Monday, November 14, 2011

Discovering the 1973 Quadrophenia LP

What's that? You haven't heard the big Mod news this month?

Well, seems the Mod community has been abuzz with news of the release of the1973 Quadrophenia LP 'Director's Cut' happening today. Heck, if I didn't have real-world obligations, I'd have spent the time writing various Quadrophenia-related posts in celebration of the month of Quad-vember! I can spend several posts on Quadrophenia the movie alone ,which will happen in time, but today let's take a look at the original LP.

I'll go ahead and say it: Quadrophenia is probably my favorite Who LP. It's an album that, for me, has really stood the test of time and sounds as great today as it did when I first heard it as a teen... which is weird. Based on the album's sound, I should not have liked this album at all at that time. I was still young, a bit narrow-minded, and put off by anything 'heavy rock'-related. I was into new wave, punk, power-pop, soul and r&b with my taste of jazz limited to a Columbia classic jazz compilation and a cassette tape of Kind of Blue. I HATED strongly disliked anything post-1967 and pre-1976.

My first real exposure to Quadrophenia, aside from my father telling me I had to see it to learn more about Mods, was a purchase of the movie's original soundtrack during a San Francisco visit when I was about 16 years old. We were staying with my uncle and I remember putting the 2-disc album on with headphones (so as not to disturb the adults' conversations) and kind of liking the Who songs. I listened closely for any Mod-related lyrics and got a little excited when I did hear them. But what I loved most about that LP were the actual '60s numbers, especially those by the High Numbers, the Cross Section, James Brown, and Booker T. Those would be the songs I'd play over and over again.
At this point, I still hadn't seen the movie... remember, these were the days before OnDemand, Netflix streaming, and YouTube. But once I did, well... let's save that for another time. Okay, yes, I became obsessed. That obsession grew once I found a copy of the original 1973 Quadrophenia album, which included the booklet, about a year later! Despite the 'hard rock' operatic sound of the album, I played it constantly. (Okay, sure, I probably opened my mind to this album mainly because of the Mod on the cover.) The first song alone, 'The Real Me,' captured all the teen angst I had at the time. But you throw in songs like 'Cut My Hair,' 'Helpless Dancer,' 'Sea and Sand' and 'I've Had Enough,' and WOW-EE! Just the type of album I was needing... an album that was talking about what it was like to be young with the whole world against him. I leafed through the booklet's photos, absorbed the liner notes, and ate up all the lyrics, especially any Mod-related ones.

And yes, Jimmy the Mod became a kind of hero to me. I admit it. We all go through angst in different ways as teens. Those days for me consisted of going to school, not relating to many people, coming home, shutting my door and delving into music. I had no Mod girlfriends, no full-on Mod scene, and no Mod events I was aware of to attend. Heck, I lived in La Puente, CA where many of my neighbors had become full-on cholos. The loneliness and lameness that I thought Jimmy felt... yup, I was there too. (Oh, to be young again.)

I thought Jimmy was the Mod be-all and end-all.  The parka, the short hair, the suit, the sneakers... well, maybe not the sneakers. But he was the guy who I thought represented all Mods, especially me. Yes, friends, I too felt like I bled Quadrophenic. (...groan.)
Age 18, trying to figure out which of my 4 personalities to settle on for the day.
I'm looking through the Quadrophenia booklet now and remembering how those photos made me think about how much I thought our lives were so similiar. We both lived in dreary towns; we both had a hard time relating to our elders; and we both grumbled when taking out the garbage. Of course, we weren't completely alike: Jimmy's parents had to endure the horrors of WWII, he was allowed to have pin-ups of naked ladies on his walls, and... waitaminute, WHAT?!

Jimmy's parents let him put up photos of nude women on his walls? And they let him go out and party and come home late in the night? And he repays this by throwing rocks through car windows before overturning them?
Yeah, it around the time of realizing this stuff that I first grew away from the idea of Jimmy as any kind of 'hero'.

