The Who, The Mods and the Quadrophenia Connection. DVD. 2009

review by William Gillespie and Cristy Scoggins

Vespa scooters, suits with skinny ties, R&B, first wave British invasion music, and pills. Can a social movement really be defined by fashion, music, and drugs? Yes.

This documentary is a nice supplement to watch after the film Quadrophenia, delivering the intermittent history of the Mod movement, and underscoring how the Who’s 1973 album was a fitting tribute to the subculture who championed the band in 1965, but the 1979 film adaptation of the album did the Mods more harm than good by bringing their authentic underground culture to mainstream attention, exposing it to posers.

The low point of the documentary is superfluous commentary by drooling Who sycophants, “1960s experts,” Mod scholars, and barely cogent baby boomers (check out the unintentionally hilarious bonus feature in which Richard Barnes—“Pete Townsend’s best friend”—babbles an incoherent and circuitous description of the recording of the album Quadrophenia until he is cut off mid-sentence when the cameraman apparently unplugs his mike).

High points include bits of scenes that were deleted from the film Quadrophenia, attention given to lesser-known Mod rock bands of the late 1970s, and a section dedicated to the Jam’s Paul Weller.

Thirty years later, the film Quadrophenia seems as sharp as ever, standing alongside the best independent teen alienation films of the decades, including Repo Man and Donnie Darko. The documentary allows Quadrophenia to be appreciated in its fifteen-year context.

In all, it’s a good overview of a snappy English subculture that was somehow unfairly eclipsed by hippies and punks.


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