"Quadrophenia". It's a word or phrase guaranteed to spark an intercine (or is it "inter-scene"?) war among a group of mods at it's very mention. There are of course, two "Quadrophenia"'s, the original 1973 double LP by The Who and the dreadful but easily lampoon-able 1979 film (released 32 years ago today actually). We are here today to talk about the album. For me it has been an up and down relationship. The double album and I are like an old married couple who have the stereotype love/hate relationship but like it or not it is still, thanks to it's beginnings, a very large part of me.
I was first introduced to the album's tracks via the film soundtrack double LP in 1981 when I purchased a cut out of it. It was not until the summer of 1982 that a friend and I took a copy out of the library in his town to listen to that I finally became acquainted with it in it's original form. I think what struck me immediately was the songs content. As much as I loved The Jam they never SANG about mods (lucky for them!) and the '79 bands did but in a more subtle way and here it was The Who singing about beach fights, suits, pills and yes the hallowed mode of mod transport, the scooter (a Vespa GS scooter to be exact). Townshend's lyrical imagery is still to this day as powerful as it was when I heard some of these tracks that summer day in my friend's stepfather's parsonage study. "The Real Me" (which opens the album after the quasi-psychedelic "I Am The Sea") still packs a massive "ooomphhh" thanks to the sheer power of the number. Bassist John Entwistle's impeccable brass work carries the album and it's no better exemplified on "The Real Me". In fact most of the tracks still have a certain punch to them, like "5:15", "Cut My Hair", "Is It in My Head?" ,"The Dirty Jobs", "Bell Boy" and even the synth laden instrumental "Quadrophenia" all still sparkle for me in their own little way. Though I disdain the "Quadrophenia" film for what it has become and what it spawns (moronic impressions of mod, that dreadful "we are the mods" chant etc) I must say that "I Am The Sea"/"The Real Me" is a perfect way to begin any film and the shots of Phil Daniels riding his Lambretta around (past loads of late 70's vehicles) cannot be ignored.
I think my disdain for "Quadrophenia" occurred as part of my backlash in the mid 90's that resulted when NYC was suddenly inundated by these scruffy Brit pop type mods who I derisively referred to as "yob mods" because of their faux football terrace behavior, their lack of style and their literal belief that Blur's "Boys And Girls" was how life should be, in that order. Thanks to Blur et al there was this sudden influx of "new mods" who were taking the film quite literally and on about beating up "rockers" and basically carrying on like a bunch of primates. The film and all the tribal crap espoused by it was being taken as gospel and suddenly it was a guide on how to behave in the way that Richard Barne's "Mods" book had been for me in '81. This was, in some small part due to the British music papers and that dreadful "Touched By The Hand Of Mod" piece that espoused Blur, Mantaray, Thurman and loads of bands (real and "bedroom") that were never heard of again where it was all "speed, scooter, Quadrophenia". With this there was also a sudden praise for the LP by these "ace face's in trainers" and my head began to turn by unfortunately associating it with them. It put me off on the album for very long time. I seem to recall many, many years ago flogging it on some online mods forum while all this was happening as being the result of what would've occurred if "E.L.P. made an album about mod". This was of course at a time where I'm assuming I was not amused by it's banks and layers of synthesizers and was not at all interested in 70's music outside of Bowie and Bolan! Fool.
|"Down by the jetty", Asbury Park, NJ Spring 1995: me and Rob Farrell are forced into the sea by the NYC yob mods infringing on our patch.|
Luckily time erased both the Brit pop mods who moved onto their next "cool" thing and my distaste for the album, which thanks to occasional doses of iPod nostalgia has come back into my world. It's funny but on the occasion that I get to get out and about and meet one of my friends from "the old days" (the 80's) I'm immediately always jarred into remembering, quite fondly, a rather appropriate line from "Bell Boy":
"but I see a face coming through the haze, I remember him from those crazy days..."
Then there's this delightful blog with some groovy factoids about the film:
Amazon.com recently began taking advance orders for the November, 14, 2011 deluxe edition, titled "Quadrophenia:The Director's Cut Box Set" which in the style of David Bowie's "Station To Station" box set looks like quite a treat! It is set to include 4 CD's (including two discs exclusively of demo's), a 7" 45 of "5:15" b/w "Water", a 100 page hardbound book, collectible" insert cards and a DVD all housed in a groovy LP sized, album cover facsimile box! I think I'll be pre-ordering mine....
|To my wife, if you're reading this, this could be my B-Day AND Xmas gift...|
|"Some nights I still sleep on the beach....": British mod early 80's.|
|"A beach is the place where a man can feel he's the only soul in the world that's real..."|
Asbury Park, NJ 12/19/10