7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 3 March 2014
Interesting as this book is in so many ways, the over-riding problem for me is that the title is a red herring. This is not so much the story of Mod subculture but all youth culture in Britain since the 1960s
The template-defining early Mod movement is dealt with in the first fifty or so pages, albeit in a fairly conventional way. The book adds nothing to or takes nothing away from other well known texts (many of which are clearly used and cited as sources - the best known and probably most definitive of which is Richard Barnes' "Mods!")
At some speed, the author goes on to describe how Mod became a national youth movement by the mid-60s, transforming itself along the way from a noun to a loose adjective adopted by the media to describe virtually anything related to contemporary British pop culture (mod imagery, mod clothing, mod music etc etc). So far, so good...but the author then seems to adopt the same approach, asserting that the Beatles exported 'mod culture' to America and describing both the Rolling Stones and the Kinks as 'mod bands'. This basic confusion grows and practically spirals out of control in the extensive middle section of the book.
He does show - though never in any great detail - how the mod movement expanded/fragmented into psychedelia, suede head and skinhead and northern soul by the end of the decade but there are then chapters on glam rock and punk, which are cited as direct legacies of 1960s mod. This maybe so but only in as much as Warhol was influenced by Da Vinci and Einstein by Newton. Are they not just separate, later movements that were merely informed by what went before? The fact that there was a small subset of people involved in both is surely just a chronological inevitability? And anyway, the crucial point (actually made in earlier chapters) was that mod style - as opposed to glam or punk - was never about flamboyance and noise. It was meant to be subtle - captured in small details that outsiders would miss. With this focus on the headline fashions of the 1970s, the subtler yet more interesting point missed about the decade is that whilst the term 'mod' fell utterly and completely out of fashion, the look never actually died away. Certainly not out in provincial Britain, beyond the fashion hub of London
We then move on to Two-Tone and into the late '70s/early '80s mod revival. Here, the link with the first wave of modernism is self-evident in the revival of '60s fashion, imagery and music. Rightly so, the multi-racial aspect of Two Tone is praised and the latter revivalist movement is dismissed as pastiche. However, this is fairly conventional wisdom and misses a key point in terms of the history of Mod. In reality, both these movements are, in the wake of the 1970s, responsible for re-popularising mod culture to British youth en masse and sustaining it's influence up to today. Yes, it is easy to dismiss the mod revival as a weak parody of it's 1960s forebear - and he isn't the first to do so - but the important thing is that another generation grew up with Mod as a concept
Reaching the fourth decade of the story, I think the author makes another mistake by giving Britpop too much prominence. In reality, the significance of mod to the participants was little more than Blur's clever usage of '60s imagery and musical sensibilities for their second and third albums. Other Bripop bands - Suede and Pulp for example - were really just following the by-now established traditions of British pop. Oasis were, if anything, a no-nonsense rock band whose strongest influence happened to be late-period Beatles minus the lyrical and musical innovation. The fact that Britpop generally harked back to some sort of British spirit located after the sixties but before Disco and Punk did not make it a legacy of mod. What you can say, is that it did spark off a second mod revival which, as in the first, has helped pass the idea on to yet another generation. I think this is principally the reason why men's fashion in Britain is still in large part influenced by the classic 1960s mod look. I am talking not only about the continued popularity of the likes of Fred Perry and Ben Sherman but newer labels such as Duffer, Paul Smith, Pretty Green and Ted Baker.
If I had to sum up this book in one neat sentence, I would say it is this: "The story of how a unique and distinctive pop culture developed in Britain in the early 1960s - and, in turn, how this influence spread down through successive generations and became the template for youth style and culture internationally...". Very good but the author simply fails to define and communicate the enduring appeal of the Mod look and the Mod ideal.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 22 July 2013
Like many people who came of age in the 80's I have an unhealthy interest in the 60s and pop culture. However I have never been able to fully support one Youth Movement over another, I love the Beatles AND the Stones; Mods AND Rockers; Coffee AND tea; Marvel AND DC.
