Is it a kind of exorcism of the Mod scene that the Who was associated with?
"Yeah, exactly. And also to explode the myths of the non-reality of the Mod and to give some insight into what I felt. In the US, you know, people never knew much about the Mods. They think of them as Carnaby poofs. But the Mods were a real movement. It cut across all class lines, but it was working-class London, originally. The Beatles were no more Mod than Elvis Presley. Mod clothes were nothing like Carnaby flash. They were fairly plain, but they had to be just so: the exact length of hair, the style of shoe. I can remember going out and buying a pair of Levis, three quid then; desert boots, about 50 bob; a Fred Perry shirt, another 50 bob; cycling jackets and so on. One outfit might be 12 quid, a weeks wages, and the next week, the next fucking week, you'd have to change the lot. Nobody ever figured out how the fashions started, any more than they ever figured out how it was decided that on a certain bank holiday all the Mod kids in London would converge on a certain beach town.
"I was a Mod in art school when I was dating Roger's younger sister. Being a Mod was a way of getting back my working-class roots. I was fascinated by working-class expressions like that. The Who were working too hard for me to get really involved, but sometimes I'd jump off the stage between sets and just disappear, though it was hard, being in a group. But there were times when I was able to disappear and in retrospect these were the moments I treasure most.
"It only lasted a couple of years, really. In '66 it got very locked into this television program called Ready Steady Go, where the producers just got the Ace Faces, the trendsetters, to go on television. It was a network show, so Mod fashions spread all through England overnight. And it wasn't the same any more, because in the real Mod scene nobody'd tell you. It wasn't just fashion detail, more of a hint of how they felt. There's something in the way the real Mod kids look at life even today that has a Mod stamp on it. They were poetic for working-class kids, always job-flitting. It was incestuous, secretive. Difficult to be a real up-to-the-minute Mod, 'cause no cunt'd tell you where to get the clothes. It wasn't something you decided to be, you just were.
"I've often said I was moved emotionally by Mods, and a lot of people think it's stupid to be hung-up on fashion and haircuts, but it was one thing that held me together, gave me a feeling of belonging. I always felt alienated by the Woodstock Generation, felt out of psychedelia, because like most pop musicians I was into it before the masses and when it became big I was extremely ill." Townshend laughed and swirled a glass of brandy.
"The other thing that has tended to throw me off a fantastic amount is – having an interest in pulling myself together spiritually – this religious fervor that's going on. When you come up against these Jesus freaks or followers of Guru what's-'is-name, I end up feeling maybe it'd be better to go back and join the Young Communists. It's that kind of alienation that makes me look back to the Who as a real figurehead, part of a sense of belonging and I wanted to find out what made the Who tick. So you go back and then come forward. It's ten years in an album, if you like."
As for the four faces of Jimmy, as reflected in the Who, Peter Townshend represents a component of spiritual yearning. Keith Moon is a manic sort of daredevil, and John Entwistle a tender, romantic type. Continuing the typecasting, Roger Daltrey represents an aggressive, violent character; but you can't take any of this too far.
"The part I have," said Roger in a Dallas hotel restaurant, "is like me eight years ago. Since then I've been all the other characters. We all have, we've all been through all the changes. People are puttin' the Mod label on it, but it's a timeless story, really. It's about hippies as well, about youth.
"When the Who started, I was a shit singer. They didn't need a singer in those days, they needed somebody who could fight, and that was me. Only in the last few years have I really started singing.
"So now I've had me own record out, and I'll have another one day, when we have the material for it. Choosing material is a bit of a delicate matter, because I'm kind of the front man for the Who, and I have a fairly distinctive voice. I don't sing rock & roll on me own, because why should I try to get a rock & roll band together when I already have the greatest band in the world behind me?"
Altogether, Quadrophenia took around a year to complete. Having tried most London studios, finding many sterile and being banned from several, the Who decided to have a shot at Jagger's Stargroves, using the Stones' mobile. It didn't work out, though they did discover that the best recording acoustics were to be found in the house's entrance hall – interesting but inconvenient. So it emerged that the most sensible plan was to build their own studio, bearing in mind that this album would need more facilities and time for experimentation than any previous Who project.
Work began on converting the Who's Warehouse into a studio – it had originally been a church hall. Time was slipping away, so before the conversion was anywhere near complete, recording had to start. For much of the early taping the Who had an audience of anxious young carpenters, painters and engineers. Ronnie Lane's mobile was used for the early tracks – with the control panel out on the sidewalk. Mixing was done at Townshend's second home, a pair of cottages in Goring: one for living in and one packed with equipment. To supervise the cutting, Peter flew to the Masters lab in Los Angeles.
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