Interview: Peter Hughes Jachimiak – one of the people behind the upcoming Mods box set
On the 8th Dec Cherry Red will be releasing Millions Like Us – The Story Of The Mod Revival which is billed as “the first-ever box set to properly document the Mod Revival scene of the late Seventies and Eighties.”
The accompanying notes say:
“Across 100 tracks by all the key bands, the story of the Mod Revival is told, from its roots in Punk/New Wave through to its commercial heyday in 1979 with bands like Secret Affair and The Lambrettas and its resurrection in 1985 with The Untouchables and Makin’ Time.”
Louder Than War’s Michael Hicks has been talking to one of the contributors to the sleeve notes about the release, Peter Hughes Jachimiak, about Mod culture and the box set itself.
The first time I became aware of the word Mod was probably the film Quadrophenia and reading interviews with Paul Weller. Weller’s Stanley Road was a huge record when I was in school – and like every album you constantly listen to – you want to know more about the person who made it. The Who and The Small Faces were later consumed and the clothing and literature followed. At the time of Britpop, all these influences were there, albeit in a more casual update, but there had already been a revival of this movement. A movement, which included bands that were never, or seldom, mentioned by the new breed of British music makers.
The original Mod movement has been well documented in literature, film and compiled music – but not the Mod Revival scene of the late Seventies and Eighties. It maybe because the Mod ethic became a mod uniform and that anti-conformists started to sound and look the same. But we now have a reappraisal.
The box set MILLIONS LIKE US, across 100 tracks, tells the story. Starting from its beginnings in Punk and New Wave through to its commercial heyday in 1979 – with bands like Secret Affair and The Lambrettas and then onto its resurrection in 1985 with The Untouchables and Makin’ Time. Another draw to the set is that many of the songs are making their first appearance on CD. The Upset’s Only For Sheep, for example, is previously unissued and sits beside several Top 40 UK hit singles by Secret Affair, The Chords, The Lambrettas, The Untouchables and The Truth.
As with many box sets, Millions Like Us features extensive detailed writing, lengthy sleeve-notes and numerous rare photos within a substantial booklet documenting the movement. Peter Hughes Jachimiak, senior lecturer in Media & Cultural Studies at the Faculty of Creative Industries, University of South Wales, is one of the contributors:
LTW: How did you get involved in contributing to the box set?
PHJ: Well, I was aware of the box set, “Millions Like Us – The Story of the Mod Revival, 1977-1989”, a few years ago, when John Reed approached the Mod scene via a number of online Mod forums, asking people to suggest tracks for possible inclusion. And, of course, John Reed was already well known to the scene as a result of his in-depth knowledge of Mod (his Paul Weller biography, “My Ever Changing Moods”, sleeve notes for previous Mod CD collections, and so on). Then, a few months ago, I spotted the Facebook page dedicated solely to the box set, and – on the off-chance – dropped the page a message asking if any ‘fans’ of the bands were contributing to any form of sleeve notes. There wasn’t (due to budgetary restrictions), so I offered my services – in part, as a form of academic ‘public engagement’ – and, straight-away, I found myself working alongside the legend that is John Reed! For, being familiar with John’s writing for years, it is a true honour to have worked with him on the 48-page booklet that accompanies the 4-CD box set. And, even if I say so myself, both the CDs and the booklet are the ‘last word’ on the Mod Revival, as, really, once this comes out in time for the Christmas market, there’s little chance that such a comprehensive Mod Revival package as “Millions…” will be released in the very near future.
What are your favourite songs on the set?
Whilst there are 100+ tracks over 4 CDs, showcasing Mod Revival bands from all over the world and across a 12-year time-frame, it’s pretty easy for me to pick my personal favourites. From the ’79 era bands: Secret Affair’s ‘Time For Action’ and ‘My World’ for their sheer class; The Chords’ ‘Now It’s Gone’ and ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ for their pure Punk power; the Purple Hearts’ ‘Million Like Us’ and ‘Plane Crash’ for being musical Pop Art for the masses. Also, with regards the mid-80s groups: Makin’ Time’s ‘Here Is My Number’; The Risk’s ‘Jobs For The Boys’; The Moment’s ‘In This Town’ – all classics in their own right, from groups that should have made it big.
Looking back on the scene – have your opinions changed of it?