Weight's MOD appealed because his Mod is such a broad church, for him the glam scene of the early 70s was Mod cos it was created by (ex)Mods Bolan; Bowie; Ferry and Eno. (I think there has to be distinction between the glam of Roxy and the glam of the Sweet). I could get with the obvious bastard children of Mod, Northern Soul, Skin'Ead, Two Tone and even Casual. But I had to disagree with Punk, Baggy and Rave, surely the (lack of) sartorial elegance for these scenes totally rulers them out. However Weight makes a jolly good argument.
I was sad to see him dispense with Modernists and Jazz by page 60 but was pleased to see Acid Jazz included. There was a little too much Britpop (and Britpop is TOO MUCH !) and nothing at all on the Roni Size double bass end of Drum n Bass and especially the Soundz of the Asian Underground and Cornershop who explicitly referenced Pop and Mod in their symbolism and design.
Weight also answered that perpetual and perplexing question about Mod culture, how can the same crowd that embraces futurism and modernism be into retro and Ocean Colour Scene? Weight dismissed this (the rivalists of the 80s and since) as not true Mod. Mod is classic and looking to future.
His history kind of ran out in 1999 and he missed out Mod comics (surely the most Pop art of all?) "The Originals" Dave Gibbons; Chynna Clugston "Blue Monday"
As someone who never loved Weller (but rates his record collection) or the Who, and finds more Mod in a Tribe Called Quest bassline this was the Mod book for me. If only more Hip Hop headz would were natty suits instead of sports teeshirts!
For photos and style I still rate "Mod: Clean Living Under Very Difficult Circumstances - A Very British Phenomenon" by Terry Rawlings but for words this IS the book.
How about a scrapbook sized paperback edition chock full of photos?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 November 2013
thoroughly enjoying the book. Went to listen to Richard Weight the other week at 'Of the Shelf' in Sheffield when he gave an excellent talk followed by a discussion on how this working class movement influenced fashion, music, architecture & the way we live today. The amount of depth & research that has gone into this book is amazing, even though the Torch was in Stoke & not Nottingham. The book made me realise that everywhere one looks today we can see or hear the Mod influence's from those early 60's. Parts of the book remind me of another underground book called 'the charade night club, the untold story' where one young mod describes holding all-night dances in a Brothel, after visiting the Catacombes in Wolverhampton. The mod culture & there attitude to authority is alive and thriving on the music scene in and around the North of England and this book brings back great memories from someone who was there. Hamish.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 11 December 2013
This book isn't about what you, or someone you know, did. This book is about youth culture as a whole as revealed through fashion trends, music icons, and other cultural influences of the particular youth culture. This book effectively explains each British youth culture as a whole, especially Mod. To exhaustively examine each culture would require a book, not just a chapter. Most people are comfortable with chronological order. However, here, chronological order would not have been as effective in conveying a proper understanding of youth cultures' influences and origins. This book has given me an insight into British youth cultures, while providing explanations of who and why.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 5 August 2013
I was there at the time. As I remember it in Sheffield, the time was 1963 not 1964 as Peter Stringfellow would have it in the book, although I went to his club, The Mojo, at the time.
At the time, the first record I bought was in 1963. It was (Little) Stevie Wonder as he was at the time. As I was writing this review Dillinger "Daylight Saving Time" played on iPod shuffle. I didn't know who Dillinger was at the time or what an iPod was but I knew how to do the Harlem Shuffle. The next track up on the iPod was Ghetto Reality "James Brown" I saw James Brown at Wembley Arena at the time. But I don't remember listening to Ghetto Reality at the time.
At the time, I thought football was important and still do. And clothes were important and still are. And for that matter so were film, books, interior design and architecture. I didn't think at the time I was following a British Style because, at the time, at age 16, in 1967, I had rejected any idea of Britishness as a style as being somehow petit bourgeois. Although I didn't know what to be petit bourgeois was at the time.
Perhaps that's what we speak of when we speak of Mod! And what this book does really well. It describes the cultural hegemonic agenda set for young people by the economic conditions established in the 60's that, despite recessions, still persists today - not something fixed in any time or place. I was part of that at the time. And I still am today.
25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 2 April 2013
When reviews of a modern history of youth culture book are as polarised as these are, I tend to get a little excited. If a book can generate such differing opinions, it usually means that the reviewers have some sort of vested interest in the outcome of their review, or, more hopefully, that the passions are roused in a constructive critique. I can't speculate on the motivations of the reviewers, so I'll stick to my own take.
