Revisiting the Soundtrack to the Who’s ‘Quadrophenia’ Movie
In the early ’70s, after failing to realize his Lifehouse concept as a rock opera and movie, Pete Townshend began work on what would become the Who’s Quadrophenia album. He considered it the soundtrack to a film that would never be made, freeing the songwriter and guitarist to focus on the story of Jimmy the Mod in terms of music and not a screenplay. The idea worked, and Quadrophenia was released as a double LP in 1973 (and remains the Who’s best album in the eyes of many fans).
Of course, it’s not without irony that the saga of Jimmy and his split personalities did become a film, six years after the album was released. Quadrophenia the movie came after the success (if you could call it that) of the film version of Tommy – though the films couldn’t be more different. Where 1975’s Tommy was a star-studded pop art nightmare of a musical in which the actors sang the tracks from the Who’s 1969 album, 1979’s Quadrophenia film conceived as something grittier. Even though director Franc Roddam’s movie would feature music from the Who’s rock opera (and also featured a co-written screenplay by Townshend and was distributed via Who Films), the characters wouldn’t sing the material. Rather the music of Quadrophenia the album would become the soundtrack to Quadrophenia the film.
Yet, when the movie hit theaters in the fall of 1979, the Who didn’t merely re-release 1973’s Quadrophenia album. Instead there was a new double-LP soundtrack released on Oct. 5, with myriad differences from the original rock opera. This was partially because of pressure from MCA, which was still profiting from its release of the 1973 album. Polydor had the rights to the soundtrack and promised it would be different enough not to merely supplant the earlier recording.
While the soundtrack did draw heavily from the Who’s original recordings, all of these tracks were remixed, sometimes with added parts, by John Entwistle. For example, "The Real Me," which plays over the film’s credits sequence, included a new bass part from Entwistle and had a more succinct ending to suit the action on screen. Other songs, such as "I’m One," were given extra accompaniment to make the songs more “musical.” The alterations are apparent, if not obvious to casual fans.
Also, not all of the original Quadrophenia songs appear on the soundtrack – omissions include the instrumental title track, "The Rock," "Drowned" and "Sea and Sand." Instead, as a prime bonus to Who fans, the album included three as-yet-unheard tracks that had been demoed or partially completed for the original rock opera, but left on the cutting room floor.
While some artists detest looking back, Townshend has always seemed to relish revisiting earlier works and allowing fans a peak behind the curtain (see the Scoop series, Odds & Sods and deluxe, demo-laden reissues). And so, the soundtrack included "Joker James" (the song that helped inspire Quadrophenia but became irrelevant), "Get Out and Stay Out" (a throwaway “connector song”) and "Four Faces" (which featured archival drumming from Keith Moon, who had died in 1978). Moon’s replacement, Kenney Jones, made his Who album debut with his work on "Joker James" and "Get Out and Stay Out" – and a few die-hard Who fans still contend it’s Jones and not Moonie on "Four Faces."
The last side of the soundtrack was rounded out with non-Who songs, mod favorites from the early ’60s like the Kingsmen’s "Louie Louie," James Brown’s "Night Train" and the Chiffons’ "He’s So Fine." It even included "Zoot Suit," a would-be mod anthem recorded by a little-known four-piece called the High Numbers (which is what the Who briefly called themselves in 1964 in a blatant play for mod popularity).
All of these alterations made for an interesting Who release, although far from an essential addition to the Who canon. As with the film, the soundtrack was a modest success, hitting No. 46 in the U.S. and No. 23 in the U.K., and and has since been reissued on CD (both with and without the non-Who material). In addition, fans would finally get to hear Townshend’s demo versions of the soundtrack-only Who songs with 2011’s deluxe box set version of the original Quadrophenia album.
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