The Mod Beat Groups – 1964
Along with the advent of the British Blues groups came the Mod bands. The were led by the Who and Small Faces but there was soon a lot of cross-over. The Stones, Yardbirds and Kinks were rapidly absorbed.
The Mod scene was a phenomenon. At one end of my town was the old Rocker café. They had their big motorbikes, leather jackets and greased back hair. They listened to the old Rock ‘n’ Roll with Eddie Cochran, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. At the other end was the Mod café. They were into Ska, Bluebeat and R&B. The Mods had their scooters. They had to be gleaming chrome with loads of fur trim and racks of lights. The Mods had layered hair and Italian suits with chisel-toe boots. The girls wore mini-skirts with plastic macs and had their hair back-combed and bobbed. The need was to keep up with the changing fashion. The in thing was to put on your fur-trimmed Parka over your suit and ride around on your lambretta with your girl draped over the back.
The Mods were into purple hearts and modern art design with the Union Jack being a favourite motif. All the Mods in my place seemed to be small, cocky and chirpy. The Rockers were bigger and meaner. There were lots of fights and aggro.
Then there was the language. Every tribe has to have its coded words so that everyone else was excluded from the ‘In-Crowd’. You could just be a number or if you were ranked highly enough you could be a Face. The Who started out as the High-Numbers and the Smallfaces were little guys with high status.
The Mod Bands were producing great original sounds. The Who started off with ‘I Can’t Explain’ with its heavy riff, the Kinks got in on the scene with ‘You Really Got Me’ and the Smallfaces with ‘What You Gonna Do About It’. Their albums were filled with the sort of R&B tracks that the kids were into with James Brown covers and Martha and the Vandellas. The strange thing is that I do not remember any of them doing any reggae covers though the Ska and Bluebeat were really popular.
It didn’t take long for the whole Beat scene to merge together. I don’t know what the States made of it all. It looked as if the Mersey, Blues and Mod bands were all merged in together as the British Invasion. They probably didn’t make the same distinctions as there were in England.