Thursday 3 November 2011

The Action - In The Lap Of The Mods

Some time ago, I picked up this flyer in Brighton Mod clothing shop called Jump The Gun. It announces that a book about 1960's Mod heroes The Action, titled In The Lap Of The Mods will be published in early 2012. The book  will contain plenty of unseen photos, interviews, limited edition 7'' and foreword by one-time producer of The Action - Sir George Martin. The flyer provides us with a link to a website, where we can find out more about the book. So, I thought it would be a good opportunity to do a post about this extremely sharp-looking band.

Apart from Small Faces, The Action were probably the best looking Mod band in London in 1960's. Their style was the most perfect example of what Mod style was originally about - a subtle, understated elegance, tailored suits, fitted button down shirts and sweaters with geometrical patterns (but without flashy Op and Pop Art craziness which was a trademark of The Who).

Musically, The Action failed to make an impression outside the Mod community, and unlike Small Faces or The Who , they never made it to the charts, despite the support of a big label or the fact that they shared a producer with The Beatles (George Martin produced the group briefly in 1966).

The Action in Jackie magazine, 1966

The group formed in 1963 in Kentish Town, North London, by the group of school friends Reg King (vocals), Roger Powell (drums), Mike Evans (bass) and Alan King (lead guitar). Initially they were called The Boys. Under this name they performed in Mod clubs, and on few occasions , they supported The High Numbers (Which is how The Who were called in summer 1964).

The Boys review,  1964 

In late 1964, The Boys were joined by rhythm guitarist Peter Watson, and changed their name to much more Mod-sounding  The Action.
Most of The Action's repertoire consisted of covers of obscure American soul songs. Perhaps the fact that they did not write many of their own songs was a reason behind their failure to make it in the charts. Their cover versions, however, were fresh and innovative, in some cases better than originals (for example, their version of "I'll Keep On Holding On" in my modest opinion, beats the original by The Marvelettes). They were also a great live band and their shows in London clubs such as The Marquee, were legendary for their incredible atmosphere. It allowed The Action to become the darlings of London Mod scene between 1965 and 1966. They were receiving a big amount of press attention.

Article about The Action sets at Marquee in Rave magazine, circa 1965.

Extremely sharp-looking Mike Evans, right, modeling suits, 1965. This, my dear readers, is how Mod should look like.  

Trivia on Roger Powell, 1965.

Trivia on Reg King, 1965.

A press ad for 1966 single "Baby You've Got It", produced by George Martin. This ad is probably better than the actual song.

Ad for another single, "Never Ever", 1966. Like everything else, it failed to set charts on fire...

With the demise of Mod movement at the end of 1966, the popularity of the group had faded. At the time, a lot of ex-mod bands - Small Faces, The Who, The Creation or The Pretty Things made a successful ventures into psychedelia. The Action also made an attempt at psychedelia, although a rather clumsy one. Their songs from that period, such as "Love Is All" (1967) show how uncomfortable they were trying to copy the sounds of West Coast.

The Action during their psychedelic period, 1967. They still looked great. Reg King's jacket looks like it might have been from Hung On You.

The Action split up in mid-1967. Some of the members went on to form hippie-prog band called Mighty Baby - but that is another story. The Action's story does not end there, though. During late 1970's Mod revival, a lot of bands, most notably The Jam, were quoting The Action as their biggest influence. Paul Weller wrote sleevenotes for their compilation LP "Ultimate Action". The interest in the band grew, and finally, in 1998,  The Action were hounded out of retirement by Rob Bailey - a promotor behind Mod clubnight New Untouchables. They played a comeback gig in Kentish Town Dome which attracted more famous faces. As Mojo magazine wrote in the review: Liam Gallagher (Ok,that makes sense) and Robbie Williams (What the hell was he doing there!?Perhaps he was looking for different sort of action?) stood in line for autographs, as did their number one fan...Phil Collins. "I went to see every gig (The Action played) at The Marquee", recalls the one-time Genesis sticksman. "It was the way Reg sang, the way Roger played, the harmonies by Peter , Alan and Mike on bass. Everything was so hip. I look at Roger and I realize how much of that went into my style. The most pathetic example was buying a jacket that was like Roger's. He wore this fantastically hip Mod nylon jacket, which I finally found and wore to death, before my mum put it in the washing machine and ruined it" (Mojo, issue 82, September 2000). Phil Collins joined The Action on drums during another reunion gig at 100 Club in 2000. He also financed the documentary film "In The Lap Of The Mods", which contains footage from both reunion gigs as well as some archive material.

The book at the same title which was a part of the project never materialized. Well, until now, that is (or should I say until early 2012). Phil Collins does not seem to be involved  this time. About being an inspiration for young Phil Collins, Roger Powell said: It's funny when you think The Action are pretty much responsible for Genesis (Actually Roger, It's not funny at all). The Action played one more reunion gig  - in 2004 at Modstock - a three day event organized by New Untouchables to commemorate 40 years of Mod Subculture. They shared a bill with other 60's mod/psych heroes - The Creation and The Pretty Things - who also reformed for that occasion.
It turned out to be  the last ever gig of The Action. Sadly , in 2010, both Reg King and Mike Evans passed away. 

In The Lap Of The Mods should make an interesting read, and I'll definitely try to purchase a copy (unless of course, the price will be too extortionate, like it often happens with limited edition books).

For more information about The Action visit
Read interviews with Pete Watson, Reg King and Mike Evans at Monkey Picks blog. 
Also check out Punks in Parkas - I have borrowed some images from this site. Back in the day (that is, before YouTube, tumblr, blogspot etc.) it used to be the most reliable source about Mod Subculture on the internet.

 And here's The Action performing "I'll Keep On Holding On" on TV show Ready! Steady! Go! in 1966



Supermod said...

Great post on a great band! I'm really looking forward to the release of the book and didn't realize it also came with a 45.

I'm hoping it's filled with a bunch of new (good quality) photos.

Wilthomer said...

Like the rest of us I am waiting for this book with the glee only matched by a 7 year old on Xmas eve. You all should also be aware that there will be a release of some unreleased Reg King solo tracks coming shortly as well (dating from around the time of his 1971 solo LP)with liner notes by our fellow blogger over at Monkey Picks.

Tarkus said...


Monkey said...

Nice piece and pictures.

Also can't wait for the book and having seen a couple of pages on their site (now working) - looks super.

As for the forthcoming Reg LP - it's fantastic. Most tracks nearer in date and sound to the Rolled Gold Action era than his solo LP. Should add I passed on the opportunity to do the liner notes and gave them to Kevin Pearce who has done a far better job. Watch this space...

Peter said...

Yes, it has been brought to my attention that the website now works. The book looks quite impressive, I certainly can't wait to see it.

Peter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.