For the last four years I have presented a podcast called The Modcast. We’ve interviewed internationally famous writers, sportsmen, actors and musicians about their relationship with mod, the most enduring of youth cults. They all have different experiences which dragged them in – be it Britpop, the late 70s mod revival or an appreciation of sharp-dressed jazzers. At the heart of it is a love of the original 1960s mods, whose main focus was smart clothes and music, an alluring blend, with each equally important.
For those who have dedicated their lives to mod, it long ago became important for it to be more than just a re-enactment of what had gone before. Fortunately there was lots of room for new developments, especially in music. 1960s mods had the idea right; American soul and R&B records released on UK labels such as Atlantic, London American, Sue or Tamla Motown were at the forefront of the game. But brilliant records were being made all over the USA, and British labels could only release a handful of them. As some of the best were little-known even in the USA, it isn’t surprising many were overlooked. To add to the problem, the UK industry strongly discouraged imports.
Since then, many Northern Soul enthusiast have made trips to the USA to exhume obscure soul records that would surely have filled the dancefloors of the Twisted Wheel or the Scene club, if only copies had been around at the time. We at Ace have done our bit too, searching out and releasing some stunning rarities as well as previously unreleased masters from tape vaults. Ady Croasdell and I have also spent two decades putting together the “Mod Jazz” series, where we spirited up a mythical Soho basement and filled it with organ grooves, jazz instrumentals and steamy Latin rhythms.
“Modernists” is the soul version of “Mod Jazz”, comprising records we feel could have been massive in mod clubs in the 1960s and could fill dancefloors today. I hope you will be impressed by the high quality throughout, from Jeb Stuart’s boogaloo opener to Paul & Rick’s perfect ender. Timmy Wilson’s ‘Long Ways To Go’ would surely have been an R&B club smash had his record label not gone bust, while Mel Williams’ ‘Jet Set’ fulfils all the musical and lyrical requisites of a mod classic. It’s difficult to choose highlights, but as I’ve been championing it in clubs for a couple of years, I’m going to mention Little Eva’s ‘Dynamite’, an answer to James Brown’s ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag’, which is amazing.