Mod Memoirs — Part 3 — The Bands

Bill Crandall
5 min readJun 22, 2021
Count 4

Up until the summer of 1983, there were a few bits and pieces (odds and sods?) of mod-ism in DC, but they hadn’t yet fully fused into a scene. Count 4 was definitely the first mod band, and their (and later Modest Proposal’s) bassist Perry Flint was arguably the first full-on mod in DC, with a Vespa decked out in more headlights than you could count. A story has it that when a young Paul Weller had a live interview at the old WHFS, Perry heard it on the air and managed to be casually parked outside the station on his scooter as Weller came out. Well played.

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The Reply

While MP was more power-pop and dipped in 60s references like The Kinks and The Who, The Reply were more indebted to The Clash, The Jam, and neo-ska. Singer-bassist Gary Roth was a strong lyricist, with a more strident political bent than Neal’s romantic musings. We played countless shows with The Reply, who were much younger, like our little brothers-in-mod. They were supposed to play with MP for the upcoming 2021 reunion show, as they did at the first reunion at Comet a decade ago, but it wasn’t to be this time. By chance I just met up with Reply guitarist Ted Riederer (right) the other night, he’s been in NY for years, doing cool things like running a gallery and taking his Never Records art/music project around the world. Still a DC DIY idealist at heart.

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The Now

The Now were a powerful, eclectic, boisterous DC ska band that formed in 1987, so were somewhat later than the first round of bands. Tragically, their singer Gene Hawkins (second from right) died young, as did bassist JW Hill (left).

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The Motives

The Motives were classmates at Georgetown Day School, which for some reason was a particular bastion of Modest Proposal fervor. I was the youngest in MP by 5–6 years, but still maybe three years older than the average of the GDS high school contingent. So I could hang out with them without being totally undignified, but barely. The Motives were a great band and we played a lot of shows together. Though looks like their mod-ness didn’t last long. To be fair, by the end of MP we were also, um, ‘experimenting’ with new unfortunate looks. These guys rolled with the times much better.

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The Rhomboids

The Rhomboids were a great, high-energy 60s psychedelic band that often gigged with some of the later bands like The Now, The Mondays, etc. I distinctly remember the moment I met bass player Mike Tierney. He was standing on the sidewalk one night outside Olssons Records in Georgetown, waiting for someone. A group of us mods including the GDS crowd and others were literally running down the street. Passing Mike, I noticed he was dressed mod. He looked at us, something between bafflement and expectation, so I just said “come on!” and he took off running with us. And became friends for life. Here’s a pic from two years ago visiting stately Tierney manor in upstate NY.

Mike Tierney and Bill Crandall, 2019

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The Mondays; Neal and Neil on the train to NY

To be technically on-brand we wrote it as The Mondays!. We were the successor to Modest Proposal, with Neal and I joining forces in 1987 with the rhythm section of The Generation (David Thornell’s former band). By that time, bands like The Now and others were still rolling, but overall the so-called mod revival was on the wane on both sides of the pond. Once The Mondays were in NY for a three-band mod show and our bassist Neil Sherman said we could crash at his college friend Lieb’s place. “Lieb” was an up and coming comedian who met us the next morning to go to Katz’s deli for breakfast, I remember he was a nice guy and was eagerly firing zingers as we walked, but I was grumpy from sleeping on the floor. Turns out Lieb was Jon Liebowitz, aka Jon Stewart. Neil Sherman died suddenly at age 39 in 2001, while living in NY and playing in bands. He was engaged to be married.

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The Skanksters

Ok, the Skanksters, as they were known, weren’t a band but should have been. They were a kind of good-natured gang of Madness disciples and, maybe paradoxically, they were army dudes. Old Guard no less, the ceremonial unit based at Fort Myers in Rosslyn. You could usually find them mod/ska dancing on the dance floor at Poseurs, right by Key Bridge. They came on scooter runs, and they threw some of the best house parties (as you might imagine). I remember one of them scaling the high stone wall next to the Exorcist stairs on a dare. OG rude boys.

Not a comprehensive list by any stretch, but hopefully that gives a good overview. All of these bands (plus Modest Proposal) knew each other, played shows together, saw each other at house parties, record stores, and scooter rides. It really was a ‘scene’. More on that coming up.

Bill Crandall

Photographer and educator. Exploring how art and stories can take us forward. Carrying the fire.