"The Real Me" is a song written by Pete Townshend on The Who's second full-scale rock opera, Quadrophenia in 1973. This is the second track on the album. It concerns a boy named Jimmy, a young English Mod with four distinct personalities. The song describes how he angrily deals with several individuals to identify "the real me".
The song features a virtuoso bass performance by John Entwistle. According to a 1996 interview with Entwistle by Goldmine Magazine, the bass part was recorded on the first take. Entwistle claimed he was "joking around" when he played the part, but the band loved it and used it in the final version.
Aside from the verses about the psychiatrist, mother and preacher, Townshend's original demo of the song on his solo album Scoop 3 includes another verse about rock and roll in general. The arrangement of the song is also much slower than what it would end up as in Quadrophenia.
Townshend has always referred to it as "Can You See the Real Me", rather than the more accepted abbreviated title.
The band first performed it on their 1973 tour promoting the Quadrophenia album, as a medley with the tape track "I Am the Sea", and it was played up until the end of their next French tour the following year, this time without "I Am the Sea". Following that, it was never played again until the 1979 tour, where it found a niche mostly as the concert's final song. It was played in all of the years of the band's existence with drummer Kenney Jones except his final year with the band in 1982. This was performed on some occasions in 1989 as well. This was also played in every concert of the 1996-1997 tour again promoting Quadrophenia. They continued to play the song until John Entwistle's death in 2002. After not performing it for several years, the band began including it in their live shows again in 2007 with the bass part, performed by Pino Palladino, being less prominent than the original version. The most recent performance of the song by the band was at the Royal Albert Hall in London on March 30, 2010 during their Quadrophenia concert for the Teenage Cancer Trust.
The band have been known to stretch this song out during live shows, especially one performance at the Rainbow Theatre in London on February 3, 1981, where the song reached 12 minutes. More recent versions (after the death of Entwistle), have toned the jamming down though, and mostly consist of the bare essentials.
"The Real Me" was also featured in the 1979 movie based on the album Quadrophenia as well as the soundtrack album, with a new bass track and a "finished ending" as opposed to the ending on the Quadrophenia album ("Can you see the real mememememe..."). It was also featured on the 2002 Who compilation The Ultimate Collection, with a slightly modified opening.
The following Who albums and DVD's feature "The Real Me":
- Quadrophenia (soundtrack)
- Thirty Years of Maximum R&B - A previously unreleased funkier and slightly slower reworking of the song recorded in 1979 with Kenney Jones on drums.
- Blues to the Bush
- The Ultimate Collection
- Live at the Royal Albert Hall
- The Who & Special Guests: Live at the Royal Albert Hall
- Tommy and Quadrophenia Live
- Encore Series 2007 (certain concerts only)
- Greatest Hits Live
- Roger Daltrey – lead vocals
- John Entwistle – bass guitar, brass
- Pete Townshend – lead guitar
- Keith Moon – drums
The song was covered by heavy metal band W.A.S.P. in 1989, along with its own music video. It was also covered by Pearl Jam during The Who Tribute on VH1 in 2008. In August 2009, Pearl Jam performed the song at the Shepherds Bush Empire, with Simon Townshend on guitar.
The Eric Burdon Band released a different song with the same title, also in 1974.