The Real Quadrophenia by Harry Ward

by Modculture 7 September, 2011

Quadrophenia

Quadrophenia

Rallies? Pills? Scooters? Soul? Chucking your job in? It wasn’t just in the films as Harry Ward looking back explains…

Believe it or not, I have only just learned that Jimmy did not go over the cliff in ‘Quadrophenia’, the end of the film is actually at the beginning when you see him walking back from the edge! That realisation took a little longer than the ‘deja-vu’ I experienced when I first saw the film.

The pill taking and amateur dealing, the house party scene, the scooter adulation, the music, soul (before Northern), Motown and British mod groups, losing a special girl by being a prat and then feeling gutted after seeing her with one of your mates! Buying a made to measure suit and paying in instalments every week at ‘Burtons’ and having a laugh with other mods who were being measured up. Having Rockers as friends rather than enemies but being wary (and scared) of others. For (their) Brighton read (our) Southport but without the violence. It felt like being back then and going through it again.

Being a mod in the mid sixties was short lived – two years at the most. But the best two years of my life. Watching Jimmy’s trip into oblivion and his inability to come to terms with ‘non-mod’ life brought back an experience that, whilst not as drastic or drug fuelled, mirrored what Jimmy went through.

(During that time my friendship with ‘Norm’ made the whole experience even more mind blowing. We were inseparable and had almost a telepathic understanding of ‘mod life’ – the scooters, the clothes and the music. Everything we did was in tune and I can’t recall any disagreement of what we would do or get up to. That friendship has lasted 35 years and whilst we went, at times, years without getting in touch we just seem to pick up where we left off).

I was, loosely, a trainee at a textile mill at the time doing shifts in a weaving shed (yes, very exciting). The job had no significance. It provided cash and passed the time until I could get out on my scooter and meet up with the gang – normally at the local bowling alley during the week and at weekend going to clubs or local halls on Friday and Saturday night.

The eagerly awaited weekly ride to Southport was on Sunday with a large posse of scooters making the trip up the East Lancs Road and the Rainhill by-pass to what we thought was ‘Mod Mecca’ at the time. More mods from all over the North West – more scooters, music and girls!

After the weekend, the Mondays back then were really depressing! Going back to work and starting the whole cycle again. On this particular day it was college ‘day release’ and I just could not face it. I needed to carry on after the weekend just being a mod, so I literally turned away from real life and headed off alone on my scooter to Southport.

I endured Jimmy’s state of mind that day. In Southport, on a damp Monday, there were no other mods, no scooters, no music or no girls. I was alone…and everyone was going about their ordinary daily lives – working or going to school or college. Feeling disheartened, I headed off to Wigan to see the ‘special girl’ who was at school that day. On the way the heavens opened and I reached Wigan looking like a ‘drowned rat’. I had to wait ages outside the school to see her and it was really an anti-climax for both of us. She could not understand what I had actually done that day and why, which I suppose said it all.

A terrible day all round but one which in reality had a significant impact on my view of life. The job went, the whole thing about missing college or ‘wagging it’ did not do my career prospects any good. I ended up being hauled up before one of the managers, with my mother (would you believe), to explain my actions. It didn’t change my ‘mod’ outlook and was shortly followed by me and Norm heading off to Torquay for a new life…but lasting only a week before ending up back home.

But that (as they say) is another story…!