Sideburns and scooters: why the mod endures
In terms of its origins and obsessions, mod may well be “a very British phenomenon”, to borrow the subtitle of Terry Rawlings’s 2001 book on the subject, but these days fanatical local scenes are dotted throughout the world.
The latest issue of Sussed, Moran’s fanzine, underlines the movement’s current worldwide reach, containing articles on Spanish record labels, French bands and American films.
“We’re getting requests for the magazine from people in the US, Mexico, Scandinavia, Spain and, of course, the UK,” Moran says.
It is not only Irish publications feeding into this global community. Irish bands have become a fixture of the garage-rock clubs, vintage-music nights and boutique 1960s-themed festivals that make up the international mod circuit.
They may be little known in their hometown, but Dublin group The Urges are hardy veterans of this scene, their punchy garage rock and soul earning them regular tours across Europe and the US.
Cavan teenagers The Strypes have also become a presence, their beat-group energy and vintage RB covers belying their youth: after a striking appearance on The Late Late Show a year ago, the quartet now perform at mod events in the UK, Italy and Spain.
Meanwhile, Irish mods congregate at clubs such as Sleepless Nights and Sunday Social in Dublin, the Nitty Gritty in Galway and For Dancers Only in Wexford, to hear local and international DJs spin old soul, early RB, Latin boogaloo and cult 1960s groups, as well as new releases from the current crop of groups.
THIS VIBRANT GLOBAL activity, ably spurred by a number of influential online portals, seems a long way from the arcane and distinctively British image of teenage mods rumbling with rockers in drab seaside resorts nearly half a century ago. But it chimes with the cosmopolitan instincts of the earliest mods.
Starting in the late 1950s, these mainly male youngsters, who called themselves modernists, gravitated towards French films, Italian suits, colourful Ivy League clothing and American jazz as a way of standing out from the uniformity of post-war Britain.
As the 1960s progressed, the movement grew. New dress codes emerged and American RB and soul were embraced, as were home-grown performers such as Georgie Fame. (Fame was managed by the Irishman Ronan O’Rahilly, who also ran the Scene Club, an influential early venue; O’Rahilly then founded pirate radio station Radio Caroline, thus bringing many mod sounds to the wider public.)
By 1964, when masses of unruly mods rioted in Brighton and Margate and The Who released their first single, most of the pioneering modernists had moved on. But the mod myth had been born. Even as mods apparently disappeared from the streets, the legend was fanned by The Who’s 1973 rock opera Quadrophenia (inspired by the Cork-born London mod “Irish Jack” Lyons) and the subsequent movie adaptation in 1979.
“I think mod still exists because of the strength of the original mod scene and the influence of groups such as The Who and The Small Faces,” says Garry O’Neill, the author of Where Were You? Dublin Youth Culture and Street Style, 1950-2000.
“That music fed into the mod revival of the late 1970s. And Britpop was definitely influenced that way. A lot of those bands gave a nod to the 1960s, in terms of music and attitude.”