"Do you think it's good for the Northern Scene?"
"Everybody won't start playing 'Specials' and 'Who' will they?"
"What's all the fuss about? The Northern scene's based on the mod's sixties sounds".
"These lot aren't mods - I was an original mod!"
The mods revival and the Northern soul scene must be the biggest talking point at the moment yet I believe that both factions come from the same roots.
In the 'original' mod scene, starting in the early sixties, most of the followers were either into the Tamla, Stax, Atlantic sounds or Spencer Davis, Small Faces and the Who. There was only a small line of distinction between the two though, as today, many mods enjoyed both white and black music.
The Northern scene has always been synonymous with the black sixties sounds - obviously 90% of the discs played today are sixties obscurities and have you ever been to a venue and never heard a Stax, Atlantic or Tamla oldie? - I'll bet you haven't.
A couple of years ago a sound like "Hey Girl Don't Bother Me", "In The Midnight Hour" or "Time Is Tight" could be played without any feedback whatsoever; yet a few people these days make ludicrous comments like "Those aren't Northern sounds, they're mod!!!"
An air of staleness seemed to have crept into our scene until our mods 'niter at the Casino last summer. What a brilliant night that was, hundreds of scooters outside, mini-skirts (phew), sharp suits and pork-pie hats. There was an expectant buzz around the hall all-night; lots of the original mods had dusted off their cloths (neatly stored from the late sixties), parading around like peacocks or stompin' to their 'time-warped' favourite records.
The music policy was 99% Northern oldies with a couple of 'Borderline' cases thrown in. I treaded the borderline with 'Al Capone' and 'Shotgun Wedding' yet got the best round of applause of the evening!
Since then other forgotten classics have emerged as monsters 'Sock It To 'Em J.B.', 'Take Me Girl I'm Ready', 'Backfield In Motion' and 'Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)' are amongst some of the most requested oldies.
This sixties revival has, at last, stirred up the major record companies who have re-released some absolute gems and made a lot of the 'fringe' mods aware of what it's all about.
I approached Atlantic Records to release some of their tracks on Casino Classics, but, until we released our version of 'Green Onions' they weren't interested. Now the other ones I wanted, by Sam & Dave, Archie Bell and the Drells, Bar-Kays, Arthur Conley, Esther Phillips, Barbara Lewis, Sister Sledge, etc., are due for release!
Motown has just made available an album called "20 Mod Classics" including Stateside sounds recorded between 1963 and 1965 featuring lots of great Northern songs such as 'Quicksand', 'Heatwave', 'Come See About Me' and 'Too Many Fish In The Sea'
'Stax Gold' is another brilliant compilation of mods / Northern goodies, including my favourite 'My Baby Specialises' plus 'Who's Making Love' and 'Time Is Tight'. It would have been nice to see Wendy Rene's 'Bar B Que' included though, along with 'Friday Night' (the oldies night anthem) and 'Happy' William Bell.
If you would like some of the best ever Atlantic oldies at just over six pence each then visit your local supermarket!
Pickwick Records have licenced Atlantic's best sixties sounds on a forty track double album called 'Black Gold' for just two pounds fifty pence!! - the bargain of the year.
The mod revival has enabled us Northern purists to get some classics we may have missed, and with lots more in the pipeline it must be good for the scene.
The last time we had a simular situation to this was 1975 / 76 over the introduction of Disco / Funk to the scene, A la Blackpool Mecca.
I was totally against this and even 'banned' records like 'Shake And Bump' and 'Ladies Choice' from being played.
Blackpool Mecca used to be the best Northern venue and now it's non-existent even as a Disco / Funk scene - thank God we didn't go the same way.
The mods situation is entirely different in concept. The sounds we now play with the mods tag have always been played at our venue and have caused no change whatsoever in our musical policy unlike the Mecca story.
With so many great discs being re-released it gives us the re-surgeance of interest we require and a whole new batch of oldies to dig-out; together with a new audience who will only stay if they like our sounds and most are being converted to our Northern scene.
So it can't be bad can it? Russ Winstanley.
THE MOD REVIVAL - Where will it end?
Roger St. Pierre gives his views.
