Franc Roddam’s classic 1979 film version of Quadrophenia brought the alienation of 1960s British working-class youth to the big screen. Young Jimmy Cooper (Phil Daniels) divides his time between hanging out in London’s Mod cafes and working in the post-room of an advertising firm, a job that that lets him keep his scooter running and to pay for his tailored suits. Jimmy’s gang include Dave (Mark Wingett), Chalky (Philip Davis) and Spider (Gary Shail) and they spend most of their time trying to score ‘blues’ and chase girls like Steph (Leslie Ash) and Monkey (Toyah Wilcox). Through Jimmy we see the London Mod scene and the Mod vs Rocker conflict up close. To Jimmy, being a Mod a way of life, a community and a chance to be ‘someone’.
Jimmy and his gang head off to Brighton for the bank holiday weekend. A small punch-up in a cafe quickly explodes and thousands of excited teenagers, Mods and Rockers, rampage through the town and onto the beaches. Jimmy is arrested and ends up in court the next day with the Ace Face (Sting) and in a scene that famously recreates the actual court room events that took place in nearby Margate in 1964, Ace offers to pay his £75 fine by cheque. Jimmy is a kid chasing dreams. When he gets back to London Jimmy quits his job and in a haze of tiny blue pills and rapidly succumbing to drug-fuelled paranoia returns to Brighton hoping to find the sense of belonging he’d experienced there only to find nothing but the Ace Face dressed in a ridiculous uniform and working as a Bell Boy in a local hotel. Utterly disillusioned Jimmy steals the Ace’s GS scooter and drives it to Beachy Head where he drives it off a cliff. Jimmy walks back across the cliffs and away from his old life.
Jimmy is a vulnerable and impressionable and the movie cleverly recreates both the period detail and the sense of alienation that many teenagers suffer and the confusions of a young man coming of age. Ultimately, Quadrophenia captures the zeitgeist perfectly. The fashion, the music and the scene.