The eighth track on The Who’s second rock opera Quadrophenia is “Helpless Dancer”, a piano led march that is meant to represent the ‘tough guy’ persona of the album’s central character Jimmy. It is also one of the four themes present that portrays one of the members of The Who, in this case the song is the theme for Roger Daltrey. The narrator is angered by the unfairness and injustice within the society around him; Jimmy gives up on it, and his ‘dancing’ and naivety are brought to a sudden halt.
The aforementioned piano boldly begins the track and its chords simmer throughout the introduction, which continues to build as acoustic guitars and a French horn courtesy of bassist John Entwistle enter the mix. The melody provided by the horn is something of a motif, appearing at crucial points in the album’s storyline. It is soon after this slow build that the track’s marching rhythm starts, led by a vamping piano which blasts out chords whilst Roger Daltrey’s passionate vocals pan regularly pan from one ear to the other. Acoustic flourishes by Townshend appear within its second verse to give the track a further boost, and the way the guitar is played is mirrored again by Keith Moon and his drums later during “The Rock” (which I actually just noticed while writing this).
The piano and French horn end “Dancer” just how it started, but a nice little snippet of “The Kids Are Alright” really closes the song off – maybe to lift a weight off the serious subject matter.