Firstly, the writing style - Weight appears to realise what many modern historians forget. When writing about a period of history that the reader has most likely lived through, the narrative needs to be upbeat,exciting, and controversial. Like any decent party, and what else is youth culture if not a damn fine party, what happened matters - when,less so. Memories of a youth that has been led can cloud the observations of the reader, but can also pique the interest when the author brings some needed reflection to the history rather than simply fetishising the dry facts and chronology.
So, to the ideas. Reading that Kraftwerk tick the boxes of Weight's criteria for mod initially made me laugh out loud - then I thought about it. The "state of mind" argument for youth culture is hackneyed if not backed up with some new theory, and the notion that an amorphous and dynamic culture can have rights and wrongs as to who belongs and who doesn't because of a set of rules is more than a little ironic, particularly in the case of a culture as diverse as modernism.It's all about interpretation, and Weight backs his more "out there" interpretations with enough evidence to at least make the reader question his own views.
I'm not a Mod historian - I don't claim to be an expert on what took place where and when, but then lists aren't really my thing. What this book does, and does well, is engage the reader and remind him of what went down during the birth and growth of British youth culture(in my case the 80s) whilst provoking the mind to question the current importance or otherwise of said culture. I love British ska, I love Trojan, I love modern jazz, and have a couple of Kraftwerk albums. Am I a mod? If Weight's argument is correct, then yes. Do I have the right to define mod in my own image? I don't think so. What is refreshing about Weight's take on this is that he would appear to agree. Like folk fans screaming about the introduction of the electric guitar, those who won't at least engage in discussion are doomed to create walls around the most inclusive cultural phenomena of the twentieth century, and consign the vibrancy, inclusivity and sheer dynamism of mod to a historical cultural elite, thus destroying the very thing they profess to love.
This book is therefore a resounding success. Academics and self styled experts can debate away - good luck to them. This book engaged and stimulated this reader, and got him thinking. I got lost in my past, and thought about the future. That'll do for me.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 2 April 2013
If you want another self-indulgent train-spotter account of British youth culture then don't read this. In keeping with his previous book on British national identity (Patriots), Richard Weight provides a fresh new perspective on arguably the most important influence on post-war British culture. Rather than, as with other books on Mods, concentrating on the fine details (though there are many included), Weight looks up and locates the minutiae in the wide sweep of contemporary history. The resulting panorama will not to be to everyones taste, especially those who feel the need to protect what they see as some quasi-religious movement. But if you want the 'gosh factor' and have never appreciated the way Mod had such a pervasive influence over all our lives since the 1960s then this is the book for you. A must for anyone who wants to understand what's been going on!
on 19 November 2014
Intricately detailed, incredibly dense in terms of information and how the subject relates to social, political, psychological, cultural, economic change, the burgeoning arts and architectural influence yet written in a style that is incredibly engaging and lyrical. This easily could be just another coffee table book, and in a way it is a shame that for a visually commanding subculture there is not more photographic references to the content contained, yet this is a very serious tome crafted through a deep love, respect and appreciation for the subject. Highly, highly recommended.
on 29 March 2015
Used this book for scholastic purposes, but it is great for recreational purposes as well!! A great view of various British youth cultures and relates them back on what was happening in society. Highly recommend for anyone who is interested in history, sociology, or just wants a new read! I have seen Richard speak about the book as well. It is apparent he has done extensive research and is passionate about the topic. As a young adult, it was very interesting and relatable.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 4 September 2013
Have finally got round to finishing 'Mod A Very British Style' Richard Weight and I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you are only interested in Mod as a Sixties revival phenomenon that finished in say 1966/7 and had a brief flourish in 1979 then look for other titles. But and it's a BIG BUT if you believe that modernism is a breathing living culture and lifestyle relevant to today then this tome is a must. This is a intellectual scholarly work produced by a university professor giving Mod it's proper academic and historical context in current British society,from 50s Modern Jazz to Bradley Wiggins being on The Times front cover and the paper declaring Mod Rules, from 60s Italian cut suits to IKEA suites, from Northern Soul to House Music and so on. This book contextualizes how so much of our British society today is culturally modernist by nature or at very least touched by the hand of Mod. A must read for Ace Faces and Third Class tickets a like.