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Re: The Geography of Mod Culture

PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 8:46 pm
by Pete Fowler
Mod was originally totally London-focused....it came out of the Soho clubs where its synthesis of French film stars (think Jean Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg), black music and Twist-derived dancing took hold at the end of '62 and very beginning of '63. Despite the fact that it became, quickly, a working class phenomenon, it had very definite intellectual footings: it strove to be different; and the black music of the Wardour Street places quickly became, when it blossomed in the old Rank ballrooms in places like Tottenham, heavily dominated by Motown and Stax: remember the Mods had a distinct ambivalence to the Stones, whose adherence to Chuck and Bo was just a little wide of their mark. Their music was a bit too close to their sworn enemies, the rockers (John Lennon was beyond the pale of course). Mod was a phenomenon in the London suburbs in early 1963, but had not, at that moment, spread as far as Brighton, let alone north of Enfield. Its fashion definitions, and its accessories, were all geared to being anti-rocker (the scooter, the short hair, the Parker etc etc).

Strange, I've just watched a perfect Mod moment, though it was a year later, in '64 - the Who (as the High Numbers) singing Ooh Poo Pah Doo and Gotta Dance To Keep from Crying on Youtube. If you look at that, you 'get' Mod at that time - black music, but not so close to the blues as the Stones and Clapton liked. The shots of the kids dancing is perfect as well.

As is the fact, for me, being totally selfish, that I was actually there that evening in the Railway Hotel at Wealdstone watching the gig. Not on the dance floor, though. At the bar. The bloody Grammar School got into you like an embourgoisement virus.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rto0OIAWtAI

Re: The Geography of Mod Culture

PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 10:32 pm
by AndyM
Pete Fowler wrote: The bloody Grammar School got into you like an embourgoisement virus.


Which was pretty much its raison d'etre!

Thanks Martin & Pete, some v.useful insights. The whole Brighton angle seems to have been intensified by the film release of Quadrophenia in '79, since that visually established the Mod/Brighton link for the 'Mod revival' audience & made it a sellable commodity -- certainly in the 80s you'd see wide-eyed gatherings of nouveau-Mods visiting the film's locations like shrines. The Japanese kids, perhaps inevitably, photographed each other pretending to be Phil Daniels.

Re: The Geography of Mod Culture

PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 10:52 pm
by Adam Blake
AndyM wrote:
Pete Fowler wrote: The bloody Grammar School got into you like an embourgoisement virus.


Which was pretty much its raison d'etre!

The whole Brighton angle seems to have been intensified by the film release of Quadrophenia in '79, since that visually established the Mod/Brighton link for the 'Mod revival' audience & made it a sellable commodity -- certainly in the 80s you'd see wide-eyed gatherings of nouveau-Mods visiting the film's locations like shrines. The Japanese kids, perhaps inevitably, photographed each other pretending to be Phil Daniels.


I am so glad that Martin and Pete have shared. If Ali Prince could be tempted out that would be wonderful too.

There was a very sad "Mod revival" at the end of the 70s, with which the film to some extent coincided. If the music had not been so utterly dreadful, it might have worked, but it was, and so it didn't.

There's quite a little knot of former grammar schoolboys here, so I feel it necessary to point out that there was an element at mine who made truly heroic efforts at resisting embourgeoisement. The tough, smart kids from the council estates who went to my school didn't mindlessly smash things up, they exploded them with chemicals (and knowledge) stolen from the chemistry lab. This seemed to me at the time, and still does, to be the essence of what made the grammar school different - and what the ILEA were so keen to stamp out.

Re: The Geography of Mod Culture

PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 11:04 pm
by AndyM
Adam Blake wrote:There was a very sad "Mod revival" at the end of the 70s, with which the film to some extent coincided. If the music had not been so utterly dreadful, it might have worked, but it was, and so it didn't.


The film was more influential that just 'coinciding', I think, it really gave the revivalism fuel and focus. And while the likes of Secret Affair & The Lambrettas were indeed pretty grim, the skinny suit-wearing elephant in the room here is The Jam, whose popularity increased hugely during & after '79. (Not sure how folks in these here parts regard The Jam, personally I was very devoted for a couple of years.)

The whole notion of Mod revival is of course anathema to Mod as en ethos, which was very much about NOW!

Re: The Geography of Mod Culture

PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 11:53 pm
by Adam Blake
Yes, The Jam. Very good. They were a Mod band in the eye of the punk hurricane (weren't they, Ted?) and went on to make some very good records. Paul Weller had a lot of talent (compared to The Purple Hearts or The Chords he might as well have been Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder rolled into one.) I saw them at The Rainbow on the "All Mod Cons" tour and they were perfectly fine. The place was crawling with Mod wannabe's who all went nuts. They never captured my heart, but I loved "All Around The World" and this (to me) sounds like a perfect English Mod record:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SGSmhoQffc

I remember going to see The Who (also at The Rainbow) in September 1978 - the first gig after Moonie died - and THAT was a real gathering of the Mod revival clans. The Who had this totemic iconic significance and EVERYBODY there was desperate for it to work with The Small Faces drummer. Nobody wanted to admit that without Moon, it was game over and no replay. Still, even though I was young, it seemed odd to me that this rather sludgy rock music that was coming off the stage should be the object of such Mod devotion.

