‘We are the Mods! We are the Mods! We are, we are, we are the Mods.’ That was a chant of the fashion-focused, scooter-riding, parka-coated Mods in the 1960s. You hear it in the film Quadrophenia – in between The Who numbers that litter the sound track. The actors are a roll-call of Londoners and Essex boys such as Phil Daniels, Ray Winstone and Phil Davis – though with the ultra stylish ‘Ace Face’ played by Tynesider Sting, just before he found even greater fame with The Police. Birmingham-born Toyah Wilcox also has a part.
The film was shot in London, and in Brighton for the climactic clash with the letter-clad bikers.
However, the film was not made until 1979. To get a contemporary feel for what real Mods looked like, fans of the cult group and the era can turn to magazines that printed colour photographs alongside their articles and covers. One of the most valuable articles about Mods is in the Sunday Times Magazine above from 22 August 1964. One copy has sold on eBay for £110. As well as the cover, over eight pages, the article ‘Changing Faces’ by Kathleen Halton with photographs by Robert Freeman document the cult. The standfirst sets out the Mods’ attitude:
They have been called the ‘anti-hoorays’.
‘You can tell us by the way we walk – flat out,’ said one Mod.
‘Rockers are hunched. We hope to stay smart for ever, not shoddy like our parents.’
Two years later, the Observer Magazine ran The Who on its cover with the long-faced Keith Moon fronting the group in a Union flag jacket.
The Who were pop’s front men for the Mods scene, as in this 1966 Observer Magazine cover. A copy of this issue sold for £40 in December.
And such powerful trends never go away. Later Mods include Janet Street-Porter (‘a sullen mod who lived largely in her head‘), Steve Marriott (‘The term ‘Face’ was a top mod, a face about town, a respected chap!’) and Paul Weller (‘I’m still a mod, I’ll always be a mod, you can bury me a mod’).
Gerry Dammers, a founder member of punk band The Specials was a Mod and it is in Mod gear that he fronts the first issue cover of The Face. Paul Weller was on the cover of the second issue. Bryan Ferry is on issue 3 – was he ever a Mod?