One 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.
Some 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.
A source of information for this article is from The Mod Generation Check them out for many great articles related to the mod scene.