The Real Me

Album: Quadrophenia (1973)
Charted: 92
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  • This song is about how a Mod can't see who he really is. "Mods" were British youth who kept up with the latest music and fashion trends. Pete Townshend was a champion of Mod culture, and the rock opera Quadrophenia told the story of a Mod named Jimmy.
  • John Entwistle gave what many consider one of his greatest bass performances on this song. In a 1996 interview with Goldmine magazine, Entwistle explained that he recorded it in one take. He was just "joking around" when he played it, but the band thought it was great and used it in the final version. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Will - Nashua, NH, for above 2
  • The story in this song holds up fairly well on its own, relating to themes of identity and madness. This makes it one of the more radio-friendly tracks on Quadrophenia, which is meant to be heard in its entirety.
  • The Quadrophenia concept relates to both the storyline in the album and the technology used to record it. The main character in the song has a "quadrophenic" personality, meaning four distinct personas are inside him. Each personality was meant to correspond to one of the band members.

    The technical aspect is the "quadrophonic" sound. Ron Nevison, who engineered the album, explained it in a Songfacts interview: "Basically, it was a way to take the channels and fold them out of phase into the front channels, and come up with a pseudo-fake four-track quad. It wasn't discreet quad. But even in order to mix it, you had to have quad panning, and you had to have four speakers. There was no studio that could do that in London, so The Who decided to build their own."

    The quad recording was ambitious, but it wasn't broadcast quality, so the album was released in standard stereo.

Comments: 29

  • Dmzabo from Pittsburgh, Pa“Thunder Fingers” John Entwistle has to be the baddest bass player ever to play that instrument.(IMHO) It’s sad that he has left this world for that big bass line in the sky R.I.P. Mr. J Entwistle. 10/9/44 - 06/27/02
  • Cameron from Puerto VallartaOf course John's bass is epic. But Pete's lyrics are profound. Still, I search for the real me.
  • Tara from Petoskey, MiTHANK YOU, John from New Orleans!! Thank you! Somebody else with my same opinion! It may be hard to compare the two musically, but they are both so powerful, so captivating.
  • John from New Orleans, LaIn my book, with all due respect to all other bands, there are only two bands that achieve a certain overwhelming 'power' with their music: Led zeppelin and The WHO. So many WHO songs are epic. Pete Townshend is a true genius of music. And master of the guitar. I place him high on my list, up there with Hendrix and Page.
  • Tracy from Tulsa, OkBest Bass line ever.
  • Marty from Bullhead City, AzI think it is obviously the Golden Gate Bridge that Townsend is referring to , the song is about a lost soul who is talking to his shrink and preacher and neither one helps him so he decides to go to the number one suicide destination in the world for a poetic end !!
  • Michael from Oxford, -As for me, I'd say I sound somewhere between Jon Anderson and John Wetton.
  • Michael from Oxford, -Further to my last (about the emotional value of Yes music): Check out Chris Squire's 1975 solo release Fish Out of Water. I would describe the track "Lucky Seven" as adolescence summed up in 6:54... but that's quite short by Yes standards! I guess Chris Squire's voice is kinda darker in character than that of Jon Anderson, so it's better suited to such material.
  • Michael from Oxford, -Jon wrote, "This song is adolescence summed up in 3:20". Sorry, but if that's true then I'm Jimi Hendrix. You can't sum up adolescence in a short song, because ADOLESCENCE ISN'T SHORT. IN FACT, THAT'S WHY IT'S SOOOOOO HORRIBLE!!!!!!

    I think it's ironic that punk rock (which is built around short, simple songs) should be considered an outlet for teenage angst, when progressive rock (the punks' worst enemy - go figure!) is, potentially at least, a much better vehicle. If you're trying to write a song about something that lasts a long time, why shouldn't it be a long song? Unfortunately, I've just browsed through my music library and can't find a single clear-cut example. The nearest to that would be the 7-minute instrumental passage in Yes' "The Gates of Delirium" (from the album Relayer, 1974) from 8:03 through to 15:07. The whole song clocks in at 21:54.

