May 112020

In our first pandemic relief Dugout Chatter, Townsman chickenfrank proposed the following surprisingly previously unexplored topic for discussion:

One of my cable channels showed Quadrophenia recently. I was pleased to see that it really held up for me as a well-made movie. I played the original album later, and kept having mixed emotions as to whether the whole concept was brilliant or silly. Where does it fit among all their albums in terms of quality? Is it better than Tommy? Does it have too may forgettable songs? Is the remixed movie soundtrack better or worse, and even necessary? Just curious how others react to the 3 different available Quadrophenia products. I have a sneaky feeling this topic might have been beaten to death already on RTH, but too many years ago for me to remember!

Let’s have at it!


  10 Responses to “Surprisingly Previously Unexplored: Quadrophenia”

  1. Happiness Stan

    I’ve only seen the film once, it was the first eighteen rated movie I persuaded the cinema I was old enough to see in the days before i.d.

    I’ve no real memory of it apart from the end, and preferring it to the movie of Tommy, which isn’t saying a lot. Maybe I’d like it more now, though I’m unlikely to persuade anyone else in the family to watch it with me at the moment. Plus it’s got Toyah in, who I’m completely allergic to.

    In the pantheon of the great sixties bands, I’d rate the Who slightly below or equal to the Small Faces, just above the Kinks, all of whom I’d probably listen to on an average day in preference to the Beatles or the Stones, but it kind of pains me to admit that in my opinion they only really made three great albums, and Quadrophenia I’d rank at number five, six if any compilation with the sixties singles on is allowed, and seven if Live at Leeds counts. Sell Out and A Quick One would be my top two, Who’s Next third. Tommy I’d listen to if I had to, then this one. While confessing, I’d also probably feel better if I were to admit that I saw them live about fifteen years ago and thought they were, er, a bit boring. Perhaps I don’t really like them at all, that would be something to try to wrap my head around after all these years.

    I’ve always thought of them as a great songs band, we opposed to a great albums or even a great singles one. At their best there’s nobody to touch them, but my word they’re patchy.

    When I read the question, my first thought was that it’s three good songs and three and a half sides of filler. Having checked the track listing, I was surprised to see its actually one good song and an hour and a half of stuff I have no memory of hearing, although I used to own it and must have played it half a dozen times if not more. And I wouldn’t even rank 5.15 as being in their best fourteen singles.

    Movie-wise, I’d definitely rather watch this again than Tommy, but for the albums it’s reversed. In either case, I’d rather watch The Kids Are All Right, if only for the extraordinary version of A Quick One from the Stones Rock and Roll Circus.

  2. I knew The Who when the movie came out, but I didn’t know the original Quadrophenia album at all. It’s odd to think that the Who thought the double album was necessary without a movie. There seems to be so much movie filler on that original album. Quadrophenia, Cut My Hair, The Dirty Jobs, The Rock are all song titles from the record. I have no idea how any of those go. 5:15 does rock though.

  3. You might have forgotten Cut My Hair because it’s essentially the same as the intro to 5:15 before the whole band kicks in.

  4. I’ve got a lot to say on this, but haven’t had much time. Like chickenfrank and others here, I’m sure, I already knew a good deal of Who music before seeing the movie Quadrophenia. I saw Tommy in the theater when it came out – I was about 11 or so? I knew the songs they played on the radio prior to the release of The Kids Are Alright doc, which I believe came before the rock opera. The Kids Are Alright, however, with all that feral footage, is what made The Who the only older band that felt as vibrant as the punks. I saw that probably 10 times at midnight movies, before we could rent the VHS tape, before we could eventually bum out that the baby Stones didn’t let them use the Rock ‘n Roll Circus of “A Quick One,” which was the highlight of that doc! Someone should have stuck a pacifier in that Stones lips logo.

    I believe Quadrophenia came out a little after the doc. We saw that a half dozen times at midnight movies, and then rented the VHS. I already knew the big songs from the album, the ones chickenfrank can hum based on the song titles, but hearing those songs blasting in the theater with speed-freak Jimmy acting them out was unbelievable. I really loved that movie and suspect I’d still love it if I saw it again today, even though it’s probably one of those things that is so specific to an innocent, ignorant, fucked up time in my life that I’d probably want to write off part of my love for it to the kid I was at that time. If that makes sense.

    So, I give two big thumbs up for the movie.

    I never bought the soundtrack, although I liked it. It was cool to have those dance party singles mixed in. It was cool, but at that time in life, I thought soundtrack albums were not cool. (See why I have trouble properly assessing how I feel about all things Who?)

