Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rise of the Internet Mods

Image taken from Modculture's 'The 10 Varieties of Mod'.
So, I've been listening to a great online radio station lately called We Are The Mods. Don't let the name throw you... it's not a show dedicated to the Quadrophenia soundtrack! It's actually a fun 2-hour mix of music (some you'll like, some you might not) and rants about Mod stuff, hosted by DJ Warren Peace. Well, the show got me thinking about something: technology... namely, the internet. The internet and the Mod thing.

Some of you might be too young to remember life before the internet. Heck, in MY time, I had to march through the concrete landscapes of La Puente, CA, rain or snow, to make it to my local library and find whatever music or sociology section existed there. I'd go straight for a book's index and look up 'mod,' 'The Who,' 'The Jam,' or 'ska.' Rarely did I find anything, but if I found even a nugget of information, I'd file it away. This was my 'google' search back then. Things got easier in college thanks to the larger libraries of books, newspapers, and magazines. (Anyone else remember microfiche?)

But in my second year of college, I was introduced to something that would change my life FOREVER. An email address. And with that, access to something I had never heard of before: the internet. Now, this was back before actual webpages with GIFs. When I first started using the internet, all that was available to me were text-based newsgroups. Things like or alt.literature.keroauc. Unfortunately, there was no alt.subculture.mods...

... until a woman named Lisa Gerson created the Modslist (click the link for the skeletal remains of the first major online Mod group).
For the first time, thanks to this list, you were able to communicate with Mods across the country and across the world via email group messages. Not many people were on this thing at first, but over time, it grew. It's where I met some great people with whom I still keep in contact today. (Leave a comment if any of you out there remember the ol' Modslist!) Of course, there is always the negative side to internet communications and soon the Modslist became an arena for online fighting. I ain't gonna lie... when britpop hit big and people started joining the list in droves, I spent more time arguing over whether britpop was really 'Mod' (I didn't think it was) than actually studying for classes.

But as the Modslist grew, old subscribers dropped off while new ones joined. Soon, other online forums started popping up. You had Yahoo groups catering to scooter scenes, music scenes, and local Mod scenes. (Anyone else remember Bespoke, What's Shakin', Britishmods, or Mod Veterans?) You also had new websites popping up which catered to regional Mod scenes. There were sites coming out of Chicago, New York, Italy, Germany, the UK, and Spain.

By this time, I was out of college and working on websites with friends. In an effort to help spread the 'Mod message,' while mastering Flash technology at the same time, we created a fictional 1960s cartoon group called The Huggabaloos.
We wanted to make sixties stuff accessible to people, with the idea that there would be kids out there turning on to the site and turning on to Mod culture. We featured record reviews, animated pieces, and games. It was a fun time as we tried pushing the boundaries of web design while pushing forward our own Mod interests.

Around this same time, a few important sites emerged: Uppers, New Untouchables, and Modculture. Each of these tried to cater to all aspects of Mod life, but Richard Karström's Uppers website really went for the world-wide angle. There were record reviews, club night galleries, and general news items from all over. Contributors from the UK, the US, etc. helped build this site into a great source of information. It used to be my first go-to for anything Mod-related.

The New Untouchables site was something that really needed to happen. These are the guys that kept 'the faith' going through the lean years and beyond the britpop years. Chances are, if there's a giant Mod event going on, these guys are involved somehow. From Le Beat Bespoke to the Mousetrap, the New Untouchables are the movers and shakers. Jason Ringgold was the man behind the original website (now designed by pip! pip!), which added in great design and functionality. This site worked to spread the news on their happenings and create a forum for people to share news and information.

And then there's David Walker's Modculture site. If I remember correctly, it started out a little clunky and seemed to concentrate, at the time, on more British happenings. It didn't seem to be updated as often as I would have liked and I tended to forget about it from time to time. But eventually, it went through an overhaul and now stands as one of the best stops in the Mod interwebhood.
They are on top of everything, from Mod news in general to music news to book releases to info on new clothing. It's filled with fantastic interviews, well-written articles, and great galleries. Modculture has gotten so big, it's spawned various sister sites, including Retro To Go and His Knibs. And if you like their Facebook page, you'll get daily updates on current news stories.

And this really does lead us to today's online Mod landscape. In addition to Modculture, you now have Stephen Hughes's The Mod Generation site. I joined this quite some time ago and, quite honestly, forgot all about it until about a year ago. I was working on a blog entry on white socks, and in a google search, I happened to find out that this very subject was already being discussed... on The Mod Generation!
And that's not all... Mods from the 1960s to today were on the MG forums talking about everything, from the history of the culture to happenings today! 1960s Mods were contributing interesting articles and correcting various myths that have existed since the '60s. In addition to their forums and articles, I think the most interesting contribution coming from The Mod Generation is its "Weekly Paper," a one-stop shop for any news worth knowing about that you may have missed. Of course, much like Modculture, The Mod Generation also has a strong Facebook presence updating members daily with news stories, links to outside blog posts, and music clips.

