With The Who once again bringing their Quadrophenia tour to the UK and Ireland in the summer of 2013, there is no doubt that there will be a media wide focus on mod culture. The film, for all of its successes or failures, remains one of the most potent visualisations of mod culture and it remains a huge influence on so many people turning to the mod way of life. Great music, fashion, spending time with friends and having an attitude towards life lies at the heart of the film and it is easy to see why the film lies at the heart of what is important for so many mods and people who hold mod culture close to their heart.
Long before the film was released in 1979, The Who released ‘Quadrophenia’, their sixth studio album in 1973. It was billed as a rock opera, the band’s second release of this nature after ‘Tommy’. Weighing in as a double album, songwriter Pete Townshend classed it as the peak of writing career and it was the album that re-connected the group with a younger audience.
The narrative of the album was based upon the social, music and even psychological state of minds for teenagers in London in 1965. While the album was focused on the lead character Jimmy and his different personalities, the film took a more rounded approach and drew heavily on mod culture.
Music is always a part of youth culture
Virtually every youth culture movement of the last 100 years has been linked to music so it is no surprise that music is central to the image and identity of a mod. The Who provided the majority of the soundtrack for the film but a number of other major artists who were popular on the scene in the mid-1960s were also included. With cafes and parties packed to the rafters with people and powered by the up-tempo soundtrack, it is no surprise to see dancehalls as being the main places where people would congregate.
Whether people flocked to hear the latest songs, to show off their dancing skills, to look good in their latest clothes, or to catch the eye of someone they were attracted to, music was the element that brought people and the whole culture together.
Everybody wants the party to keep on going
While the use of drugs remains a controversial subject for many, and it is possible to be a mod without the use of illegal substances, many people will agree that mod culture and drugs went hand in hand. The film captured this very well with the liberal use of amphetamines from all of the lead characters. Whether it was to keep partying all night or to feel more liberated and in touch with the music, amphetamines featured strongly in the film. It is not as if mod culture is unique in having a close relationship with drugs. At the time, Northern Soul was similarly linked to amphetamines, rock n roll is strongly associated with various drugs and in modern times, dance music has been almost universally linked to ecstasy use by the media.
For music and cinema fans outside of the mod scene, the liberal use of amphetamines in the film may have been shocking but, it was a true representation of the average weekend lifestyle of many mods.
The above factors formed the basis for the life of a mod and this is one reason the film Quadrophenia touches on employment. Throughout the first half of the film, the monotony of Jimmy’s working life is reinforced but of course, anyone that wants to be able to afford the music, the fashion, the scooter and even the drugs needs to be able to pay for it all. When Jimmy is chided for taking a day off work, he is reminded that if he wants to be able to afford the good life, he needs to be able to pay for it all, emphasising the need for balance in life.
Even today, even though times have greatly changed since the height of mod popularity captured in the film, or even the resurgence which came after the film’s release, many of the driving forces which encouraged people to turn to mod culture are alive today.
The feeling of living for the weekend and looking to enjoy yourself as much as possible outside of work to take away from the humdrum nature of work and family life is as prevalent today as it was back then. While the album stands as one of the best Who albums, the film managed to connect with so many people and the tour will be a great way for young and old to see the story of their lives played out in front of them once again. The price of the tour may cause debate and conjecture but the stories and songs played out on stage will resonate with every attendee, regardless of age or background.