Modernism: Clean Living Under Difficult Circumstances (first posted 2007)

I read a brilliant blog recently by Dayo, a true music enthusiast. He has such a great musical knowledge that I admire, and I always try and follow up his on his selections.

In this particular blog, he talked about a music scene which came out of the disco and soul scene of the late 70s. As well as talking about the music, he also described the whole scene; the music, clothes, hair styles, magazines, TV shows etc the whole lifestyle.

Check out this blog and others here:

Dayos words got me thinking about Modernism; the movement that can trace its background in the UK back to the end of the Second World War.

When a lot of people think of modernism, or the “mods”, there is every chance they automatically think of scooter riding lads in the 60s, fighting on beaches and listening to the Who.

They’d be wrong.

Modernism comes in many forms, but one aspect always rings true – its about moving forward; never looking back. Of course, the key themes are always the same: a love of fashion, music and working class style. It also continues to this day. It didn’t end in the 1960’s.

Each generation that comes along brings with it their own music and style; your average person on the street would never be aware that this was even happening until its become part of the mainstream.

By the time the public became aware of the mods in the early 1960s it was all over for the true modernists the whole point was to be different, exclusive and part of something new.

Bands such as the Who were never mods, they were marketed as such, but they were never really part of that scene and to their credit they never actually said that they were. Bands like the Action and the Small Faces were different – working class lads who loved American soul music and clothes.

The real mods however were never into bands like the Who: they listened to soul music – period.

The original mods had moved on by the time these bands appeared, they had no wish to be part of the media circus and marketing exploitation that followed. Another thing to remember is that these kids were getting older the mods were young by the time you reached twenty you would have probably been classed as over the hill.

So there we go some people think that mod died in the mid 1960s, but as I mentioned, it continues to this day in different guises always with the same principles.

The skinheads and suede heads of the late 1960s and early 1970s were mods. Instead of soul they were listening to ska and bluebeat and they adapted the fashions they were wearing.

Other movements sprung up during the 70s, the most famous being the Northern Soul followers. Again, black American soul being the music of choice, the clothing adapted for dancing all night.

Through disco and soul came the casuals – adding exclusive sportswear labels into the mix.

All these underground groups in their own way come from the mod tradition.

The first time I became aware of this would have been in the late1980s when acid house kicked off. For a while it seemed as if we were part of something secret and special; for a start this new music had appeared that seemed to be made just for young people like us. House music hadn’t entered the mainstream at this point, it was still underground, the exclusive preserve of those in the know.

Like Dayo mentioned in his blog, we also had our own fashions, hairstyles, fanzines and magazines.

For a while it was fantastic, however, things change; an underground movement becomes part of the mainstream culture, and before we knew it house music was everywhere; becoming more commercial and pop orientated as time continued.

A lot of my friends jumped ship at this point, and some stuck with it through the horrible commercial records and super clubs of the 90s. Or, moved onto the grunge guitar bands like Nirvana.

The drum and bass and garage scenes carried this tradition on further toward the end of the century.

Me? Well, I moved onto hip hop, soul and jazz always looking for new things to listen to, always trying to discover new music wherever in the world it came from. Now, in 2006, I think that my musical tastes are probably the most eclectic that they’ve ever been and I hope that continues.

I dont know where the mods are today in society? I dont know where that next group of brilliantly dressed, stylish kids are going to come from; or what music they’re going to be listening and dancing to?

I’ve always thought in recent years that the modernists of today were listening to more leftfield, electronic music and listening to DJs such as Gilles Peterson.

One thing is certain, they’re not the people going to mod revival nights, dressed in their mohair suits and looking like extras from Blow Up.

A quote from the great Norman Jay sums things up perfectly:

“You never look backwards at that age. What for? This is what is happening now; you need the music to go with the lifestyle, to go with the attitude.”

“Forwards. No looking back”