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Friday 19 December 2014

Forty years on... Quadrophenia comes alive again

There's something decidedly odd about The Who's Quadrophenia being described as 'a mod opera'.

Certainly, Franc Roddam's 1979 movie which was inspired by the 1973 double album led to a massive revival of aspects of early Sixties mod culture.

Suddenly there were lads with parkas emblazoned with the iconic 'target' logo hanging around O'Connell Street, driving scooters and forming bands intent on playing songs which took their cues from the early Who and, more particularly, the Jam but a look at Quadrophenia itself reveals a different story.

Pete Townshend had famously gone down the dreaded 'rock opera' route before, with Tommy in 1969, and the planned Lifehouse project two years later was scrapped with a chunk of the songs forming the basis for Who's Next, the band's finest album. With Quadrophenia the subject matter concerned a troubled mod, Jimmy, whose confused life reaches crisis point during a day at Brighton in 1964 but what about the music itself?

There are some great songs to be heard on Quadrophenia – The Real Me, 5.15 and Love Reign O'er Me chief among them – but there's an awful lot of filler and padding over the album's 17 tracks. This was undoubtedly The Who operating at the proggier end of their spectrum, with the interludes and repeated motifs suiting the needs of a double album and the 'operatic' structure of the piece but lacking the cohesion and diluting the core aggression which defined the band at their best.

Reports from the US leg of this tour suggest that they've tightened up the running order considerably and that can only be for the better and, at least the overly theatrical aspect of the album appears to have been ditched.

GUEST

Lest we forget, the last time The Who performed Quadrophenia was several years ago in Hyde Park with a number of guest vocalists including Billy Idol and Gary Glitter, who ended up on the receiving end of a stray microphone from Roger Daltrey.

And then there are those songs from the back catalogue to round off the evening.

The Who play Quadrophenia at the O2 tonight

>George Byrne

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