Quadrophenia concluded one of the best successions of albums in rock history. Along with Tommy, Live At Leeds, Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy, and Who’s Next, it ranks among the most critically acclaimed album series of all time. That The Who could produce them within a five year period was a testament to the group's, and particularly Pete Townshend’s, genius. While they would continue to release some excellent music during the coming years, they would not approach the overall excellence of these recordings.
Pete Townshend would reach full flower as a composer with the release of this, his second rock opera. He would pen all of the music and produce a sophisticated and lasting musical statement, attaining an artistic plateau that few rock musicians ever reach.
This album would also be one of Keith Moon’s crowning achievements. I like to call it controlled violence. He never quite gets out of control but hammers away in his typical frenetic style and provides the foundation for Townshend’s sound. His constant use of cymbals was both brilliant and creative.
Townshend’s basic concept was to take the personalities of the four group members and combine them into the psyche of his protagonist. This brings us to the life of Jimmy Cooper, complete with Mods and Rockers. The plot would get a little obscure in places but the story of Jimmy’s coming of age pays homage to the group’s personal past and the future of rock music.
While Quadrophenia has grandeur and layers of textures, it is still a rock album. Such songs as “5:15,” “Dr. Jimmy,” “The Punk Meets The Godfather” and “Love Reign O’er Me” remain some of the best classic rock and roll of The Who’s career. “The Real Me” features some of the finest bass and drumming combinations on record. “Sea and Sand” is a true lost gem in the group’s catalog and is one of the most sophisticated tracks that Pete Townshend would create.
I tend to prefer this album over Tommy mainly because of the fullness of sound and the fact that, except for two instrumentals, there are little to no filler songs. The individual songs also work better in context and thus the album needs to be listened to as a complete unit.
Rolling Stone Magazine would rank it as number 266 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, which I feel is far too low. Quadrophenia is a rare album that not only presents superior music but also provides an experience. It remains a masterpiece of rock ‘n’ roll.