‘What would they know about Green Onions?’

Musical lifestyles of 1960s London mods


  • Robert Wyndham Nicholls University of the Virgin Islands




dance, fashion, gender, London, mod, modernist, musical sensibility, purple hearts, R&B, Scene Club, ska


This article examines the early modernist movement from a musical perspective with regard to gender relations. It is mainly autobiographical and uses a scholar-practitioner approach. Mod originated in London around 1961 and by 1962/63 was a full-blown youth movement; nevertheless, there is a dearth of personal records documenting and analysing the aesthetic aspirations of original mods despite the fact that they represent an influential historical phenomenon with significant socio-cultural implications. This article addresses this situation with regards to Soho’s Scene Club—‘mod central’—where this author was a participant observer, and describes the music and dances that took place there. Stereotypical notions that appear in the literature that mod girls were merely followers and lacked musical sensibility are challenged; instead it shows that some girls took the lead, serving as conduits for mod aesthetics.

Author Biography

Robert Wyndham Nicholls, University of the Virgin Islands

Robert Wyndham Nicholls is Tenured Associate Professor of Social Sciences. Book; The Jumbies’ Playing Ground: Old World Influences on Afro-Creole Masquerades, UPM, 2012. Journal articles including Black Perspective in Music; International Journal of African Dance; Dance: Current Selected Research, and Folklore. I have been involved in the production of music CDs including The Igede of Nigeria (Music of the World, CDT-117): Trojan Presents Mod Ska: Forty Original Ska Anthems from 1962-67 (2012); and “Boogie-Chillen: Early Mods’ First-Choice Vinyl” Fantastic Voyage (2013).


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How to Cite

Nicholls, R. (2015). ‘What would they know about Green Onions?’: Musical lifestyles of 1960s London mods. Popular Music History, 9(2), 155–172. https://doi.org/10.1558/pomh.v9i2.17430