Quadrophenia and Moral Panics

Iconic shot from Quadrophenia

If you’ve never thought of throwing a Vespa (or Lambretta, you choose your favourite) off a cliff, do you even know a thing about what shaped the ‘70s?Quadrophenia, developing around the events of the infamous Brighton Beach Riots of 1964, is a rock opera, and later a movie, among the most acclaimed 1970s celebrations of the era of Mods and Rockers… Or is it?

During this pandemic, we had plenty of time to immerse ourselves in our all-time favourite albums and movies, and not long after the first weeks, we came across this masterpiece by The Who. V had never seen the movie before, and I insisted in filling this shameful gap.

“You know I hate mods, I don’t want to waste two hours of my life watching a celebration of parkas” she whined just before I pressed ‘play’.

Two hours of amazing soundtracks later, V was finally convinced that The Who in fact shared her disillusion in these mainly teenage rebellion movements. Personally, as the boring pseudo-academic that I am, I’ve always found fascinating how the era of Mods and Rockers, not only shaped the music (starting with the ‘70s), but also history, and even my sociology course!

‘Folk Devil and Moral Panics’, is in fact a 1972 sociological study around these movements by Stanley Cohen. I was thrilled as a first year student to finally be able to talk about something that I knew a lot about at the seminar, without even do the reading! So much time to binge watch series with a well deserved drink. Finally! Who was I kidding? The boring geek in me wanted to read it anyway, and during the seminar that we spent going through Stanley Cohen’s speculations about future youth movements and public attitudes towards them, all I could really think about was: “The Who already said all that!”.

Parka and bikes can easily become boots and leather jackets, spiked hair or arguable bangs, and so on all the way to Kpop stans.

We’ve all been Jimmy, we’ve all felt the need to be part of something, to find an identity in something that would make us relate to our peers, or even to differentiate ourselves from them. The ideals of different movements certainly shaped who we became, our favourite bands sang to us what then became our lives’ mottos, and The Who told us with some of the most iconic songs of the ‘70s that it’s ok.

They told us that we need to use those songs to find the courage to grow up, to develop and grow ourselves into something that we might like, that usually is something we think will be very different from what our parents are.

On the other hand, though, they highlight what of these movements and ideals can be toxic for our teenage years and hurt us. The clinging to a fashion that we can easily think will define us, the idealisation and depersonalisation of popularity, that makes us feel inadequate and fills us with impossible standards. All this sickens these movements and too often transforms them in twisted money-making fashion machines that sometimes can eat someone forever.

Of course Quadrophenia is not the only example of depictions of the rise and fall of many youth movements, almost all related to music, that shaped the UK and the world, especially in the ‘70s, but also after that. Here’s our top suggestions of well known, or not so known movies to make you all nostalgic. Because that’s exactly what we need now, isn’t it?

This is England
Meantime
SLC Punk
Zabriskie Point

If we got you feeling all gloomy thinking back of your old favourite jacket sitting in the darkest corner of your wardrobe while you now wear a suit 5 days a week, let me tell you:

What are you waiting for? Go and put it on!

What we want to tell you is to stay true to yourself, to your younger self, to your deepest beliefs and to your favourite band who you thought was more important than your own family for so long.Go easy, step lightly… Stay free.

I

’70s in 8-bit

8-bit Paul McCartney in Give My Regards To Broad Street (1985, Commodore64)

Many times I wondered what I could have possibly found in common between my two greatest passions: the ’70s and video games. They always appeared to me as two distant realities, and yet I thought that the gap between the two worlds wasn’t as big as it seemed. In the meantime, the only thing I could do was to mute the game I was playing and put some good records on.

Just some time ago, I stumbled upon a YouTube comment where a user pointed out the incredibly resemblance between an early Deep Purple’s song (April, Deep Purple, 1969) and the main theme of one of the most iconic video game of all times: The Legend of Zelda.

So I was right!