The mods are back! - or so proclaim the media, quick to latch on to anything they see as a new trend to inject some life back into pages otherwise filled with a depressing catalogue of disasters and sundry human misery.
Oh that my missus hadn't thrown out all my box-shaped, short lapelled four-button suits years ago! I could make a fortune out of them right now as the kids seek to emulate the fashion styles of my own youth.
But just how much does mod '79 really have to do with the original, authentic article? Ironically enough, the sort of neo-Beatle music which most of the so-called mod bands of today are purveying was anethema to the original mods.
The Beatles, in the 'Love Me Do' era, were, despite their trendy suits, stricktly for the greasers. Mod meant the latest Wilson Picket album (on import of course), blue-beat (the precursor of reggae and the one mod music style which the new movement is reviving), and, above all else, Tamla Motown.
It also meant, surprisingly enough, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley who also happened to be heroes of those arch-enemies of Mod, the rockers.
Real mod certainly didn't mean the Who, a Johnnie-come-lately cash-in group (albeit a great one), which jumped on the already well established band-wagon, just as Slade attempted to do with the skinhead movement.
Roger St. Pierre.
If there was a genuine mod band then it was the Small Faces, mods first, a group later; but the acts the mods followed most faithfully weren't in the main mods themselves: Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds, Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers, oh, yeah, and Geno Washington (currently set for something of a major comeback, but, thankfully, he tells me he aims to come out with something belonging to the 1980's rather than trying to rely on nostalgia).
Red-and-yellow label Pye International, Chess, the fabulous Sue label run for Island by the legendary Guy Stevens, Stateside, Tamla Motown and imported R&B / soul label - mod tastes in music ran the whole gamut of black American music from commercial pop-soul right on through to the blues (Even managing to put John Lee Hooker's 'Boom Boom' and Howlin' Wolf's 'Smokestack Lightning' into the charts).
Mod was unusual among all the great teen movements (from beats through teddyboys, rockers, hippies, skinheads and punks) in that it was, at it's zenith (and before the fashion-world and the media moved in to totally commercialise and pre-package it), essentially the cult of the individual.
There was no mod uniform. It was necessary to stay one jump ahead not only of the world at large but of all the other mods.
To be a face you had to be the first with a newly released and totally obscure soul import, the first to wear a new kind of shirt collar, the first to get into a new dance style.
Play yesterday's record, wear yesterday's shirt, do yesterday's dance and you'd be laughed at.
So where did it all come from and what were the influences that first forged mod and then saw it sink under a sea of uniform white jeans and ex-US army parkas?
The first time I actually heard the word mod used to describe a type of person was in 1969. It was taken from modern jazz, the musical passion of the very small elitist clique of East End and South West Essex teenagers who were to form the catalyst for the whole movement.
The Flamingo was their haven, the music of such British modern jazz stalwarts as Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Ross, Bill LeSage, Ronnie Scott and Phil Seaman their staple diet.
Fashion? - Well, in those early days it was box-shaped 'bum freezer' jackets (they were cut short, just to the waist), in Prince of Wales check, 17" bottom trousers, cuban-heeled winkle-picker shoes (in alligator hide and with ridiculously long points) and tab-collared shirts.
The early hero was, believe it or not, Peri Como. Not, decidedly for his music, but for his sence of style. His T.V. show was never missed, partly because he had some great guests like Ray Charles, partly to see what he was wearing.
College boy hair-cuts-short, with a neat parting - were the norm in those days, soon to be over taken by more flamboyant almost bouffont styles.
Ties had to be tied with a Windsor knot, trouser creases had to be immaculate, shoes polished till you could see your face in 'em.
Long before the 'Swinging London' syndrome hit us and Carnaby Street became a synonym for 'rip-off', that then little known Soho backstreet was a mecca for the early mods, thanks to half-a-dozen more pockey little shops selling imported Italian clothes at ridiculously cheap prices.
With the advent of Georgie Fame, the Flamingo introduced first an R&B night and then an overall R&B / soul policy which turned the mods onto a whole new music.
Rolling Stones' manager Andrew Loog Oldham used to work behind the bar (strictly soft-drinks according to licence but you could buy a tot of liquor straight from the bottle), and many of the clientele were black American servicemen, an important factor in introducing both new music and new dance styles (I remember seeing the twist for the first time at the Flamingo, long before the record was a hit here).
