MODS a British youth cult phenomenon that started in the early sixties in London and is still going today.
The Mod movement had no leaders.
It was all about style not fashion
It was elitist.
It was focused on music – mostly Soul music
The MOD movement started in London, and spread to the regions of the U.K. In Manchester in the 1960’s it became a big thing focused mainly at the Twisted Wheel Club.
These pages are all about the Manchester Mods who adopted Soul music like a fervent religionist revival and preached it to all!
These were the MANCHESTER SOUL MODS
Arrogant: That’s MOD!
Mods could be identified by the way they walked, their immaculate grooming, the back-combing of blokes hair, the way they put their hands in their pockets with their suit sides uniquely folded. There were lots and lots of subtle signals. No one was the leader. The Mod movement was self-generating and given purpose from within. Mods had ideals. Clothes were the thing, and the look of certain things provided style. It all added up to be more than superficial – it was far more than an outside-influenced fashion scene. In fact, for a time, fashion followed Mods. In general Mods liked Soul and certain pop groups like the Stones, The Who, The Small Faces, and The Yardbirds. For Manchester Soul Mods it was R&B, Motown, Soul music and dancing that were absolutely paramount, with scooters the next in line. Having a smart Mod girlfriend also helped. The whole movement needed no outside endorsements. It was self-expressive. Mods cared little for what anyone else thought about them, except for other Mods that is and within this scene there was arrogance and often sniggering at lesser Mod neophytes.
The ‘ins’ and the ‘outs’ changed rapidly. It was very intense, yet subtle, and as a result it meant you had to be totally committed to be a Mod; especially in the early days of 1964. You had to be constantly planning to go to parties, but never organise one. Being evangelical about black music was a badge of office. Being a Mod could never be faked. Fashions and styles changed at a meteoric pace; fashions and styles were either out or in. You might be ‘out’ and think you were ‘in’, when most of the ‘in crowd’ deemed you to be ‘out’! But if you had ever been ‘in’ you could catch up, if you’d never been ‘in’, you were probably always ‘out’ and classed a ‘divvies’.
Mods lived breathed and slept Mod. Soul Mods collected rare Black American R&B, Soul and Blues 45’s
Work was tolerated; a way to get money to provide the means to be ‘in’ and to keep ‘in’.
You worked for the weekend.
The weekend was the All-nighter.
Mods a 1960’s underground youth movement
Some blokes don’t wear Fishtail Parkas. The ones that do know they’re further up the Mod hierarchy than those that have straight end Parkas – and it can be assumed that those that wear such lesser Parkas look down upon others that as yet have no Parkas at all.
‘Roachie’ a Manchester Soul Mod:
“By early 65′ the mod culture in London and the south was being diluted as everybody became the same and the mods started drifting apart as they felt that being a mod was no longer different. They felt that they could now buy their clothes at high street shops, they also felt that British music had matured enough to be listened to. I read somewhere that many mainstream groups like the Who, Beatles, Stones and others had progressed but we felt the opposite. The Stones who were great in the beginning were now turning out Tops of the Pops blandness, even the Beatles went through a bland period. The only group that really progressed through the mid-sixties were the Beach Boys culminating in Pet Sounds in 1966. The Stones starting turning out great music like Sympathy for the Devil in the late sixties, by 1969 Cream had already broken up. Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin were only just starting and the Who were yet to enjoy their greatest success.
In Manchester and the north this dilution was not as complete, we felt that British music had lost it,s way and so kept playing our American soul and wearing our suits, in another article I read it stated that many mods were joining the hippie movement but I strongly dispute this. The mod and the hippie movement were at total different ends of the scale, their cultures were totally different, their clothes their music. Mods were stylists their clothes were the most important thing to them, hippies were untidy scruffy even. Soul music was exciting, polished it was produced well and most important you could dance to it the, west coast American hippie stuff we felt was boring.
The Soul Mod culture continued until late 1967 when most of us hit twenty, however out of it “Northern Soul” was born.
In the mid 1980’s I went to a 60’s fancy dress party at a rugby club in Yorkshire. It was amazing how many people thought I hadn’t bothered to get into the spirit of things. They were all in Hippy costumes etc and I was wearing a shiny tight fitting mohair suit with military style tie and silk handkerchief overflowing the top pocket. I’m a MOD I informed them, which only resulted in puzzled frowns. Mod was always a fairly obscure underground movement; it was ‘in the face’ of society but all of us were to some extent invisible because to outsiders we conformed, wearing a suit. But Mod suits and everything mod had a certain style that those that knew the signals were the Mod ‘In’ crowd. A few riots brought some notoriety for a time in 64. However now in the twenty first century MOD is back and part of the sixties retrospective and some sub-culture young kids are becoming Mod again all over the world!”
The Manchester SOUL MODS:
The USA Air Force base at Burtonwood, Warrington, brought lots of Black GI’s and their record collections to the area. Mods and Rockers, were fighting each other at holiday resorts (This was about the time of the Mod riots in Clacton, covered in the press, and in the film Quadraphenia.) Manchester not to be outdone; had its own small riots, they started outside the Twisted Wheel to the annoyance of the owners (The Adabi Brothers) so were moved along up the street into Albert Square, or to outside the Oasis or the Jungfrau Clubs, just for excitement. The police dealt with them by sending mounted police down the streets chasing Mods all over the city. I remember one night after leaving the ‘old Wheel’ in Brazzenose Street; we began to be harassed for no apparent reason by the police, they kept moving us around, on and on. Eventually lots of other ‘Mod’ types outpouring from other clubs, the Oasis and the Jungfrau clubs were shepherded together with us. Then everyone broke out into a run, a riot racing down the centre of the streets stopping traffic up Market Street into Piccadilly. I raced along round a major store, windows all lite up with female mannequins inside. Behind me a friend called Denis crashed straight through the window. “It was a good job the police were following us he remarked!” some months later after being discharged from hospital, having nearly died from glass inflicted wounds when he shot strait into the window, lacerating his neck. The police halted chasing us and saved his life! And our criminality record.