Re: The Geography of Mod Culture

PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2014 12:44 am
by AndyM
The most striking thing about that early Who pub gig footage Pete F posted above is how screamingly clear it is that even at this embryo stage Moon is the real virtuoso in the group.

Re: The Geography of Mod Culture

PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2014 12:54 am
by Rob Hall
A couple of things above touch a place for me.

When I was a kid, about 12 or 13 (66, 67) we didn't have a record player but I started to pick up second-hand singles from people, and I would take them to friends' houses to listen to. 45s by The Who were among the first records that I owned: Substitute on the Reaction label and I Can See For Miles on Track. When The Who visited Trentham Gardens, I saved like hell to get the money for a ticket. (I think they were supported by the James Gang?) Townshend did the guitar thrashing thing and a friend of a friend got a piece of a piece of something that might have once been handled by one of the gods of rock. They came back the next year and it was the opening night of the Quadrophenia tour. It was a disaster. They fucked it up and called a halt to it half-way through, then played out the rest of the gig with 'Summertime Blues', and other old stuff. That week, the Melody Maker carried a review of the second night (Wolverhampton); I felt cheated.

Later, having gone away to art college, I saw the Jam in Bromley on what must have been one of their first tours (77?). I recall being less than impressed by their use of the Union flag. I was also less than impressed when they were subsequently touted as 'mods': they may have looked the part, but to me they looked like little kids trying on big kids' clothes. I've tried to love the Jam and/or Weller since then, but I've never been able to navigate my way around his ego.

Re: The Geography of Mod Culture

PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2014 1:04 am
by MartinOwen
I would agree with Pete about the London-ness of mod. We were wannabes from the styx. Fashion epi-centred in Carnaby Steet, and I don't suppose that anything extra-metropolitan actually contributed anything original. What followed (eg northern soul) was a re-invention of the sentiment - but mediated by economics and society of the north in the 70's. I had moved to London by then and had joined the other side. And yes, I was a grammar school boy. Aspiration was part of the ingredients.

On the mod revival - London cousins were not grammar school but were mods. Quintin Kyneston's NW postcode may have made another kind of school. In Sugg's (who is about 12 years younger than I) one-man-show he talks about being at QK and meeting up with other kids who were already in bands (Grammar School boys from presumably William Ellis School in Primrose Hill). At that time I was teaching just down the road from QK - no trace of the mod revival in Sarah Siddons: Reggae, Stylistics and Bay City Rollers. (Whereas just earlier(72) in Woodberry Down there was much more eclecticism).

I did teach Juliet Roberts though : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLqFl6KFaiM

Re: The Geography of Mod Culture

PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2014 1:22 am
by Adam Blake
MartinOwen wrote: Quintin Kyneston's NW postcode may have made another kind of school. In Sugg's (who is about 12 years younger than I) one-man-show he talks about being at QK and meeting up with other kids who were already in bands


My sister went to QK. Suggs was in the 6th form when she first got there. It was brutal. The kids were treated like cattle. She had to fight every day. She never got over it.

Re: The Geography of Mod Culture

PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2014 7:36 am
by AndyM
Did Emma have an art teacher called Miss Wood ? (friend of mine, so small world if she did)

Re: The Geography of Mod Culture

PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2014 9:54 am
by Adam Blake
Will ask her. She daubed "Room 101" in large letters on the headmaster's study door. I always thought that was splendid...

Re: The Geography of Mod Culture

PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2014 11:59 am
by Pete Fowler
Just a very quick endorsement of Andy's comment above: Moon was absolutely pivotal in The Who and it's nowhere more evident than on the version of You Gotta Dance To Keep From Crying on that excerpt.

And while I'm here....people often forget that the word 'Mod' was an abbreviation of 'Modernist'; and it was the Modernist approach that dominated the Flamingo and those clubs in the days immediately before Mod. There were two pivotal points, in my mind, at that time: the dancing, the appearance and the 'cool' exemplified in Soho; and, at exactly the same time, the gigs at some pub near Leicester Square (Blues and Barrelhouse? I can't remember the name and will get it from Google later) where Cyril Davies and Alexis Korner began their blues sessions. (there's bound to be an equivalent for folk as well, but that wasn't my bag at the time). I went quite a few times to that pub where people like Memphis Slim and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee played - and the future Stones were in the audience. No working class kids there at all. That wasn't the case, though, in the Soho clubs where there was always a mix between kids from the East End, gangsters, West Indians and beatniks. The image of Mod was born here, not from Cyril Davies's crowd.

