Reissue label Fantastic Voyage’s latest compilation is a comprehensive look at the early British mod scene. Compiled by Lois Wilson of Mojo magazine (who I’m sure isn’t old enough to have been part of that special original mod scene), the collection is called ‘Get On The Right Track’ (after the Ray Charles song) and features a massive 90 tracks across 3CDs, each with its own particular theme.
The first CD is heavy on blues material – with some magical cuts from icons like John Lee Hooker, Little Walter, Otis Rush, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. Great music, yes, but my first hand memories of the mod scene recall that the blues weren’t particularly popular with mods. Those tunes were hard to dance to, though early jazz-based mods did make the connection sometimes just for the “pose factor”. There are also some early ska tunes here – notably Byron Lee’s ‘Dumplins’ which was popular in clubs like London’s famous Flamingo.
The album’s second CD is much more apposite and relevant to real mods. This disc features early soul with content from The Mar Keys, Marvin Gaye, Bobby Bland, Ray Charles, Lee Dorsey and dear old Major Lance- a real mod hero. His cut is the still lovely ‘Delilah’. You also get Phil Upchurch’s pulsating ‘You Can’t Sit Down’ – the original theme tune to the mods’ own TV show ‘Ready Steady Go’.
The third CD is more of a mixed bag – packed with tunes that weren’t big back in the day (most were never released in the UK anyway) but which have subsequently been popular during the various mod revivals –stuff like Etta James’ ‘Seven Day Fool’ and Big Maybelles’ ‘That’s A Pretty Good Love’.
‘Get On The Right Track’ is a decent snap shot of the early mod scene… but it could have been a lot better. The two big problems are; first of all, the compiler wasn’t there in the early 60s and doesn’t really understand the impact the music had in its day (her notes smack too much of Wikipedia… she even calls Phil Upchurch, “Philip”… c’mon, at least get the research right!). Secondly, to avoid paying royalties all the music is pre 1963…. and the years 63, 64 and 65 were the high-water mark of mod… yes OK, but could have been so much better