London's Mod Scene

London's Mod Scene


Posted 2012-01-07 by Browniefollow
London has always been an established centre of the mod scene, some would argue the centre. Whether it was posing down Carnaby Street in trendy treads or the practicality of choosing a scooter for transport in around the city, the mods were a distinctive part of the iconic image in those swinging Sixties.

With their roots in 'modernists' this was a culture drawn from the coffee bars where young people would gather to show off their latest fashion purchases, chat and listen to R&B songs on the jukebox. Mods were all about scooters, clothes, music and attitude. I recently chatted with an East End mod who, now aged 64, was proud of the fact he could still wear his original Parka coat, complete with self-applied RAF roundel, one of the symbols adopted by mods. For him the fun went out of it all when it became compulsory for scooter riders to wear crash helmets. Despite that, you will still find classic Lambretta and Vespa scooters used on a daily basis around the capital, together with their more contemporary counterparts.

If you want to trace elements of mod history in London you will have to look up, as some of the familiar pop band names of the period have been honoured with commemorative wall plaques. For example, in Carnaby Street you will find a plaque dedicated to The Small Faces and their manager Don Arden, while in Wardour Street there is a plaque linking The Who's former demon drummer Keith Moon with the site of the famous music venue The Marquee. No.90 Wardour Street was the second home of The Marquee (1964-1988), it had been at 165 Oxford Street before that. The Soho Lofts flats now occupy the site of the club in Wardour Street, where upstairs there had once been offices for organisations such as The National Jazz Festival (forerunner of today's Reading Festival) and Tony Stratton Smith's Charisma Records label.

Pete Townsend of The Who famously encapsulated the mod spirit in the 1973 album and 1979 film 'Quadrophenia' with the 1960s-based adventures of Jimmy (played in the film by Phil Daniels) in London and Brighton. Several London locations were used in the film such as Goldhawk Road, Shepherds Bush, the S&M Cafe in Islington and the old Royalty Dancehall, Southgate. The original albums were recently given a 'deluxe box set' release.

There is little doubt that the original appearance of 'Quadrophenia' contributed to the mod revival in the late 1970s, with the emergence of talents such as Paul Weller of The Jam, often nicknamed 'The Modfather'. In the wake of the post-punk/new wave bands later in the Seventies, record companies were keen to sign young pop bands with power and attitude. One such band was New Hearts, signed to CBS Records. When that band split, their creative core of singer Ian Page and guitarist Dave Cairns busied themselves writing songs and formed a new band, Secret Affair. Their first gig was supporting The Jam at Reading University in February 1979 and they soon found themselves very popular figures as part of the period's mod revival movement with Page's 'Glory Boys' lyrics and style adopted by their supporters.

Cairn's 'Time For Action' became a rallying call for the youth movement, providing not only a new anthem but a chart hit, the single reaching No.13 in 1979. They soon followed this with more hits, 'Let Your Heart Dance' the same year, 'My World and 'Sound of Confusion' in 1980, with 'Do You Know' following in '81.

Music rarely stands still and by mid-1982, Secret Affair had called it a day and went their separate ways. In the 21st Century, the band have reformed and appear from time to time at London venues such as the 229 Club, Great Portland Street.

There have been several mod revivals so you might have lost count exactly where we are now. Or maybe it just could be that the spirit of the mod scene has never really gone away?

So how can you recreate the mod lifestyle today? There are a few ways to keep the spirit alive. Why not start shopping at Ben Sherman , the brand clothed mods all over Britain back in the 60s, and still have some of that mod style today. You'd also need to buy a Vespa , or another kind of scooter, if you want a mod's transport of choice. Obviously, it also comes down to the music, so while you can still catch some old favourites hitting the stage, head out, get a record player, some old Who vinyls, and enjoy.

60662 - 2023-01-20 01:11:47


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