In honor of the 1-year anniversary, I'm having a little giveaway contest! If you want to skip this next boring story, just head straight to the bottom of this post. If you want to stay and read on, I decided to talk about what first got me into this whole Mod thing and why it's still such a big part of my life. To today I present to you... MY SECRET ORIGIN!
Let's get into the ol' time machine and head back to 1987... a horrible year in pop music, TV idols, and fashions. It was also my first year of junior high school and I was getting my first taste of acne. I hated 1987.
By the end of the 7th grade, I decided I just didn't share any of the same interests as my peers (see 1987 links above). My friend, Robert A., had already turned me on to The Smiths, the radness of Pretty in Pink's Ducky, and the coolness of pointed creepers. At this stage in my life, I wanted to be 'unique'. That's an important thing for a new teenager, wanting your own identity. And back then, liking a band like the Smiths really set you apart from the norm. So, I got full on into them and other assorted new wave acts. By the time I was in the 8th grade, I was walking around in black & white creepers and hair spiked up on one side. But even before then, on the last day of 7th grade, I read something that would end up seriously changing my life.
In our yearbook, if you had the money, you could buy a 'graffiti' square on a page and write whatever you wanted to write. Most people wrote messages to their best-frenz-forever or messages to their boyfriends/girlfriends about how they would be together 4-EVER. Well, these two 8th grade girls, who I remember walking around in black hair and 'new wave' stylings, bought a couple of squares and went in a different direction. Here is what they wrote:
'Mod'? I don't know what it meant, but it sounded cool and must have had something to do with all those bands I liked (with the exception of The Scorpions). The name floated around in my head, sounding mysteriously simple. Mod...
Later that summer, I was hanging out with a couple of cousins and they noticed my Smiths records in my room. One of them said, matter-of-factly, "We have a friend who likes The Smiths. Yeah, she's mod too." There was that word again. "Mod?" I asked. "Yeah, she's into all that weird music you like."
I remember looking through an issue of one of those Columbia Music House catalogs (remember, 12 records for the price of 1?) and in there was a section on all the new wave stuff I liked. You know what that section was called? 'Modern Rock.' Ah-hah! I figured it all out. 'Mod' was short for 'modern rock!' It totally made sense.
I couldn't wait for the 8th grade to start so I could share this info with my friends. They had to know that we weren't new wavers because new wave music was already old by 1987. No, now that music was called modern rock and we were mod because we liked it.
Further proof hit me at the beginning of the 8th grade when I was looking through my School is Hell book and noticed a comic dealing with the 81 Types of High School Students.
One of the 81 types of students was... The Mod. And he looked exactly like what I would expect one to look like (minus the duck-bill).
This discovery was extremely important to me. Not only did I have an identity separate from my peers (who were still listening to Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam), but, more importantly, I was into something that my dad and his generation were not a part of. See, when he wasn't talking about how great The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and 'The Sixties' were, he was always trying to school me on my own music: punk and new wave.
My dad was living in the Bay Area around this time and kept up with cool music. He had albums by the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and Elvis Costello. He was aware of bands like the Meat Puppets, The Smiths, and Flock of Seagulls. And he used to rub it in my face that he knew my music more than I did! In the 7th grade, when I told him I liked Echo & The Bunnymen because of their song 'People Are Strange' off the Lost Boys soundtrack, you know what he did? He made me a cassette tape of the Lips Like Sugar album and included the original Doors' version of 'People Are Strange'. Not only did he know my music more... he knew the original stuff being copied! And this drove me crazy. He was always one up on me.
But now... I was one up on him. I was mod. And this was such a new thing, there was no way he'd be in the know about it. Finally, I had my own thing. Well, one day while visiting him in Berkeley, he and I were walking back from a day on Telegraph Avenue. I had a little skip in my step as I listened to him go on about Bob Dylan and the Beatles before trying to talk to me about my own music. I lured him into trying to act cool with me so that I could get him with a gotcha question. And then I went for it.
"Oh yeah? You think you're so cool, Papa? Man... I bet you don't even know what a mod is."
He looked down at me in surprise and paused.
"Oh yeah, kid... okay, tell me. What's a mod?" I had him!
I told him all about how new wave just wasn't new anymore and how it was now called 'modern rock' and how kids that were into that music were called 'mod' because it was short for 'modern rock'. I smiled knowing I had just widened that generation gap.
Then he responded, "Really, kid? That's what you think a mod is? Interesting..."
I looked up at him, "What do you mean? That's totally what a mod is!"
He sighed... "Kid, let me tell you what a mod really is." This conversation wasn't going like I planned. But then he gave an explanation that still resonates with me to this day.
"Kid, mods were around in the sixties. They were young guys, teenagers, who rebelled against the society they were living in through the types of suits they wore. You know how punks dressed shabby in torn-up clothing? Well, mods wore really nice suits with thin lapels and skinny ties. They wore army jackets called parkas to protect their clothes and rode around on Vespas, italian scooters. And they used to get into fights with Rockers."