And let's not even get into how social websites have affected the Mod thing... okay, let's get into it. First, there was Friendster. People logged in, said nice things about their friends, and uploaded profile photos. It was a neat time.

Then, along came MySpace. All of a sudden, people had the ability to alter their personal pages and, in effect, create their own personas. By adding photos of op-art designs, Twiggy, and The Small Faces, and uploading profile pics of themselves with a sexy pout and a Who Poster in the background, people could show the whole wide world that they were MOD! Heck, based on MySpace itself, you'd think a whole Mod revival was happening online!

Things mellowed out a bit thanks to Facebook, but even here, Mod exploded all over the social landscape. MySpace Mods migrated over. New Mod social groups popped up on the site, many of them mediocre, but some of them fantastic (like my favorite, Original Modernists 1959-1966, which features actual, original modernists from this period). Many people, in fact, have used Facebook to change their names in an effort to ensure people knew what they were about (for instance, instead of my for-realz name, I could just re-name myself Mod Carlos... yeah!). On Facebook, you could like your favorite bands, your favorite record labels, or even your favorite blogs (hint! hint!).

Speaking of blogs, well, I'm sure you know how those have grown over the last several years. If not, peek on over at the right-hand side of this page... yeah, see that list there? Just a handful of recently updated blogs worth your time!

In addition to blogs, websites, and forums, you have Mod radio stations and podcasts. Frankly, I didn't explore these much before. I mean, why would I when I have music at home to listen to and an iPod to keep me busy at the gym. But then, I realized some of these stations were good with hooking me up to new sounds. Plus, I'm always a fan of theme shows. That's how I got turned on to Mr. Suave and his podcast.
Then, there's the actual 24-hour-a-day Mod radio site, Mod Radio UK. This site includes revolving DJs (like Captain Stax), new and old music, and cool promos, including one by Chico Hamilton who, honest to God, declares himself to be an original Mod in the promo!

But, my favorite online show now is the one that spurred me to think about this entry: We Are the Mods. At first, I was a little hesitant. I think you all know my viewpoint toward Mod cliches. I saw the Facebook page for this station and was faced with targets, Quadrophenia images, and Pete Townsend keeping it real. But this site was recommended to me by Gabriela of French Boutik, and one thing I know... you don't question Gabriela's tastes. So, I logged on to the We Are The Mods show... and was floored! In addition to a good mix of musical styles, you have a host who isn't afraid to speak his mind (and if you thought I had strong opinions... wait 'til you hear this guy!) and who works to get people thinking about this whole Mod subculture. That's what makes the show... the music (which is very varied) and the charisma of the host. That's what we needed... someone who's excited about this stuff and willing to call out the bunk side of it when necessary. Trust me, it's worth your time!

Lately though, the host, DJ Warren Peace, has been talking about the idea of this whole Mod thing dying without some sort of new revival to keep it going. I've mentioned before that this Mod thing seems to be going through a revival every couple of years since britpop first hit. If it wasn't before, it's definitely in the mainstream consciousness now, thanks to the Olympics. But, over the years, I've heard others share the 'fear' of Mods dying out (because, y'know, global warming, poverty, and terrorism aren't fear-inducing enough.) In the past, I've been told I need to help build the 'scene' or work to get more people into this thing. Sometimes, I still hear that.

But here's the thing... I'm much older now and 'scene' stuff doesn't really interest me. Helping to grow a 'scene' isn't on my to-do list. I know what I like, and I've liked loved this stuff since I first got into it. I'm lucky in that many of my friends still really love this stuff too, without the need of a 'scene.'

Now, if there are kids out there discovering the Mod thing for the first time today, more power to them! Personally, though, I don't want to be the creepy old Mod guy hanging out with a bunch of 19-year-old kids trying to help them 'keep the faith'. That's not my role. It's up to them to forge their own ways. Don't get me wrong... if I'm djing a club and there's a bunch of young mod kids out there dancing, I'd be stoked. But I'm not going to go up to them afterwards and say, "Hey gang, let's hang out and get our mod on."