There were other clubs too: many of them, like the Flamingo, in Wardour Street, that seedy Soho strip which was the centre of both the film and brothel industries.
La Discotheque (the first discotheque of them all), the Marquee, the Scene (where the Animals built their fame), and later Tiles (in Oxford Street), Blazes (in Kensington) and many more.
Friday lunchtimes would be spent at Transat, a Lisle Street basement shop run by a mod freak who would import box-loads of new American releases and sell them to us avid fans before spending the rest of the afternoon back at his regular job.
Friday night we'd all be up West for the Flamingo all-nighter.
Saturdays would either be a wander round Soho or back to Essex and a visit to Romford market where there was an ace record stall (and if Mrs. Cohen couldn't help you then Romford Co-op record department amazingly could. I had a standing order there for anything issued on either Sue or Tamla Motown - bought unheard, but I was seldom disappointed).
As the movement gathered force so it spread from it's original roots on the Liverpool Street - Upminster line in London and eventually national affair.
Saturday nights we'd all meet on the platform of Romford Station, a couple of hundred of us. The buzz would go around - there's a party at Streatham, the crowd are all off to the Tottenham Royal or maybe Dionne Warwick's on up West.
Early days it was down to trains, tubes, buses and foot-slogging it. We'd think nothing of leaving a party at Camberwell at three in the morning and walking 15 miles home but more often the party would actually stretch on into another day and another night. It wasn't just down to all-nighters in the clubs, all-night parties were also very much the thing - accounting for all the French blues, purple hearts and bombers that were popped.
The gospel spread. By 1962, there were mod outposts as far as Manchester - where the Twisted Wheel was to become a legend - and soon after a plethora of small circulation Roneod soul magazines were produced by freaks as far as Plymouth (where Tony Cummings launched the sheet that was to develop into Shout magazine).
Pete Wingfield (later of the Olympic Runners) ran his mag. from the public school he attended way out in the country, Mike Vernon ran his (and a small mail order only record label, only press 100 copies and thus avoid purchase tax) from the front room of his home in Surrey, John Abbey ran Home of the Blues, which became Blues and Soul, from a tower block flat in Edmonton.
Atlantic and Stax joined Motown as labels to follow. Don Covay, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding and Booker T & The MG's joined the Miracles, Supremes, Temptations and Marvin Gaye as superstars of the scene and, greatest joy, an almost overwhelming flow of soul singers, ranging from the biggest names (like James Brown) to really obscure acts, crossed the Atlantic from hectic tours, often playing as many as three venues a night across the country. You had to be careful though because unscrupulous promoters were quite happy to bring over minor American groups for rock-bottom prices then con the public by billing these acts not under their own names but as 'The Tempting Temptations', 'The Fabulous Drifters' or some such.
Sometimes they were ironically, better than the real groups but often they were dire. One of the classier groups eventually settled here as the Fantastics and had a strong following for years.
I remember them telling me about their first ever UK date. They arrived at the venue and saw posters proclaiming: 'Tonight, direct from the USA, the Tempting Temptations'.
"Are we really playing opposite the Temps?" they enquired.
"You are the Temps!" came the poker faced reply.
Prince of Wales check suits gave way to mohair, Paisley pattern shirts had a brief flowering, pork-pie hats (copied from West Indians who were the mod's brother-in-soul), full-length suede overcoats (in such colours as purple and orange would you believe), chisel-toed shoes, all took their place in the ever-changing fashion that was mod.
Illford Palais Monday evening, anytime from 1962 - 1969; one-hundred-per-cent black American music:- the Ad-libs' 'Boy From New York City', James Brown's 'Night Train', Jimmy McGriff's 'Lickin' Stick', the Packers' 'Hole In The Wall', the Velvelettes' 'Needle In A Haystack', the Showstoppers' 'Ain't Nothing But A House Party', oh, and the Blue Beat classics like Prince Buster's 'Madness' and the Folks Brothers' 'Oh Carolina' - the mod anthems were endless.
