With Quadrophenia only just over a month away now, playing at Tamworth Assembly Rooms on Friday 24th and Sat 25th May, I spoke to Director Simon Quinn about his preparations.
Q. What attracted you to Quadrophenia in the first place?
1. I remember as a kid listening to The Who playing the whole album on John Peel’s late night show in ’73, then some weeks later in Wolverhampton I bought the album for less than a quid from a ‘record’ store that was closing down, so they must have been in a position where everything had to go. It was always a visual thing with me, the gatefold sleeve, the thick book insert and the fact the imagery was in black and white, it was all very theatrical and threatening; as of course the themes of subculture, mental illness and drugs etc were/are.
Q. Quadrophenia was released as an album in 1973. Four decades later how well do you think it has worn?
2. I’ve always believed that rock music concepts circa 1960’s and 1970’s have that capacity to hold the retention of their original audiences as well as the ability to attract new ones. The quality of the music aside, the themes within resonate with groups and individuals and somehow creates a personal significance that allows the mind to create and reminisce. With Quadrophenia the visual and ideological narrative surrounding the mod subculture is obviously appealing for young people today because of the never ending contemporary issues surrounding the movement itself; yet equally it holds memories for the 2013 older generation that of course was the pro-active generation of the times that Quadrophenia represents.
Q. Is there any new material in the production? How rigid were the demands of the Rights Holders?
3. The script is original-as was the script with last year’s project, The Wall. We have a greater emphasis on drama and poetry this time around, so it really is a rock music concept in every sense. As with The Wall we have devised a script that looks at the life and accompanying pressures of a central character who in many ways represents each and everyone of us. The Wall has Pink and Quadrophenia has ‘Jimmy’ and his problems with drugs, parental discourse, anti-social behaviour, mental ill health etc are exposed throughout through a variety of theatrical conventions. We had a tougher examination this time around in terms of acquiring permission to perform Quadrophenia-we had to send a proposal of how we intend to deliver this project as well as the evidence of what we achieved from The Wall before we were granted the rights to deliver. Paul Curran and Eel Pie publishing then ran the proposal past Pete Townshend for final approval.
Q. What influence did the film version of 1979 have on this production?
4. It would be true to say that the film was a crucial factor in stimulating interest from those who auditioned for the project because that medium was more widely known than the album. But we made it known from the start that we were working from the studio album and offering original conceptions and perceptions rather than just a total reproduction of the film-that is a work in its own right.
Q. Who is performing the music and what challenges did recreating The Who’s sound create?
5. The Pinch are performing the music-arguably one of the finest mod/rock bands in the West Midlands. We are also exploring the use of a solo guitarist to underscore some of the acting when The Pinch are not playing. I think you would need to ask The Pinch themselves regarding the difficulty in creating the sound.
Q. The Who have a fan base dating back to the 1960’s, how have the younger members of the cast responded to the material?
6. It is not a question of whether the younger people like or dislike The Who-it is more important that they like the concept of the project-although once hearing the album I think their appreciation of the music and the ideas has grown-also we have encouraged old and young alike to contribute their ideas throughout the rehearsal process.
Q. Quadrophenia is one of the great concept albums, what were the challenges of producing it for theatre rather than rock arena?
7. As with The Wall, a project of this magnitude presents a mixture of problems. We have a bigger cast this year so proximity and spatial awareness is problematic, when and where the music should slot in with the projection and the music, authentic costume is problematic. Yet these are integral components in qualifying the production as a piece of rock music theatre, rather than a rock concert.
Q. What audience are you aiming for, is this a nostalgia show?
8. It is a show that explores issues of the counter culture, subculture, attitudes to mental health, intergenerational behaviour, anti-social behaviour, drug misuse in a contemporary manner as well as trying to pay respect to the era it was original written for and about; so nostalgia or elements of nostalgia will rear up in someone’s psyche.
Q. The album is the most substantial and enduring testament to the Mod era. Paul Weller and latterly Bradley Wiggins have all championed the Mod cause. What resonance does Mod have in the 21st century?
9. It is a movement that still holds strong in today’s society , not because of the negativity in terms of its associated violence in the 1960’s, but more because of its intrinsic artistic and creative value through music, drama and literacy. The movement –similarly to that of punk and the new romantics-are creative forces that still impact upon today’s cultural landscape.
Q. Many contemporary musicians have aspired to write a rock opera, few have succeeded. The album only has one hit single, “5:15”, what is the secret of the albums’ success?
10. The longevity of The Who is obviously a key factor, the mod movement, the music and lyrics are both generic and personal, the theatricality, the texture of the 1960’s coming through the sound that paradoxically is anthemic for any era.
Watch out for another interview with poet and writer Mal Dewhirst about his role in contributing original material to this production. For more information on The Pinch who are performing live for the show visit their website on:
For ticket information: