One day I just absolutely unloaded on somebody about the Who and what I really thought about the standard-bearer for the Mod movement (at least, from the outside). And then I thought back to myself. Did I really believe that? Turns out, yes.
Think about it. Not only were the Who “manufactured” into Mod by their early manager Pete Meaden (who admittedly was a top face, whatever this means now), but if you look at the pics, you can tell. It’s gimmicky. Pete Townshend wearing a union jack blazer. Roger Daltrey wearing that silly shirt that makes him look like a clown. They’re like a pop art version of what a Mod band would be. If you were going to paint a picture of a stereotypical Mod band (i.e. all targets, union jacks, etc.) it would be the early Who.
If you go to The Who’s greatest hits album, I almost never listen to any of their early stuff. Just look at the track listing... Boris the Spider. Happy Jack. I’m a Boy. These songs are all ridiculous, and you’d almost certainly skip them if they came on your playlist at a party. It’s the gimmicks, back again. I Can’t Explain is decent, but My Generation, supposedly the anthem of a movement, is actually pretty stale a few years on unless everyone is already sloshed.
I’m not going to lie. It was a wrench. And it’s going to come as a shock when you wake up and realise it, but the standard-bearer for Mod is actually barely Mod at all.
To strike a sympathetic tone, I’d say The Who are the gateway drug that leads you into the scene... but when you go back to them after trying the harder stuff... you have to wonder what all the fuss was about.