Like most phenomena, the Mod movement happened at exactly the right moment. By the time the media noticed them in 1962, a social, demographic and economic crossroads had been reached. National Service had been abolished, the economy had begun to boom, and hire purchase arrangements gave people vastly increased spending power. A better time to be a teenager will almost certainly never occur. The Mod scene went bananas!
From being a scattering of ultra hip subterranean club dwellers, Mod had quickly evolved to take on a definitive culture and structure of its own. At the top, there were the Aces, still on the cutting edge, still setting the pace, still listening to the hippest tunes. The individuals may have changed, but the attitude had not. It was perfectly possible, while grooving to obscure ska tracks in some Shepherd’s Bush basement club, to bump into David Bailey, Twiggy and Mary Quant in the same evening.
The next strata were the instantly recognisable and much maligned ‘Tickets’ or ‘Numbers’. They were first noticed in East London, when gangs of arrogant, strutting kids began to descend upon dancehalls and nightclubs, causing inevitable confrontation. Their look generally followed where the Aces lead, although with a more working class flavour. The shapeless army surplus Parka coat became iconic as well as practical. It protected the wearer’s expensive weekend suits from the vagaries of the London climate, and also kept the cold out while weaving among the traffic on the regulation scooter. These scooters – predominantly Italian Vespa and Lambretta models were spectacular. Bedecked with peacock fans of wing mirrors, and decorated with numerous headlights, crash bars, whip aerials, white wall tyres and high backed seats, they were possibly the coolest thing ever to hit the tarmac.
For everyday wear, turned up Levi’s became de rigueur, often shrunk to size by being worn in the bath. Desert boots and Fred Perry tennis shirts were enormously popular. For these kids, Mod really was a way of life. Every night, something would be happening somewhere, the entire scene fuelled by amphetamine – very much the Mod drug of choice. Although available, pot simply did not fit in with Mod ideology. Pot slowed you down. Speed kept you leaping for days. There was no competition. This strata of the scene began to produce it’s own bands – notably the Small Faces, The Yardbirds and an Acton outfit called the High Numbers, shortly to achieve fame as The Who.
For a brief while, The Who defined Mod. A string of classic singles: ‘I Can’t Explain’, ‘Anyhow, Anywhere, Anyway’, ‘The Kids Are Alright’ and the frankly bonkers ‘My Generation’ propelled the Mod sound into every jukebox and radio in Britain. ‘The Who are clearly a new form of crime’ wrote the Daily Telegraph,’anti social and armed against the bourgoise’. Combining the angry, spitting stance of the backstreet Mod with the Pop Art stylings of their manager was leading Ace Kit Lambert, The Who are still the first thing that comes to mind whenever ‘Mod’ is mentioned, although this is perhaps rather inaccurate as many Mod purists never accepted the Who.