Saturday, 1 November 2008


The mod revival was a curious pop phenomenon of the late 1970s. What you saw wasn’t really what you got. You got revivalism: guys wearing union jackets, targets and parkas, sitting in their tight trousers astride Lambrettas; bands covering the 'Batman' theme and other pieces from early Who LPs and EPs (though Paul Weller’s understanding of the ethos went way beyond these superficial garnerings and probably engineered the folding of The Jam). Qualitatively the 1970s thing was not all that different from other revivals (or survivals), like that of the teds and rockers, the mods’ supposed antitheses. But was it really ‘mod’? The Who of course were seen by some in the early 60s as riding the mod bandwagon. They had modelled themselves on an existing subculture and it was this popularisation that fed into the later revival. Mod though is only a ‘style’ in retrospect. In its time it was more a philosophy: that of exhibiting grace under pressure. The music was more a matter of rare grooves and floor-fillers than of explicit homages to style. It was about the present rather than memory. This aspect of mod is probably always with us, becoming manifest from time to time, particularly in periods of social and economic adversity. One recent band that seems ‘mod’ to me is Little Barrie. Their music is tight (and loose, but the elements of funk aren’t allowed to grow turgid). It’s a bright, sharp sound; a virtuosity that doesn’t hang around drawing attention to itself. I don’t know what will happen if this band move on from the clubs to the stadia, but for me at this moment they are, as they say, ‘on the one’.

1 comment:

Adam Aitken said...


My brother joined a Sydney based Mod revival movement in the eighties. Their slogan was 'clean living under difficult circumstances'. This meant that could be justified in spending all their savings on the right suits (from a particular tailor in Darlinghurst Road). It meant a lot of other things to do with style. They had a leader, The Face, a favoured band, and girlfriends with page boy bobs and 60s style wardrobes. There was a "scooter pilgrimage" to Melbourne. Drugs were the speedier kind, to go with the music.