Kids dancing in 40 - 50 strong circles, girls' handbags piled up in the middle. Making train lines for the locomotion, formation dancing the Madison, doing the hitch-hike, the block, the jerk and the monkey, doing your own thing - never dance the same steps two weeks running. Mod was about constant innovation; in music, in dance, in clothes.
Scooters became the chosen mode of transport (though even quite early in the movement, some of the faces managed to scrape together enough bread for a Ford Anglia or a Mini).
Smart-suits the norm - gave way to casual. Suede Zipper jackets, knitted French shirts, white jeans, parkas, all had their day.
Vespa GS, Lambretta TV175. Take your pick, either strip it to the bare bones, chuck the side panels and running boards, or tart the thing up with chrome carriers, screens, mirrors, fox-tail flying from a whip ariel on the back.
Meet at the alpine coffee bar, play the Sharpees on the juke box then off down to Brighton or Clacton, maybe 50 or 60 of you, picking up others on the way until a hoard of maybe 200 - 300 scooters come buzzing into the unsuspecting seaside resort. Sort out an equally big gang of motorcycle rockers on the beach and get escorted out of town by the Old Bill or maybe spend the night under the pier with that bird with short Twiggy-style haircut and pencil-skirt (you never know, try all night and you might just get to feel her tits through that lacey cardigan and the playtex).
Build a record collection, attend Guy Stevens' auctions in a West End Hotel, trying to pick up that rarity you've been after for months. Treasure your wardrobe, practice those new dance steps in front of the mirror, read Billboard, Record Mirror and Blues and Soul avidly, spend hours polishing the chrome of your scooter, making bi-weekly ritual out of visiting the barbers' but above all else, do everything with style.
But times change and like every movement that gets commercialised - and boy, didn't the fashion business cash in on mod! - the bubble burst!
One day Melody Maker's Nick Kent was the epitome of the Kinks classic 'Dedicated Follower Of Fashion'. Sharp suit, the latest Otis import under his arm, the next week flower- power had arrived with a flourish, out went his soul records - "They ain't valid man - in came a rush of psychadelia and on went the kaftan. Why, he even managed to come up with the most original excuse ever for being late for work "My beads broke on the train, man."!
But while the media pronounced mod dead and soul as being yesterday's music, the truth of the matter was far different. True the movement lost it's initial very distinctive stamp but it's mark had a permanence and it's telling fact that in 1967, the year when acid rock was supposed to have swept soul onto the scrapheap, Motown actually doubled their UK sales (and a year later more than half the singles chart in some weeks was taken up by soul music or reggae). The whole mod thing went underground, that's all.
The names changed; the original mods younger brothers took up the same kind of music but called themselves skinheads (and, unlike the mods, developed a cult of regimentation in dress style), and in the North and Midlands the Northern soul movement started to pick up momentum, very much continuing the tradition of what was mod.
Flamingo 1961, Ilford Palais 1964, Twisted Wheel 1965, Stoke's Torch in '70 and on to Wigan Casino, the strong family tree is readily evident.
No, mod wasn't 'Quadrophenia'. However good that movie might be as a piece of fiction it's a grave distortion of fact, nor was the real mod much to do with what is currently going down under the name (though there are hopeful signs that the new mods might just get into the original music).
What's really happening now is the preliferating of myths and half-truths with the music press filling itself with pseudo intellectual tomes written by squirts who aren't old enough to have experienced the real mod at first hand.
Another distortion like that which these days links Teddy boys indivisibly with rock 'n' roll when in truth the Teds heroes were Frankie Lane and Guy Mitchell and they'd long passed their zenith and given way to greasers by the time rock 'n' roll came along.
But does it really matter? Isn't all recorded history a distortion of the real truth? Even as one who did experience the whole evolution of mod for myself, I find my mind shakey on some details and maybe personal prejudices play a part in my memory of what went down. What is important is that the new breed of mods get fun out of what they are into.
AT THE TOP OF THE
Nostalgia (especially nostalgia for someone else's experiences) can be a dangerous thing. Trying to recreate a past era is folly, but using it as a reference point, a base on which to build something all your own, now that can be both creative and fun.
And that, to my mind is what has been happening on the Northern soul scene and what, I hope will happen with this new mod movement.