Sunday, July 25, 2010

September 14, 2009: 20 Things You May Not Have Known About‘Quadrophenia’

On this day in 1979, Who Films unveiled Quadrophenia, an adaptation of The Who’s 1973 rock opera about a schizoid mod named Jimmy, at the Toronto Film Festival. The film is without question the finest cinematic adaptation of a Rock album (not that it has much competition… Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? Tommy? Bleccck.) and dramatic Rock & Roll movie ever made. To commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of Quadrophenia, here’s a new feature I call 20 Things You May Not Know About

1. Quadrophenia is director Franc Roddam’s first feature film. He’d previously only made a movie for British television called Dummy, which was about a deaf and mute (but not blind!) prostitute.

2. Although Quadrophenia is often credited with sparking a mod revival in England, the revival really began when The Jam released their debut album In the City two years earlier. However, the tremendous popularity of the film in England certainly fueled the fire of that renewed fascination with modernism. Many mod revivalists appear as extras in Quadrophenia.

3. Pete Townshend considered rerecording the Quadrophenia album using a full orchestra for the film, but Roddam convinced him that the Who’s original recordings were closer in spirit to the gritty film. John Entwistle oversaw the remixes of the 1973 Who songs that appear on the soundtrack, many of which are notably different from the originals (“The Punk Meets the Godfather” begins with a crazed Moon drum fill rather than Townshend’s slashing guitar chords; “I’m One” features more prominent piano; etc.).

4. Set in 1964, Quadrophenia is loaded with anachronistic flubs. The clip of The Who performing “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” on “Ready, Steady, Go!” originally aired on July 2, 1965, a year after the events in the film. While the mods dance to “My Generation” at a house party, the record was not released until October 29, 1965. The A Quick One/The Who Sell Out L.P. shown next to the phonograph at the party was not released until 1974. During the clash between the mods and the rockers at Brighton Beach, a marquee reveals that the local cinema is showing Heaven Can Wait, a film released fourteen years after the events in the film. Many of the rockers sport hippie-style long hair, which was hardly fashionable in 1964.

5. Johnny Rotten auditioned for the lead role of Jimmy, but lost the part when the film’s distributor refused to insure the hell-raising Sex Pistol. During Rotten’s brief association with Franc Roddam, he gave the director a T-shirt that Sid Vicious once barfed on after Rotten attacked the late bassist with an axe. Roddam used the soiled shirt as a bargaining chip when actor Mark Wingett (Dave) threatened to ditch the production. Roddam convinced the punk fan to finish the film by offering him Vicious’s tee.

6. Sting, who makes his feature film debut in Quadrophenia as the Ace Face, later revealed that he tried to avoid spending time with his cast mates to maintain Ace’s aloof cool. He also said that he felt a bit alienated on set because he was older and taller than the other mods, and of course, wasn’t really an actor.

7. Sting was not the only singer in Quadrophenia. Star Phil Daniels (Jimmy) had a minor career as a recording artist. In 1980 he released a pop album with his group Phil Daniels and the Cross, which included the single “Welcome to the Party”. Fourteen years later he donated his Cockney pipes to Blur’s Brit Pop anthem “Parklife”.

8. Alan Curbishley, the brother of Who-manager Bill Curbishley, has a cameo in the film as the mod who informs Jimmy’s friends that Jimmy has been kicked out of the ballroom for leaping off the balcony. Alan would later do a bit of managing himself as the man behind the West Ham United and Charlton Athletic football clubs.

9. Inspired by the rising women’s movement, Roddam decided to include scenes of full-frontal male nudity in the film, which was extremely rare in mainstream movies at the time. Phil Daniels was most enthusiastic about putting his meat and two bits on full display, but co-star Ray Winstone was considerably shyer.

10. The songs “Joker James”, “Four Faces”, and “Get Out and Stay Out” were not included on the original Quadrophenia album. They were all recorded specifically for the film’s soundtrack album after the death of Keith Moon. Former Small Face and newly recruited Hooligan Kenny Jones plays drums on these tracks, only one of which (“Get Out and Stay Out”) appears in the film.

11. Jimmy’s bedroom wall—replete with nudie pin-ups, photos of The Who, and newspaper clippings from articles about the mod riots—is a reproduction of a picture that appeared in the gatefold-booklet of the original Quadrophenia album.

12. Roddam has said that he cast Daniels partially because the actor reminded him of a young Pete Townshend. The director no doubt cast Phil Davis to play Chalky because of that actor’s resemblance to Roger Daltrey!

13.Only 21 seconds of the 2:32-long song “Helpless Dancer” are used in the film. The soundtrack album also includes this extremely truncated edit.

14. While filming the scene in which Chalky is run off the road by an armada of motorcycle-riding rockers, someone pulled a car out into the middle of the street, causing a massive vehicular pile up. One cast member required eighteen stitches and five ambulances were called in, but no one was seriously hurt.

15. Toyah Wilcox, who plays Monkey, later performed some voice work on the bizarre British kiddie show “Teletubbies”.

16. The “Wonderful Radio London” jingle Jimmy hears on the radio in his bedroom was pulled from The Who’s 1967 pirate radio tribute album The Who Sell Out.

17. The Brighton riot scene used more than 600 extras.

18. Pub band Cross Section make their only recorded appearances in the Quadrophenia film and on its accompanying soundtrack as the group that performs Tommy Tucker’s classic “Hi-Heeled Sneakers”.

19. The final 15 minutes of the film are almost completely devoid of dialogue. Instead the soundtrack is dominated by back-to-back Who songs: “5:15”, “Love Reign O’er Me”, “Bell Boy”, “I’ve Had Enough”, “Helpless Dancer”, and “Dr. Jimmy”, which plays over the closing credits.

20. Pete Townshend’s stage musical based on the Quadrophenia album and film debuted at the Liverpool Empire Theater on August 25, 2009. Four different actors portray the four sides of Jimmy’s “quadrophenic” personality. The show opened to mixed reviews ( applauded the musical performances but questioned its appeal beyond Who freaks). The show is now on tour in England through October 3rd.
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