We came across this exciting new book from Jon Christopher, It tells his Mod story and how a British subculture captured the influence of American youth in particular teenagers in Los Angeles in 1982-1984. The book is due to be released very soon and we can’t wait to get our hands on a copy. Jon gives us an exclusive insight into the story and imaginary inside the book below.
If you were ever a Mod, you probably have a story to tell about how you became a Mod, about your scooter, and what the scene was like during your Mod season. I was a Mod in the early eighties in Southern California, and in my new book – When We Were Mods – I tell about how I lived the Mod life, complete with photos and other memorabilia to help bring those memories to life.
Telling The Story of My Season
My Mod story began in 1982 when I arrived at my high school on the Monday after Easter vacation riding a used 1977 Vespa Rally 200 scooter with British flags painted on the side covers. I was a senior in high school when I bought the scooter for $300 during the Easter break. It was beat with 11,000 miles on it and a ripped seat cover held together with duct tape. I’d never seen a scooter before this one, and I’d fallen instantly in love with its look – I had to have it the minute I saw it parked at my friend Noel’s house with a For Sale sign on it. No one at my school owned a scooter yet, and that Monday I was the talk of the school. I’d been a nearly invisible student before Easter, a rockabilly/punk that no one paid attention to… but that all changed the day I arrived on my scooter. I was quickly befriended by the two Mods at school, and they made it a project to convert me – after all, a rocker riding a scooter was sacrilegious. They spent several months working on me, trying to educate me, but it wasn’t until I saw Quadrophenia in early June that I finally got it. I converted immediately – that night! I mean, I already had the scooter – and everything about the Mods I saw in the film was just the kind of life I was looking for to escape the boring suburban Orange County world I lived in – I was drawn to the music, the clothes, the youthful energy, and the speed pills!
Go, Go, GO!
The first Mods I knew taught me to dress sharp, stay out all night, listen to the right music and go, go, go! I embraced this idea completely. The week after becoming a Mod I graduated from high school and turned eighteen – I was ready to go! I started taking speed pills, buying clothes and records, and our small group of Mods began to look for a place to hang out. Within a month we found it, a little side street by a pizza joint, down by the beach on Balboa Peninsula. We would ride ten miles down from Irvine, cross the harbor on the ferry, and then hang out for hours on our side street – smoking clove cigarettes, covertly drinking, listening to music on boomboxes and making friends. More and more kids gathered over the summer as Mods from all parts of Orange County rode their scooters down to Balboa. By the end of the summer a new Mod season had launched, with hundreds of Mod kids riding scooters and several dance clubs starting to host Mod nights. The next two years were filled with all kinds of adventures as I rode my scooter for more than forty thousand miles around Orange County and just north into Los Angeles. During that time I made dozens of friends including getting to know The Untouchables, the premiere Mod band of our scene. It was a huge Mod season, both in Orange County and in Los Angeles!
I was really lucky to have an older brother (David Shelton) who was interested in becoming a photographer. I suggested that he bring his camera and come on down to check out our newly emerging scene. He came down to Balboa one day and took a bunch of photos. Later, when The Concert Factory in Costa Mesa started to have Mod nights he came and took photos. When The Untouchables played a series of shows at The Roxy in LA he came up and took more photos. Later on my brother gave me prints of the photos he took. They went into a box with a handful of other photos Mod friends had given me, a folder full of fliers from Mod events, a big baggie full of Mod buttons, an envelope that contained various patches and stickers, along with other knickknacks from back in the day. And they sat in the box for decades while all kinds of things happened in my life.
Then, back in 2011 I got the photos and fliers out and scanned them into my computer. I wrote a series of short articles about my Mod season for my blog at onehumanbeing.com. Being a Mod was truly an amazing time for me and I wanted to share the experience – about the way I lived the Mod life during those years. I posted a link about the articles on a 1980s LA Mod group on Facebook and the response was incredibly positive and I got jto reconnect with a bunch of old Mod friends. In 2019 I gave the Mod articles their own website and expanded the writing, adding new details and photos. When I shared the story on Facebook the response was again positive and I decided that someday I’d turn the articles, photos, fliers, and other memorabilia of our scene into the book I always dreamed of writing – one inspired by the book Mods! by Richard Barnes. Because my fortieth anniversary of becoming a Mod is approaching, it has lit a fire in me to complete the process and get the book done. Recently I pulled out the photos, did some new scans, processed the photos, wrote some new material and laid out the book. I’ve been a book designer and graphic artist for years – so doing this comes naturally.
One of the things that has really hit me as I’ve been putting this book together is how much being a Mod is still alive in me, and how much being a Mod has affected my life. Sure I dress differently now and I have long dreadlocks instead of a Mod haircut, but my heart still beats to the rhythm of 60s soul music, and when I hear the distinct sound of a scooter engine I get a knowing smile on my face. And I still wear my old fishtail parka when it’s cold. Once a Mod, always a Mod, right?!