform this live.  What would be child’s play in the digital age turned out to be a nightmare in 1973.  Please fill in any blanks (in particular embeds that I could not find, but your thoughts as well) in the comments.

Warmest regards,

Doc, aka Dr. David W. Smith

Crossposted at

The Stars Hollow Gazette

Daily Kos, and



  1. seeing the real me?

    Warmest regards,


  2. I very much appreciate it.

    Warmest regards,


Comments have been disabled.