    However, I'm a musician myself, with some prog rock influences. And I've just put the finishing touches to my first album, which includes one song that I would describe as adolescence summed up in 7:22. Now isn't that more, uh, plausible? Eh? Watch this space...
  • Roy from Granbania, MaThis is the best bass guitar song ever! John Entwistle is truely amazing. Whenever I play it it shakes the floor even with my crappy computer speakers. I highly suggest getting Quadrophenia on vinyl and playing it on a Bose sound system.
  • Jeff from Austin, TxI first heard WASP's version of this song and thought it was pretty rockin. But when I heard the original, it was so much more hardcore. When you consider this was freakin 1973!! Come on!!! what sounded like that back then??
  • Kathi from Detroit, MiI thought it was about Pete seeing double on the screen that he was a Beatle! Ha! Ha! Pete does it, gets all excited on the wind up, it looks pretty funny. I think he does it when he's happy about other songs, i've seen him do it twice on like song line ups where other people were playing. I guess again, I don't know; Pete is readily identifyable. Did you ever hear about that show where they were going to put Ritchie Blackmore in jail if he didn't come out of the bathroom and play? Waters almost in my opinion shouldn't try to open for Deep Purple that isn't there, it made the Eminence creeps freak. I believe Entwhistle would have eventually killed Waters and Jimmy. But, he didn't get the chance. He was a pretty angry guy, but very lovable. Who was this about again, Pete? - oh him too. Very lovable dude.
  • Nathan from Austin, TxOn the issue of the best bass player, it wouldn't be fair to compare Tony Levin and John Enwistle. They're both dramatically different in their style and roles with the band. Levin specializes in laying down a heavy gut busting rhythm, while Entwistle is second to none at improvising and playing solos. Those two, along with Chris Squire, who is somewhere between them, make up what I consider the top tier of bass playing. The next tier would be the funk stylings of Victor Wooten and Les Claypool. I'm also a big fan of Greg Lake of ELP and King Crimson, and Jaco Pestorious of Weather Report. As for Roger Waters, and don't get me wrong, because Pink Floyd is my favorite band of all time, but he is a marginal bass player at best. While most Pink Floyd bass riffs are pretty catchy, they are very simple. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But I am pretty sure that David Gilmour wrote and recorded most of Pink Floyd's bass lines.
  • Joe from Bellingham, WaScrew Pinball Wizard, THIS is my favorite Who song! (although i really liked pinball wizard too!)
  • Mike from Long Island, NyThe Quadrophenia rock opera revolves around British youth Jimmy, who has a "four-faceted multi-personality disorder." Unable to determine which of the four is his true self, he looks to others, including his doctor, his mother, and a preacher, none of which can give him a sufficient answer to his problem. His internal struggle lasts until the final song on the album, "Love, Reign O'er Me," wherein Jimmy finds himself, as Pete Townshend put it, "in danger of maturing."
  • Pete from London, Englandhey hey hey.... John Entwhistle a a rockin' bassist. One of the best.

    Also, Quadrophenia is an awesome album. The end.
  • Rob from Vancouver, CanadaBass players?....Jeff Berlin, Geddy Lee and Tony Levin...I have nothing against John but he's just not technically in the same category as the above. I put him on par with John Paul Jones.
  • Fyodor from Denver, CoJon is right about the "golden gate." Perhaps Townsend thought "heaven" was a futile answer to what ails us in the here and now. But I don't know about our host's first sentence. It's more about how no one ELSE could see the real him and thus could not answer his desparate cry for help. Only the reign/rain of love could do that.
  • Eddie from Petaluma, Cai do agree that some of the best bass players were jazz bassists. But Entwistle was so influential and so amazing that you have to consider some one if not the greatest bassist of all time. Some of the things John did are still to this day affecting bassists today. So for that you have to realize truly how influential he was. I've heard that the who are coming out with a new album sometime this spring, its a shame hes not going to be able to be on it. It would have been crazy good
  • Ian from Hamilton, CanadaWaters on par with Entwistle? Not likely, (didn't Gilmour write most of his lines?) Chris Squire maybe, but most technically skilled ever? Hardly. Same goes for Claypool.
    Anyway, the most proficient bassists are in jazz. Check out Jaco Pastorius, Stanley Clarke and maybe Victor Wooten for some real nice bass playing. They leave most of the afore-mentionned in the dust.
  • Larry from Vancouver, WaI think the "golden gate" represents the door. He scared the preacher, so he showed him the door. Maybe, it is golden Townshend is saying religion is about money and not helping people. When I was younger I just took it to mean the pearly gate.
  • Steve from Bakersfield, CaW.A.S.P. sings this song too, their version is louder, harder and faster.
  • Steve from Chino Hills, CaQuadraphenia was the soundtrack to my life in high school. The Who let it all out in this song, so amazing! I remember at the time totally identifying with the song. Man, that Pete Townshend is a genious!
  • Sled from St. Louis, Ne'golden gate' IS referring to SF's Golden Gate Bridge, a site notorious for jumpers.
  • Jason Lee from New York, NyI used to think Entwhistle was clearly the best bass guitar player. I actually still think he is if you're only talking about pure classic rock. But if you want to go further, you also have to consider Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, who probably wrote the best bass riffs/rhythms, and Chris Squire of Yes and Les Claypool of many bands including Primus who are two of the most technichally skilled bassists ever. This is not to say that Entwhistle and JPJ aren't great too, though. Oh, and you also should listen to the bassist for Jethro Tull, whose name I can't remember. He was great as well.
  • Jon from Sunnyvale, CaJimmy scared the preacher "a little," who then tried to "save" Jimmy by telling him about heaven. I can safely second that Entwistle rocks! This song is adolescence summed up in 3:20.
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScGreat bass! John entwistle rocks!
  • Nessie from Sapporo, JapanJon, it could the gates of heaven (not pearly in this instance) or it could be the Golden Gate bridge, which is popular for suicides. Neither exlpanation is too satisfactory, though.
  • Jon from Sunnyvale, CaDoes anybody know what the reference to the "golden gate is?" That line baffles me and maybe someone out their in SongFacts land can help me out.
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