In a word, ‘Yes’. When I began to identify myself as a Mod, oh, early 1981, the music of the original Mod movement – The Kinks, The Small Faces, and The Who – sounded so vital to me. Likewise, the Revival music of The Chords, The Purple Hearts, and Secret Affair also spoke to me – transcending Mod, they, to me, captured the mood of a post-Punk Britain. However, come the split of The Jam in ’82, I got into the more soulful sound of The Style Council, and I began listening to Modern Jazz, and then Acid Jazz, and so on. So, towards the end of the 1980s, the harsh Revival music suddenly started to sound very, very dated to me. And, to be honest, I didn’t listen to it again until the mid-1990s when a lot of it began to be reissued on CD. Indeed, it was when I stumbled across the ‘best of’ CDs by Secret Affair, “Time For Action”, in HMV, and The Moment, “Mod Gods”, in Virgin, that I began to listen to this music again with fresh ears. And, to be honest, it all blew me away instantly. For, I realised then, without any reservations or any doubts, that the Mod movement of the late 1970s and 1980s had produced some excellent music – music that had, thankfully, aged extremely well. Furthermore, I am now convinced that the Mod Revival resulted in some of the best music that this country has ever produced. OK, some of the bands involved were a bit light-weight, and musically lacking, but a lot of it was not only played with pure passion, but was of the highest quality with regards musicianship and production values.
Did you come to the scene as a fan of the original Mod movement or were these new bands an introduction – and you backtracked?
As a young teenager, say, 13, 14 or so, I could not connect with the depressed nature of society at the time (unemployment, graffiti, the rise of the NF, etc.). So, I began to pine after the (some would say mythical) Britain of the mid-1960s. Indeed, this all came about as a result of wider cultural trends – watching early Bond and Carry On films, and the like, as a kid. No, really! As the Wilson-era Britain in those films seemed, to the teenage me, an absolute world away from the Thatcher-era Britain that I found myself growing up in. Thus, when I started listening to the Mod music from the mid-1960s (again, around mid-1981), it also seemed to capture that ‘lost Britain’ which, yes, I was pining for. Furthermore, it was then the 60s-inspired, clean-cut look of the Revival bands, and their ‘Punk with a smile’ sound, and ‘strength in unity’ lyrics, which seemed to offer me – and, dare I say it, my generation – a hope of a return to a brighter Britain. All right, nostalgia, and rose-tinted spectacles have a lot to answer for, but being young in Thatcher’s Britain was no joke, and if ‘looking back’ was a way forward, then so be it I thought at the time.
What reaction did the Mod Revival movement get in the music press at the time?
Initially, around 1978 into 1979, it was generally positive. Thanks, mainly, to the movement’s championing by Garry Bushell in the music weekly “Sounds”. He, quite rightly, saw it as a proper ‘from the streets’ thing, and as a natural progression from Punk. However, come 1980 – and despite The Jam being chart-toppers with ‘Going Underground’ – the music press turned on the Mod Revival with a venom and, at every given opportunity, attempted to assassinate systematically both the bands and those that followed them. Thus, by early 1983 (that is, after The Jam had split in late 1982), Mod was a dirty word that the music journalists – when they felt that they had to mention it – virtually spat out. However, then the music industry changed tact completely. Deciding, for whatever reason, to no longer dirty Mod, they simply ignored its existence. That was it. Despite the fact that there was a healthy (albeit, by the mid-1980s, underground) scene, all those great bands such as Makin’ Time, The Risk, The Moment, and countless others, were all criminally ignored. Indeed, it took until the early 1990s – until Blur’s “Parklife” LP – for Mod to be, eventually, championed by the music industry once more. Nowadays, Mod is seen as something integral to the very fabric of the nation – just look at the scooter ride-out for the Olympics for heaven’s sake!
Do you think of The Jam as a Mod Revival band or did they transcend it?
Both. Of course they were a Mod Revival band. Despite Weller, at the time, denying he was any form of ‘revivalist’, and having nothing but contempt for Secret Affair’s frontman, Ian Page, he and the rest of the band not only dressed like Mods, but actually championed many of the bands involved in the Revival (such as The Chords, The Jolt, and the Purple Hearts). After all, when Weller decided to split The Jam and form The Style Council he recruited, on keyboards, Mick Talbot of the Merton Parkas. But, yes, The Jam were also above and beyond the narrow constraints of the Mod Revival. Whilst many of the bands involved in the Revival were, let’s face it, bandwagon jumpers, not only did The Jam release great music that was pure social commentary and politically potent, but Weller – with The Jam, The Style Council, and his solo career – has stuck with Mod all the way through. In fact, and let’s be honest here, he’s been solely responsible for redefining the concept of Mod, again and again, for successive generations of Modernists. Mod, for Weller, has always been about being modern, and constantly moving forward. As John reed once said, “Paul Weller is the John Lennon of the Grange Hill generation”. That’s pretty spot on for me. For, many of Weller’s songs are tantamount to being alternative national anthems for many of us who are now half-a-century old.
All words by Michael Patrick Hicks. More from Michael can be found at his Author’s Archive.