Archive of material relating to the Sydney Mod sub-culture in the 1980s including magazines and fanzines (15), newsletters (7), flyers and invitations (30), press articles (51), negatives (315), proof sheets (12), photographs, colour and black and white (142), diaries (2), paper / plastic, collected by Kirstin Sibley, various makers and producers, Australia and the UK, 1966 - 1988
The Mod scene began in England in 1962. The term is derived, somewhat second hand, from the Modernist artistic and aesthetic movement that developed in the late nineteenth century in reaction to the Industrial Revolution in Europe. Modernists rejected Romanticism and Enlightenment, and sought new philosophical and material ways of examining and responding to the changing world. The term Mod was first used to describe 1950s jazz music fans who preferred newer styles of jazz music as opposed to 'trad' (traditional) forms of the genre. Like Modernists, the Mod rejected or subverted mainstream culture, and favoured the new, the innovative, and the modern over traditional forms of expression. In the Colin MacInnes novel 'Absolute Beginners' - thought to be the catalyst for, or at least the first documentation of the 1960s British Mod scene - the protagonist is a young, Mod jazz fan who dresses well, and he and his group of peers attend coffee bars and ride Italian motor scooters. These were some of the key desired ingredients to be part of the Mod scene.
The scene petered out - at least from public view - in 1966 after the Mods met the rockers for a violent showdown at Brighton Beach in 1964. The rockers were a subculture that represented the antithesis of the Mods: leather jackets, greased hair, and working class ideals. The hippie movement that began in the late 1960s eclipsed the Mod subculture in England, and in Australia (where they were known as Whoeys - after the band The Who) where it had made a small impact.
The 1979 British film 'Quadrophenia' - based on rock band The Who's rock-opera album of the same name - is essentially based on the Brighton Beach face-off and is generally credited as spawning the resurgence of the Mod sub-culture in England, and then in Australia where the movie was released in 1980.
The mainstream youth culture of early 1980s Australia was not particularly concerned with dressing 'sharply' or examining alternative cultural activities. As one Sydney Mod wrote in a letter to 'Shake and Shout' magazine 'The system likes kids wearing Kiss and surfing T-shirts and listening to light rock bands and putting five dollars into the Space Invaders machine.' Although this view may be simplistic, it illustrates what the 1980s Mods were reacting against: conformity to an unsophisticated and mass-produced youth-culture.
Many Australian Mods had tried the punk scene, but were not interested in being politically reactive or negative about society. The Mod scene was non-conformist, but at the same time held middle-class ideals. Many Mods lived at home with their parents in White-Anglo-Saxon favoured suburbs, and were conservative in their political views. Their jobs - if not still studying hard - were in the tertiary industries. Conspicuous consumerism, although particular to certain modes of fashion, was of utmost importance. Tailor-made 1960s inspired clothes, short hair for both sexes, and customised European motor scooters were the material staples. Australian Mods took their lead from UK Mods, and kept up-to-date via magazines and fanzines. One of the donor's dreams when she was a Mod was to go to Carnaby Street in London and buy original 1960s garments. Past times for Sydney Mods involved going to favoured pubs in the inner-city (The Quarrymans Hotel in Ultimo, The Sussex Hotel in Haymarket), seeing bands that played 1960s rock and rhythm and blues inspired music (The Sets, The Introverts, The Coathangers, The Allniters), and planned scooter runs to meet up with Mods in other cities. The drugs of choice were alcohol and amphetamines - though excessive indulgence was too close to 'yobbo' culture to be cool. The attitude most Mods had was one of self-confidence, slight arrogance, style above functionality (wearing suits while riding motor scooters!), and rebellion against the bland mainstream culture and the suburban 'yobbo'.
Mod sub-culture, like punks, skins, goths, metal-heads, westies, and inner-city indies were an important group in 1980s youth culture. All these scenes were part of a flourishing sub-cultural phenomenon that set the precedent for individual expression; that almost ironically was combined with conformity - albeit on a sub-cultural level - and were both catalyst and antithesis to many sub-cultures that grew through the 1990s and the 2000s.
The material in this archive was produced by publishers, both independent and commercial, rock band and event promoters, and by the donor between 1966 and 1988.
This collection of magazines, fanzines, newsletters, advertisements photographs and diaries extensively documents the 1980s Sydney Mod scene. Kirstin Sibley, the donor, was a high school student when she first became involved in the scene, and her passion for the scene is symptomatic of the enthusiasm of youth; the degree of documentation and aesthetics though shows a definite flair for style and sophistication: all are archetypal Mod characteristics. She documented her involvement in the scene in diaries, through photography, and assembling a collection of press articles about the 1980s Mod scene, and flyers advertising Mod rock bands and events connected to the Sydney Mod scene, collecting the material with the aim of creating her own magazine - fanzines and magazines were a big part of the Mod scene.
Kirstin donated the archive to the Powerhouse Museum in 2009 for use in research and exhibitions about youth sub-cultures.