Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The A to Z of Mod

My initial impression on picking up the A to Z of Mod is that it is a well presented book of a nice size with some excellent photos and illustrations. Written by Paolo Hewitt and Mark Baxter, we are told that the authors are experts in Mod (something for the readers to decide, surely). On close examination, the content of the book appears to suffer from style over substance and is more of an ABC of Mod than an A to Z; a primer to give a taste of what the Mod style is, rather than anything definitive and comprehensive.

What I found somewhat bizarre were the sections dedicated to Bradley Wiggins, The Young Disciples, Galliano etc. yet no sections for legendary Mod DJ, Tony Class, no mention of the Phoenix List or the Phoenix & CCI Rallies. Also conspicuous by its absence is the whole 80’s Mod scene, which was probably Mod in its purest, sharpest, form (those of us involved were there because it was our choice, not because we were riding the wave of a latest fashion trend) – no pieces on The Truth, Makin Time, The Moment, The Prisoners, The Rage, The Gents, The Direct Hits, The Jetset or The Risk etc. And no mention of Unicorn Records (or Detour Records, Twist Records and Biff Bang Pow Records for that matter) or ‘Sneakers’ club. The section on fanzines (should have been ‘Modzines’) pretty much moves from Maximum Speed and Extraordinary Sensations of the revival period to Double Breasted and the excellent Heavy Soul of the last couple of years – no mention of Derek & Jackie’s ‘In The Crowd’; the longest running and biggest selling Modzine of all time.

And if you are going to mention Richard Barnes’ ‘Mods!’ book, please read it first; it was published in 1979 not 1989, and Richard was never a Mod (although the A to Z describe him as, “an early Mod, lived the life, buying all the best clobber”). On the first page of narrative of ‘Mods!’, Richard Barnes himself says, “I wasn’t a Mod and never even thought of being a Mod.”

Furthermore, The Who's pop art album containing radio adverts was not 'A Quick One' from 1966 as the book suggests, but 'Sell Out' from 1967 - another basic error.

As for the film ‘Quadrophenia’, the book states, “events conspire to render Jimmy suicidal and he is last seen riding along the cliff tops - the scooter is then seen flying over a cliff and the viewer is left to figure out our hero’s fate.” We all saw Jimmy walking away from the cliff top at the very beginning of the film so there is nothing to “figure out”.

On the plus side, it was great to see The Hideaway Club get a decent mention and the influence they have had on the modern day scene acknowledged.

It would appear to be a book on the Mod scene written by outsiders looking in and I can’t help thinking that this would have been a far better book had it been put together by a Paul ‘Smiler’ Anderson, an author for whom Mod is a way of life, rather than someone who knows a bit about the 60’s Mod scene, The Jam, Oasis and Acid Jazz (apparently loafers were made popular again by The Style Council – although they only formed in 1983; never mind those of us on the scene in 1979 who had been wearing them for 4 years pre Style Council, probably due to the influence of 2-Tone).

Much of the essence of Mod is attention to detail – something that is sadly lacking here. Overall, I found the A to Z of Mod a disappointing attempt at what could have been a very good book. And that’s a great shame.

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