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"Mod: A Very British Style"

PostPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 2:47 pm
by NormanD
"Mod: A Very British Style" by Richard Weight

There's a longish and entertaining critique of this in the latest London Review of Books, by Ian Penman.

Just as empty shipyards now house ‘themed’ museums...so the insane over-ambition of mid-1960s pop and rock has been repackaged as a tidily groovy heritage resource. In the British Music Experience, for example, installed (where else?) in the former Millennium Dome and created ‘to fill a gap in the UK Heritage Sector for rock and pop music’, what did they choose as a logo? Right first time: the ‘classic’, ‘iconic’ RAF/Mod target emblem.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n16/ian-penman ... -to-starve

Re: "Mod: A Very British Style"

PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 2:10 pm
by Paul S
I'd agree with most of that long review (although I haven't read the book).
Penman hits the target quite succinctly on mod. Despite being only a late 70's revivalist variant himself, he understands it.
(I always thought the very essence of mod was missed entirely by any revivals).
I was a regional schoolboy weekend mod back in the mid-late 60's. That actually meant an original parka with a biro'd-on roundel, Yardbirds logo plus whatever else could be bought from local men's tailoring shops that looked vaguely mod-ish and was affordable.
Nobody ever quoted the cover of My Generation as 'iconic' - but what Daltrey & Moon are wearing was what was actually cool and desirable street wear at the time. Not Union Jack jackets.

I once heard a member of Wishbone Ash in 1973, after sharing Morgan Studios with Rod and the Faces, describe them as "a real bunch of mods, all with sports cars and flash birds". Struck me as an odd remark at the time, but I knew what he meant. They had that essence, still. He was probably wearing a check cheesecloth shirt when he said it.
(But I always liked Blind Eye...great drum fills)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cZ26_2rJis

Re: "Mod: A Very British Style"

PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 2:59 pm
by Rob Hall
NormanD wrote:"Mod: A Very British Style" by Richard Weight

There's a longish and entertaining critique of this in the latest London Review of Books, by Ian Penman.


That boy can write, can't he? A convolution too many here and there, and too long by half, but enough sparkly spangly stuff to make you want to read on.

Re: "Mod: A Very British Style"

PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 6:02 pm
by NormanD
It does mark a change for the LRB to publish a piece like this. My one comment would be in relation to his "...Mod was already partial to raspy, gimme-gimme singers like Steve Marriott". I contend that it was "gotta-gotta", in imitation of Otis. Perhaps I should write a serious letter to LRB, and see if it gets published.

Is Mod, now, anything other than a minority style? Perhaps one with more staying power than, say, late-40s swingsters or moustached tweedy fogeys?

Re: "Mod: A Very British Style"

PostPosted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 6:44 pm
by Adam Blake
I look forward to reading the piece but I would say that Mod is like an article of faith that devotees can switch on at certain moments such as when choosing a pair of shoes or a cd. This prevents them from ever wearing sandals or listening to Quintessence by mistake. In this way it acts as a safety net for life.

Re: "Mod: A Very British Style"

PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2013 1:28 pm
by Paul S
Mod is like an article of faith that devotees can switch on at certain moments such as when choosing a pair of shoes or a cd. This prevents them from ever wearing sandals or listening to Quintessence by mistake.


I am reproducing Adam's comment on a brass plaque. Brilliant.
Oh Gungamai.

Re: "Mod: A Very British Style"

PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2013 1:57 pm
by AndyM
Penman is woefully wrong to peg Larkin and Amis as devotees of Trad; they may have loved pre-bebop jazz, but they weren't celebrants of Kenny Ball.

Re: "Mod: A Very British Style"

PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2013 6:32 pm
by Adam Blake
Thank you, Paul. I should add that this is not something I have made up but have actually observed. Ex-mods (or people you might think are ex-mods) or indeed, anyone with sympathy for the mod sensibility, can click on the Mod-Mind at will and this enables them to wear the right clothes and listen to the right music at moments of potential confusion.

(As for me, of course, I am far too much of a Quintessence loving hippy to ever be included in the club, no matter how sharp my suits are. Real Mods see this and regard me with pity. I am sure I have related the story of being caught by my tailor in my scruffiest jeans and T shirt, with three days stubble, buying a pint of milk. The look he gave me will burn me forever but it helped enormously in my understanding of Mod.)

Re: "Mod: A Very British Style"

PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2013 6:37 pm
by Adam Blake
AndyM wrote:Penman is woefully wrong to peg Larkin and Amis as devotees of Trad; they may have loved pre-bebop jazz, but they weren't celebrants of Kenny Ball.


