Once upon a time, I used to quote Quadrophenia lines, wear a parka in the summer, and sing along to The Key's 'Feeling Special.' In high school, after discovering that some record shops actually had "Mod/Ska" sections, I used to hunt down whatever 'Mod' records I could find, and most of those were 1970s/1980s revival records. A lot of those power-pop Mod sounds helped bridge my junior high new wave/punk tastes to my latter-teen R&B/freakbeat obsessions.
Of course, whenever I went record-shopping, the easiest targets (no pun intended) were those albums that trumpeted "MOD!" anywhere on the cover or within liner notes. In fact, the more blatant the 'Mod' imagery, the more likely I was to grab it... quite the opposite of my record-buying habits these days.
My record collection started off with a Who LP, a Jam LP, and 2-Tone records, but soon, it was filled with revival records, Unicorn Records offerings, and... more Jam LPs. A lot of that music worked for me at the time, because it captured the frustrations I felt as a teen, the ones I, uh, wore like a suit (**groan**). Y'know, I didn't want to be 'the same as everybody else,' I wanted to be 'away from the numbers,' yadda, yadda, yadda... (Oh, to be young again.)
But enough of me prattling on. Let's climb into the ol' time machine and go back to that magical age of 17, at the dawn of the 1990s... a time when girls still swooned over their favorite New Kid on the Block, a time of bike shorts and hi-top Reeboks, a time when we tuned in to see whether Dylan would choose Brenda or Kelly... are you scared yet?
Okay, here I am in my bedroom, feeling angsty. There's some girl I'm thinking about who probably doesn't know I exist, or worse yet, does know I exist and still doesn't like me. Let's see... I'm wearing tapered Dickies pants, a Fred Perry one size too large, and my parka (in my room, mind you). Hmm, let's look in the mirror to see how cool I look. Aw man! I forgot... bad acne at age 17! AWAY FROM THE MIRROR! AWAY FROM THE MIRROR! Okay, let's forget that and let's move on to the records in my collection. And let's get into what were probably my TOP 10 Mod Revival/Power-Pop Records at that time (in no particular order)!
1. The Risk - Good Times - The Risk were a band I dug on heavily back then. Songs like this, "Carrie Ann," and "Whiskey and Wine" were played often on my cheap little record player. One of the things about The Risk is that they turned me on to the idea that there really were other Mods out in the world, still. Even though these songs were already several years old (the lifetime of many Mod bands), they were still recent enough to make me think that somewhere, outside of La Puente, CA, people were still forming Mod bands and playing to Mod crowds.
2. The Chords - Maybe Tomorrow - Okay, these guys are one step behind The Jam, in my book. Out of all the revival bands, I can still listen to their songs and enjoy them, not out of nostalgia, but out of an honest liking. They were great! I don't listen to this stuff much these days, but The Chords are always welcome on my turntable. Unlike many of their contemporaries, they weren't whining about wanting to be different. They seemed a bit more thick-skinned than that.
3. Squire - My Mind Goes 'Round In Circles - For me, Squire were one of the more accessible Mod revival bands, thanks to their happy pop sound. No matter how angst-ridden I got, these guys could always snap me out of it.
4. Three O'Clock - Sorry - So, I hear these guys were pretty big in the L.A. music scene back in the early '80s. I wouldn't know... I was still too busy playing with my Star Wars action figures back then! But when I finally did catch up to them, I fell full-on into this sound. This song was one that especially grabbed me... little did I know at the time that it was an Easybeats cover.
5. The Key - Feeling Special - This was one of those albums that had everything I was looking for in a Mod LP cover. A moddish band name, arrows in the logo, and a dude sporting an op-art shirt with a 3-button jacket. The only thing that bothered me was that guy wearing those horrible white Dr. Marten boots up front. Of course, this song was the only song I really liked off the whole album. And no, I didn't know what "straight-edge" meant at first when I used to sing along to it. I did find out later. Now, I look at this album as a bit of preachy silliness. 'Mod/Skin unity?' Again, oh to be young again.
6. The Moment - And With This Ring - Another one-hit-wonder album for me. In all fairness though, this song is still pretty excellent all these years later. After listening to it recently, I think I like it more today than I did back then. Makes me think I should give the rest of the LP another listen. What I remember most about this album, though, are the pictures of the guy blowing a whistle on stage. I really didn't know what that was all about, but I remember seeing an L.A. band a couple of years later at a New Sounds of the Sixties show, also using a whistle. Someone out in internet land, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that band was Neighborhood Bully.
7. The Purple Hearts - Millions Like Us - And you wonder how I went from listening to punk music to listening to this stuff? Same sound, different clothes! But, songs like this made that transition into the Mod thing a little more smooth for me.
8. Nine Below Zero - Homework - This band was a stark contrast to (and welcome relief from) the typical power-pop sounds I was into at this time. The sounds off this album were ones I found myself liking more and more. As much as I liked power-pop and punk as a teen, it was this hard-driving R&B sound that I found much more exciting.
9. The Prisoners - Hurricane - Okay, maybe I should not have put these guys on this list. I don't really consider them 'revival.' But I'll tell you what I do consider them: the best $2.95 I ever spent on an '80s 'Mod' band! These guys sounded so much tougher than many of the late '70s revival bands, but still had that great '60s edge. They weren't about Mod anthems or teen angst... they were just about powerful music that still sounds great today.
10. Secret Affair - Time For Action - Yes. That's right. As much as Mod anthems became tired for me, this was one I fully got down with back in high school. If sweet Julia in the song didn't care about people laughing at her because of the way she dressed, I wouldn't care. Because, y'know, we were right... looking good was the answer. Unfortunately, as much as I liked this song, the Secret Affair became symbolic of what would end up turning me off to this era. Whiney vocals, the whole 'Glory Boy/Girl' idea, hating something called 'the punk elite,' and an album pretty much filled with teen anthems. Those themes, for me, would become very dated very soon.
Well, there you go... some of the songs I would have been
See, I was a power-popper.
It didn't last long, though. Over time, those same records began to grow stale to me. Usually, I'd buy a revival album and end up liking only about one or two songs. I remember buying a Lambrettas LP and really liking "Poison Ivy," thinking they wrote it. They didn't. Along with that album, I purchased The Yardbirds' For Your Love LP and loving just about every song on there. Guess which one was played a couple of times before getting shelved and which one still gets played on the turntable today.
In fact, by the time I started college, I was already burnt out on most of those '70s/'80s Mod bands. I grew bored with all the Mod 'anthems'; grew bored with the use of words like 'faces,' 'numbers,' and 'crowds'; and grew bored with the power chords. I realized I was buying those records up mainly for the Mod imagery/connection.
Plus, in my freshman year in college, my pal Sean C. made me two compilation tapes featuring all the output (available at the time) from The Action, The Creation, The Artwoods, and John's Children. Those bands hit my ears in ways The Merton Parkas never could. And by the time I was 19 years old, I was itchin' for stronger, more experimental sounds (along with more soul) and that's where British R&B, freakbeat, and, eventually, psychedelia would come in. After getting into these sounds more heavily, power-pop, for the most part, just became bland to me.
After all those years, though, I have been giving some of this stuff another chance. Maybe it's nostalgia, I don't know. Some of it sounds good (or better) to my ears and some of it sounds worse than I remember. That's just the way things go, I guess, when you're no longer living in the age of the power-poppers! (Thanks for that, The Idea!)
So, here are some questions for you: What were/are some of your favorite revival songs? I got burnt out on this era, but did you? If not, what songs still stand out for you?
|Me at around 17/18 years old... my Mod power-pop phase.|