I'm an old man now (my wife disagrees, bless her heart). I don't relate to Jimmy the Mod. And I don't see Jimmy as any sort of Mod icon. Don't get me wrong, he's a great character that teens can identify with, especially if you're a teen who thinks you have troubles. I was there once. Angst... it's a heavy thing. But I look at these Quadrophenia photos and I just see a Mod kid who doesn't dress that well and was allowed to have naked photos of women on his walls. Plus, if you're gonna have a Mod icon, why not shoot for the best?

I just finished reading the Quadrophenia issue of Mojo and paused at how Pete Townsend described Jimmy: "So, Jimmy is one of the children, he's one of the numbers. He's not quite down there with the tickets." Well, let's ignore the Mod terminology Townsend's using here and get to the point... according to Pete Townsend, Jimmy wasn't that slick! He was a troubled kid toward the bottom of the Mod totem pole.

Dude was a 'number.' Straight from his creator's mouth!

Well, what's the point of this whole write-up? I was once an angsty Mod teen, once thought Jimmy was cool, and STILL really dig the original Quadrophenia LP (and not just because it's got a Mod on the cover). Speaking of which, excuse me while I put that album on before ordering the 'Director's Cut'!


  1. Brilliant piece Carlos. When I first got the LP with the booklet one of my friends was at pains to point out that Jimmy not only wore flares and sneakers but that he had a tattoo, this being the early 80's and nobody, let alone mods had ink (a far cry from the heavily inked bare arms I see beneath 60's styled dresses in pics of many a "mod" event these days on F.B., but that's beside the point...). I'm still on the fence about grabbing this box set, but as you pointed out there's a real the new heating system in my house that needs paying for!

  2. While I always love reading your posts, I must say this has to be your best written piece; excellent work!

    This was a very important album for me as well, and it has manifested itself in different ways through the years.

    The first Who album I owned was "Happy Jack", part of my uncle's rejected records from the 60s and early 70s that he gave his 4 year old nephew when his taste went entirely to prog rock and classical music (thanks Uncle Bob). So my first exposure to The Who was them at full mod flight and I was obsessed with RUN RUN RUN playing it over and over again on my close and play record player, completely destroying it along the way.

    Over time, I kept accumulating Who LP's and got a copy of Quadrophenia with the booklet from Recycled Records in Redondo Beach when I was about 12 (still have the same copy, too). Like you, I didn't care for the more bombastic side of the band as much, but the images in the book struck a chord with me in a big way; my mom was already taking me all over the south bay seeking out the 60s style clothes that I desired (thanks mom).

    If you would have asked me 5 years ago, I would have said that I liked Townsend's DEMOS for the LP better, as his voice was more to my liking than Roger's macho 70's voice. However, on a recent transatlantic flight I listened to Quadrophenia from start to end again with headphones and was struck speechless by the power of Roger's voice, and how his pitch is so good while screaming or crooning. And yeah, it is more about angst than being a mod; just so happens that the writer was an angsty "number" until he became a rock star.

  3. Ah, Bill, you brought up a great point about those flares! It's true and I had forgotten about my opinion on those back then. I hated those! When I was looking at the photos while writing this, I completely overlooked the flares since I'm more used to that look now.

    However, still not used to tattoos! It's a little jarring for me to see someone with a clean, Mod look and then BAM! a tattoo somewhere to disrupt the look.

  4. Derek, you are totally spot on! And I remember totally getting into RUN RUN RUN as well.

    To be honest, I didn't buy them as a 'Mod' band when my dad first told me about this stuff. They were listed as the World's Loudest ROCK Band in the Guiness Book of Records... how could that fit in with my conception of 'Mod' at the time? Little did I think, a few years later, I'd be loving Quadrophenia.

    Also, you should really pick up the new Mojo if you haven't yet. What you're saying about Roger's voice on the album is echoed in one of the articles.

