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Modernist Morecambe

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‘Can you see the Real Me?’ (‘The Real Me’)

Driving up to the Placing Morecambe symposium held at Lancaster University a few weeks ago, I listened to The Who’s Quadrophenia album. This was a happy accident. A few days before, trawling through the hard-drive on our Freeview receiver, I noticed that the excellent BBC4 documentary on the making of Quadrophenia was still there, and sat down to watch. Later, the psyche gave me a nudge and I put my Who box-set and Quadrophenia in the car. Only half-way up the motorway did I realise the appropriateness: in the story told by the concept album, Jimmy, the young Mod, suffering from a personality disorder that Townshend dubs ‘quadrophenia’ (Pete wanted to make the album in quadraphonic sound, but it turned out strictly stereo, four faces condensed to two) has a kind of breakdown, and travels from his South London home to Brighton, where he has an epiphany at the sea-side. The album ends ambiguously: the listener doesn’t know whether Jimmy ends his…