Today in 1979 Quadrophenia, the movie based on The Who’s album of the same name, premiered in London. 

Rock operas, as they have come to be called, held enormous appeal for the adolescent me.  They were big, bombastic, dramatic, and loud (come to think of it, they still appeal to me).  Other records from the genre include Tommy (also The Who), The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (David Bowie), The Wall (Pink Floyd), The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (Genesis), and Bat Out of Hell (Meatloaf).  The stories these records tell may be silly or histrionic (and certainly, in many cases, drug-induced), but if you break down Aida, or Rigoletto, or La Boheme, they hold up pretty well, all things considered.

Andrew Lloyd Webber arrived hot on the heels of the rock opera golden age with Jesus Christ: SuperstarPhantom of the Opera and Cats owe much to these records.  There have been a few “high concept” records since the 1970’s, notably Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime and Green Day’s American Idiot.  Fans of Rush would lay claim to the concept album as well, but none of their records, in my opinion, tell a single, cohesive story.

 Only love
Can make it rain
The way the beach is kissed by the sea
Only love
Can make it rain
Like the sweat of lovers
Laying in the fields.

Love, reign o’er me
Love, reign o’er me, rain on me

Only love
Can bring the rain
That makes you yearn to the sky
Only love
Can bring the rain
That falls like tears from on high

Love reign o’er me

On the dry and dusty road
The nights we spend apart alone
I need to get back home to cool, cool rain
I can’t sleep and I lay and I think
The night is hot and black as ink
Oh God, I need a drink of cool, cool rain

Love, Reign O’er Me, lyrics by Pete Townsend, from Quadrophenia, (c) The Who 1972.