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Corgi, London, 1979
(price: 95p; 192 pages)

dedication: For all the mods of the sixties who can still feel the sand beneath their fingernails.

The blurb on the back:

This is the novel behind the WHO's conceptual rock album "QUADROPHENIA", the story of the mods and rockers of the early sixties, now a stunning new film.
They were dedicated to fashion, music and pills. They created the 'Style', followed the WHO, the SMALL FACES and the STONES, rode polished Lambrettas and assembled in their thousands to fight.
By 1964, the year of the Brighton riots, the mods had revolutionised a whole generation...

The Who's second concept album, Quadrophenia never had much of a story. Mind you, after the overblown nonsense of Tommy, that wasn't such a bad thing. And indeed the film that it spawned wasn't bad at all.

The film took a while to get made, but when it did emerge in 1979, it coincided with a serious Mod revival (Secret Affair, Chords &c.) and with the highpoint of The Jam's career, which made it a bit more relevant than, say, the movie of Hair the same year. Somnething of a curate's egg, it introduced us to Phil Daniels' chirpy cockney geezer persona that he was still playing and plying two decades later, it gave us Sting as the Ace Face (surprisingly convincing), and it cast Toyah as a character named Monkey (which works for me).

The problem was what to do with the novel. In essence, the story is that there's a group of London mods who go down to Brighton and have a bit of a ruck. Not much material to work with, is there? Not exactly Dickensian in the complexities of its narrative lines. The answer was to get a proper mod in the shape of Alan Fletcher to flesh out the details. The result is impressive, painting a picture of a subculture populated by young working-class men who obsess about every single detail of their leisure time, and pose as hard as they can as long as they can:

I saw the mod she was with, dressed like his clothes were shrunk-wrapped on to him, the way clothes ought to look. He was wearing a full-length maroon suede, a grey woollen polo-neck sweater, blue, faded and patched Levi's and black low slung shoes, slim toed with laces. And as if that wasn't enough, there was his bike: a metallic silver G.T. 200 Lambretta, front and back racks, fly screens, mirrors, crash bars - everything. A Face. He just cruised up and down the street, knowing we were watching and loving it. (pp.87-88)

The writing's a bit clumsy at times, but it's never less than convincing. And the desire to be accurate in its portryal of the era can't be faulted: there's even an apology for employing the lyrics to 'My Generation' anachronistically, their use justified by the myth-making power of The Who's music and its retrospective application to the period. Definitely worth a look.

some mods yesterday
Phil Daniels & Leslie Ash

see also...
False Idols
Generation X


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