The Online Mod/ern/ist Archive

archive of original modernist recollections and information .
we are glad to hear from anyone with memories of the time, but we do not rewrite history .

24 Oct 2007

It's the Blue-Beat Craze !

A look at the latest craze to take the record industry by storm.


Norman Jopling – Record Mirror February 15, 1964

The record industry thrives on new crazes and sounds. And at the moment three record companies are thriving on the Blue Beat craze which is just being taken up by the industry in general as a potential money spinner for all concerned

Just for the record, and for those who probably haven’t heard it yet, just what is blue beat?

Well, it’s a strictly Jamaican sound with a pulsating on-beat played on stop chords throbbing mercilessly through the disc. Most of the songs are down-to-earth items that don’t usually deal with love, and the tunes are strictly secondary to the beat.

The craze has been “in” with the Mods since last summer because of the marvellous dance beat and of course has been bought by the West Indians in Britain for many years now.

But it was only when the larger record companies heard of fantastic sales for such blue beat discs as “Madness”, “Carolina” and “Blazing Fire” that they realised it could mean something.


Anyway, let’s take a look at the small blue beat companies – after all on of the attractions the music had to the Mods was that the music was exclusive to the smaller and virtually unknown labels.

Firstly there’s the Blue Beat label itself. Owned by Melodisc records run by Siggy Jackson this label was formed some two years back. It boasts many of the biggest blue beat artistes including Prince Buster, Derrick Morgan and The Folks Brothers.

“The blue beat rhythm itself was started by Prince Buster” says Siggy. “He had been singing in Kingston for a while, then he invented this new rhythm. His success since has been phenomenal. He has packed halls in Brixton and his “Madness” has sold over 120.000 copies. That’s our best seller that’s top of our own little chart. Other good discs for us are “Carolina” by the Folks Brothers and our new one “Tom Hark Goes Blue Beat”.

Although Buster invented the blue beat rhythm, I invented the name for our label.”

The other two blue beat companies don’t agree about the origins of blue beat. Both Island and R & B say that the rhythm has always been predominant in Jamaican music.

Island records is run by Chris Blackwell, an enterprising young white Jamaican who was fascinated by blue beat and started his own company here well over a year ago. His best seller is “Blazing Fire”, while another good one is “Housewives Choice”. Most of his numbers are recorded in Jamaica, unlike Melodisc who record here. But recently Island have been recording some of their best artistes here including one Millie, who had a disc recently issued by Fontana.

“So far all of our discs have sold well and we haven’t had one flop” Chris told me. “My aim is to see a blue beat disc in the charts – even if it was only at n° 50.”

Chris also owns two more labels. One is Sue, the great US R&B label which Chris bought when he was last in the States. Some of America’s best unissued R&B discs can now be obtained through this label. The other is Black Swan, more of a Calypso type label.

The other record company is R & B, the smallest of the three. Like Island they are selling very well still to the Jamaicans, while Melodisc are selling more to the Mods. Run by Ben Isen who also runs the R & B record shop in Stamford Hill, sales have been going up considerably. One of their top discs is “Orange Street”, an organ instrumental by Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames.

There are smaller companies, the ones who pioneered blue beat. How about the larger ones?

First of all, Decca has put out a disc called “The Blue Beat” by the Beazers. All of the small companies unanimously say “This isn’t blue beat, and if people think it is – it will do us harm”. The record itself is sung by Chris Farlow and backed by Cyril Stapleton. And no one anywhere seems to think it is blue beat. Decca are also reported to be leasing some tracks from Melodisc for release and next week will be recording some genuine blue beat groups to be put out on Decca.


EMI are issuing two discs in February by Ezz Reco and the Launchers with Boysie Grant and Beverley as vocalists. This is a genuine blue beat group and if the discs are fairly successful EMI will be issuing more. But it is certainly an unprecedented step for a big record company to issue two discs by the same artiste within two weeks!

And so far no word from any other companies. So it looks as if the Blue Beat craze is destined to catch on in a big way with the two biggest record companies giving it top priority.

But once it starts breaking big nationally it looks as if the mods are going to have to find something more exclusive.

Keep your eyes open record companies…

Manchester - Roger Eagle 1985 Interview

Further to the interview conducted by The New Breed which was posted last month, we found this short interview done in 1985 that was published by a small Manchester fanzine “The Cat”.

Very interesting as well.

Spotlight on a DJ : Roger Eagle

Back in ’64 in Manchester, the clued-in dudes would be seen every Saturday sweating the night away at the Twisted Wheel club to the latest American black music supplied by their favourite DJ – Roger Eagle.

Over twenty years on, the Twisted Wheel is no more but Mr. Eagle is back in Manchester spinning R&B every Thursday night (9-12) at his club “The International”.

In this short interview Roger Eagle tries to help us revive those Twisted Wheel days …

How did you come to be DJ-ing at the Twisted Wheel ?

