An inquiry on Mod in a prog forum today prompted the following ruminations, drawn from my personal background in the subject of English rock subcultures.

I find it strange how the participants of the original Mod movement turned their backs on that scene entirely, with most of them becoming hippies, and how members of bands like The Action splintered into the likes of jam rockers Mighty Baby and smooth rockers Ace.

In contrast, the Mod revival (and the closely-related Two Tone craze) yielded many figures who would become lifelong loyalists of the Mod aesthetic. Paul Weller, for instance, has never really strayed from Mod, he’s simply moved from the youthful and raucous side of the Mod spectrum (cloning the early Who back in ’77) to a more mature and refined end, first by embracing the rhythmic and soulful elements which had been dear to the original Mods (the Stax and Motown affections of late-period Jam) and onto his modernized takes on early ’60s easy-listening and bossa nova styles with his next band the Style Council, apropos to the sophisti-pop (for want of a better term) movement of the late ’80s (Everything But the Girl, Swing Out Sister, etc.)

Now I’m not exactly sure whether those last styles were popular amongst the original Mods, who never even seemed to pick up on the original ska craze of the ’60s (well, except for Locomotive) but I have seen more current Mods embrace the softer end of the post-rockabilly/pre-progressive spectrum, particularly from the French and Brazilian musical quarters. Then again, newer Mods consider just about anything from the first British Invasion on up through the early popsike scene (Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera, Skip Bifferty) to be ‘Mod’, which lends greater latitude for their infinite loyalty to that scene, obviating their embrace of the ‘bloated’ developments in white rock which the original ex-Mods had perpetrated by the end of the ’60s.

Whenever I see a young Mod on the street, however, I can’t help but wonder will *he* become a hairy Neanderthal within four years time? These days, not likely. It’s just so funny how the ’60s made it look as though the metamorphosis from pixie haircuts with under-sized suits to Amish beards with slack, rural attire was some natural, predetermined rite of passage.

So who were the Mod bands and what did they sound like, asks the enquiring AOR/progster?

Right behind The Who and The Small Faces were:

The Creation

The Action

The Smoke

The VIPs – who briefly included Keith Emerson before he formed The Nice and the others became the popsike Art, who eventually added American Gary Wright and settled on the name Spooky Tooth, who went through numerous personnel shifts until late-period guitarist Mick Jones scrapped the band and salvaged their concluding style with a new band, Foreigner… how’s that for coming a looong ways from Mod?!

..and numerous others like The In Crowd (Steve Howe and Keith West‘s pre-Tomorrow configuration) The Game (who morphed into the proto-prog Grail) and the Bo Street Runners (Mike Patto‘s pre-Timebox unit.) I’d leave out The Syn because they were formed amidst the popsike explosion, the catalyst for a radically different set of aesthetics which buried Mod and wound up spawning hard rock and prog by the end of the ’60s.

Then there was the whole late ’70s Mod revival with The Jam, The Jolt, The Chords, The Purple Hearts, Secret Affair, etc. Additionally, the Two-Tone bands (The Specials, The Selector, Madness) were adopted by the Mods, though concerts were often marked by battles between waring factions of Mods and Skinheads.


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