The Jam Were True Mod Leaders

The Jam Were True Mod Leaders

the jam

Although their recorded career only lasted from April 1977 to the tail end of 1982, The Jam have left a legacy that bands with much lengthier careers would be jealous of. The genesis of the group can be traced back to 1972 and of course, Paul Weller is still one of the biggest touring acts in the United Kingdom, but for many people, it was this brief spell that meant the most. It would be fair to say that the group were not always a mod act; in fact, you could say that like all good mods, they encapsulated a lot of different sounds and styles.

Much in the way that The Who can be classified as many different styles; there is something about The Jam that makes them the quintessential mod band. In its truest sense, being a mod was not about a hairstyle or the right clothes, it was about being modern, fresh and of the moment. There is no denying that at every point of The Jam’s career, the band were at the forefront of what was happening in the UK popular music scene.

Crashing into prominence as punk culture was starting to come to the fore, The Jam were the right band at the right time. They were boys playing loud and angry music who had something to say. This was a perfect embodiment of the punk movement even if the Conservative views held by Weller at the time would have been in opposition to the anti-establishment stance held by many of the punk bands.

The music and look spurred the mod revival

The debut album from the group ‘In The City’ sat perfectly beside the breaking punk bands, but it also tipped a nod to The Who’s early singles and the ferocious live shows of many of the original mod acts. With the release of the Quadrophenia movie, there was a powerful mod revival in the late 1970s with many people citing the success of The Jam as a major point of this. The band had the sound, but they also had the look that would influence youngsters around the country to bring the mod look back to the fore. While punk was popular, it was a step too far for many people. Whether people didn’t have the courage to go full on with their outfits or they decided that it never spoke to them properly, the return of the mod style presented a much more palatable fashion and music experience for many youngsters.

When evaluating The Jam and their development, it would be wrong to place all of the focus on Weller. As the principal songwriter, singer and public face of the group, it is inevitable that most people would view him as the focal point of the group. However, the development of skill and style of Rick Buckler on drums and Bruce Foxton on bass underpinned much of the band’s progress. If only the song writing skills of Weller improved while the playing style of the band didn’t move forward, the band would have run the risk of being cast aside like so many also ran’s of the punk era. The fact that The Jam, similar to The Clash, were able to evolve and move away from the genre that collapsed in on itself indicated the talent and vision of the group. The Clash maintained their anti-establishment theme but brought in dub and reggae elements while also becoming “stadium rock” huge in America thanks to their catchy rock tunes that dominated the airwaves.

The Jam went off in a slightly different direction. Weller still had plenty to say about the state of modern Britain, but he did it in a softer and more subtle way. Like so many of the mod genres and movements before him, he looked to America and the soul influence would be a significant factor in the latter years of the band.

No matter when you look at The Jam, there is a strong mod influence at every point. The sound of the group may have changed considerably between 1977 and 1982, but the country around them had changed significantly too. There may have been some fans who wavered along the way but looking at the full catalogue with the benefit of hindsight, the development and progression of The Jam remains one of the most exciting stories in mod culture.

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The Creation Were A Genuine Pop Art Act

the creationWith any musical movement, there will be bands of all different levels and qualities. The top bands are the ones that become synonymous with the genre, but if it is only one or two bands playing this sort of music or mining this sort of sound, is it truly a genre or movement? There is a need for a lot of bands to play this style of music, and in the mod movement, some of the most loved bands were the ones that failed to get much commercial success at the time but who have developed critical success and a cult following over recent years.

Of all the mod bands who were much loved but fell short in going over the top in a commercial sense, The Creation can be listed as one of the very best. The origins of the band can be traced back to 1963 and The Mark Four would become the fledgling group that would soon become The Creation. The act lost a bass player, John Dalton, who made his way to the Kinks but with Tony Cooke replacing him, the group progressed and released singles in 1965 and 1966. In three years, The Mark Four would release non charting singles on Mercury Records, Decca Records and Fontana.

A change of manager in 1966 provided the impetus for the group to progress. Tony Stratton-Smith signed the band up and recommended dropping Cooke and replacing him with Bob Garner, who had previously played with Tony Sheridan. Stratton-Smith also suggested a change of name, with The Creation supposedly coming from a book of Russian poetry. This resulted in The Creation lining up with Kenny Pickett as the singer, Eddie Phillips played lead guitar, Mick Thompson was the rhythm guitarist, Jack Jones played the drums and Garner was on bass.

