brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Sat Sep 5 11:53:46 UTC 2009
>From The Telegraph (London):
Quadrophenia anniversary: Reliving the Mod dream
On the 30th anniversary of the release of the film Quadrophenia, Adrian Bridge dons a parka and rides to Brighton to revisit The Who's great rock opera.
By Adrian Bridge
I was apprehensive about joining a gang of some 40 Mods for a ride out through Brighton. For a start, I'd never really met a Mod before. I'd also only just that day ridden a scooter for the first time. My bike – a brand new 50cc Vespa – while a lovely piece of work, had none of the flags and mirrors and bells and whistles that set the Mod scooters apart. And although I was in a parka, I was clearly not quite the real deal.
But when I mentioned that I'd just ridden my scooter all the way from London to Brighton, there was instant respect and big beams all round. I'd clearly passed one of the key initiation tests.
"If you want to join us, you're welcome," said Ewan, a kindly man in his forties, with a bike festooned with memorabilia from the film Quadrophenia. "Right, come on, then – let's get these scooters on the road."
Over the next 20 minutes, I experienced something that can only be described as thrilling. As we set off in convoy along Brighton's sea front, the distinctive throaty/rasping sound of the scooters was accompanied by a cacophony of excited hooting and, in my mind at least, some of the great music of The Who. Curious onlookers cheered, waved and snapped photos; the streets were ours. Like many of those riding, I'm no spring chicken, but suddenly I felt as though I was 18 again – and the year was 1964.
The film Quadrophenia, which was released 30 years ago this month, is set at exactly that time when a new generation of British teenagers was seeking to define itself through fresh music, sharp, Italian-influenced suits – and scooters. There was sex, drugs and a lot of rocker-bashing. And Brighton became famous as the venue for violent clashes between rival gangs of Mods and rockers.
I can't say the punch-ups on the beach were what attracted me – I've always found that aspect of the Mod way of life a huge turn-off (and was relieved to learn it is no longer part of the package). But I liked the music and the clothes and the raw energy, and was curious to explore what visitors to Britain's most famous seaside resort could still experience of it today. And I loved the idea of driving a scooter all the way from London to Brighton…
Luckily, riding a scooter is a very simple affair, so although it was my first time, I soon got the hang of it. And within minutes of setting off I was weaving in and out of the London traffic and wondering why I hadn't tried this form of transport years ago.
Dressed in my parka and Mod-style helmet, I got one or two friendly hoots from passing drivers. As I was to discover over the next 24 hours, the legacy of the Mods is still alive and revving, and there are lots of people who still have a sneaky fondness for the lifestyle.
Car drivers were a little less enamoured once I got on to the A23 and A22 south of London. Beautiful though my little light blue Vespa was, with an engine of just 50cc the top speed was just 30 miles an hour. I got better at hugging the curb to let them pass.
Clearly, on a 50cc scooter you're not going to break any speed records. But the whole point of doing journeys like this is to take your time, to savour the scenery around you and to reward yourself, as I did two hours into the trip, with a classic English fry-up (if you're ever driving along the A22 just south of Purley, make a pit-stop at the Rendez-Vous café: sausages, eggs, bacon, beans, chips, tomatoes, mushrooms and toast have never tasted so good).
The scooter also comes into its own on smaller B-roads and country lanes, where there's far less pressure to drive at speed. Just north of Lewes, I turned into the B2116 to go west to Ditchling, and found myself in the middle of the wonderful South Downs. As I hit the steep road leading to Ditchling Beacon, I wondered whether the scooter would make it (she did magnificently), and there, at the top, almost four hours after waving Battersea power station goodbye, got my first sighting of the sea. Like anything you've had to work for, that was sweet. Like Jimmy and his friends in the film, I let out a little cheer. Brighton beckoned.
As did my scooter-riding friends. They were waiting outside the Volks Tavern on the Madeira Drive, right on the beach and a stone's throw from the pier. This ride-out – a fairly modest one by Mod reunion standards – had been arranged to coincide with another piece of Quadrophenia history – the arrival in Brighton of a new theatrical interpretation of the show, due to open at the city's Theatre Royal that night.
"Once a Mod, always a Mod," said George, one of the few riders old enough to have been part of the scene in its heyday (most of the others there were younger and had got involved in one of the revivals). "Being a Mod made you somebody. We
were working class, we had a bit of money and we liked to dress up. We still do."
And that sharp Mod dress sense was what attracted women. Senga, a one-time driving force of the Glasgow Lambretta Club who was also down to see the show, said she liked her men to be "suited and booted". And as for the scooters: "Riding along together in a crowd is fantastic fun. It makes you feel young again."
As I had just discovered.
The city of Brighton has mixed feelings about the Mod/rocker legacy, which is hardly surprising given the scale of the violence in those early Sixties clashes.
But at its opening night at the Theatre Royal on Tuesday, the energetic new interpretation of Quadrophenia received rapturous applause from an audience which included many who knew the words to the songs by heart. ("It really brought it all back," said one.)
And in conjunction with the anniversary of the release of the film, Brighton's tourist authorities are also promoting tours of the city that take in some of the key sites and scenes (see panel). But you don't need to do an official tour to get a sense of the Mod legacy in Brighton. It lives on in the city's buzz and brashness (despite huge gentrification since the days of Jimmy and his pals), and a more pronounced sense of fashion than you find in most British cities.
A good place to get a sense of this is the North Laine area, where trendy clothes shops include Jump the Gun, which specialises in Mod gear from the early Sixties. Although some of its patrons are veterans, the smart check shirts, Harrington jackets and extremely tight trousers are equally popular with a much younger crowd.
For good measure, I tried on a classy brown mohair tonic suit. Jimmy would have said it was handsome.
I then strolled back to the sea front to contemplate life, the universe and the great unanswered questions ("Who are you, who who, who who?")
I still haven't got any answers, but I enjoyed my day as a Mod. And I was sorry to let that scooter go.
-Brian in Atlanta
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