Motorbikes with multiple rear view mirrors and headlights, pills, snack bar hangouts, gang rumbles, and music by the Who. Quadrophenia, executive produced by the Who, with music produced by bassist John Entwistle, captures a slice of Britain in the 1960's. True, the strong accents may not be understandable to untrained American ears, but to an Anglophile such as myself, it was music to my ears.
The interraction between Jimmy and his friends. He's really taken with Steph, a prize blonde in their circle who seems to be hanging around another Mod. However, he ignores Monkey, who's a nice enough girl, but who in his eyes pales when put aside Steph. Her reaction at his not noticing her is telling, as she seems to have a thing for him. He does okay around the others, such as Dave, Spider, and a black guy named Ferdy, who's the one to go to for buying blues, pills that is. Most curious is the way he sees Kevin, a friend of his who went in the army and left, only to become a Rocker.
Jimmy's life as the post-room boy seems unrewarding. In fact he steals some cheesecake photos he was supposed to deliver and keeps them. Hmm, were those "pictures of Lily"? His late nights also cause consternation to his parents, and he answers them with equal vituperation. He is a typical enough boy, with ... pin-ups, newspaper clippings of Mods versus Rocker riots, and pictures of the Who on his bedroom wall.
A telling scene about what the movie's thematically about comes during a conversation between Kevin and Jimmy. Kevin says he doesn't care one bit about the whole Mods and Rockers nonsense. Jimmy then says, "I don't want to be the same as everybody else. That's why I'm a Mod, see? I mean, you gotta be somebody, ain't ya? Or you might as well jump in the sea and drown."
Yet there's the contradiction of being a Mod just to be somebody. Jimmy's father tells him to have a mind of his own instead of being in a gang. For Kevin, it seems to be just the difference in musical tastes, i.e. Gene Vincent versus The Kinks. Jimmy has nailed his Mod colours to the mast to the hilt.
When Jimmy is watching The Who performing "Anyway, Anywhere, Anyhow" on Ready Steady Go, and turns up the volume on the tellie while jamming to it, his father tells him, "That'll make you deaf, you know", which is ironic given Pete Townshend's later hearing problems and the Who's notoriously high decibel concerts. Apart from Cathy McGowan's show, the non-Who music such as the Ronettes, Crystals, and the Kingsmen
There are a few gang confrontations, ranging from jeering from motorbikes, down to fisticuffs. When Spider, a Mod, "gets a right kicking" from Rockers, that means reprisal time, and woe be to any Rockers hanging out.
The climactic riot scene in the holiday seaside resort of Brighton on the Bank Holiday is the most memorable part of the movie. At first, it's almost like a convention or motorbike rally before things get nasty. While I don't condone the violence and property damage, this exciting scene plays a crucial part of 1960's Britain, very reminiscent of similar gang rumbles in the America in the 1950's.
Second in memorability is the break-in at the chemist's to get some blues, and the frantic tension broken by moments of comedy works very well. And when everybody is jamming to "My Generation" at a party, the way the Mods get into the song is very high energy.
Phil Daniels plays Jimmy as someone who wants to fit in, yet remain an individual, equally befuddled and disillusioned.
Many of the other leads, particularly the Mods, stand out as their vivid personalities capture the period detail, Leslie Ash as Steph, Mark Wingstad as Dave, Gary Shail as Spider, and in particular, Raymond Winstone as Kevin. Pop singer Toyah Willcox does well as Monkey. Despite having a small role as Ace, Sting's role is important in the Brighton scene. Hey, he even got to yank a cop off his horse and do some serious messing about.
The Who's contribution to rock operas translated into movies should not be understated. Quadrophenia remains as it ever will be, a classic, nostalgic time capsule of a time sadly long gone. Love Reign O'er It!