The Who, “Love Reign O’er Me”

The Who are rightly hailed as experts in the realm of concept albums, or “rock operas” as they were called once upon a time. Tommy and Quadrophenia might have been intended by Pete Townshend to be mixed media experiences, but they are ultimately best enjoyed with a phonograph and a good set of headphones, heard from start to finish. From among those albums, The Who were able to create individual songs, like “Love, Reign O’er Me” as just one of many superb examples, that stand apart and don’t need any larger context to shine. “Love, Reign O’er Me” closes out Quadrophenia, which Townshend used as a way of telling one put-upon kid’s story while also summarizing the personalities within his band. He explained in the liner notes to the album how the song, one final plea for deliverance by the album’s protagonist Jimmy, sprung partially from the teachings of the spiritualist Meher Baba: “It refers to Meher Baba's one time comment that rain was a blessing from God; that thunder was God's Voice. It's another plea to drown, only this time in the rain. Jimmy goes through a suicide crisis. He surrenders to the inevitable, and you know, you know,…

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