I was excited beyond imagination and I had to find out more. Many searches and gameplays later, it was clear that honorable compositors such as Koji Kondo and Nobuo Uematsu shared with me the same passion for the ’70s hard and progressive rock music. It’s not a coincidence that these two geniuses are both Japanese; the Nipponic Islands have always had a pivotal role in the pressing of top-quality records, therefore shaping the musical tastes of Kondo and Uematsu’s generation. Moreover, some of the most famous rock masterpieces are, in fact, concept albums, with different characters and intricate plots, just as video games are thought and structured.

I find these two great musicians particularly interesting for different reasons ­­- they composed themes and soundtracks globally recognisable, and thanks to their genius every gameplay is hundreds times more immersive than any other game (except Toby Fox’s Undertale, but that’s a story for another time). Plus, their hard and prog rock influences are definitely detectable in their works. Especially Uematsu’s work, which has a clear prediligence for progressive legends such as Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer (me too, Mr Uematsu, me too), although his biggest inspiration resides in Elton John, who brought him to be not only the amazing composer he is, but also a great self-taught pianist.

I could spend hours listing all the big and little hints of rock references throughout the entire soundtrack of Final Fantasy series composed by Uematsu, from chapter I to IX, but “Dancing Mad” (Final Fantasy VI) and “Force Your Way” (Final Fantasy VIII) are probably two of the best examples of prog rock inspired songs. These two tracks were also included in the first album by The Black Mages (band formed by Nobuo Uematsu and other two SquareEnix’s composers, Kenichiro Fukui and Tsuyoshi Sekito).

On Koji Kondo’s side, while rock nuances are less evident in his compositions, he stated multiple times that some of his main inspitations come from the ’70s rock, specifically Deep Purple and Emerson, Lake and Palmer (yes, once again). It is no surprise that these two bands keep comining up in this article, since they have a huge component of Hammond organs and synthetizers, and Kondo too started his music career as organist in a jazz-rock cover band.

All this research on the matter led me to realise how rock music, but more specifically progressive rock music influenced fields apparently so distant in concept and time, making my two main interests closer than I’d have ever imagined. We all have passions that pull us towards polar opposite directions, but as Kondo and Uematsu showed us, they are all just part of what we are. It is up to us to find a Link between worlds (wink).

V

Back to the present ­- if you’re self isolating and don’t want to go Jack Torrence crazy, stay tuned for a selection of ’70s inspired video game soundtracks and much more to come on our socials pages. Follow the links at the top of the page, stay safe and look after other people’s safety, too ^^^

Jack Nicholson in The Shining (1980) by Stanley Kubrick

Those 2 miles from The 101ers to The Clash

Under Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (1a), squatting in residential buildings is now a criminal offence.

“What does this have to do with 70s music?!” – You would ask, right?

If you know anything about Joe Strummer, Mick Jones and The Clash, then you know that squatting allowed the birth of what today is still called

The only band that matters

The numer 101 might be familiar to anyone who, just like me, lives in the very obsession of the legend who is Joe Strummer. Walterton Road was not only home, but also creative and recording studio of The 101ers, Joe’s early band (he still had long hair!). On their album “Algine Avenue Breakdown”, you can hear a very early live version of “Junco Partner“, mostly similar to the early recording by James Waynes. A later version on “Sandinista!” became one of the best executed takes of The Clash at raggae.

In 1976, Joe Strummer left his occupied house in Maida Vale (and the 101ers) to move just 2 miles South, to 33 Daventry Street, where he was neighbour to Mick Jones. Many other artists were squatting those buildings, dedicating themselves to music and community living so rarely seen today across London and England (for one of the last examples, you can visit Freedom Press here in Shoreditch). Just one year later, the original formation of The Clash (Strumer, Jones, Simonon and Headon), was sharing the stage with Sex Pistols at the famous concert at Nashville’s Room. As Joe Strummer himself said, recorded in Don Letts’ latest “Westway to the World”:

“5 seconds into their first song, I knew we were like yesterday’s paper, we were over”

Of course, Joe didn’t mean to give up on The Clash, but he was foreseeing the first step to the musical change that costed the band much critics from their fans in the upcoming years. The Clash have always been pioneers and foreseers, not only anticipating music trends by decades, they also read into the society they lived in like no other artist has ever done.

