What is a Mod? It’s one of life’s existential questions. Whilst the definition can be technically derived from the subculture of ‘modernism’, the true meaning is far more complex and multi-faceted. How far removed are the values of a Mod sixty years on from those who spurned the movement? If Paul Weller can be crowned the Modfather, then surely Quadrophenia director Franc Roddam is next to Modliness. (Thanks, that’s why I get paid the big bucks).
In a recent interview with our man in the field, Pete Brooker, Franc Roddam unfurled his thoughts on the film that crystallized an entire subculture.
So what did a Mod mean back then?
In the early days we made up all sort of things, like it stands for Mode Of Dress, I liked that. In a way there was other elements, it was the emancipation of working class kids. In ‘64 up until that time you went to the same shop as your dad, Burtons etc. You’d get a replica of your dad’s suit. Suddenly other places and tailors opened up for young kids and youth was liberated, you didn’t have to share a radio. People had their own thing going.
We had the pill. Suddenly it was the pill, there was birth control. We had sexual liberation so we started going out with girls. Suddenly the girls and boys were mixing. The scooter was perfect she didn’t have to get all dirty with the engine of the scooter it was girl friendly. The pill was significant. My sexual expansion started with the pill - we were between the pill and aids.
And what about the clothes?
Those days you had to shrink the Levi’s. When I was hitchhiking around Greece sleeping on a beach, I met a girl and she was in the water shrinking her jeans she asked me to do her zip up. Hand-made Spanish leather boots and shrunken Levi’s were it.
Do you have your own tailor?
I have a tailor John Pearse in Soho, he makes suits for Jagger, Nicholson, all sorts. Little place in Meard Street. I do get my suits made, if I see a cool shirt, a summer black, I go and buy seven of them. I think there’s modernism in every one of us. A producer I knew, Don Simpson, worked along the Tony Scott movies, he made a lot of money, spent it on drugs. Well I remember he bought 100 pairs of black jeans.
Do you ever wash your jeans?
When you first bought Levi’s they were very blue, what looked great was if they were faded and worn around the knee, it meant you had got around. We were after a pair of Levi’s worn in with the handmade Spanish boots. When they started selling faded jeans that was the end of it.
How much did you know of the Mod Subculture?
I knew a great deal about this I was 18 in 1964 I considered myself a beatnik from a northern town. I went off to London Istanbul, I came back one summer ‘65 or so. The whole town had changed. All the guys that were teddy boys they all became mods so had the girls. I was best man at three mod weddings. I knew the scene very well. One of the things that came in the script came from experience; busting into parties breaking up houses looking for drugs, breaking into the pharmacy scene -that had been committed by friends of mine.
What happened to the Mods, did they just blow themselves out?
I remember Quentin Crisp saying to me, ‘fashions come and go but style remains forever.’ Mods just passed through we’ve been through skinheads, punks rockers, but modernism has graduated from a fashion to a style.
Have you noticed if you got to SoHo house the maître d's have started wearing small trousers that tailored suits, quite tight, quite short, low hip pants, small lapels. It’s almost Mod. People have a touch of mod tailoring about them now.
Did the Rockers take Drugs?
Nah drink and engine oil. The feminization of the male, the Mods were the first metrosexual. I came from a tough fighting town. Now guys were wearing eyeliner. Short hair, smart clothes, really smooth. It caught on very quickly. Mods in my town really cared about their appearance. You paid attention to how you looked they were dandy’s. So the rockers, it was a different thing, they were dinosaurs to us.
Rockers are different now, in the states you have hells angels on amphetamines. It’s different but we didn’t think they were cool, they were retro.
How much of a gamble was it for the producers allowing you to direct this film?
It was an amazing gamble, I made a drama called Dummy and it won a prize and everybody loved this film and when the producers of Quad were looking for a director they went to Alan Parker and he sent them to me. ‘The guy that made Dummy'. They were very trusting, gave me free range to write the script and direct and co-produce I was very fortunate.
To listen to the interview in its entirety head over to the podcast now.
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