The Voice of the British Youth
By JoAnna Briner

The band The Who decided to take film and rock in a new direction. In 1969, The Who released Tommy. They wrote a script with music that helped to tell the story. When there was no dialogue, there was music. They took the music, and the stories that are told throughout, and made a film around it, instead of designing the music around the story. Since there is an integral connection between visual and audio design, The Who’s Pete Townsend, who produced Quadrophenia, designed the album in anticipation of music videos and MTV and designed Quadrophenia so that it could get played on air. Tommy, seen as one of the greatest rock operas of all time, was followed in 1979 by Quadrophenia, which was directed by Franc Roddam.

Rock operas like Quadrophenia and Tommy are very unique in terns of album design. When an album is being made for a rock opera, the album has to tell a story and include characters in the music. When a normal album is produced, the songs can be about anything and the songs do not have to be about a specific character. When a rock opera album is made, the music has to be about the same subject, and the songs have to flow together in a storyline so that the film makes sense.

Quadrophenia is about a young man named Jimmy living in 1965 London. He hates his job, his parents, and can only find solace in music, which is provided by The Who. Throughout the film, it seems as if Jimmy might be on his way to happiness. He gets a little extra cash, meets a great girl, and has his scooter and friends. Then, he has to quit his job, his dad kicks him out of the house, his girlfriend leaves him, and his scooter is stolen.

The film highlights differences between youth subculture and mainstream lifestyles in England in the mid 1960s. Exploring aspect of youth culture that are often left out, the film calls attention to the awkwardness of growing up. It reveals the struggles of living in a world where youth are supposed to be old enough to take care of themselves, but at the same time abide by everyone else's rules. The film shows the brutality of gangs in London, as well as the brutality of the law enforcement on youth. While violence seems to be everywhere, the youth are actually peaceful.

Quadrophenia rejects the stereotypes of youth behavior. It might show teenagers drinking, smoking, and having sex, but it does not make them out to be horrible people who are out to give their parents and society hell. They are just having fun, in their own space, performing their own rituals, and surviving the best way they know how. The film gives a glimpse of music in the 1960’s Britain.

In Quadrophenia, the story is conveyed by the characters and their lines and by the music itself. When a character can not scream or shout, The Who’s Roger Daltrey does. When a character wants to smash something and can not, The Who’s Keith Moon pounds on the drums. The Who’s music is included very frequently throughout the film. The Who was not the only band featured on the soundtrack. James Brown and The Chiffons are just two of the other artists that helped to convey the feeling of the film through music. Quadrophenia is more than a just a movie, it is an opera, and the music for the film is more than just a soundtrack, it is the core of the film. Quadrophenia is about rock and roll, rebellion, love, hate, war, violence, drugs, and youth. The film also shows that the music of The Who represented more than just radio play. It was part of the culture.