Based on The Who’s most mature album, Quadrophenia was released in 1979 as an adaptation of the rock opera for the big screen. The title of the album and the adapted British film is a variation of the term “schizophrenia” combined with the word “quadraphonic”, at that time a recent sound invention. The story deals with numerous social and political happenings in the London and Brighton of 1965, alongside psychological problems, identity disorders, anger, frustration and of course, plenty of quadraphonic music.
All this is given from Jimmy’s perspective, a young English Mod who hates his parents, his job and all the rules he has to live under. Every evening he escapes into a Mod world, where he listens to music, drives his scooter around London with his friends, does drugs, fights the Rockers and feels alive and free. When it all goes wrong, Jimmy’s life is turned upside down – paranoia, desolation and despair replace those colourful evenings he’s used to having and now all that can be found is isolation and anger for the time that’s been wasted.
The album was first released in 1973 and then the film’s soundtrack was re-released with a few additional songs by other Sixties bands on Polydor Records in 1979. It was dedicated to the prominent Mod, Peter Meaden, who was The Who’s first manager and who died in 1978, just a year before the film was released.
Quadrophenia‘s soundtrack tells a great tale through some very impressive songwriting. Jimmy, the angry and anguished Mod of the mid-Sixties refuses to obey parents and stick to a dead-end job, dresses up in his modish suits, drives around on his scooter, breaks into drugstores for happy pills, dances, makes love, fights, loses control and shouts The Real Me, I Am One, I’ve Had Enough and Get Out And Stay Out.
I’ve had enough of living,
I’ve had enough of dying,
I’ve had enough of smiling,
I’ve had enough of crying,
I’ve taken all the high roads,
I’ve squandered and I’ve saved,
I’ve had enough of childhood,
I’ve had enough of grades.
However the world Jimmy has been escaping to, turns out to be a utopia. The 5.15 scene in the film is one of the coolest music videos to have ever been made. This is when Jimmy takes the train to Brighton after having regretted most of his past choices. Now he has even turned against his evenings of drugs, his Mod hangouts and all those unnecessary fights. All he feels is confusion, frustration, disappointment and regret. This is a song about disconnection with family, friends, society and everything revolving around these things. This is a scene about not understanding why you should care about anything…
Bell Boy is the idol’s fall from grace. The person Jimmy, among others, was once trying to impress, and now he can’t stand. The Ace has officially turned into a Bell Boy. Which makes Jimmy feel even more confused, betrayed and regretful for his wasted time, energy and passion on all the wrong things. The whole soundtrack up until this point is the protagonist’s extreme urge to find something to believe in, something to trust and something to care about. As everything slowly proves not to be worth his trouble, the question “what is the point of all this?” maddens him more and more.
Rebirth comes with Love, Reign o’er Me. Having reached rock bottom and with nothing left to live for, Jimmy contemplates suicide. His need for answers drives him to escape to the beach and when rain comes to wash his pain and questions away, Jimmy is forced to wake up and surrender to an inevitable and long-time-avoided maturity. There is a spiritual strength that comes out of rejecting his idols, out of leaving meaningless fun behind and out of allowing his weakness and need for love to mature him and make him stronger.
Can make it rain
The way the beach is kissed by the sea.
Can make it rain
Like the sweat of lovers’
Laying in the fields.
The film stars Phil Daniels as Jimmy and is directed by Franc Roddam who makes with Quadrophenia his directorial debut. Unlike Tommy, this is a film filled with music, however on the side. It is not a musical film, but it is completely immersed in sound, the story derives and is carried through with the songs’ help and when it all finishes the loneliness and disappointment in the air is given much more through the music than anything else.
Essentially, this is a brilliant film which would have little reason to exist if it weren’t for its soundtrack. Great acting, skilful direction, realistic dialogue. But a flawless and without precedent soundtrack makes everything else look merely auxiliary. At the end of it all, Quadrophenia is a flawless two-hour music video for a deep-concept, fully grown rock album.
Quadrophenia (film) at IMDb
Quadrophenia (film) at Rotten Tomatoes
Quadrophenia (film) at Wikipedia
Quadrophenia (album) at Wikipedia
The Who at Wikipedia
Official website of The Who at thewho.com
The Who: Quadrophenia Official Site at quadropheniaofficial.com
Quadrophenia: back when Britain’s youngsters ran riot at The Guardian
Quadrophenia lyrics at quadrophenia.net