This Modern love
As scooters descend on Glasgow David Pollock checks out this year’s Mod Weekender
‘Everybody has this stereotypical idea of what music a Mod has to like,’ says Mikey Collins, who runs Glasgow clubs Friday Street and Afterglow, and is one of the driving forces behind the city’s Mod Weekender. ‘People think you just like The Who, The Small Faces and The Jam. I’m not down on those bands in any way, I listen to them all and I was a massive Jam fan when I was a teenager, but I think where their musical influences came from are just as interesting. The Who were listening to John Lee Hooker and BB King when they were young. Mods see these connections, and that’s the music they buy too.
‘Then you’ve got Tamla Motown artists like Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye, whose rarer releases we make a point of trying to track down. There’s an element of exclusivity about music for Mods. It’s not just about buying CDs out of a shop, it’s about working hard to try and track down the original vinyl.’
These are the philosophies, more or less, which have defined the Mod scene since it emerged in London in the late 1950s. Then, as documented by Colin MacInnes in Absolute Beginners and noted by Collins, the Mods were ‘modernists’, or fans of modern jazz and rhythm’n’blues who dressed in bespoke Italian tailoring. The scene surged on through the 60s, spreading across the country and being adopted by the mainstream, while the Mod sound opened up to include transatlantic soul and psychedelia.
The late 70s and early 80s saw the success of Quadrophenia, Northern Soul, 2-Tone and The Jam fuel a revival of the Mod scene, and the mid-90s popularity of bands like Oasis, Ocean Colour Scene and Paul Weller ensured Mod culture remained ever visible. Now, however, the style perhaps more singularly timeless than any other youth culture of recent decades, is in a state of hibernation whilst the less cultured likes of ‘new rave’ hold sway.
Here, Collins is conscious of the irony in using the word ‘modernist’ to refer to a follower of what is essentially a retro movement. However, he points out that Glasgow has a particularly healthy Mod scene by the UK’s standards, and that plenty of young blood is getting involved. In particular, Glasgow band Figure 5 and monthly club Eyes Wide Open are named as new faces to watch.
‘The music is the most important thing about the scene,’ Collins says, ‘and it’s quite unique that you can belong to the same movement but also like wildly different types of music, but you have to have style too. The tailored suit and shirt look is much more classically Mod than a parka and a pork-pie hat, but there are no set rules. How you dress and what you listen to doesn’t make you more or less of a Mod than the next person.’
This diversity will be celebrated once more at the city’s Mod Weekender, and Collins expects a thousand visitors from across the country at the four-day series of DJ events, gigs and clothing and record sales. There will also be a mass ride-out of over a hundred scooters on Sunday afternoon.
Twisted Wheel and Winchester Club, Glasgow, Thu 26–Sun 29 Jun.