Thursday, 1 March 2012
Once a Mod, always a Mod
Last night I was at Soul Mods. Seems it was rather hard to explain to my German friends what a 'Mod' actually is.
I think a better question is, what is it to to me, and why I'll always be a Mod. And I think it's worth answering because it is not only a huge part of who I am, it is a major cause of me being dominant.
It was a fashion and music movement in the late 1950s and running through the 1960s. I of course wasn't alive then, but my parents were. So I was a child of two Mods, I was raised a Mod.
The Mods back then adopted black music, Modern Jazz, R&B and soul. And eventually bands like the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and Small Faces made it there own, calling it Beat music.
They were influenced by Italian fashion, and eventually made it their own. I'm sure you know that the UK was at the centre of fashion in those days. The general principle was Modernist... simple, functional, practical, clean.
This principle also applied to the Mods chosen mode of transport, the scooter. An icon of modernist design, it was very practical in the city. It also lead to the adoption of the Fishtail Parka, which may not at first glance fit with an expensive suit, but was a practical way to protect it while riding to the nightclub or cafe.
The Mod fashion gave us enough 'classics' for the subculture to endure, and keep coming back. But there is far more to it than this.
This was all a product of the working classes in London, which is where I have my roots. Whatever 'working class' might mean to other people, to my family it meant working hard, being self sufficient. It certainly had nothing to do with Unions or left wing politics. The attitude of the men of my family is that men work, they bring home the bacon from the sweat of their own labour. But it was a hard life. And it was no-nonsense.
The post-war generation put a new twist on this. The idea that you would work hard and play hard. Use your disposable income to buy the very best, from around the world. You may work like a navvy during the day, but you could dress like a prince in the evening. Women played a part in this as women could now go out to work which gave us independence.
In a lot of the music, there is an aggressive 'go-get it' attitude which is unmistakable. Most of the time this comes out as sexually aggressive, or not putting up with any shit, but there are other songs that definitely hint at the idea of dragging yourself out of the gutter and becoming socially mobile. I think the Animals give the best examples of this with 'We got to get out of this place' and 'It's my life'.
My parents certainly took this to heart and by the time I was about 9, were very wealthy and had moved out into the country-side. It's also around this time that I started taking an interest in fashion which happened to coincide with the first Mod revival. This time it had a rather left-wing feel in hindsight, but this hardly impacted on me, surrounded by the children of other Mods who had done well for themselves and got themselves a 'house in the country'.
It's not surprising that others of my generation were also heavily influenced and when I came of age there was another minor revival, at least in music and fashion with the whole Brit-Pop thing.
A bit of left wing politics has always been there, and sadly the politics of envy has also been a theme. While some arseholes may sit around brooding about haves-and-have-nots, the lesson I think should be in the music is that the rich guy in his big house is an arsehole and doesn't deserve it more than you. Class shouldn't be a barrier to to wealth and success. Mr Prim and Proper who looks down on you for being a freak, probably spends hit spare time stealing ladies underwear... so go get your freak on and don't worry about what people think.
To me, being a Mod is about being assertive, even aggressive, optimistic. It can be hedonistic, but rationing ended in 1947. There is no reason I can't have the best. I can't have the best of everything, and everything I have can't be the best, but nobody can tell me that it's above my station. I don't know my place.
Oh, at this point, I should confess that I can't fully claim the working class badge, my father's side of the family may have been, but he married my mother who comes from a whole other background. But isn't that the point? I don't want to claim to be poor and working class. You don't have to be defined by an accident of birth if you use your head and work towards what you want.
I should also explain, if I go to Soul Mods or some other place where Mods are hanging out, I do change my mode. There does tend to be a live-and-let-live attitude to life, they tend to be tolerant, famous for it... but that doesn't mean they aren't going to take the piss. It is a definite sub-culture, and latex wrapped slaves are not a part of that. While it may not be met with fear and hatred, it is likely to be greeted with much amusement.