Ew. See, I had my time. I had my youth. When I was younger, I hung out with people around my own age and we did these things on our terms. We didn't have a lot of clubs at the time, but we had each other. We hung out and turned ourselves on to music and discussed clothing. Some of my friends spent time and money on their scooters, in addition to slick clothing. Now though, we're all older and at different phases of our lives. Some of us have families of our own, some don't. But for me and my friends, this stuff still excites us! Families and jobs didn't kill the Mod thing for us.

Now, though, it's the younger kids' turns to form their own little scenes. Some will last, some won't. Some of these young mod kids will stick with it and evolve, trading in their parkas and Jam pins for sharper, more detailed clothing. Some will veer off into other looks/scenes/whatever, and might retain a love for their Mod past (while others put it down). Others will drop out completely (and maybe come back in their 40s, looking to continue where they left off at age 20). And this will go on and on for years to come, much as it has been going on for years past.

Think about this... I started using the internet in around 1993. Since then, as mentioned above, we've had new websites, blogs, online radio stations, social media pages, etc. Kids born in 1993 are now (oh-my-god-why-am-i-aging-myself-like-this?) 19 years old! They've grown up with the internet and don't know life without it. If they get into the Mod thing, the internet is going to be their main source of info. Sure, it'll be easy for them to find what they need in a matter of minutes and become insta-Mods in a short period of time. People my age went through a longer process, but probably gained a better appreciation of it all, after all the hard work. Some kids today will get into it after a Wikipedia search, a download of the top 25 Mod hits, and a purchase of a Pretty Green shirt. Some will drop out to follow their next fancy. But others will really stick with it and use the information to explore more and push themselves to learn more. And this will continue on...

Mod is never going to die. And you know why?


  1. Great article about the history of Mod websites. I didn't log in until the late 90's but I remember a few sites on Yahoo groups I used to log into. More importantly it was the opening of the of the Japanese Mod World that was great for me. I remember visiting a Japanese Mod site called Soulful Powder centered around the Tokyo Mod Scene. Great site.

    Unfortunately I just never liked many of the Mod sites as they were very clique and people in the forums were rude and condescending. I really don't have time for that and its sad when many of these sites have so much potential but it comes down to a small circle of people on the sites who ruin it for everyone else. So I just stopped visiting.

    I did start my own site in 2010 called but my computer died as soon as I started and it's taken me awhile to get back online again, I should have articles back up again soon.

    This is a great article about what is happening today, it's been almost 20 years since these Mod sites first started and its good to see a good overview written in such a great way.


    1. Leonardo, that's one thing that has always fascinated me: Japanese Mods. My first real exposure was from a magazine spread a friend had tacked to his wall. They were the sharpest, intense-looking guys I had ever seene, down to the detail!

      The Mod sites were defintely places of rabid fights and attitudes. I had a thick skin to a lot of that, but when I look back on it, I can totally see how people would get turned off to it. Some of those online fights, though, had some of us cracking up in the background! Sometimes, Mods could be totally catty!

      I will have to check out your site soon, especially if it's still up!

    2. Japanese mods, from the images I've seen online, are the sharpest. As for mod forums and websites, the one that seemed overlooked that I always thought was on the money was The Boiler.

  2. Oh man, what about the CHATS and YAHOO GROUPS? Those were THE BEST. You could wish people HAPPY BIRTHDAY and talk about The Beatles riding on ELEPHANTS and stuff like that. Oh God, those days were absolutely hilarious. But hey, thanks to those groups, I found out when MOD FASHION SHOWS were happening. Snark. Seriously, though, those boards were fun.

    Anyway, awesome post as always.

    1. Now, Facebook is the new HAPPY BIRTHDAY (and death day and anniversary day and holiday...) forum! See what Yahoo groups started! And so glad the archives are still up...

  3. Oh wait, you DID mention them! I was so busy taking it all in... Twenty years of internet stuff is a lot!

  4. Fantastic article, and I agree that the internet has played a huge role in keeping the mod scene, and any number of scenes alive.

    I think that a few years ago you might have an interest in mod or scooters, or fly fishing for that matter, but you might not have had the opportunity to indulge your passion as you did not know other people who shared your interests. Then Facebook arrived, groups set up and then all of a sudden you realised just how many folk out there shared your passion. Then you found the confidence to dress in the way that you wanted to, and know where to go to find like minded people.

    1. Good point, SSAB! It's amazing, now, to think what steps people took to learn more in the without local scenes to draw from.

      Now, it's all so much more accessible. Sure, there's the negative side in that the easier it is to get info, the less 'earned' it may be. But the positive is that there will be those people who get access to the info and use it to their full advantage! That's pretty cool.

  5. Excellent post!

    Don't really have anything else to add, just wanted to say that I liked it.