The Who

Love, Reign O'er Me

Composed by Pete Townshend

Song Review by

One thing that the Who's two most notable large-scale narratives had in common was the fact Pete Townshend may know how to tell an engrossing story, but he seems to be at a loss to finish it. After three-plus sides of putting his deaf, dumb, and blind boy through all manner of tortures, Townshend couldn't come up with a better way to wrap up Tommy than a sudden mysterious burst of spiritual understanding, and in Quadrophenia, after Jimmy the Mod has been let down by every significant relationship in his life, and his every effort to find a place to belong has been ripped from him, about all he can do is tell us he wants and needs to be loved. In short, Townshend is no whiz as a librettist, but there's no denying he knows how to write one hell of a finale; like "We're Not Gonna Take It," "Love Reign O'er Me" doesn't do much to wrap up a complex story, but as a piece of music it's passionate, anthemic, and raises the roof. Beginning with ominous piano chords which blend with the sound of rain pouring down on our protagonist, the song segues into a synthesizer pattern whose rising and lowering effect seems to mirror that of the crashing waves surrounding Jimmy. Roger Daltrey sings, first with measured calm and then with growing passion, "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." Soon, Pete Townshend's guitar comes into the picture, Keith Moon's drumming builds in its intensity, and by the time Daltrey has hit the chorus and begun wailing "love, reign o'er me" with neo-operatic bio, it hardly matters that this doesn't really wrap up the story; this is '70s rock at it's most majestic, and Townshend's declaration of the necessity of love is so sincere, and presented with such artful elegance, that only a hard-headed slug could fail to be moved by it. And while Roger Daltrey would become increasingly problematic as a vocalist as the '70s wore on, Quadrophenia captured him at the very peak of his powers, and "Love Reign O'er Me" is one moment where his golden-haired rock-god persona truly works and gives this song all the force it truly deserves.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Quadrophenia 1973 MCA 6:37
Quadrophenia [Music from the Soundtrack of The Who Film] 1979 Polydor 5:13
No Image 1983 CBS/Fox
No Image 1991
Thirty Years of Maximum R&B 1994 MCA 4:51
No Image 2001 Rhino 0:00
The Ultimate Collection 2002 Universal Distribution 5:51
Then and Now: 1964-2004 2004 Geffen 3:12
Greatest Hits 2009 Geffen 5:55
Greatest Hits & More 2010 Polydor 5:55
Icon 2 2011 Geffen 5:55
The Who Hits 50! 2014 Geffen 5:51
Love Reign O'er Me Geffen / Universal 4:08