Quadrophenia Alley

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Sun Aug 5 07:00:19 CDT 2007

>From a Guardian article by Andrew Smith on visiting
Britain's secret rock shrines:

The Quadrophenia alley, Brighton

There was a time when sociologists liked to talk about
"subcultures" among the young; when tribes ruled the
streets and the content of your wardrobe might get you
beaten up or worse; when hairdos really could kill. In
1964, the flash point was the mods v rockers, the one
group in sharp suits and parkas, riding scooters and
listening to Jamaican music or bands such as the Who
and the Small Faces, the other devoted to rock'n'roll,
motorbikes, leather, greasy hair. The Who's Pete
Townshend was still a teenager that year, when the
biggest conflagration between the two kicked off in
Brighton, and nearly a decade later he wrote a
narrative album about it. Then in 1979, the record
became a film. The Japanese title translates as "The
Pain of Living".

Quadrophenia follows the lead-up to the "Battle of
Brighton", then the battle itself, which involved a
reported 3,000 combatants rampaging through the town
and spilling on to the beach. A pivotal scene occurs
as the mods flee police, with the angry young Jimmy
(played by Phil Daniels) and his girlfriend Steph (a
baby-faced Leslie Ash) cutting into a narrow alley off
East Street, where they open a door on to a yard and,
high on adrenaline, have sex, before resuming their

The unmarked alleyway looks just as it did then: slimy
and streaked with damp, redolent of the seedy area of
which it was once a part. All the same, hundreds visit
every year, scrawling messages such as "Incrowd S.C.
North London", "555 Liverpool Thrash" and "Sascha
Schafke Blizzard Mod Hamburg". The most prominent
reads: "Why do you keep painting the wall!! We will
always be back" followed by the circle-and-arrow mod

In itself, the place is nothing, and would be
disappointing but for the intensity of attention it
attracts. The doorway now backs on to Momma Cherri's
Big House, a soul-food restaurant. James Dawson,
collared while taking out the rubbish, admits he's
been startled by flashbulbs when doing likewise at one
or two in the morning. He's only 22, but has seen the
film and likes it, agreeing that "the things it's
about" - specifically, the teen search for identity
and belonging - are "still relevant". I wonder whether
he feels nostalgia for the tribes, but he says, "No. I
think we're lucky not to have those things. Maybe our
concerns are a bit broader now, because the world
seems smaller. To be fighting among ourselves is

As the walls of "Quadrophenia Alley" prove, many who
experienced that intense sense of affiliation do feel
nostalgia for it. Scooter clubs inspired by the film
still abound. Darren Taylor, who co-founded the
Untouchables posse in 1979, might be describing life
on another planet as he recalls how, back then, "you
couldn't ride scooters about without worrying about
rockers and skins, and you were always getting stopped
by police".

-Brian in Atlanta
The Who This Month!

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