Paul Simonon, South Londoner born and raised, wrote “Guns of Brixton” in 1979, speaking to the struggle of the working class, and especially Black Caribbean community struggle with the economy, and more importantly witht the local, and mostly white, police. Not even a year later, the 1980 Brixton Riots happened, remaining the most notorious event in Brixton, until gentrification reached it.

Today, Brixton still tries to resist this change (That famous Green-Mermaid coffee chain at the station is now closed!), but spaces like the squatted buildings that allowed for The Clash to become the generation-changing phenomena that they’ve been (and still are) are nowhere to be found, not only in the neighbourhood, but throughout England. No wonder music has fallen slave to money and market.

But!

Worry not, artists resisting late capitalism! Under Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (1b), squatting in commercial buildings is still not a criminal offence.

I

Joe Strumme Plaque pic available at: https://www.londonremembers.com/memorials/joe-strummer-squat .

Black Market Clash Abum Cover pic available at: https://twitter.com/theclash/status/421674134737661952 (featuring a young Don Letts facing the police at the 1976 Notting Hill Carnival Riots).

(1a) (1b) Section 144 Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment Act (2012) .

The Dilemma

Everyone faces at least one, great dilemma in their life, concerning their future. Whether it’s a decision one has to take in their everyday routine or one-in-a-lifetime choice, we all have to choose a path to follow

‘Should I wear this jumper?’ – ‘Should I vote for Brexit?’

Legendary Rick Wakeman, wizard of keyboards and prog rock band Yes member, was no exception.

At the beginning of the ’70s, Wakeman was one of the most prolific and youngest sessionman in the whole UK. However, despite the regular income and the chance to meet extraordinary musicians such as Elton John, Lou Reed, Cat Stevens, and T-Rex, just to mention a few, he “wasn’t getting a chance to be part of the music”(1).

He had a taste of freedom with folk rock band The Strawbs, but session work was still a priority for him. Wakeman had worked to few songs from David Bowie on his latest album at the time, Hunky Dory, contributing to masterpieces like Life On Mars with his amazing performance. It was no surprise then, when the keyboardist was asked to join Bowie’s backing band, The Spiders from Mars.

Rick Wakeman, however, already had a pending (and rather interesting) offer from the exploding phenomenon of Yes. Bad timing, Bowie, indeed.

“To be a Spider from Mars, or to be a Yesman? That is the question”

Many artists find themselves stuck in such a difficult position: choosing between money and their own creativity. Bowie was definitely a bigger name than Yes at the time, so the pay for Mr Wakeman would have been surely higher, but the role of a Spider from Mars was set and confined to a backing musician. With Yes he could finally participate to the creative process of the band, to “be able to put some of [his] own thoughts and music and [he] could grow with it”(2a), instead of just playing in a darkened corner of a stage. Back in the ’70s, musicians had definitely more freedom concerning the time and the direction their work needed, and even the big audience allowed them a certain range of experimentation in their projects, which was something both Yes and Wakeman were interested in. With Bowie, nothing of this was possible, as his backing musicians had the sole purpose of following his guidance. “I use musicians according to what music I’m doing”(2b) was what The Duke had interest in doing.

And so, the young Rick Wakeman said yes to Yes (pun intended)

Bowie later told Wakeman that not only he approved his decision, but he would have probably done the same if he was in his position. He had deep respect in the keyboardist’s talent and artistry, and he rather wanted to see it expressed in more complex projects like Yes’ prog rock directions. Wakeman felt rather relieved to hear it from his fellow friend, but honestly, who would not feel the same when David Bowie in the flesh  says you did the right thing?

Art and passion lead men where no money can, that’s what Rick Wakeman’s actions (not so) subtly teach us. No matter how hard your dilemma is, the important thing is to stay true to yourself. There is always the right path to take, and that is the one your guts tell you to choose.

V

Pic by A&M Records Archives available at: https://www.udiscovermusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Rick_Wakeman013-web-optimised-1000.jpg

(1) Milano, Dominic (March 1976). “Rick Wakeman: Rock Powerhouse”. Contemporary Keyboard.

(2a) (2b) Melton, Lori (September 2019). Interview: Rick Wakeman on early sessions, David Bowie, Yes, latest albums, and more . AXS.