    Regarding Pete's voice, Irene turned me on to the Scoop LP a couple of years back. I couldn't believe I had neglected it for so long! 'You Came Back'!

  5. Btw the image of a young mod amongst cholos is pretty hysterical, though I'm sure it wasn't for you, but it's just worlds away from anything I've ever seen or experienced!

  6. Once again, you have summarized all of my thoughts about the album in another great post. I can certainly relate to your own experience of being an isolated Mod surrounded by non-followers. Try being a French Canadian living Quebec into a British subculture and see how misunderstood you might feel at 16.

    Plus, after all those years, I still have a hard time answering the question, when somebody asks me if The Who were a Mod band or not. I think arguments can be made for both sides.

  7. I'll never understand the phenomena of "Quadrophenia" and its influence for Mod culture. A few days ago I've try to take this album once again - and I failed again. It represents everything what I despise in music. If The Who recorded rock-opera about Punk, today would be considered punk rock band? Next to Sex Pistols and The Clash? Probably they would.

  8. What do you mean "we both lived in dreary towns"? Are we talk about the same city called London? :) Maybe Sheperd's Bush is not Soho but I wouldn't dare to call it "dreary".
    Let me tell you about my first meeting with Q. Communist Poland, late '80ths, the reality was all the way grey. Literally. Some day the second tv chabnel (there was two public broadcast only and nothing else) showed Q movie. Oh my... I was teenage and I loved first hearded "My Generation" and "Louie Louie". Sex scene and riot scenes... That was awesome. But I didn't quite understand this young bloke's rebel. Against who or what? He's got scooter, good looking suit, drugs and goes to Brighton! That was completely other space for young people lived by this side of the iron courtain. 

  9. Well, you have to remember that when you're young 'dreary' is very subjective.

    Also, this is pre-Swinging Sixties London... now obviously I don't have a first-hand account of what it was like at the time, but I think I based my thoughts on how London was presented in both the LP booklet and the movie. Very bland and industrial.

    Of course, these were both photographed in the 1970s and as we all know, they never bothered to hard to make the environments actually look sixties!

    I agree with you too on what he was rebelling against! Even I thought at the time that he had a pretty okay life. In fact, he was kind of a jerk to his parents if I remember correctly.

  10. Also, I do understand the appeal of the film and its influence. As you probably gathered, I have many issues with the film as a definitive take on the culture and I think it's steered people down an incorrect path.

    However, remember... before Quadrophenia, there wasn't much in pop culture about Mod culture specifically. For me, getting into it when I did, this was a big part of learning all about it. Now that I'm older, I can look back and see where a lot of it went wrong. But I do understand why it's still a big deal... my goal is to get people thinking about overcoming the stereotypes it has enforced.

  11. I'm pretty aware of contagious power of Quadrophenia film but in my eyes its source is not original The Who soundtrack. I think The Mod revival wouldn't happen without Punk experience and young groups vitality. That seems more naturally to me - to listen "Time For Action" or "Eaton Rifle" in '79, not rhapsodies like "Love Reign O'er Me" and "Joker James". I always liked much more rough side of the Mod, whose anthem is "My Generation". You know what I mean, don't you?

  12. Oh, I totally understand! In fact, that's what allowed the transition into the Mod thing easier for me... being into punk bands and getting into the Jam.

    But that idea didn't last as long with me, especially after hearing the original bands like The Creation and The Action. I started getting into those bands (and soul) way much more. These days, I don't identify with the rough side of Mod anymore... I'm more into the sophisticated idea behind it, the jazz and soul side!

    Also, there's a documentary worth checking out: "The Who, the Mods and the Quadrophenia Connection" which helps explain why some kids got into the album back in the '70s and how it helped foster that revival.

  13. "There Are Four Highs I'd Like To Try." P.Townshend - Four Faces - 1979

  14. "There Are Four Highs I'd Like To Try." P.Townshend - Four Faces - 1979

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