Carl Spiers outlines his gradual shift towards the mod scene from earlier skinhead years.
I had been a skinhead/boot boy since 1974, by early ’78 I was becoming disillusioned with the skinhead scene, it had lost it’s roots, punk rock had absorbed it and most of the skinheads I knew were now into the Pistols and the Clash, totally against my dress code and music code. The skins were now taking their styles to the extremes, ‘Doc Martens’ were now 16 and 18 hole and ending up just below the knee, they wore army fatigues and had lost all sense of smartness, some were even sniffin’ glue for christ sakes, no class! I began to let my hair grow and began to dress more casually.
In early ’78 I was in a record shop in my home town of Oldham, Lancs, when I stumbled on a LP called ‘Quadrophenia’ by The Who. What struck me at first was just how bulky it was.
It was just like a book, with a picture of a Mod on a scooter on the front cover, and that gave me such a warm feeling. I opened the LP and it changed my whole life…like those people who claimed to have met God! I was absolutely gobsmacked, I wanted to climb inside that LP and be a part of that scene.
The photo’s of young Mods in their ‘Fred Perrys’ and ‘pork pie’ hats and sharp suits…wow! I was fascinated and could not put the LP down.
I went in every day and devoured that LP, spending a hour just looking at it and imagining being there back in the 60s. After a week I bought Quadrophenia which cost me £7.99! A fortune in those days, especially as I didn’t even have a record player!
I became a Mod, 3 of us changed from being Skinheads to being Mods. At first we struggled to find the appropriate clothes, we scoured Oxfam and secondhand shops for 3 buttoned suits and Fred Perrys. We already had good skinhead gear that Mods wore anyway, like Harringtons, brogues etc. Of course people stared at us and most, through their ignorance, thought we were punks…sacrilege! The Jam and Elvis Costello were wearing suits but were classed as Punks back then.
We sprayed graffiti all over the town…’Oldham Mods’…just to let people know who we were. We were outcasts at first, pioneers, little did we expect that within 12 months the Mod ‘revival’ would be one of the largest and most exciting of British cults!
In every movement and culture there is a defining moment – an injection so powerful that it is akin to being on top of a rollercoaster, for Rock ‘n’ Roll it was the film ‘Blackboard Jungle’ when Bill Haley and his Comets began singing ‘Rock Around The Clock’, the Rockers would see the film the ‘Wild Ones’ as their moment and for punk it would be the Sex Pistols ‘spat’ with Bill Grundy on TV.
No matter how the original Mods deny it, the riots at Brighton in 1964 commercialised the Mod scene overnight, we know now that there had been a healthy underground scene for a few years.
For me the defining moment of the Mod revival was the release of the film ‘Quadrophenia’ in the summer of ’79. There was already a large and ever growing Mod scene already, especially in London, me and my mates had been calling ourselves Mods for over 12 months before ‘Quadrophenia’ was released, but the masses were converted after seeing this magnificent British cult film.
No matter how the purists try to rubbish ‘Quadrophenia’ for its commercialism, it woke up British youth and showed us how we could be smart, cool and have fun. Plus it opened our eyes to the brilliant music of the 60’s. Us Mod revivalists were fortunate in that we could choose all the best elements of the 60’s and mould ourselves accordingly.
I certainly fully appreciate the impact that ‘Quadrophenia’ had on the Mod revival, and I never tire of watching it. I also believe that Franc Roddam deserves an O.B.E. for showing British youths the way it was and the way it should be…though a few of us already knew.