Live fast and die young was an apt summation of The Creations’ career

The band achieved moderate chart success at this time and was likened to The Who at around the time of the ‘The Who Sell Out’.

The lyrics and spirit of ‘Painter Man’, one of the bands best loved songs and their biggest charting single, fitted perfectly with the ethos and outlook of many in the mod lifestyle. The idea that working hard and getting a degree would provide a fruitful and exciting life was quickly shown to be a lie or a gross exaggeration for many within the mod culture. There was a serious disillusion with the fact that life never lived up to the expectations and possibilities that were promised when growing up.

The lyrics also tapped into the pop art culture that was prevalent at the time, especially in mod circles. The popularity and progression of mod culture dovetailed with the development of the pop art movement and the fact that seemingly every day objects could be the inspiration for the famous art pieces of the day. The lyrics state that classic art has had its day sat remarkably comfortably with those that believe the mod movement was all about the modern, the here and now.

The song also allowed the band to show their true pop art credentials. Singer Pickett would spray paint a canvas during their shows, which was later set alight by a roadie. However, the band would initially move Pickett out of the group and went through a number of changes and semi-reunions in 1967 and 1968. The band actually split up twice during 1968, and this was to be the end until a reformation in the mid-1980s.

The importance and influence of the band was exceedingly brought to the fore when Alan McGee named his independent record label after the group. The band was a towering influence on McGee and on many of the acts who would sign to the label. Ride covered ‘How Does It Feel to Feel?’ by the group on their ‘Carnival of Light’ album.

The Creation may not be the first name you think of when asked to name a mod band, but there is no denying that they remain one of the integral bands of this era. The guitar sounds offered up by the band fitted in perfectly alongside the finest mod movement acts at a time when genres were blending and crossing over. The psychedelic influence was a significant component of some mod acts, and it was this side of their output that The Creation have most been remembered for.

Early Motown And Mod Culture

motown uk tourOne of the best and most interesting things about the development of mod culture is the fact that it drew from so many different interests and sources. There were plenty of different American musical genres to choose from but it was the music being created by the Motown record label that struck a chord with mods and this music was very quickly assimilated into mod culture.

There was a fresh and upbeat nature to this music, providing the perfect music for the dance floor and for mods to live their life by. This was a time to take control of life and this style of music fitted perfectly, even though it was being created by artists and musicians across the Atlantic and from a very different background.

Motown Records was the second record label started by Berry Gordy, in Detroit in 1959. The initial label Tamla Records had achieved chart success and acclaim but it was with the introduction of Motown Records that the world started to take notice of what was going on in Detroit.

The Miracles MotownSome of the initial Motown artists included Eddie Holland, Mable John and Mary Wells. The first major chart success that the label achieved was with ‘Shop Around’. This song was the first ever R&B number 1 for the Miracles and it even reached number two in the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In April 1960, Tamla and Motown merged to become the Motown Record Corporation, bringing the cream of both labels together. Before too long, the label became a massive player in the record industry with songwriters such as Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland and Norman Whitfield becoming as well known and as celebrated as many of the artists on the label.

Mod groups were heavily influenced by Motown acts

One of the biggest factors in the importance of Motown on mod culture was in the influence it had on so many of the major mod groups. Even if the casual mod in Britain was unaware of the records that were coming from Detroit, the music played by the top British mod groups was bringing the influence of Motown directly to them. The fact The Who and The Action both undertook a number of Motown covers was a great indicator of the importance of this sound.

There is also a great story about when Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane of the Small Faces first met each other in a record store. The two quickly bonded over a shared admiration of Motown music, which led to them forming a band. The rest was history as they say with the Small Faces going on to become one of the most important groups of the mod era.

The relationship worked both ways

One of the great things about the link between the early Motown sound and mod culture is that it was not just a one-way relationship. The influence that early Motown records had on popular mod culture is evident but when the original popularity of Motown started to fade, it was mod culture that remained supportive of the label and the acts that were signed to it. As many mods moved onto Northern Soul, the enthusiasm for the label remained. The early Motown records would become a staple part of the Northern Soul sound in the North of England, ensuring that there was always a market for record sales and live performances from groups of this era. Anyone not convinced by the link between mods and Northern soul fans only have to consider the shared love and admiration for early Motown records to see the connection.