But he made me genuinely laugh out loud with his list of potential problems caused by youth cult members: greasers have shivs, a hippy might dose you etc "What's a mod going to do? Force you to listen to Otis Redding?"

Re: "Mod: A Very British Style"

PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2013 7:31 pm
by AndyM
I never liked Penman very much, he was always trying to ride on Paul Morley's coat tails, as well you might if you were from King's Lynn rather than Manchester.

The gay dimension of Mod (always there but usually nervily underplayed) is brilliantly captured in one chapter of Peter Burton's wondrous autobiog 'Parallel Lives'. Peter was a pioneering gay journalist, a sort-of Mod and at one time worked for the Rod Stewart entourage. Long out of print but if anyone finds it on their charity shop travels, do invest.

Re: "Mod: A Very British Style"

PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2013 8:41 pm
by Adam Blake
AndyM wrote:I never liked Penman very much, he was always trying to ride on Paul Morley's coat tails,


If you mean back in their NME days, yes, definitely, but I think Morley is simply a better writer. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed this Penman piece even if it was, as has been pointed out, far too long.

Thanks for the book recommendation. I would have thought that the gay element of Mod was self evident, being as it was a cult of austere male narcissism that excluded women almost completely!

Also long out of print, but quoted extensively by style writers across the decades is Nik Cohn's "Today There Are No Gentlemen" which gives possibly the best and surely the most authentic account of the original Mod scene. We discussed this before on a Marc Bolan thread, I remember.

Re: "Mod: A Very British Style"

PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2013 11:01 pm
by NormanD
Adam Blake wrote:I would have thought that the gay element of Mod was self evident, being as it was a cult of austere male narcissism that excluded women almost completely
That certainly wasn't the case from my experience, limited though it might have been. Girls were there, and not just as arm candy. Sure, they rode on the back of the scooters rather than steer them, but they were pretty much part of the scene. I knew quite a few stylish and quite tough pill heads.

There was far more of a recognised gay element amongst their supposed rivals, rockers. There was even a film made in the early 60s, "The Leather Boys" (I think Rita Tushingham was in it) that had homosexuality as a central focus. From what I remember, it was more of a kitchen sink melodrama rather than a Roger Corman style exploitation.

I think aspects of racial integration were probably more important. To most mods, blacks were seen as hip - there was a natural affinity and desire to reach out. Probably, views of black people were naive, and even patronising, but it wasn't based on spite or jealousy.

Re: "Mod: A Very British Style"

PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2013 11:31 pm
by Rob Hall
AndyM wrote:Penman is woefully wrong to peg Larkin and Amis as devotees of Trad; they may have loved pre-bebop jazz, but they weren't celebrants of Kenny Ball.

Quite right. I don't know where Amis drew the line, but Larkin's belief was that everything started to go wrong with the advent of the three Ps: Parker, Pound and Picasso.

Re: "Mod: A Very British Style"

PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 2:05 am
by Adam Blake
Sorry, I should have made it clear I was talking about the original Mods - the Stamford Hill set in 1962 etc.

Re: "Mod: A Very British Style"

PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 9:43 am
by AndyM
NormanD wrote:
Adam Blake wrote:I would have thought that the gay element of Mod was self evident, being as it was a cult of austere male narcissism that excluded women almost completely
That certainly wasn't the case from my experience, limited though it might have been. Girls were there, and not just as arm candy. Sure, they rode on the back of the scooters rather than steer them, but they were pretty much part of the scene. I knew quite a few stylish and quite tough pill heads.

There was far more of a recognised gay element amongst their supposed rivals, rockers. There was even a film made in the early 60s, "The Leather Boys" (I think Rita Tushingham was in it) that had homosexuality as a central focus. From what I remember, it was more of a kitchen sink melodrama rather than a Roger Corman style exploitation.

I think aspects of racial integration were probably more important. To most mods, blacks were seen as hip - there was a natural affinity and desire to reach out. Probably, views of black people were naive, and even patronising, but it wasn't based on spite or jealousy.



'The Leather Boys' is great, a very neglected film. Rita can't work out why her boyfriend/husband spends so much time with his biker mates....... Biker style as a gay fetish is also prevalent in a lot of Kenneth Anger's 60s films.

The mod/gay thing is interesting. Not that many actual gay mods, but a lot of the musical tastes overlapped (esp early Motown) and some central London venues had both mod and gay clienteles. The mod interest in fashion figures here, of course, though often it mutated into a fascinating kind of dandy machismo - yes, we make a fetish of lapel angles but we're not poofs!!