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