Over the years the Motown label has acknowledged mod culture and the importance their label had on the era and the members of this youth culture. When the first mod revival kicked in during the late 1970s, Motown were swift to package a number of compilation albums aimed solely at celebrating their music that left a mark on mod culture. Anyone looking for a quick and easy introduction into the early Motown sound that left such an indelible mark on mod culture would be advised to check out these compilation albums.

When many people think of the Motown label, it is easy to focus on the superstars of the 1960s and 70s. This was one of the biggest and most loved record labels of all time but for many mods, it was that distinctive early Motown sound that was the best era for the label.

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Northern Soul And It’s Relation To The Mod Scene

northern soulWhen trying to define a youth culture or look for a starting point, it can be very difficult. This is down to the fact that there is often a fluid movement from one group to another. While some groups or cultural movements may start in opposition or as a reaction to something, providing a clearer distance between the issues that started the movement, in other cases it can be more difficult. The mod culture is a great example of this with many people citing the modernist jazz culture in London in the late 1950s and early 1960s as being the starting point of mod culture.

Clearly what is regarded as mod culture today is removed from that scene but the initial trends and themes of what would become mod culture can be linked to that era. The same can be said for the trends and cultures that grew from mod culture.

While the fashion and attitude element of mod culture was an overlying link for most members, there was quickly a divergence in the musical trends. The musical landscape in the mid to late 1960s was a very exciting one with many different paths being taken. With even the top mod groups of the time like The Small Faces and The Who taking different paths, it is no surprise to find that many mods went in different directions when the major wave of the mod movement faded away.

Youth culture movements flow from one to another

There are many different youth movements that can be traced back to mod culture and one of the most popular and enduring is the Northern Soul scene. Today, Northern Soul culture is viewed as being as vibrant and as individual as youth cultures like the mod scene or even the punk movement but looking at the emergence of this group, it is easy to see the line of development from the mod movement.

It would be fair to say that the main Northern Soul scene emerged in the late 1960s, most commonly associated with Northern England and that there was a distinct line taken from music that was popular with the mods. The quick tempo and strong bass of many of the Tamla Motown records of this time provided the impetus for Northern Soul dancers, cementing the link between the two groups.

One of the strongest links between mod culture and Northern culture lies in the Twisted Wheel venue in Manchester. Although first used as a beatnik populated coffee bar called the Left Wing, the venue was reinvented as a music venue called The Twisted Wheel in 1963. With all night parties playing American R&B, the venue became known as the place to be for mods in Manchester.

Amphetamine use was common in both groups

As the musical policy changed, the drug use remained the same and again, the link of amphetamine use between mods and Northern Soul culture was apparent too. The known use of substance abuse in the club would eventually saw the club closed down in 1971, but the link between mod culture and Northern Soul was already cemented by this point.

northern soul logoAs the movement gathered speed and popularity, there was a shift away from the popular Motown sound, differentiating from the music that was loved by mods and from a similar scene that was taking place in the south of England. The Northern Soul scene placed a greater emphasis on music that was outside of the mainstream and which originated in the mid-1960s. Even as the Northern Soul clubs in the late 60s and early 70s became more popular, the playlists of the clubs were firmly rooted in this era. This led to many formerly underground hits becoming standard songs of this movement and there was an increasing need to uncover additional underground hits from this period.

This eventually led to a split in the Northern Soul movement with some clubs and many followers deciding to allow more contemporary songs with the same spirit and feels to be included in Northern Soul sets. This was opposed by some that were of the opinion that true Northern Soul music only came from the earlier era. In many ways, this can be compared to the way that many mods feel about the mod revival movements. There are many that appreciate the fact that the scene remains alive and the range of music on offer can be added to, whereas there are some who are only interested in the first offerings of the genre.

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Bask In The Afterglow Of The Small Faces

The name of the group alone should indicate exactly what they were and still rings true today. The line-up was all rather diminutive in size, although certainly not in stature or talent. This accounts for the first half of the name and the second half of the name is simply down to the fact that they were all “faces” on the mod scene.

