Monday, April 21, 2008

Brief History of Mods and Mod Music




The modernists or Mods were a subculture which many believe to have originated in London in the late 1950s. The term described modern jazz musicians and their style conscious fans. Mods were a breed apart from moldy figs i.e. followers of traditional jazz from New Orleans and were dressed in modern Italian clothes and sharp shoes.



Moldy figs or trad jazzers were beatniks of casual and unkept appearance. Modism encapsulated a life style which included music (jazz and rhythm and blues), clothes (made to measure Italian clothing), dancing (intimate clubs and not ballrooms), recreational consumption of amphetamines and motor scooters. Later by the mid 60s Mods became a generic term used by the media to describe anything that enjoyed vogue or craze status.



The nemesis of the Mods was the Rockers (or Greasers) and followed the Teddy boys of the late fifties. They rode motor cycles, sported jeans and T Shirts with biker’s leather jackets and engineer’s boots. In terms of the British Class System, Mods were more likely to come from middle class backgrounds whereas rockers were often working class.



Mods would gather at all-night clubs such as The Scene, The Flamingo and The Marquee in London to hear the latest records and to show off their clothes and dance moves. As mod spread across the UK, other clubs became popular such as Twisted Wheel Club in Manchester and Blackpool. In the all night dance clubs Mods consumed amphetamines- barbiturates like Dexedrine,(blues or purple hearts) to them keep them awake. Mod music was mainly rhythm and blues influenced but later embraced soul, ska and blues. Vespa or Lambretta scooters were all the rage with city and town dwelling Mods and were cheap, available on hire purchase, yet had all the chic of Italian design. Scooters were heavily adorned usually with mirrors and aerials.



Top Mod groups included: Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, The Animals, The Small Faces, The Move, The Who, The Yardbirds, The Kinks, and The Spencer Davis Group. Other UK acts to be associated with the 1960s mod scene were The Action, Zoot Money and The Creation. The Mods had their own national TV show, Ready Steady Go which featured weekly the current array of UK and US stars in London.



On Bank Holidays Mods and Rockers traveled to popular seaside resorts like Brighton, Margate and Hastings and terrorised the holidaymakers by fighting in the streets and on the beaches.



The fad for Mod music passed in the late 60s as the psychedelic rock era and hippie culture gained momentum. Most Mods slipped into the fashionable hippie style whilst others became underground rockers. The remainder was rougher with less emphasis on cutting-edge fashion they shaved their heads and became suede heads and were the fore runner of the skinhead movement. Three-button mohair suit jackets or bomber jackets were worn with pencil legged Levis jeans or Sta-Prest trousers. The outfit was completed with a Fred Perry polo shirt or Ben Sherman shirt, and bovver boots (Doc Martens). Red braces were an essential accessory for Johnnie Reggie and the look-a-like Jamaican rude boy wore a Trilby hat (commonly referred to as a pork pie). Initially the skinheads kept some of the original mod music styles alive including ska, soul, rocksteady and early reggae but as the seventies neared the skinhead movement became more political and racist with Oi music becoming the new vogue.



Skinheads disliked Punks and took every opportunity to rumble but ironically the post punk generation had a renaissance with Mod music in the late 70s. The short UK revival was led with bands like The Jam, Secret Affair, Purple Hearts and The Chords. This was later followed by the more popular movement of 2 tone music led the Specials, Madness, and UB40. The scene in the UK was mirrored in the US a decade later by the Californian band, The Untouchables.





Worth a listen

Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames
Yeh Yeh (1965)
Get away (1966)

The Animals
House of the rising sun (1964)
Its my life (1965)

The Small Faces
Whatcha Gonna Do About It (1965)
Sha la la la lee (1966)
All or nothing (1966)

The Move
Night of fear (1967)

The Who
I can’t explain (1965)
Anyway anyhow anywhere? (1965)
My generation (1966)
Substitute (1966)

The Yardbirds
For your love (1964)
Goodmorning little schoolgirl (1964)
Heart full of soul (1965)

The Kinks
You really got me (1964)
See my friends (1965)

The Spencer Davis Group
Keep on running (1965)
Somebody help me (1966)

The Action
I'll Keep on Holding On (1965)

Zoot Money's Big Roll Band
It Should've Been Me (1965)

The Creation
Painter Man (1966)

The Jam
In the city (1977)
All around the world (1977)
The modern world (1977)
News of the world (1978)
Going underground (1980)

Secret Affair
My world (1980)

Purple Hearts
Millions Like Us (1979)

The Chords.
Maybe Tomorrow (1980)

The Specials
Gangsters (as The Special AKA) (1979)
A message to you Rudy (1980)
Too much to young (1980)
Ghost Town (1981)

Madness
One Step Beyond (1979)
My Girl (1979)
Baggy Trousers (1980)
Embarrassment (1980)
The Return of the Los Palmas 7 (1980)
House of Fun (1982)
Our House (1982)

UB40
King (1980)
One in ten (1981)
Red red wine (1983)
Many river to cross (1983)

The Untouchables
I spy (for the FBI) (1984)

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