Peter Townshend Ted Whitehead - Essay

Ted Whitehead

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Quadrophenia] is a splendid wallow in ferocious nostalgia: 1963 teenagers stuck in dead-end jobs, lumbered with beaten parents, and trapped in the suffocating British class structure, relieve their frustrations and escape their political identity by assuming the roles of Mods or Rockers, and beat each other up on Brighton beach. The general atmosphere of the early Sixties is accurately established, apart from a few prochronisms designed presumably to avoid alienating the contemporary youth audiences. The political consciousness is nonexistent, but then the political ignorance of the youth of the time was one of the major problems (if you like democracy). That problem is still with us. So is sex….

[Sex] lurks in almost every frame of Quadrophenia. It's the propelling force of the narrative. The interesting thing is that it's the men who, for all their brash and violent chauvinism, cling to the concepts of True Love and Monogamy, while it's the girls who want a quick bang in the back alley, the goodbye forever.

Parents are quickly defined as hypocritical champions of a sterile morality….

Punks will be curious about [the film's] early gestures towards anarchism. So, I imagine, will be the more conventional young who are still struggling with the strictures of monogamy and all that….

This Who film is as abrasive as most of the Who music. I hope it has the same kind of success.

Ted Whitehead, "Old Mods," in The Spectator (© 1979 by The Spectator; reprinted by permission of The Spectator), Vol. 243, No. 7884, August 18, 1979, p. 22.