The Who’s rock opera ‘Quadrophenia’ turns 50

On October 26, 1973, The Who released what would become one of their most iconic albums: Quadrophenia.

The only Who album to be written entirely by guitarist Pete Townshend, it was the band’s second full-length rock opera, following 1969’s Tommy.

The story, set in Brighton, England, in 1965, follows a young working-class mod named Jimmy on a journey of self-discovery. The album’s title was inspired by Jimmy’s four-way “split personality,” with each member of the band representing a different facet of that personality.

Featuring the future Who classics “The Real Me,” “Love Reign O’er Me” and “5:15,” Quadrophenia was a critical and commercial success, peaking at #2 in both the U.S. and the U.K., and going on to be certified Platinum by the RIAA. In 2011, Townshend said he considers it to be the last truly great album The Who made.

Like Tommy, Quadrophenia inspired a film, but unlike Tommy, it was a drama, not a musical. Released in 1979 to critical acclaim and commercial success, it starred Phil Daniels as Jimmy, with The Police’s Sting as Ace Face.

In 1996, The Who performed Quadrophenia at a benefit show at London’s Hyde Park. Daniels served as the narrator, and guest stars included David Gilmour of Pink FloydGary Glitter and Stephen Fry. It marked Ringo Starr‘s son Zak Starkey‘s debut as the band’s drummer. A U.S. version of the tour featuring Billy Idol included a six-night stand at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

In 2010 The Who performed Quadrophenia at London’s Royal Albert Hall to benefit the Teenage Cancer Trust, with guests including Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. In 2012, the band toured Quadrophenia again, this time without guest stars; in 2017, Townshend toured with an orchestral version called Classic Quadrophenia.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.