The Modern World
Tagged as Scheduled Programmes
In the late 1950s/early 60s a new youth subculture emerged known as Modernism. The subculture had its roots in a small group of London-based stylish young men. They were labelled Modernists (or ‘Mods’), mainly because they listened to Modern Jazz but they readily embraced the new brand of music played by Guy Stevens and the other London DJ’s at clubs like the Whisky a Go Go, The Scene Club, La Discotheque and Georgie Fame’s The Flamingo Club on Wardour Street.
Modernism was by no means the first such youth subculture in Britain. The mods were preceded by the teddy boys of the 1950’s, with their draped long coats and crepe-soled shoes, and the rockers and ton up boys who followed, who wore jeans, leather jackets and rode motor cycles. It has been suggested that modernism was, in part, a reaction against the fashion, aggressive stance and perceived ‘dirtiness’ of the rockers by the more style-conscious mods.
Undeniably, the scenes portrayed in the British press, through their coverage of several violent seaside confrontations between marauding mods and rockers in 1964, gives evidence to the rivalry that developed between the two subcultures. But in 1963 these rivalries were less distinct. Indeed, many of the bands emerging in London and elsewhere, adopted subsequently by the mods, had their roots in rock and roll.
Some, like The Animals from Newcastle, who arrived in London and played at The Scene Club in 1963, had never even heard of modernism. John Steel, the drummer of The Animals, said in May 2006:
“We couldn’t really understand it. We were just a bunch of northern rockers. The fact is that we didn’t even know what a mod was until we arrived at The Scene Club. It was purely a London phenomenon at that time. When we arrived at our first gig [at the Scene Club], the yard outside was absolutely packed with Lambrettas and Vespas, you know. Loads and loads of chrome. Lights. Long aerials with foxtails. And guys in suits and parkas. We’d never seen anything like it. It just wasn’t anywhere else in the country at that time.”
The Mod subculture captured the mood of the period and expanded rapidly. By the mid sixties it was driving mainstream fashion, popular music and art. To the original mods this was anathema and by late 1966 they were moving on. Some moved on to psychedelia, others embraced the black music of South London and became Skinheads or Suedeheads, while another branch retained their love of soul music leading to the early Northern Soul scene. But Modernism never truly disappeared.
As Modernism had been a reaction against the aggressive stance and perceived ‘dirtiness’ of the rockers in the early 60s, so the Mod Revival was arguably a reaction to 1977 Punk. The revival bands, spearheaded by Paul Weller’s The Jam, took much from punk but added the melodies and rhythm of 60s beat music and, as it had done before, evolved into psychedelia and the Ska of Two Tone.
Modernism lives on and continues to influence modern music to this day. ‘The Modern World’ features the music beloved of mods across the decades.