If you are looking for one thing and one thing only to give you a good idea of what the mod culture is like, look no further than The Who and Quadrophenia. The film is a little easier to follow than the album itself. However, the album is absolutely brilliant. Between the film – where you get a good idea of the clothes and scooters and overall mod look – and the album, which is straight up mod heaven, it does a good job of explaining some mod history and the culture.
Quadrophenia tells the story of young man named Jimmy Cooper, a typical disillusioned London teenager in 1964. [Beware if you haven’t seen it, there’s spoilers in this post.] He joins up with the mods to give himself a sense of purpose and identity. His time is spent riding scooters, taking amphetamines, and hanging out with his Mod friends. Their idea of a good time is brawls with Rockers. After one explosive holiday weekend of rioting and fights, Jimmy gets arrested. To make matters worse, when he gets home, things go downhill even more. He grows depressed, is thrown out of his parents’ house, quits his dead end and soul crushing job, wrecks his scooter in an accident, and finds out his girl is with his friend Dave. That would be enough to shove anybody over the edge, but fate has one last thing to show him: he also discovers his mod hero, Ace Face – played by Sting in the film – is nothing but a loser bellboy. He snaps, steals Ace Face’s scooter, and throws it off Beachy Head.
The movie’s score goes beyond just The Who’s album and gives a good representation of the mods and the time period, specifically side four. There you get songs by James Brown, Booker T. and the M.G.s, and The Cascades. While it is basically a fictitious rock opera, the brawling between the mods and rockers really did happen and are the stuff of mod legend.
The title comes from misnomer “schizophrenia” and implies that Jimmy has four distinct personalities, each of which corresponds to a band member: a tough guy (represented by Roger Daltrey and the song “Helpless Dancer”), a lunatic (personified appropriately by Keith Moon and the song “Bell Boy”), the romantic fellow (John Entwistle and “Is It Me?” which is part of “Doctor Jimmy”) and lastly the beggar (Pete Towsend and my favorite theme, “Love, Reign O’er Me”).
I have to say, it is not a film for everyone. It is dark, a bit violent, there’s sex and some language too. It’s also quite bleak. It’s a coming of age story but in a gritty and realistic way, without a sugarcoated ending that makes you think that everything will eventually work out for you. You need to find your identity and purpose all on your own. If that sounds good to you or you are interested based on the Mod culture, music, and style, check it out.