There’s a 40th birthday party in Sheffield next week like no other. The Who – one of the definitive groups in rock and roll history are playing a show to mark the 40th anniversary of Quadrophenia.
The rock opera – which celebrates the ‘quadrophenic’ personality of a young Brighton teenager called Jimmy – will be performed live by The Who in Sheffield in a matter of days.
But Quadrophenia is no guitar-smashing rock and pop release. It’s a complex, thought-provoking work, both musically and thematically.
Quadrophenia, is a play on the medical term for the personality disorder schizophrenia. In Quadrophenia, the protagonist has a four-sided personality, with each aspect contradicting the other. Jimmy’s ‘quadrophenic’ personality is symbolised in the titles Helpless Dancer, Is It Me?, Bell Boy and Love Reign O’er Me.
But there is another twist to Quadrophenia.
The qualities of Jimmy’s four opposing personalities also represented The Who’s band members. The ‘helpless dancer’ symbolises Roger Daltrey, the romantic teenager in Is It Me represents John Entwistle, the lunatic of Bell Boy stands for Keith Moon and the hypocritical beggar in Love Reign O’er Me represents composer of the album Pete Townshend.
Townshend believed that musically weaving the medleys of Quadrophenia together was the most complicated composition he had worked on to that date. Indeed, Quadrophenia works more like a novel than an album and it was this that captured not only the audience’s imagination, but that of the music industry too.
The album – the band’s sixth studio release and second rock opera – reached number two in the American Billboard charts, just one place behind Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
But while Quadrophenia was a huge success with huge critical acclaim, the band felt that the original supporting tour was disastrous.
The tour relied heavily on synthesisers and backing tapes but technical malfunctions made the inorganic aspect of the band’s tour very difficult.
Now, however, 40 years on, the band have another chance to perfect the epic Quadrophenia stage show at Sheffield Motorpoint Arena on June 18.