The Who – Quadrophenia – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

On the best copies the energy factor is OFF THE CHARTS. The highs are silky sweet, the bottom end is meaty, the drums are punchy and the vocals are present and tonally correct. The piano has real weight, the synths float breathily in the air, and there’s wonderful three-dimensional depth to the soundfield. 

There’s a POWER to the sound that the average copy only hints at. The crashing guitar chords that are the hallmark of The Who Sound often lack the weight of the real thing; they don’t punch you in the gut the way Townsend no doubt wanted them to.

Moon’s drums need to blast away like cannons. This is the quintessential Who sound. Everybody who’s ever seen them live knows it. I saw them back in the day when Moon was still behind his kit and it’s a sound I’ll never forget. 

Most copies don’t have nearly this much Tubey Magic — you aren’t going to believe all the richness, sweetness, and warmth here. The clarity and transparency are superb in their own right, and the impressive dynamic range really allows this copy to communicate the explosive energy of The Who at their peak..

As with any Who album, this is obviously not your typical Audiophile Demo Disc. We don’t imagine you’ll be enjoying this one with wine, cigars, and polite conversation. This one is for turning up loud and rockin’ out — in other words, it’s our kind of record!

Ron Nevison

This very album was one of RON NEVISON’S first big engineering jobs. (They passed on Glyn Johns if you can imagine that.) He went on to do Bad Company’s debut, a Top 100 album for us, as well as Straight Shooter, which in some ways I like even better as a recording, and then the sprawling mess that turned into Physical Graffitti.

He went on to do lots of the biggest selling monster rock albums of the ’80s, but The ’80s Sound has never held much appeal for us, which is of course why you find so few recordings from that era on our site, silk purses, sow’s ears and all that.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

I Am The Sea
The Real Me
Quadrophenia
Cut My Hair
The Punk And The Godfather

Side Two

I’m One
The Dirty Jobs
Helpless Dancer
Is It In My Head
I’ve Had Enough

Side Three

5:15
Sea And Sand
Drowned
Bell Boy

Side Four

Doctor Jimmy
The Rock
Love, Reign O’er Me

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review

Some of Townshend’s most direct, heartfelt writing is contained here, and production-wise it’s a tour de force, with some of the most imaginative use of synthesizers on a rock record. Various members of the band griped endlessly about flaws in the mix, but really these will bug very few listeners, who in general will find this to be one of the Who’s most powerful statements.

Turn It Up

Now if you want to play this record at 70 db, little of our commentary about the power of this recording will make much sense. There are some dumb ideas floating out there in Audiophile land, but playing your records quietly in order to hear them better has to be one of the dumbest. Anybody who plays a record like Quadrophenia at moderate levels should be taken out in the street and hosed down. How do you think Townsend went deaf, by playing his music too softly? He played his music LOUD because that’s the way he wanted you to hear it. Moon beats the hell out of his drums because he likes the sound of drums beaten HARD.

If you don’t have the stereo to play this record right, don’t make excuses and don’t make up bizarre theories about volume levels in the home. You’re not fooling anybody with those kinds of rationalizations. If your speaker distorts that’s your problem, pal. Don’t lay that trip on me.

Some of us have done our homework and take pride in what we’ve managed to accomplish. We’ve been challenging ourselves and our systems with records like Zep II and Aqualung and Quadrophenia for thirty years. We know how good these records can sound on systems that have what it takes to play them at good loud levels. If you’re not going to play this Hard Rockin’ Record right, better to save your money for the kinds of records that sound fine at moderate levels. This is not one of them.