In interviews that have surfaced from the band members in more recent years, a truism comes to light. It would be correct to say that the Small Faces were mods before the majority of people knew what mods were. They were in the right place at the right time and the group was massively influential in the combining of music, fashion and lifestyle choices in creating what is considered to be mainstream mod culture. There is always an argument that the influence of modernist jazz fans in London in the late 1950s, early 1960s needs to be acknowledged but the Small Faces more than played their part.

The band’s manager Don Arden had an office on Carnaby Street even before the sterling reputation of this street took off. At the time, there were only three main outlets for fashion on the street. Topper’s was the place to shop if you were looking for shoes while Lord John and John Stephens were the choices for the main clothing options. The fact that the John Stephens store was located directly below the offices of Don Arden made it a natural choice.

It was all or nothing with the Small Faces

With stories abound that the group were being paid in clothes as much as they were in cash, the fashion sensibilities of the group are understandable. This was a band wearing the finest of mod gear before it was known about and it is only right that their influence on the emerging mod culture was acknowledged.

It would be wrong to bypass the musical output of the group though. At times dismissed as being a mere pop act (albeit at a time when pop acts were deemed important), the overall importance of the band’s music is much stronger than the one or two tracks that are continuously rolled out on soundtracks and adverts today.

here comes the niceEarly single ‘Here Come The Nice’ was an obvious paean to drugs and the drug culture that was growing at the time. The BBC censors failed to pick up on the not so subtle message of the song but for kids listening up and down the country, it was clear that this was a band that was tuned into what was happening. Mod culture has always been closely linked to stimulants, providing the impetus to party into the small hours and making the most of the free time that was available to people.

Very quickly, the band grew in confidence and their musical output expanded largely. As well as being a mod fashion band, the group were one of the main parties in the mod psychedelic movement that came around in the late 1960s. The band’s masterpiece, Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake stands today has one of the best albums from the psychedelic era, although it possibly pushed the band to their limits. Being unable to replicate the album in the live arena had a huge impact on the confidence of Steve Marriott, who was the most concerned about being bogged down with a pop tag.

It was Marriott who sensationally quit the band on New Year’s Eve in 1968 although singles and a posthumous album were to follow in 1969.

The universal appeal of the group lives on today

The band was also cited as a large and regular influence on the Britpop movement of the mid-90s. No matter what your opinion of this musical movement was, the influence of mod culture was central to many bands of the time and a whole new wave of mods came to the scene from this genre. A lot of the new converts moved away over time but many of the mods who came to the scene at this time are still around today and are as committed to the mod scene and culture as any of their older members of the scene.

The role that the Small Faces had on mod culture and music should never be overlooked or underestimated. In a short few years, the group managed to create a legacy that lives on to this today and is sure to be around for many more years to come.

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There Was A Need For Speed In Mod Culture

mod culture and amphetamines
While there were many ideals and over-riding philosophies that are associated with mod culture, one of the most pervading ones is the focus on clean living. In comparison to other youth groups of the time, mods were neatly turned out and put a lot of thought and attention into their clothing and fashion sense. This was one element of their clean living policy but it also extended into other areas of mod life.

There was less of a focus on alcohol and getting drunk in mod culture than there was with the rockers or in the local youth community focus. This is not to say that mods didn’t drink alcohol, of course they did but as a collective group there was not the same focus and need to get intoxicated in this fashion. It was interesting to note that one of the most frequently visited social hang-outs for the mod generation was the coffee shop.

Some would argue that this was because there was an opportunity to socialise in large numbers while listening to the music of the day but it would also be fair to say that the later opening hours of these coffee shops was a great attraction too.

Coffee shops provided the perfect setting for mod culture

Drinking soft drinks and coffee was par for the course in these venues and it wasn’t as if having no alcohol was causing mods to miss out on any fun. Given the opportunity to relax in a comfortable environment with their peers while listening to good music and for longer hours, the absence of alcohol from these venues was a minor issue with the positives far outweighing any negatives that may have arisen from using these venues.

It should be remembered that amphetamines were not illegal at this time in the United Kingdom, which fitted in perfectly with the ideal of clean living. It may be hard to look back at a different time while the current laws and regulations regarding drug use are in your mind but when the early mods were taking amphetamines, they were not doing anything illegal.