I walked in there one afternoon when it was the “Left Wing Coffee Bar” with a pile of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley imports on Chess and Checker and this guy asked me if I knew anything about Rhythm’n’Blues.

Naturally I said yes, so he asked me if I wanted to dj.
I’d never DJ-ed before but I thought I’d take a shot at it and that’s how it started.

How did you cope DJ-ing for the first time ?

I didn’t really know what to do, I just put records on and I never used to say much. But the people who used to come down were really fanatical about sounds so if it was a good record they would know what it was within seconds, it was that kind of crowd.

Was you involved with the mod scene at that time ?

I suppose I was the dj the mods would listen to if they were going to clubs because the Wheel was the allnighter scene in Manchester. I wasn’t a mod myself but I thought it was fascinating that English kids were getting into American black music.

We started bringing the artists over and it was amazing to see people such as Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Redding, Rufus Thomas, Muddy Waters etc… getting the same sort of reception that normally only big pop stars got.

The only thing I don’t like about the mod scene is that some people are very narrow in their tastes, we were very broadly based when we started at the Wheel. It gradually narrowed down to Northern Soul which I think was a mistake.

Did you have live bands at the Wheel ?

Yeah, we used to get American artists over to play, people such as Chuck Berry, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, T-Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker.

Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf didn’t play but they did some live stuff for the local TV station.

We had loads of them down there all the time, Jimmy Reed used to sell out the place.

When Sonny Boy Williamson came over he freaked over English girls wearing mini skirts. He was wandering around looking up all the girls saying ‘Heaven Hath Come Down’.

He was probably the greatest harmonica player of them all, maybe even better than Little Walter, which is saying a lot.

How did you know Guy Stevens ?

We knew each other, we knew what we were doing, he used to send up records.

He came up once with Inez and Charlie Foxx. He gave me a Don & Dewey single ‘Stretchin’ Out’ and he mailed me an album by Frank Frost & the Nighthawks which was out on Sam Phillips ‘Phillips International”.

I used to go to the Scene club in Ham Yard before it was the Scene but I moved up to Manchester when the R&B thing started.

Where did you get your records at the time ?

Mostly I used to get them from American record companies or from a specialist import shop. I used to get records sent from the Stax label, Stan Axton the owner used to send me records.

I used to get records sent from Tamla Motown, Atlantic, Dual, Duke, Sunset, Songbird, Backbeat and all those kind of labels.

Roughly, what would be the Twisted Wheel top ten in 1964 ?

The favourite record of all time at the Wheel was ‘It Keeps Raining’ – Fats Domino. That was probably the most played record, then you would go to something like ‘Walking The Dog’ – Rufus Thomas.
Then you could go to any one of a dozen Muddy Waters records, probably something fairly obvious such as ‘Tiger In Your Tank’. The next on the list would be ‘That’s What I Want To Know’ – James Carr, then one of Bobby Blue Bland’s ‘Turn On Your Lovelight’.

Then would come ‘Amen’ by the Reverend Robinson and ‘Long Distance’ by Garnell Cooper and the Kinfolks which was one the rare unknown ones that we played a lot. You could pick on any one of a dozen records by Booker T & The MG’s, probably one of the more up-tempo ones such as ‘Can’t Be Still’ or something like that. There was always plenty of records from the Stax label in the top ten and also there was quite a lot of Tamla Motown floating around in there as well.

But there was not quite so much Tamla Motown as people like to think. I didn’t play that much Motown or Spector stuff just because it was so widely available and the chart stuff.

I was playing gospel stuff, but after 4 years at the Wheel it was down to that one fast Northern Soul dance beat which I tough was very boring and that’s why I left in mid ’67.

(both photos courtesy of The New Breed)

3 Oct 2007

Changing Faces

The Sunday Times Colour Magazine –August, 2 1964


They have been called the « anti-hoorays ».

« But you can tell us by the way we walk – feet out », said one Mod.
« Rockers are hunched. We hope to stay smart for ever, not shoddy like our parents. »

Photographs by Robert Freeman. Report by Kathleen Halton

« Next year it will be dead. Fellows of 15 and 16 are giving it a bad name : It’s these scooter Mods who live and die in their anoraks. They go down to the coast, hang around and then, there’s trouble. » the speaker is Jack, 18, who works on a building site.

But Denzil (see cover), also 18, says, « You go down to the sea because you get bored. The summer comes around, you keep saying you’re going to do something different – go to Jersey or do a season. You keep saying you’re going to do something about it. Then all of a sudden it’s september again.

« Once you’ve got to 20 you consider yourself a bit old-mannish. If you’re a bit juvenile, you can get away with it. But you know yourselfyou’re getting on, you’re going to be left out of things. » Denzil (above) livesin Streatham where his father is a garage mechanic.

