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20 March 2018


Quadrophenia: the Who, the music, the existential vacuum

by Sara Cartelli

It is the eternal conflict: pop against indie, indie against metal, techno against house, punk against metal, us against you. Eternal because we basically did not invent anything. The battles between ways of life are rooted in the past and have to do with choices, clothing, but often also with music.

And the musical choices actually divide rather than unite. Think about the current feud between indie bands and all those “I only listen to rock / indie / jazz / techno because everything else makes me sick”.
I have met many of them, too many and every time I always think the same thing: ” do you know that music is contamination and the kind of music you listen to was not invented by someone, one morning, out of thin air?”.

The problem is always the same: music or genres, they must be pigeonholed.
Because to a group, a singer, a genre, corresponds a style of life in which recognize ourself.
And recognizing ourself has always been reassuring.

Quadrophenia, the 1979 film directed by Franc Roddam and taken from the homonymous album by The Who, photographs this situation in a limpid way.

London, sixties. There are mods and rockers. On one hand parka, scooter (mainly Vespa or Lambretta), drugs and parties, on the other leather jackets, powerful motorcycles, the rejection of taking any form of hallucinogenic substance. On one hand the British Invasion groups: Beatles, Rolling Stones, Who, Yearbirds, on the other the American rock and roll by Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Bo Diddley.

An aesthetic and musical battle, made even more heated by the fact that some groups, like the Who have openly sided in favor of mod culture becoming in fact standard-bearer.

My Generation, a song from the band’s homonymous album, is in fact the anthem of the modernist movement. It is the rage of a generation, it is pure provocation, a song to freedom, youth and fun.

People try to put us d-down (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Just because we g-g-get around (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)

So we want to have fun and hope to die before we get too old.

Quadrophenia tells in detail about the dreams and problems of this generation. Inside we found the Who, who are the executive producers of the movie, a fact that really happened and a lot of beautiful music.

The plot walk through the tracks of the homonymous album the band published in 1973, Quadrophenia, period in which the mod movement reached its end. I do not want to spoil anything and I will not anticipate any details of the story. I tell you only one thing. Quadrophenia is a deliberate lexical distortion of the term schizophrenia, because the protagonist is characterized by four distinct personalities, which are nothing more that the personalities of each member of the band.

It’s a movie that’s right for you if:

  • you want to understand where the eternal battle between hunks and rockers comes from and where, magically, three or four years ago the parka jumped out;
  • you thought the Who were just “that stuff that my parents listened to”. You will change your mind;
  • you love Sting;
  • you thought that only your youth had been tragic-complicated or you are one of those: “when I was young it was completely different”. At the end of the show each generation runs into the same damn problems.

So who are you? Mod, rocker, indie or simply “you are” with the awareness that you could be all or nothing?


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Sara Cartelli

Cogito Ergo Sum

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Sara Cartelli


Copywriter, content creator and mum with a huge passion for photography. Writing is a therapy that allows her to express her own personality and brings out her true voice. Better than a psychiatrist. Forever trying to find her way, at the time, she prefers to get lost.

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