There was the opinion that amphetamine brought about alertness and stimulus to awake for longer, which was a different impact compared to the other drugs on the market at the time. Even alcohol, while perfectly legal for those over the age of 18, brought about a state of intoxication, which was not apparent in the use of amphetamine.

Amphetamines allowed mods to have more fun

Mods wanted to make the most of the weekend and time away from work so the use of amphetamines allowed them to maximise the amount of time they had available to socialise with others. Time spent sleeping could be better spent in the company of friends, or dancing into the small hours so the use of amphetamines allowed mods to stay awake and alert for a lot longer.

Given that mods travelled home from these late night coffee shops and clubs on their scooters, being awake and alert was a great bonus for the mods. While drink-driving was not viewed in the same manner as it is today, it certainly posed more danger and difficulties when driving in comparison to driving while on amphetamines.

Like many of the fashion choices or even the use of a scooter, the benefits of amphetamine use dovetailed perfectly with the lifestyle and culture of the mod movement.

Most youth movements, and certainly those movements that were closely associated with a musical genre, could be closely connected to a drug of choice. While the swinging 60s were partly fuelled by the emergence of mod culture and the fashion styles, many people consider the hippie movement to be as much a part of this period as the mod movement. The hippie and free-love movement was one which was heavily dependent on drugs, whether it was cannabis or LSD, or both! With The Beatles and other top musical acts of the time making it very clear that they were using these drugs, there can be no surprise in the links that were being forged between movements and drug use.

Even in the decades since then, music and youth movements have gone hand in hand with illegal substances and drugs. Punk saw a rise in all manner of drug use, including solvent abuse while the emergence of dance culture has been consistent with the rise of drug use like ecstasy.

There is no doubting that the impact that amphetamines had on mod culture was as significant as fishtail parka coats, fine clothing and the drudgery of the working week.

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The Italian Influence Of The Mod Scooter Movement

While the overtone of Britishness is written large throughout the story of mod culture, it would be wrong to describe the movement as being one that was solely interested in Britain. Many of the best most loved musical genres of the mod movement originated from outside Britain, whether it was American soul or the Jamaican ska tunes that sound tracked the era. It would also be fair to say that there was a strong Italian influence on the first mod movement and this should always be celebrated when examining the importance of mod culture over the years.

Lambretta Jean ShrimptonWhen it comes to Italian culture impacting on the modernist movement, many people will instinctively think of the fashion element. Fine suits with a well-cut finish or high quality shoes brought a touch of Italian flair and style to the movement but for a lot of mods, the most important Italian element came in how they got around town. When you think of scooter brands, it is likely that you will think of Lambretta or Vespa, both of which originated in Italy.

In many ways, the role of Italy in the war, the end of the war and then the imposing limitations placed on Italy, especially with respect to creating aircrafts, had a huge impact on the scooter industry and in turn, mod culture.

Economic factors influenced the need for scooters

The Piaggio company was one of the many firms that suffered through this and their Pontedera fighter plane plant was not only limited by the impositions placed upon them, the plant was also demolished in a bombing raid. The state of the Italian economy was in a very bad way, as were the roads, and there was no money to repair them to a good level. The decision was made by Enrico Piaggio, the founder of the company’s son, to exit from the aeronautical industry and set about providing affordable transport for the Italian people. This led to the creation of the Vespa company in 1946.

Vintage Vespa PosterThe Vespa company, was the first to be founded although it was a close run thing. There was a very similar story for the Lambretta company, who were also looking to rebuild their business after the ravages of war. In an ironic twist, the future and success of the Vespa and Lambretta companies had a lot to do with the influence of the American military in Italy. The style and impetus for these companies came from the Cushman scooters which arrived in Italy in huge numbers to provide field transport for the Marines and Paratroops that were in the country. Even with the German’s having a tactic of blowing up bridges and destroying roads in the Dolomite region of the Alps and the borders of Austria, these scooters provided an effective and efficient way of getting around the region.

