Originally released in 1973, ‘Quadrophenia’ was Pete Townshend’s second successful attempt at a rock opera – a narrative concept album whereby musical themes and motifs recur through a story – coming after 1969’s sensational career-defining ‘Tommy’, a parable on the deaf, dumb and blind protagonist. In the interim, his futuristic ‘Lifehouse’ vision proved too complex to translate into a band performance, and a handful of its tracks formed the base of 1971’s ‘Who’s Next’ album.
The plot of ‘Quadrophenia’ proved easier to follow than either and also rather pertinent – as paragons of the mid-Sixties mod movement, The Who’s tale of young mod Jimmy Cooper’s identity crisis was authentic in its detail, and suitably dynamic in its execution. Almost forty years later, Jimmy’s plight has been translated into a five-disc voyage – the remastered double album (pros: crystalized mixing fixes original muddy production; cons: bit too much echo on vocals, and annoying crowd noise drowns out Keith Moon’s gut-busting fill in ‘The Punk And The Godfather’) is accompanied by two revelatory discs of Townshend’s original demos (you can just imagine Daltrey listening and thinking, ‘I’m fuckin’ ’aving THAT!’) and a 5.1 “quadrophonic” mix DVD. You don’t even need to know about the box-set’s extras: if teenage angst is the root of rock and roll, then ‘Quadrophenia’ is its definitive statement.
Words by SIMON HARPER