Garry Bushell's Time for Action Revisited on ZANIWritten by Matteo Sedazzari
Even with the growth of Mod in 1979, many of the press were citing as a media hype to market the forthcoming The Who's film of their album Quadrophenia, due for release later that year. Nothing could be further from the truth, and brand marketing of a blockbuster that we have grown accustomed to, year in and year out, actually stems from the first Star Wars film in 1977. A large marketing budget from a British film back then, let alone now, to promote a movement like Mod, with bands, record labels, clothes, fanzines would certainly not have been in their profit and loss forecast.
Where the Mod renewal stemmed from was from the kids themselves , across the UK, even though predominantly East London and Essex are perceived as the 'trend setters' in this movement. Furthermore Bushell's "Time for Action" is a strong testament of a young writer at the time, who decided to look further than a current press release and search for something that was meaningful to him, and to his generation, who may have become disillusioned with Punk in 1976. With his adventurous spirit like a beat generation writer of the late fifties, Bushell discovered a Mod scene alive and kicking at venues such as The Bridge House pub, Canning Town, London E16, a location where perhaps his professional acquaintances would fear to tread.
What "Time for Action" is, is much more than a collection of a bygone era, it captures the excitement, tension and sometimes confusion of these young men (women) as most of them were under twenty one. As we are reminded of the violence of the times, and how trying to look sharp wasn't just a case of having enough money to buy a Ben Sherman button down shirt, but how these kids were being creative with their look and sound, and importantly how it was purely DIY, not a magazine nor a TV show telling you what to do or wear.
Bushell was a writer firmly on the inside, and clearly understood their agenda, and all the major bands, like The Purple Hearts, The Chords, Secret Affair and The Jam were happy to talk to him as he clearly (and rightly so) gained their trust. Written just before the rise of Thatcherism and then after, there is a good insight into the political, social and economical issues that goes far beyond a teenager draped in a parka with a two tone tonic smile. Moreover, at times, Bushell's articles come across as a call to arms to rally against society and the media. Even though Bushell calls himself 'a low rent Hunter S. on beer and speed', the book is closest the UK has ever produced to Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, yet unlike Thompson, Bushell was the same age, (maybe a year or so older), background and similar in dress sense. Even though Bushell admitted to never being a fully fledged Mod, he got it, and wanted the world to get it too.
And many years later, the whole concept of Mod is now totally and utterly accepted, but maybe without its original edge.It is certainly a page turner, packed with great photos, and backed with writing that moves with tempo, anger and style, just like Secret Affair's track Glory Boys.
From a personal level, "Time for Action" reminded me what attracted me to become a Mod, for its music, clothes, and outlook and how wonderful I felt wearing eye liner, with a paisley scarf and beret to school and winning the respect of the soul boys, rude boys and others for being different. With age you forget these youthful feelings, and Bushell reminds us well of these. "Time for Action" makes an ideal Christmas present to yourself or anyone who knows the Mod sensibilities, regardless if they were there in 1979, as I firmly believe there is a little bit of Mod in everyone. So take me to your leader, because it's time you realised...
Photographs courtesy Virginia Turbett & Paul Wright.
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