The Gateway Drug

I can still remember it clearly to this day. There I was, with my dad, in his car – it was the late 1970s so inevitably we were in a Cortina. We were on our way to Wolverhampton and somehow I had managed to persuade him to put Radio 1 on. His default station was Radio 2 and back in 1979 that was a long, long way from the station we know today.

We were nearing our destination when Secret Affair’s ‘Time For Action’ blasted out of the speakers. I was immediately hooked and remember going to school and talking about it with my mates. I bought the single, a lot of my friends did too. We loved the sound of this new band and for me that one song opened the door to a wider world, igniting an interest that persists to this day.

The Mod movement was a national, cultural force in 1979, helped immensely by the release of Quadrophenia at the cinema. The charts were full of Mod, 2-tone and Ska records and a group of us at school showed our allegiance to the scene with parkas, buttoned down shirts, narrow ties, desert boots and a pile of button badges.

We followed the revival bands and began to explore the legacy Mod bands from the past. Many took the Jam as their favourite band, but for me it was always The Who, though I confess that my favourite tracks from that band come from much later in their career. Specifically from the period when they had waved goodbye to Mod and embraced stadium rock; when Pete’s suit moved from mohair to boiler.

But I digress……I look back and see that Secret Affair and specifically ‘Time For Action’ was my gateway drug to getting involved in all things Mod. I was young, impressionable and eager to find a voice; I felt this movement was speaking to me and was for me.

Punk had grabbed everyone’s attention a few years earlier, but while that created big headlines, it was always going to struggle for traction where I lived. London was the home of punk, not rural Shropshire. And personally I was always going to be more attracted to the smart look of the moernists.

In a few years Mod had waned as a national force but for some of us the flame ignited in ’79 would continue to burn. Now, 38 years later, we still listen to the music, love the clothes and respect the style that so captivated us nearly four decades ago.


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