It’s funny, you know, because I never considered The Long Ryders‘ classic 45, ‘Looking For Lewis And Clark‘ – one of my favourite tunes of all time, no less – as anything remotely close to a ‘Mod Revival’ record, but in its place here, as the opening track on disc three (of four), it actually makes perfect sense. A shouty, singalong chorus and a vibrant, energetic feel that really embodied the spirit of that scene completely.
But let’s skip back to disc one for the time being, and revel in the delights that Eddie Piller, DJ, Acid Jazz Records founder and Mod oracle extraordinaire, has put together for our delectation. It’s a handsome set indeed, one that stands legendary acts such as The Jam (who, naturally, start the compilation off in style, albeit with a comparatively lesser known track from their debut album) next to the uncelebrated, the unknown and the unlucky parties who were every bit as good as their contemporaries but simply not in the right place at the right time.
There were plenty of Weller wannabes around in the late seventies and early eighties, of course, but Piller seems to have separated the precious from the beat surrenderers for the purpose of this compilation, and hence you get gems like the self titled debut single from Dagenham’s Untamed Youth. It has Weller stamped all over it, but they carry it off so well that it’s a great record in its own right. Ditto The Chords, although that’s probably more apparent on their sole ‘hit’ record ‘Maybe Tomorrow‘ than the track that features here, ‘The British Way Of Life‘. But it’s still there.
So how do you define ‘Mod’ exactly? Google it and you’ll find a host of definitions that focus mostly on smart designer fashions, which, although undeniably part of it, misses the point somewhat. There’s definitely a specific sound you can associate with the movement, one that bristles with vitality and, not unlike punk, often sticks two fingers up at the establishment, although instead of ranting and foaming at the mouth, these songs are mostly about making positive changes, getting away from the daily treadmill and, above all, finding a release from that society through dancing. Which is why you end up with bands like Secret Affair (‘Let Your Heart Dance‘) and Dexys Midnight Runners (‘Dance Stance‘) amongst more obscure acts like The Name, with the joyful ‘Fuck Art Let’s Dance‘, on disc two.
Of course, there are plentiful nods to the sixties, specifically The Small Faces and The Who, naturally, on Squire‘s ‘Does Stephanie Know?‘ and The Lambrettas‘ ‘Go Steady‘ respectively, amongst others. Then there’s a nice little subtle joke on disc three when you have the entertaining Madness-meets-The-Beatles like ‘I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape‘ followed immediately by Steve Lamacq favourites The Prisoners with the splendidly rough around the edges ‘The More That I Teach You‘. As is often the case with these box sets though, some of the best moments are thrown up by what were ultimately commercial flops, and it’s astonishing to think that The Gents‘ rousing ‘The Faker‘, for instance, languished unceremoniously in the shadow of the elite while the public lapped up Joe Dolce‘s ‘Shaddap You Face‘ instead. I’ve posted one of my favourite lesser known tunes from it, ‘Blood Spattered With Guitars‘ by The Accidents, at the bottom of this review.
Each disc here contains at least one track that initially flummoxes you with why it was included on a Mod collection and on disc four, that comes in the shape of Inspiral Carpets with ‘Saturn 5‘, but again, given time to reflect upon the make-up of the record, again it fits the narrative. There’s a whole lot of Hammond organ on this final disc, from The James Taylor Quartet‘s ‘One Way Street‘ through The Clique‘s ‘Wormin‘, eventually reaching the clearly Towshend inspired ‘Caught In A Storm‘ by The Elements.
It’s a tremendous set and I’ve only just scratched the surface, but Eddie Piller deserves huge plaudits for pulling it all together, also having penned some fascinating sleeve notes too, and culled images from scrapbooks, which all helps to make this an essential purchase in anybody’s record collection.