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File:Quadrophenia 7101.jpg


Why should I care if I have to cut my hair?

I've got to move with the fashion or be outcast

I know I should fight, but my old man is really alright

And I'm still living at home, even though it won't last

Zoot suit, white jacket with side vents five inches long

I'm out on the street again, and I'm leapin' along

Dressed right for a beach fight, but I just can't explain

Why that uncertain feeling is still here in my brain
—"Cut My Hair"


I am not the actor / this can't be the scene

But I am in the water / as far as I can see

Quadrophenia is a 1973 double Concept Album/Rock Opera by The Who. It concerns itself with the story of Jimmy, a young Mod living in 1960s England who undergoes something of a spiritual revelation, thanks to The Power of Rock. Or more specifically, loud, progressive-influenced Who songs. The story, such as it is, is really an analysis of the trials and tribulations the British youth of the early 1960s had to endure: girlfriends, fighting to be popular and to fit in, being out of work, drugs, etc.

The plot follows Jimmy's quest for identity as he struggles with life. The opera opens as he sits marooned on a rock in the middle of the English Channel, contemplating what led him there. A large part of the plot is Jimmy looking at the past few days of his life, in particular the Rocker-Mod conflicts that he was a part of, and attempting to reconcile his four different identities- the quadrophenia of the title.

The album was adapted into a 1979 cult film starring Phil Daniels, Leslie Ash, and Sting, featuring the music from the album (touched up with horns and synthesizers), along with a number of Motown tunes.

The album has gone on to become one of the Who's most celebrated works after Tommy, and was the album they chose to perform when they relaunched back in 1996-97. Considered by many to be Pete Townshend's Magnum Opus, though Tommy and Who's Next are also candidates for that title.

This work provides examples of the following Tropes:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Most of the movie focuses on the events leading up to the Brighton beach riots, which in the album occur near the beginning.
  • Adults Are Useless: Though as this is about youth, it may be more that Jimmy can't accept help.
  • All There in the Manual: While Quadrophenia may be more straightforward than Tommy, it has much less dialogue and narration. Most people will have read the synopsis included in the liner notes, or seen the movie, before they even begin to figure out the plot.
  • Anti-Hero
  • Arc Words: Being a rock opera, it carries a few recurring themes and motifs, each one supposedly referring to a member of the band.
    • Roger's theme: "Helpless Dancer"
    • Pete's theme: "Love Reign o'er Me"
    • John's theme: "Is It Me, for a Moment?"
    • Keith's theme: "Bell Boy"
  • Be Yourself: This is what Jimmy's epiphany at the end amounts to. One of the more mature uses of the trope (interesting, considering it's about the trials of youth, and the trope is mostly "for kids")
  • Breakaway Pop Hit: "Love, Reign o'er Me"
  • Broken Pedestal: Jimmy finds a mod he used to look up to ("Ace Face") working as a bell boy in a hotel that he'd previously smashed the windows at.
  • Creator Cameo: Jimmy visits a Who show partway into the plot, as portrayed in "The Punk and the Godfather", which consists of him telling Pete Townshend off, and Townshend replying in kind. Very self deprecating.
  • Concept Album
  • Crapsack World: Helpless Dancer paints the setting into this, at least to Jimmy.
  • Creator Breakdown: The difficulty playing the album live with all those backing tapes and synths drove Pete Townshend to desperation, and almost led to the band splitting up.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Jimmy's stash gets him kicked out by his parents, and he spends most of the plot drunk, tripping, or spun. They are also one cause of his severe mood swings. Not explicit, but it's not hard to make a case for either.
    • "...leaping along" (slang for amphetamine/speed is "leapers")
    • "But my mother found a box of blues/And there doesn't seem much hope they'll let me stay"
    • "Out of my brain on the 5:15/Out of my brain on the train"
    • "Uppers and downers/Either way blood flows"
    • "What is it? I'll take it.../Maybe something stronger could really hold me down"
    • "When i'm pilled I don't notice him, he only comes out when I drink my gin"
  • Earn Your Happy Ending
  • Epic Rocking: The album.
  • Former Teen Rebel: "Bell Boy"
  • How We Got Here: The bulk of the story takes place on a rocky outcropping in the middle of the English Channel, with Jimmy flashbacking to how he ended up there, taking stock of his life in the process.
  • "I Am" Song: "The Real Me" and "I'm One"
  • In Vino Veritas: "Dr. Jimmy" is all over this trope, and combines it with...
  • Jekyll and Hyde: Via the above, Dr. Jimmy is this all over. The song makes reference to reckless gambling and raping women, but it isn't clear if he actually does this or is just rambling or hallucinating.
    • "Doctor Jimmy and Mister Jim/When I'm pulled you don't notice him/He only comes out when I drink my gin"
  • Journey to Find Oneself: Interesting is that Jimmy does this mostly in his head; he sits in the middle of nowhere and takes stock of the past parts of his life
  • Lighter and Softer: Okay, so the identity crisis, emotional turmoil, and social trials aren't exactly "light" per se, but compared to Tommy this album has no torture or rape and an overall happy ending.
  • Mushroom Samba:
    • "5:15" depicts Jimmy taking the train to Brighton while on an acid trip. Intoxication Ensues is also implied in the movie version.
    • His mood swing personalities are also fueled by drugs (well, sometimes).
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: "Helpless Dancer" has a little of this.
  • Recurring Riff: The four "themes" of Jimmy's personalities echo throughout the album.
  • Redemption in the Rain
  • Rock Opera: Naturally. It does, however, have less dialogue than Tommy did.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: Every other track. Subverted at the end.
  • Split Personality: The titular quadrophenia is a play on the older (incorrect) use of the term schizophrenia and "quad" for four. This isn't a strict case though, as the separate "personalities" of Jimmy are implied to be closer to mood swings than anything.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted- Jimmy visits one in "The Real Me." This isn't the first time, either. It doesn't help, and so he visits a vicar and his mom too. But then...
  • What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: Jimmy's relationship with drugs throughout the thing has elements of this.