Many thanks Howard Hampton for this article.


Quadrophenia: Jimmy vs. World

It made me want to see the movie again, I guess I ‘ve always had a soft spot for it. I saw it, and heard the album pretty much at their release, and I have a clear recollection of disappointment with the movie at the time, though by 1979 I wasn’t really interested in the music of The Who, by then, according to my reeducation, and Strummer inspired prejudices, a ‘rock opera’ seemed to signify much that was bad about pomp rock. Still, their music was something of a guilty pleasure despite the punk stalinism. I’d genuinely disliked, the uneasiness, staginess and cheap plastic style of Ken Russell’s Tommy five or so years earier, unable to see the irony at 13 I guess. I also thought at the time that the release of Quadrophenia was merely a vehicle to exploit the mod revival of the late 70’s.

I wonder now at my disappointment, a film inspired by a rock album but not a rock ‘n’ roll film. Rather, the film maker seems to have found his source material in the album notes. Jimmy’s story, his alienation and alienating environment, and in a way the film’s narrative and gritty kitchen sink visual style has an equally difficult relationship with the Who’s soundtrack, which didn’t seemed to fit incident or emotional condition snuggly, as one might expect from a conventional ‘rock film’, jarring in a way that makes it more of a punk film than a mod film.

I recently saw an extended interview with Pete Townsend recently to publicise The Who’s revival of the Quadophenia stage perfomances and his reminiscences of his intentions when creating the album seem to describe far more closely Roddam’s cinematic vision of Jimmy than I remember feeling from the album, perhaps Pete was being a little disingenuous there and should have given credit where its was due.