The Who’s 1973 concept album “Quadrophenia” has been hailed as a classic since its release, both as a part of the group’s catalog and as part of the rock landscape of the 1970s. The group’s second rock opera in four years, it follows the story of a mod in 1960s London and Brighton.
It features some truly stunning music, some of which still stands today as among the group’s best. A case can even be made, at times, that this is the finest thing they ever produced. I would be inclined to agree, but for one problem – it’s too long.
The album’s 17 songs clock in at 82 minutes, which in double-album-land is downright restrained and conservative. Therefore, the process of trimming it down to a more humane length will be less labor-intensive than the process of getting the Beatles’ self-titled 1968 album to, in the immortal words of Tony Moss, fuck some of that baby fat off.
The album starts off with a track called “I Am the Sea,” which gives way to “The Real Me.” The latter is a masterful stomper that would have been just fine opening the album on its own, minus the sound of the ocean preceding it for two minutes, which is all the former really is.
The second-to-last song (or “penultimate,” if you prefer), is “The Rock.” An instrumental that cycles through every theme you just sat through already on the rest of the album, it’s a complete waste of time and can be shitcanned, unless you’re cramming for a final exam on the topic of the album, in which case its seven-minute length is pretty handy. Otherwise, get rid of it and get rid of “I Am the Sea,” and you’re off to a good start.
The first actual song – like with lyrics — that must be removed is the horrible “Bell Boy.” It might have been a decent song if the vocals were 100% covered by Roger Daltrey, but instead they thought it would be a great idea to let drummer and vehicular manslaughter enthusiast Keith Moon destroy it. Remove that shit now, post haste and without delay. Goodbye!
The title track is another case where the band cycles through the album’s themes for six minutes, and it’s followed by “Cut My Hair,” which is rendered a resident of the “meh” file by its overly literal lyrics, sung by the thoroughly mediocre Pete Townshend. He should have always let Daltrey sing everything, and to this day I can’t figure out why he didn’t.
Of course, Daltrey’s presence on its own can’t redeem a mediocre song, which “The Dirty Jobs” is. “I’ve Had Enough” is also a good candidate for the chopping block, as it mostly restates the album’s main themes again, for the billionth time.
By the way, I know it’s an opera. I know that in opera and in other classical music forms, you repeat certain themes and motifs. I studied this in school and everything! Except this music, like most rock music, is much better served in a tight and economical format, not in the super extra big-ass size that it’s been inflated to here.
The last song that needs to be shitcanned is “Sea and Sand,” another exercise in mediocrity and redundancy. Once that and the other songs I mentioned have been removed, you have a very strong, nine-song album that clocks in at 43 minutes, and still retains all of the album’s main themes. Here’s the track list of this new, improved “Quadrophenia.”
- The Real Me
- The Punk and the Godfather
- I’m One
- Helpless Dancer
- Is It in My Head?
- Doctor Jimmy
- Love Reign O’er Me
I realize that some of you will have problems with this. The original album is sacrosanct, you will say. To remove even one note would be an insult, you believe.
I performed a public service when I did this last week with “The White Album,” and not all of our readers were pleased. That’s okay. Such visionary, Promethean thinkers as Mozart and Van Gogh died, penniless and insane, both from advanced syphilis and from the pain of not being recognized in their time. I am ready to go out the same way, fully confident in the knowledge that someday, history will vindicate me, and I will get my own statue, like Kevin Costner got at the end of 1997’s “The Postman.”