He says things used to be lively in Streatham « till the kids started going up to the West End and getting introduced to the pills, getting edgy and argumentative. There’s a lot of lying when you get ‘blocked’ – the number of girls you get in a week, the price of your suit. But the drug kick is dying out a bit. »

« Most of these real beaty girls are only looking to boys for companionship. They’re sexually dumb. »
says Eric Burdon (one of the Animals). A boy may like a girl he meets at the Scene club in Soho. But she comes from Hounslow and he comes from Purley so the make their own way home.
Most Mods live with their families –« I don’t tell my parents I go up to the West End, » said one girl. « I mean, would you let your daughter do it ? » « Not very many go steady these days, » says Ted, who is a ‘leader’.

« That’s mostly Rockers. There’s nothing else for them to do, no dancing. Very few girls are worth taking out more than once. » Denzil says « The fellow’s got to like a girl a lot to have her around with his friends. Of course you get the all-night parties. Jumping around to a gramophone. Then all of sudden you get tired, and go to sleep. »

« American styles are out, like Madras cotton jackets and Seven and Sixes – that’s the name we give to baby Mods who’re still wearing these 7s 6d. T Shirts from Woolworths. » Denzil says it’s suits now, and basket shoes.
You need £ 15 a week to be a leader – most Mods make between £ 8 and £ 10 a week and spend about £ 4 on clothes. « It’s pure dress now, » says a ‘stylist’, « no gimmicks. Your handbag has to look expensive inside, it could never be plastic. » « A boy will carry trousers to the dance hall in a polythene bag so they don’t get creased, » says another. « They spend hours on their hair – they don’t use any old blow drier, but one with a hood. »

« The Shake, Block, Bang, Surf – they’re all out. And girls are out for dancing. They don’t let themselves go. So we just dance as a group. » For Mods the pop music and dance TV programme is still Ready Steady Go ; and the club is The Scene. Cathy who comperes the show, says the programme is successful because it doesn’t preach. « We show the kids what’s new – they can pick it up if they like it. » Everybody goes to The Scene (2 gns. A year membership, 1 gn. for girls) because they’ve had groups like The Animals and The Stones and put on rare records from America.

« If you can’t dance you might as well go home. Or you have to dress really smart to make up for it. » Quick changes, like this one outside a Soho club are part of the game. Tuesday is the best night at The Scene. Monday is Mecca night (Hammersmith Palais or the Orchard at Purley), Wednesday for staying in, Thursday for washing your hair – and Friday for nothing special ? Then Saturday night-all night in the West End. « Movies or football ? » says Denzil. « We don’t have time for them, because Sunday’s meant for the Flamingo, or sleeping, and Saturday for shopping. »

« There’s a place for choice Mods left of the band. Rockers wouldn’t dare stand there. » The choice place is at the Orchard Ballroom – which has two bars, ultra-violet lights that play on the dancers, and a blue grotto for sitting out. It costs 3s. to get in -–if you get past the ‘bouncers’ ; they know the trouble-makers.
The ‘choice’ Mods don’t use the term ‘Mod’. « You wouldn’t be pleased to call yourself that, » says Denzil. « Though you might call us stylists, orfaces. » « New faces are being snubbed now, » says Louise, « because the old ones are still in power. By the time it’s the young kids’ turn, something else will be in. »

I don’t really mind about keeping up with the Joneses but when your friends look at you and say, ‘We’ve got a car or a fridge … » Jean (Below) who works as a hairdresser is 19. Her husband Mike is 22. He’s a post office engineer. They live in a small flat in Hammersmith, and collect stones, knives and cheap antiques. Both are Mods but they look forward to staying at home at least one night a week. Mike wears carpet slippers after work. Both of them are saving up for things. Most Mods are more worried about having a good time than a good job.

Say you get something unusual like going to the coast in a lorry, you look forward to it. »

Or a shuffle boat party on the Thames, or sitting around on the beach at Margate with your transistor. « Everybody wants to go abroad, » says Denzil. « Some get ‘blocked’ and say they’ve been washed up in Switzerland or Casablanca. But you know it’s not true. » « Some boys put up pylons in the summer – you get a good tan that way, » says Louise.
A few years ago, when the coffee bars were in, you pretended you were intellectual. Now you just chatter. « We don’t talk politics or religion – we hate attempts to make religion with it. It’s always Rockers on those tele programmes. »

« This Violence is stirred up by the papers. The Mods haven’t time to hate – they are too busy looking at themselves. » The two ‘Mockers’ above wear Rocker-type jackets but made of nylon, not leather ; and Mod hair styles. They don’t fit either side. « But the press built up these gangs, » says Ted. « We’d just walk past the Rockers. » But now, according to one girl, somebody says, ‘Let’s go to Hastings, or Brighton, for violence’. » « My dad’s trying to get me to join the Young Conservatives » says Louise, « but I like this set. They’re nice, and they say what they mean. »

Is Cathy A Mod ?