    It took me awhile to buy the proper album. I loved hearing those songs in the context of the movie and on the radio, but the thought of sitting through that entire album – with all the instrumental suites or whatever – made me feel like I’d be going prog. I wanted to stay true to the 3:00-minute Who that preceded Tommy and all of Townshend’s excesses. I always had a soft spot for his excesses, because he wouldn’t be much of an artist without them, but really…all those instrumental bits? I waited into my 30s before I bought the full, double album.

    I have since come to believe that the original Quadrophenia album is the best “modern-day” work by them (ie, all their albums starting with Tommy). It’s by far the best concept album. And almost all the instrumental bits are worth my time. The arrangements are great. I like it better than even Who’s Next, out of their “modern” albums with Moon. (The post-Moon albums aren’t modern; they’re just bad.) Townshend’s not wanking, like he does on Live at Leeds. He’s playing parts. The rhythm section is unleashed in all its glory. Daltrey is larger than life, larger than whatever that is. The sad-sack lyrics hold up for me. They still make me work through all the crap I was feeling as a late-teen.

    I’ll take the proper album over the movie, even factoring in Jimmy’s “bird” and the “aye, chuck me a couple of packies” line, over the movie by a goddamn instrumental suite, of all things.

  5. The movie is really good. The guy playing Jimmy is well cast. The look of England back then seems realistic. The movie is in color, but it all seems kind of gray, which is what I think going to the beach in England must be like! Sting is super charismatic too. He hardly has anything to say or do, but you remember him from the movie. It’s fun to see the whole scooter and mod clothes aesthetic on display too. It just seems the album doesn’t work nearly as well without the movie. Not the same as Pink Floyd’s The Wall. You don’t need that movie for the album to stand as well as it does on it’s own.

  6. I’ve only seen this movie once, as a repertory feature at the Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia. It was actually the Friday after 9/11 if I remember correctly; some friends and I thought it would be a good distraction from everything.

    Not counting documentaries and concert films, I think this movie is a cut above most rock movies because it focuses on the kinds of people who really identify with the music, especially with a band like The Who. There’s a real sense of place and character. That’s so much better than the movies of TOMMY or THE WALL, which are mostly gaseous testaments to the creators’ delusions of grandeur. (TOMMY is all, “rock stars are like Messiahs, man!” THE WALL is “rock stars are bloody fascists dictators!”)

    Fun fact #1: This movie is now part of the Criterion Collection!

    Fun fact #2: As I’m sure some of you know, the star of this film Phil Daniels later narrated Blur’s “Parklife.”

  7. BigSteve

    I looked it up. The original Quadrophenia album was released 26 October 1973. I bought it soon after it came out, and I’ve always loved it. The movie was released 2 November 1979. The Kids Are Alright was released 15 June 1979. I know I saw both films on a double bill at my neighborhood art house (those were the days!), but I’m not sure if that was the first time I saw them. I remember reading about Pete remixing/re-recording the album for the movie, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard it outside of the theater. I’m not really interested in hearing it now. It’s been a while since I watched the Quadrophenia film, but I know I’ve watched it on the small screen, and I agree that it holds up well, but Quadrophenia for me will always be the original LP.

  8. Happiness Stan

    ChickenFrank, I grew up on the south coast of England and am happy to confirm that it does look like that most of the time. Cold and grey, and even when the sun comes out the breeze can be strong enough to blow you half way to London.

    Oats, couldn’t agree more with your summary of Tommy. See Brits turned out a few such gritty music films around the mid seventies, That’ll Be The Day and Stardust, with David Essex, Adam Faith and Ringo were pretty dark, best of all was Slade in Flame, one of the bleakest musicals ever.

    I’m not a huge fan of the Wall, but I think the difference for me is that each of the four sides has at least one memorable song on it. I’ve never seen the film, I don’t think it even got a proper theatrical release over here, at least not outside big towns and cities.

  9. diskojoe

    I have Quadrophenia on the Criterion DVD edition. One of the extras is a French TV show from the 60s about the Mods & Rockers that had Kit Lambert on speaking in French about them.

    Does anyone notice in the beginning when the Mods go down the street in their scooters that there’s actually a 1970s Pontiac Firebird among the cars in traffic?

    I liked Quadrophenia the movie, while the album to me was OK. I wished it would have sounded like Sell Out. As for the Kids Are All Right, to me it’s the Citizen Kane of rock docs.

  10. Mr Mod – Did you see Quadrophenia with me and Larry Wilkins at Cheltenham Theater? We may have been the only people there.

    I think the movie is very good – especially after seeing it a couple of times and being able to pick up on the accents. I may have had the movie soundtrack but much prefer the album versions of the songs. The orignal album is the last album where Roger’s voice kicks ass. By “Who by numbers” his voice has started to transition into his latter period voice.

Lost Password?

twitter facebook youtube