Joe Tucker is the man behind the ‘Grits & Gravy’ Mod Club nights and the 3 Keys Modernist Weekender, which has been held over the past few years in Skegness (the battleground of his youth as a young 1980s Mod).
Joe, now 55, was originally from Nottingham and remembers his older brother being into Northern Soul. He used to see him dancing in a club called Liberties and tried to copy his moves; this was around 1978/79 and just as Two-Tone was becoming the big thing.
Joe was 15 at the time and used to go to a Monday night club for under 18s in the Victoria Centre. One night as he walked home, around 10 scooters rode past with the riders and pillions wearing parkas. He was so excited and couldn’t wait for school the next day to tell his mates. He arrived early to tell all who’d listen about the fantastic sight he’d seen, but was beaten to it by his equally excited peers who’d also seen the Mod convoy. One lad ‘in the know’ said they were called Mods, rode Italian scooters and wore green Army coats known as fishtail parkas!
That was it; this mystical sight sent by the ‘Hand of Mod’ had worked its magic during the wee dark hours on their impressionable young minds and once gathered together, the electric excitement generated was all that was needed to create the chemical reaction, turning this juvenile cartel into Mods!
I’m a cool teenager
The following Saturday Joe bought his first parka for £20 from the Army and Navy store and started hanging out with mates in the Broadmarsh Bus Station on successive Saturdays, before attending the afternoon under-18 sessions in ‘The Palais’.
As time marched on and this young Mod army grew, so did their reputation and that of their enemies, namely the Teds (an older bunch who’d regularly pick on small groups of younger Mods). By this time Joe was 17 and decided this had gone on far too long. A posse was gathered, which marched up to the Victoria Centre to have it out with the Teds. An almighty ruckus ensued, culminating in one of the greasy Edwardian usurpers being thrown through a shop window. From that point on The Mod posse looked after themselves.
Tired of walkin’
Joe got his first scooter at 17, a Vespa 90 (then a seemingly backwards step to a Vespa 50) before a Capri and then a Vespa 150 Super. He joined the ‘Two of a Kind’ SC along with his mates, Mark Royal, Mark Crew, Simmo and Myra Fitzgerald. The club’s Number 1 at this time was Big Tony Stevens. This association carried on for a while, but as times changed the club’s core became more Scooterboy orientated and divisions between the two groups became wider.
At one particular club meeting Joe announced he was leaving and to his surprise, so did the other Mod members. This breakaway gang formed their own club called the ‘Thunder Birds’ or ‘T’Birds for short (a strange name choice given the ‘T’Birds’ were the fictitious 1950s gang portrayed in the film Grease; plus only a short while earlier they’d given the Notts Teds some fist and tried to turn one of them into a shop window display).
They became affiliated to the CCI (Classic Club International) and attended the first National Mod Meeting in Peterborough in 1985. Joe says Bad Manners played and Tony Blair was a guest speaker. In hindsight, it would have been better if Buster Bloodvessel had been the guest speaker and Tony Blair was given something he could cope with, like playing a tambourine or triangle.
The ‘T’Birds started attending Mod rallies and rode to the 1986 Brighton event. They met up with Peter Hibbett and the Grantham Mods to ride down together, and this ended with the huge Mod scooter convoy being escorted from the A1 by Police.
For the Mods from Nottingham and surrounding areas, Skegness was their coastal resort, so Joe and his Mod mates visited the town regularly, much to the great displeasure of the local Skins who took exception to this Modernist invasion and caused aggro at any chance possible. This was only tolerated for a short while before yet another Mod posse was organised and the Skins received a lesson in how to treat visitors to the town with more respect.
This battle was most probably won by the sheer numbers of young Mods, compared to the lesser in number, but older Skins, and again resulted in a certain amount of interest by the local constabulary.
In 1992 Joe moved to Sheffield with life and work commitments, where he became a doorman at the Roxy. This continued until 1998 when he set up his own security company. As his work and family life consumed his time, the Mod life gently simmered on the back burner, never forgotten, always checked upon, but left to slowly mature.
In 2011 Joe started Mod Fest in Sheffield, which developed into his ‘Grits and Gravy’ club nights, which are still running today. Along with Cameron Davis and other mates from back in the day (including the aforementioned Mark Royal and Mark Crew, who run their own Mod night in Nottingham called the ‘Britallian Job’), Joe looked into putting on a Modernist Weekender in Skegness. This event is now in its seventh year and is a must event in the Modernist calendar.
The biggest man
As a publican and always the busy man, Joe plans to move to new licensed premises, so keep you eyes open for the continuation of his Mod club nights ‘Grits & Gravy’ around the Sheffield area. He’s also continuing with the annual ‘3 Keys Modernist Weekender’ and is already planning the 2020 event. He’s also well into another Mod-related project dear to his own heart – writing a book with the working title of ‘A Mod Called Joe’.
It’s a gritty, first-hand account of his early time as a Mod and the battles he’s fought along the way – not just physical stuff, but also emotional stuff. I look forward to reading it and finding out a little more about what makes this guy, who’s ‘big in presence’ and ‘big of heart’, tick.
Let me explain
The Mod scene is a bit of a contradiction. Modernists were originally forward-thinking individuals, listening to Modern Jazz and wearing the latest styles. Since then, successive generations of devotees have looked back for inspiration, this being incongruous with the original ethos. Individualism has been replaced by uniform and certain rules of conformity.
So really, Joe riding a rare Spanish-built GT ‘should’ be more in line with the Modernist way of thinking, rather than riding the more available, sought-after and expensive models like the Gran Sport or Super Sport. And before anyone gets their bespoke Mohair undergarments in a twist, this is by no means a criticism, just purely an observation and my personal opinion on a scene I’ve been passionately involved with at different levels of intensity for as many years as I can remember. Mod was, is, and will always be, cool!
Amen to that!