musicology #384

Modernist #12

(The Drifters – Up On The Roof)

Modernist / Mod / Mods..for me the label is not the issue it’s the philosophy..the ideology that’s important and how it evolved to influence almost every ‘trend’ that followed. That’s what fascinates me. The narrative of the early sixties is well documented from almost every angle other than the ‘street’ perspective in part because the voice of the people is not one that is often heard. As Johnny Spencer said ‘by 1965 the essence and meaning was gutted from the original movement because it was a genuine threat to the staus quo’. For sure the consumer revolution had been managed as far back as the early part of the 20th Century but ‘Mod/ernist’ was never part of the equation because it came up from the street where the establishment had no control or initial interest other than in how to ‘capitalize’.

By the time I was born in 1968 the control was being fought for and for a moment the chance was there to bring down the system but by then the momentum was with the bourgouise intellectuals who when it came down to it didn’t realise that in the words of Martin Luther King there would be ‘No victory without sacrifice’. As the 70’s rolled on everything had been commoditized and the moment passed, (much to the relief of the establishment), who then went on, (in the 80’s), to destroy the working class by giving us ‘something’ to lose in the way of our own property which, of course, wasn’t ours anyway as it belonged to the banks that had sold us into debt slavery.

Interpret my musings how you will but I know how it was to live through these times with a narrative of Mod/ernist as the guiding principle which is after all an Attitude rather than merely a fashion trend. In my opinion part of why the lifestyle of Mod/ernist has been, (and continues to be), so enduring is the underlying principle at the heart of it which is to follow your own path and, (as much as you can), decide for yourself what to do, wear, listen to, watch, read, learn etc.

Today’s 1962 cut by the Drifters is so well known that it is easy to dismiss it as nothing more than pop but if you listen to the words it speaks the language of pure Mod/ernist, the cats who met, walked, talked and lived together metaphorically

“Up On The Roof..way up where the air was fresh and sweet and away from the hustling crowd and all the Rat Race noise down below…….right smack dab in the middle of town..”

Listen Tune…


7 thoughts on “musicology #384

  1. Philosophy? Modernist/Mod/Mods with a philosopy? With respect, slow down there a bit… we didn’t even know the meaning of the word. You’ll be suggesting next that there was an agenda!!

    Shit, now I’m really putting myself on offer… where’s me tin helmet?

    “when this ol’ world starts getting me down,
    and people are just to much for me to face,
    I climb way up to the top of the stairs,
    and all my cares just drift right into space.

    On the roof it’s peaceful as can be,
    and there’s a world ………. can bother me……..

    Yes, I make you right. A LISTEN SONG!


    1. Everyone has a philosophy/ideology/mind-set. whether they are aware/conscious of it is not really the issue. What I am working out here live and direct on themusicologist is how and when the music changed and the effects this had on a collective of young, (predominantly), working class teenagers in one of the world’s great Metropolis’s, the streets of which I am proud to say I was born and raised on and have a strong connection to.

      To put it another way I’m a Rootsman and Social/Cultural Historian, not by trade but out of passion and In my experience Cultural/Social History is often written from the Intellectual perspective..For example ‘Mods’ are often depicted, (and maybe rightly so?), as little more than ‘Street Rats’ or working class hooligans, how did one Judge put it “nothing more than petty little sawdust Ceasers”.

      This is how ‘Mod’ appears to the majority of people, Bank Holiday riots, Scooters, Parkas, The Who, Carnaby Street, Quadrophenia etc etc and NOT as the progressive, sharp, trailblazing, forward thinking movement from which ALL proceeding trends, (and much more besides), have followed. To me ‘Mod/ernist’ has and always will represent a genuine sense of freedom and historically that hasn’t happened very often. Most people today think of ‘Mod’ as no more than a fashion whereas for me it’s always been first and foremost an attitude. NOT what it looks like from the outside but how it feels on the inside and even though in some cases this attitude could be traced back further than the early 1960’s, not, as far as I have discovered, in enough cases to have made change happen the way Mod/ernist did.


  2. given the amount of play this has received since it was released its a testimoney to its ‘perfect sound’
    that it still has something irrisistable about it…I dont need to say how popular this was in the dancehalls back then and what a pleasure it was to ‘hit’ the floor to.


  3. Take your point about it “being easy to dismiss as pop” – but it could be argued that Carole King and Gerry Goffin represented the ‘new’ [modern] sound of the US Tin Pan Alley [the Brill Building songwriting ‘factory’] at the time. Don’t forget ‘It Might As Well Rain Until September’, another ‘pop’ classic that expresses perfectly ‘teen’ despair. And Carole King went on to make at least three bonafide classic LPs later in the decade – “The City”, “Writer” and “Tapestry” – that fulfilled all the early promise. And the Drifters were very popular, but [unlike today] deservedly so….so much so that they are taken for granted & thus overlooked. But not by ‘us’….


  4. Steve,
    Agreed…Goffin and King did indeed represent the modern sound along with Hayes and Porter, Ashford & Simpson, Robinson & White and others whose names escape me..My own ‘theory’ about early ‘Soul’ is that it was a unique collaboration between Cultures and Races that transcended previous boundries. Idealistic fantasy…maybe but that’s how it has always felt for me. Rhythm & Blues on the other hand is a different kettle of fish..had been around for many years, (for me it ‘begun’ with BarrelHouse Boogie/Honky Tonk in the 1920’s), and was the voice of one people whereas ‘Soul’ spoke to and for all regardless of who you were and where you came from. As far as I’m concerned this was ‘new’ and early Soul was the soundtrack driving the vehicle of change.

    As we both know the Drifters were ‘assembled’ at Atlantic rather than arrive there as an already formed Vocal Group with Clyde McPhatter leaving Billy Ward’s famous Dominoes to front them. Unfortunately the dreaded ‘manager’ got involved when Clyde was drafted and the groups history, (even up to today), is littered with disputes relating mainly to rights/ownership..Money basically. Some great singers have passed through the Drifters most notably Clyde, Ben E King, (Whose group the 5 Crowns became the New Drifters line up in 1958), Bobby Hendricks, (early Sue Artist), Johnny Moore and the almost unknown Rudy Lewis who sings lead on this and three of my other favourite Drifters cuts ‘Some Kind Of Wonderful’, ‘On Broadway’ and ‘Mexican Divorce’. Tragically Lewis died in unfortunate circumstances the night before recording ‘Under The Boardwalk’ so never received the acclaim that his voice deserves.

    Like you say Steve …”Taken for granted and thus overlooked but not by us”


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