It’s a Mod Mod World

Published on November 29th, 2009 in: Culture Shock, Issues, Movies, Music, OMG British R Coming, Retrovirus |

By Noreen Sobczyk

I’ve always had a tradition of becoming obsessed with something. Not obsessed in the peeping-around-in-someone’s-bushes way, nor by writing famous people letters, or boiling some guy’s bunny, but becoming deeply engrossed in one particular thing. Be it music, film, or a book, there’s always something that strikes me and becomes my most prized form of entertainment.

When VCRs were first released I would rent the same videos over and over, never tiring of them. One of the first movies I watched ad nauseum was The Who documentary, The Kids Are Alright. Something about the movie had me hooked, and I particularly enjoyed the early clips, fast forwarding through the fringed Woodstock period.

One word kept getting tossed about: Mods.


I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant, but I just knew it had to be cool. I started listening to The Who, especially the albums Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy and Quadrophenia. One day my cousin mentioned she’d seen a movie called Quadrophenia, and that Pete Townshend was in it: naked in a bathtub. Pete was my grade school crush (which I think explains my attraction to guys with big noses), so I had to see it. Well, my cousin was either a liar or not much of a Who fan, because except for a picture on the protagonist Jimmy’s wall, Townshend wasn’t in the film. But what the film did offer was my first introduction into the world of Mods.

At a store called Wax Trax I found a book with a lot of pictures of authentic Mods called Mods! by Richard Barnes. Later I read Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnis. I saw a few movies that referenced or seemed to hint at this British youth culture, such as To Sir With Love, Georgy Girl, and one I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing again titled Smashing Time. I finally obtained a copy of Quadrophenia. I even found an old promotional poster for the film. It wasn’t much, but in the pre-Internet world of a Midwestern girl, it was all I had.

I identified with Jimmy and his desire to fit in with a clique, but to also be unique. Something about the struggle his character had with his family, friends, and sense of self spoke to me. His anger, passion, and desire to be something apart from the status quo resonated with me. And I loved the fashion in the film. There is still something about a guy in a well tailored suit and inch-wide tie that drives me bananas. Even though the fickle world of the Mods turned its back on Jimmy, and I didn’t have any desire to pop amphetamines, I wanted to live in the movie. I wanted to go out all night and dance and dress up with friends who thought the same things were cool.

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3 Responses to “It’s a Mod Mod World”

  1. Popshifter:
    December 1st, 2009 at 11:09 am

    This is wonderful. I had a very similar response to the film Velvet Goldmine: I identified with it in a profound way and it enriched my musical tastes immensely.

    I am also frequently saddened by the discovery that the people who are fans of a certain band or movie often don’t like it for the same reasons as I do. The shared love of pop culture or art should increase the feeling of community but often it has the opposite effect.


  2. John:
    December 6th, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Nice article, especially the photo of Quadrophenia on RCA videodisc.
    When it comes to any “scene” that helps shape your life as a teenager try to remember.. Take the best and leave the rest!
    As years have gone by the shite has been forgotten. I still ride a Vespa, listen to the Jam and love Quadrophenia, too.
    …oh and I get the hint.. I’ll send you my copy of Smashing Time, okay?

  3. noreen:
    December 6th, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Thanks LLM! I’m sure it’s a universal teen experience for anyone into counter culture. It’s all part of growing up.

    Thanks John – long time no see. I didn’t have hinting at you in mind when I wrote the piece, but should something arrive in the post from a long ago friend with sharp clothes, I would be very pleased indeed.

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