Director Franc Roddam conceived Quadrophenia as “a film about young people who had some freedom but no responsibilities”.
He need only have added “drugs, parkas and scooters” to paint it into England and the decade of peace, love and Harold Wilson.
It was, however, strangely out of time – An 80s film of Pete Townshend’s 70s rock opera about The Who‘s 60s world.
Yet Quadrophenia is still much-loved today because it retains a quaintly ageless edge born of the youthful enthusiasm that drove it.
22-year-old Phil Daniels is brilliant as the star, Jimmy, ably supported by Phil Davis (Chalky), Mark Wingett (Dave – Later to achieve fame and fortune playing PC Carver on The Bill ), Leslie Ash (Steph) and even proto-punk Toyah (Monkey).
Daniels’ Jimmy is only briefly upstaged by Sting – and even then, only because the script demanded it.
From the rows with parents through sordid parties while friends parents are away, to the mad weekend and rumbles and rucks at Brighton, Quadrophenia never over-glamorises yet always succeeds.
It’s a faithful recreation of the original Mod period of 1964 – 65, portraying the acutely image-conscious lifestyle and underlying mood of frustration and honest working-class anger which exploded in a vicious Mod vs Rocker battle at the seaside on a Bank Holiday weekend.
In many ways the template for Trainspotting (1996), Quadrophenia was a youth film that has grown up with the passing years as its audiences look upon it, not as an embarrassment from their childhood, but as a document of their newfound maturity.
Pete Townshend acted as a consultant on the film, ensuring a large degree of authenticity. His original score is augmented by original Mod-era dance hits from the likes of Booker T and the MG’s and The Kingsmen.
Youth culture is notoriously difficult to convey in movies, but Roddam gets it note-perfect.
Wearing a crash helmet became compulsory in Britain in 1973. To capture the period feel of helmetless riding, scenes were filmed on the Transport Research Laboratory test track at Crowthorne, Berkshire, around the streets of Brighton which had been closed off for filming, and through good old-fashioned subterfuge.
Sting (Gordon Sumner)