Pills featured in our weekend lives: Black and Greens, no not a chain of gentleman’s outfitters, but Amphetemine or Drinamyl capsules (Purple Hearts) Yellows, Green and Clears, Blue’ees, Black Bombers, Black and White Minstrels, Benzedrine and all the rest of grannies heart tablets did the same.After a night at the Old Wheel many Mods from Manchester headed out on their scooters to Bolton. The Boneyard was the venue near to the railway station, an upstairs club. This was a change from the cellar dives we were used too. The Boneyard was a nickname for reasons that time has now forgotten. Was it to do with the black magic of the blues? The clubs real name was the Caroline Lounge named after the pirate radio ship Radio Caroline… on 199. It was a very soulful place with heavy playing of the Impressions, lots of Sue recordings, the Mad Lads with Sugar, Sugar, it was the first place I heard ‘Candy’ by the Astors (written by Steve Cropper) and of course lots of early Motown.
In those days Manchester’s Soul Mods used to meet in two main places: outside the Old Shambles (speakers Corner) Sinclairs Oyster Bar, and was on a fairly busy road in those days. The Cona Cafe and outside the Wimpy Bar in Piccadilly were other hang-outs. Transactions, sales of soul 45′s, exchanges of money for pills would take place here.
Fashions and styles changed rapidly, for a couple of weeks people would be wearing see through plastic rain coats, then it all changed to bright coloured jackets, bought as white coats from the Army and Navy stores and then hand dyed into bright colours.
Mods lived fashion, Fred Perry three button shirts were always ‘in’, worn alone with Levis or with suit jackets. Cycling vests and shoes, Levi jeans, Parkers, black sun glasses, even the city gent look was in. Suites. Cufflinks, Braces on our trousers, Broag shoes. Military ties Umbrellas – the whole shooting match. Later came the gangster look with the Elliot Ness and Frank Nitty hats. Sideburns. Bags, bowling bags and airline bags became the rage, they where needed for holding a change of clothes after the All-nighters at the ‘Wheel’. Long leather coats – always ‘ in’ probably because of the cost (about £40).
But most of all Smart was the dress code, and it lasted right through the entire Manchester Soul Mod scene. Right through from 64 to 69 when it was just the remnants of the old Mod scene but essential as a Manchester Soul activist movement!
The Impressions early LP covers showed three very smartly dressed guys, in silver mohair suits. This was certainly an influence upon the Northern Mod scene. Suits with 13″, then 15″ and then 17″ side vents. Then came centre vents, even centre pleats!
Who is the coolest guy…. ? Mohair Sam: sang Charlie Rich.
Mod guys top pockets had handkerchiefs, silk ones were the only thing to make the grade. Searches for military and paisley patterned ties took hours, but they had to be found otherwise you could be ‘OUT’. They were the Kings, the Cool Jerks, the ‘In Crowd. They had, Scooters LI 150’s, GT 200’s, Cento Lambtretta’s, even Vespa’s. Mirrors, Chrome side panels, long aerials with fox tails on top, British Union Flags, G I Parkers, and sun glasses. Short hair back combed for the guys. The girls with white lipstick, black eyes, long false lashes, Mary Quante hair cuts, Op Art dresses.
The Mods were the essence of Wheel – the Wheel was where the quintessential essence of Soul Music was found.
Mods were in fact mysterious; an underground movement, without leaders or organisation, they were spontaneous.
They looked nice, smart and clean, and chewed mouthfuls of Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum.
“HiYa, man, are you goin?”
“Got any stuff man,”
“Nah, but I know a guy, commin’ along later, he’s a friend of mine, coming from Warrington he can fix us up. I’m gonna get blocked to night man.”
“I’ m going to Victoria station now, do yer wanna come along?”
Two scooters roll almost uncontrollably towards the centre of the road then come under control as they straighten up and stream off rapidly down Market Street. Aerials trailing back, gleaming of chrome, with the flashing street lights captured repeatedly, in the dozen or so mirrors festooned around the front handlebars.
The police raided Manchester’s Victoria station as it had developed a reputation for amphetamine drug dealing. The police raid surrounded us all. Those dressed smartly in suits and with short hair were rapidly disassociated from the general rabble, and eliminated. How we laughed as we walked away taking our stash and washing down the pills with coca cola. Heading for the Twisted Wheel. Leaving the police searching the scruffs! The police had stereotyped mindsets about drug abusers, how could they be such smartly dressed kids!
Mods had to be seen to be right. Dressed right.
Looks were everything, being ‘ in’ and cool was central to everything.
This was the very first youth culture that invented itself. Today these things are determined by the record industry the fashion industry and most of all by the advertising industry: but not then.
At the Wheel:
“Hiyaaa, I’m Dave where you from”, Dave shouted out over the sound of the Impressions wailing out ‘You’ve Been Cheetin’.
“I’m John from Stoke.”
“Hey I’m from Blackburn. And this pal of mine is from Stockport, he is called Dave too!”.
“Hello, I’m just going to put my handbag in the middle. I’m Jeanette from Middleton and this is Jean from Failsworth. Have you got scooters?”
All the guys in a circle dancing together ignoring the girls. Feeling the sound, the beat, the Soul. The intoxication of music and the charge of amphetamine coursing up the spine in rivers of glowing shivers.
Dave from Stockport asked who is on tonight; is it Edwin Starr?
Some segments from THE MANCHESTER WHEELERS