While the mod subculture is known for a lot of things, particularly fashion, the most influential aspect of the mod aesthetic is the music. Many of England’s most important figures in rock ‘n’ roll started out by dabbling in garage-rock and rhythm and blues in the early and mid-’60s. Inspired by African-American musicians who released blues records decades before them (as, in turn, the second wave of the subculture would be inspired by Jamaican artists in the ’70s, developing the ska revival), these artists took an American sound and added a manic, post-war British sensibility which, in turn, influenced a generation of American musicians. Here is a collection of the movement’s musical contributions.
The Who — “My Generation”
Perhaps the greatest song about youthful rebellion pretty much defines the era in which it was released, as well as the mod sensibility, later examined in The Who’s epic rock opera Quadrophenia.
The Kinks — “Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy”
Before their late-’60s shift into psychedelic folk-rock, The Kinks were thoroughly mod, promoting the rhythm-and-blues-inspired garage rock that came out of England in the early ’60s.
The Quik — “Bert’s Apple Crumble”
A rare, obscure band for sure, but this instrumental track features hand claps and cheers and would be perfect for any sort of happening.
Lulu — “Shout”
The singer and actress’ ferocious vocals added a much-needed female voice to the mod movement in ’60s rock ‘n’ roll.
Them — “Gloria”
The band that launched Van Morrison’s career had a brief two-year run, but the Irish group’s biggest hit is a garage-rock standard.
The High Numbers — “Zoot Suit”
In their early days, The Who released this single as The High Numbers. They weren’t particularly successful, but “Zoot Suit” is still a mod classic.
Small Faces — “Shake”
English garage rockers Small Faces, like many of their contemporaries, shifted their sound toward the end of the decade (and added Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood to the roster, become simply Faces), but their 1966 debut album is a mod classic that opens with a cover of this Sam Cooke song.
The Creation — “Making Time”
Wes Anderson may have pulled The Creation out of obscurity with that opening montage in Rushmore, but their sound certainly defined an era decades before Anderson had established his early, mod-inspired aesthetic.
The Troggs — “Wild Thing”
Here’s another staple, and oft-covered song, of the English garage-rock movement.
The Yardbirds — “For Your Love”
A manic classic from The Yardbirds, a band that at one time featured some of the greatest English guitarists: Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton.
Marianne Faithfull — “As Tears Go By”
Mick Jagger’s paramour Marianne Faithfull became a sensation with her recording of “As Tears Go By,” which predated the Stones’ own version. This was years before her voice changed as a result of both age and her intense drug use.
Manfred Mann — “5-4-3-2-1”
Before Manfred Mann’s Earth Band famously covered Bruce Springsteen’s “Blinded By the Light,” the band was a straightforward garage-rock group. The countdown in this song’s title is nearly synonymous with the mod slogan, “ready, steady, go!”
The Rolling Stones — “Time Is on My Side”
The Stones’ bluesy cover of the Norman Meade-penned classic is perhaps the definitive version.
The Action — “Land of a Thousand Dances”
This short-lived group of mod rockers had a hit with their cover of this Chris Kenner song, which predated the most popular version recorded by Wilson Pickett by a year.
John’s Children — “Desdemona”
Another somewhat obscure track, this song from John’s Children is more on the psychedelic end of the mod movement, which represented the evolution many of these bands would go through by the end of the ’60s.
The High Numbers — “I’m the Face”
Another jam from The Who’s alter egos The High Numbers is a harmonica-heavy, groovy song that’s perfect for jiving and twisting and, like “Zoot Suit,” nails the mod fashion aesthetic.
The Smoke — “My Friend Jack”
An ode to sugar-lump eating, which, obviously, is a euphemism for taking LSD.
Lulu — “The Boat That I Row”
Lulu’s cover of this Neil Diamond song is a groovy little number and a personal favorite.
Small Faces — “Runaway”
Another Small Faces cover, this time of the classic rock ‘n’ roll track made famous by Del Shannon.
The Rolling Stones — “Suzie Q”
Long before recording their original songs — dark rock ‘n’ roll classics like “Gimme Shelter” and “Sympathy for the Devil” — The Rolling Stones put their own spin on classic blues songs by American artists.
On May 18 and 19, 1964, England’s seaside towns were rocked by historic youth riots that pitted mods against rockers. In anticipation of the 50th anniversary of that defining subcultural moment, we’ve declared it Mod Week at Flavorwire. Click here to follow our coverage.