Design features would be great for mods

Although not constructed with the mod in mind, some of the design features of these scooters would provide exactly what the culture was looking for. The Lambretta and Vespa scooters both had front shield areas which provided an added level of protection to ensure that the rider kept their clothes clean and dry at the front. In comparison to the motorbike, this would be a tremendous element for the fashion conscious. There was also the thought that the design of the scooter was far more suitable for women, again especially in comparison with motorbikes, which would be a boon in mod culture. Without wishing to delve into a major topic too lightly, many were of the opinion that the mod culture placed women on a more equal basis with the men, especially in comparison to the rocker youth movement and the choice of scooters as the main form of transport was of benefit to both genders.

While these scooters found success in Europe, there is no doubt that the success in the UK outstripped the rest of the continent. The mod culture came about at the right time and the scooter came along at the right time to be the perfect vehicle for this youth movement. The affordability of these vehicles were perfect for a youth movement who were looking for an affordable traffic solution but the sleek and stylish design also fitted in superbly with the mod outlook with regards to fashion.

The peak of popularity of mod culture can probably be indicated by the fact that in the mid-1960s, the biggest market in the world for Vespa’s was in the United Kingdom. Even to this day, the UK market is the second biggest market in the world for Vespa and that shows no sign of changing.

British Rhythm And Blues And The Path To Mod Culture

Small facesNowadays, rhythm and blues, or R&B, represents what can be best described as fairly bland and insipid US pop music but this wasn’t always the case. There may be an element of thinking that everything was better in the old days but of course, this is not the case and it is certainly not something that a mod would readily agree with. However, when it comes to R&B, the music that came through in the late 1950s and early 1960s was a world apart from the music that bears the genre today and its role on mod culture is undeniable.

While the music of the ground-breaking blues artists of the 1950s would play a part in inspiring and influencing many of the great 1960s mod musicians, there were other musical genres at play too. The influence of jazz, folk and even skiffle music all played a part in developing the mod culture and music that drove it in the 1950s and 60s.

Jazz was at the heart of the development of mod culture

Given that the term mod is seen to derive from the modernist jazz scene and culture, there shouldn’t be too much of a surprise at jazz having an influence on the music of the movement. One of the key players in this genre was Chris Barber, a traditional jazz band leader. Amongst his many achievements was helping to set up the Marquee Club, a hugely important venue for the major British R&B bands. Barber was also a keen promoter and worked hard to get some of the biggest US performers to the UK including names like Josh White, Muddy Waters, Sonny Terry and Memphis Slim.

The influence of skiffle music should never be underestimated, even taking into consideration how quaint and simple it looks in modern times. There was an explosion of interest in being in a band and making music, which really came to the fore when the youth of the 1950s realised how simple it was to form a band and make music. Estimations at the time indicated that in the UK in the late 1950s, there were up to 50,000 skiffle bands up and down the country. Like many of his peers, Roger Daltrey first started making music in a skiffle band and the genre dovetailed well with the burgeoning folk movement.

Blues and folk music went hand in hand

It should be remembered that the blues was commonly viewed as being folk music in the UK, even though both musical genres are considered as being completely different by modern listeners. Artists such as Leadbelly were initially classified as being folk artists in Britain, even though many of his songs would find their way into the set lists, singles and albums of British R&B acts like The Animals, Manfred Mann and even The Four Pennies.

All of these different musical genres were crossing over and inspiring the up and coming musicians with a new way to play. It is easy to see the influence of R&B on acts such as The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Kinks and The Animals, with each being big components of the British R&B scene. How their musical path would take one direction, whilst other acts such as The Who, who would become the cornerstone of mod culture, would take another.

The initial peak of British mod culture, which came in the mid-1960s was certainly based upon rhythm and blues, although the influence of soul music was notable too. The most notable bands of this genre would include The Who, The Small Faces, The Creation, The Smoke, John’s Children and The Action.

If there was any doubt about the rhythm and blues nature of the music, The Who tried to ram the point home with their “maximum rhythm and blues” tagline but very quickly, the group started to diversify. By late 1966, The Who were no longer just making the music that made mod culture dance, it was referencing it and driving it forward in their music. All good musical movements need a starting point to kick off from and the influence of rhythm and blues on these groups was evident.

Of course, these bands and the music of the time would later go on to influence many other musical cultures and in turn, youth movements too. The diversification as well as the desire to look for new things would see what was known as mod culture and music dissipate into different genres and styles. This led to other exciting styles of music being created but the unifying mod culture was lost for many while others followed new styles.

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