‘Quadrophenia’: Four-Way Brilliance From The Who

“The reason that the album has come out emotionally as it has is that I felt that The Who ought to make, if you like, a last album.” Those were the dramatic words of Pete Townshend in an interview with the NME as the band’s new album was released on October 26, 1973. The record he was talking about, eventually to be turned into a feature film, went on to make its UK chart debut on November 17. It was Quadrophenia.

This ambitious new work by Townshend, was launched in the US media on October 19 on 28 big FM radio stations, with a full playback and a taped interview with Townshend. “A masterful set,” avowed Billboard.

On November 10, as Elton John assumed the No.1 position there with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, The Who landed the highest new entry of the week, at No.24, on the way to their best-ever album chart position in the US of No.2. They would reach that peak again with 1978’s Who Are You, but have never quite reached the pinnacle.

A tale told with realism and compassion

“After a two and a half year wait, The Who have returned with another masterpiece in hand,” avowed trade weekly Record World. Quadrophenia is a two-record concept album telling of the breakdown of an alienated English middle class teenager. Superior songs like ‘Real Me,’ ‘Cut My Hair,’ and ‘Love Reign O’Er Me’ tell the tale with realism and compassion.”

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The Who hit the road in the UK in the week of the album’s release, with shows up and down the country that introduced Quadrophenia tracks to their repertoire. Then followed their first American shows in two years, with a tour of 11 major arenas.

In the album’s first UK chart week, there was no shifting David Bowie from the top of the UK bestsellers with his covers album Pin Ups. But The Who did the next best thing, arriving at No.2 and nudging the Elton album down into third place. Quadrophenia was, in fact, one of only two new titles in the Top 40 that week, with Rory Gallagher’s Tattoo a modest second, at No.32.

Listen to the best of The Who on Apple Music and Spotify.

In that NME interview, Townshend commented on whether the album was some sort of epitaph to the mod movement. “Songs like ‘My Generation’ were that kind of epitaph in a more realistic sense,” he said. “This album is more of a winding up of all our individual axes to grind, and of the group’s ten-year-old image, and also of the complete absurdity of a group like The Who pretending that they have their finger on the pulse of any generation.”

Buy or stream Quadrophenia.

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