Re: The Geography of Mod Culture

PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2014 12:15 pm
by Garth Cartwright
Andy, some notes from a dbl CD compilation I did a year or 2 back covering the music the Mods listened to in The Flamingo and other Soho clubs. My research at the time found it a very Soho-centric movement with outposts in areas like Stoke Newington (where a young Marc Bolan emulated older Jewish Mods and a local record shop imported West Indian 45s along with US R&B). Admittedly, this is all early 60s and once The Who and Small Faces came along I'm sure Mod went nationwide. A bit like punk emerging from a bunch of London wannabes then suddenly flaring up everywhere. As for The Jam - I like Down In The Tube Station and Going Underground but not a helluva lot else. I can see the quality but always found them a bit stiff. When they first got famous they were working class Tories which, I guess, makes them oddly forward looking considering Thatcher's ability to win that disaffected part of the electorate.


"London author Colin MacInnes’ novel Absolute Beginners, published in 1959, followed the adventures of an unnamed teenage narrator as he pursues kicks and girls in Soho basement jazz and jive clubs. MacInnes’ narrator describes himself as a “modernist” and distances himself from the teddy boy culture then associated with rock’n’roll and racism (the book touches upon the Notting Hill Race Riots of 1958). MacInnes was unsuspectingly documenting the birth of the Mods and by the early-1960s they would be seen as a movement with their own look and sounds. Which meant they had their own clubs where the likes of Guy Stevens DJ-ed imported 45s. Stevens, a music fanatic who possessed a great ear and regularly sort out new black music releases through contacts in London and Louisiana, got a Monday night gig at The Scene in Ham Yard, Soho. This basic basement club had no drinks license yet Stevens’ brilliant selection of tunes made it the happening place for Mods and word quickly spread amongst the “Faces” that if you wanted to hear the hottest, happening tunes it was obligatory to attend Guy’s night.

Stevens’ DJ-ing didn’t simply influence the Mods’ who came to dance and pose: a host of aspiring musicians attended, hungry for the new black music he championed. Amongst those were members of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Small Faces, The Yardbirds and, especially, The Who – The Who’s manager Peter Meaden, a Mod who regularly attended The Scene, paid Stevens to tape songs for Townsend’s crew to cover/rewrite: their initial High Numbers 45 I’m The Face/Zoot Suit were Meaden-rewrites of Slim Harpo and Dynamics songs as provided by Stevens. While Daddy Rollin’ Stone, written and recorded in New York by Otis Blackwell in 1953 and rerecorded by Derek Martin in Detroit a decade later and, due to Stevens’ incessant spinning, a Mod anthem, became the B-side for the first Who single. These bands, in their early incarnations, often played The Scene. At The Scene and The Flamingo in Wardour St – home to Georgie Fame, The Animals and several movers and shakers in the Christine Keeler-scandal: Mods’ shatter the British establishment! - the Modernists would take glorious shape.

Stevens’ tastes and enthusiasms were so astute that a young, white Jamaican music entrepreneur called Chris Blackwell – who had set up Island Records to release contemporary Jamaican music for the UK’s Afro-Caribbean community – approached Guy to run Sue Records, a label he had set up as UK licensee of the noted independent New York rhythm and blues label. On Sue Stevens would release a great variety of soul and blues 45s (and compile LPs of recordings of the likes of Elmore James and Excello swamp blues). Stevens was the Mod magus, obsessed with clothes and music and (to his eternal detriment) amphetamine, and back in the day when getting your hands on new music on tiny US/Jamaican indie labels was extremely difficult he and Blackwell provided a great repository of music for young British musicians and music fans."

Re: The Geography of Mod Culture

PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2014 1:33 pm
by Pete Fowler
That's right on Stevens and Macinnes, Garth, but I would question one thing: the groups you mention, the Beatles/Stones era, certainly knew what was to become Mod music before they'd ever been to The Scene. A cursory look through their first material shows that. Lennon got his records, in 58/60, from the Liverpool guys who worked the Cunard Liners and these included those sounds that triggered Motown and Stax. Think of Watch Your Step by Bobby Parker; Money, Sam Cooke's stuff, the 'bird' groups, Jessie Hill, Ray Charles's Atlantic stuff that came out here in '58. And, centrally, James Brown: no record was bigger at the time than his live album (Try Me and all that stuff) and I remember going to a party in '61 where the only record played was his Prisoner of Love.

Stevens caught the mood, exactly; but he did not set the template.

(an anecdote: when I first saw Rod Stewart, singing with Cyril Davies in that pub I mentioned, I had the brass nerve to go up to him and ask him 'why do you copy Sam Cooke all the time?' He sneered, rightly.)

Re: The Geography of Mod Culture

PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2014 1:47 pm
by Garth Cartwright
I'm sure you are right Pete. My research did suggest that those groups went to listen to Guy cos he got hold of often very obscure R&B tunes - apparently he had someone in Louisiana who would send him packs of 45s. So often he had the only copy of a new swamp pop or Muscle Shoals etc in the UK. So, yeah, they were clued into the music before they entered the clubs but he turned them on to stuff they might otherwise have not have heard.