His statement about rebelling against society by wearing nice suits hit my 13-year-old mind hard. I was used to seeing people dress outlandish in order to be somewhat 'unique.' But my dad just turned me on to a wild idea of dressing nice as an act of rebellion. I pictured myself in a suit with 'thin lapels' and a 'skinny tie' and walking through a crowd of kids in bad mullets, baggy pants, and Reebok hi-tops. I was utterly fascinated...
...until he said, "The Who were a mod band." It was like a record needle scratching across my mind. The Who? The band I read about in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the loudest ROCK band in the world? The band that looked like this?
At that, he turned me off. No way were those guys 'mod'. When we got back to his place, he started pulling records out. He wanted to show me a photo of them as mods. The photo he showed me did NOT win me over.
All I saw was a geeky guy with a big nose in too-crazy-and-colorful-for-my-thirteen-year-old-mind clothes. I didn't buy these guys as anything having to do with what I thought mod was, but I was still interested in the concept of this subculture of kids walking around in suits as a way of snubbing the society around them.
The 8th grade went on for me and I delved further into all the music KROQ was playing at the time. And despite my dad thinking The Who were a mod band, I still asked him about what sixties mods were like. He would talk to me about Dick Hebdige's Subculture book and would go on and on about how mods were 'working-class' kids. I loved hearing about them. And even though mods only existed in the 1960s, I still pictured them being into stuff like Echo & The Bunnymen.
One day, I was hanging out with one of my uncles. I sat on his bed relaxing while he was playing me various songs from the sixties, something he used to love doing. I endured it, even though I didn't really care for The Byrds, The Beach Boys, or any of the other bands he made me sit through. Then he told me, "Okay, I'm going to play you a song but I don't want to tell you who it is. Just listen and let me know what you think." "Oh geez," I thought. "Here we go with more..."
The song he played me was unlike anything he ever played me before. It was loud, manic, and totally punk rock! I looked at him in surprise. "You like this kind of music?" I asked. He just smiled. Yeah, you know what song he played me, don't you?
When it was done, I asked him who it was. "That's The Who?!" was my response when he told me. And that's the song that completely sold me. From that point forward, I wanted more than anything to be a mod. I wanted to be the only mod at my school, maybe even the world.
Later that year, I learned about the Jam from another student who claimed his brother used to be a mod. The Jam led me to the Mod revival, which jived more with the music I was into at the time. Plus, it made me realize that there were mods after the 1960s. By the beginning of high school, I was getting into ska music, which would sidetrack me for a bit. Eventually, though, I'd finally get my first suit and, in time, my first parka. Sure, over time, I'd make several mistakes while slowly morphing from new wave kid to mod kid, but I learned from them and hopefully improved as I got older (open to debate).
Soon, I discovered that there were Mod scenes happening all around, from Berkeley to Los Angeles to other parts of the world! Looking back, it's funny to me that on that walk with my dad in 1987, when he first told me what a mod actually was, there was a whole rocking Berkeley Mod scene going on around me. And as I sat in my bedroom in La Puente, CA, thinking about being the only mod around, my future wife was blocks away already part of a Mod scene.
This whole Mod thing has been a huge guiding force in my life. It's turned me on to great music, great clothes that I still obsess over, and even great design. I've met amazing people through it who have become life-long friends and have helped me become a better person over time (open to debate). Through the Mod thing, I've met the most amazing woman who continues to tolerate my behavior, even though we still fight over closet space. And each day, I still find something about this subculture to get excited over.
Thank you all for sticking with this blog over this past year and I hope it hasn't bored you yet.
Okay, in honor of the 1st year of the MOD MALE blog, I'm having a little give-away thing. What can you win?
The 2011 book, The Perfectly Dressed Gentlemen by Robert O'Byrne!
A great little guide on how to be an even more dapper Mod (or gentleman, in general), with illustrations by the talented Lord Dunsby. You can read more about it on the Retro To Go blog. Please keep in mind that this contest is not affiliated with any of these people. I just happen to have an extra copy and would like to give it to a Mod Male blog reader.
Here's all you have to do:
- Become a follower of this blog, if you're not already, and leave a comment on the blog telling me how you got into the Mod thing OR how you got into whatever it is you're obsessed with (i.e., goth music, a baseball team, your favorite author). Doesn't have to be Mod-related.
- 'Like' the MOD MALE Facebook page and leave a comment on the page, telling me how you got into the Mod thing OR how you got into whatever it is you're obsessed with (i.e., goth music, a baseball team, your favorite author). Doesn't have to be Mod-related.
On Friday, August 10th, I'll announce the winner on this very blog! That's right, this contest will last two weeks only! GOOD LUCK!!