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All Mod Cons

Tonic trustee Vicki writes about her love of music, The Jam and growing up as a mod in Brighton.

Morgan Howell at 45rpm


All Mod Cons

October saw the publication of Morgan Howell at 45rpm. Morgan is one of our Tonic ambassadors and, being all too aware of my undying love for both Paul Weller and vinyl, invited me to write a few words for his book about what Town Called Malice means to me.

Nothing beats listening to music on vinyl. The ritual, when I was young, of rushing home from Woolies, HMV or Rounder Records in Brighton, clutching one of my favourite band’s new albums. I’d run up to my bedroom and sit on the floor beside my record player, rip open the cellophane and remove the inner sleeve to gently slide the record out; balancing it in my hand with my thumb at the centre and fingers at the edge so as not to touch the grooved surface. I’d place it onto the shiny spindle and lower the needle ready to play. I’d spend hours staring at the art work and pouring over the sleeve notes; reading the lyrics and singing along. With time, the inevitable crackles and pops would make it even more familiar, and I’d wait expectantly for records to jump at certain points. I’d know the order of the tracks and when to flip the record over to the other side; an experience I will never get from listening to downloads and playlists on shuffle.

So, for Morgan to bring my love of music, Paul Weller and vinyl together in his artwork is wonderful. When I saw his Town Called Malice piece, I loved it straight away. The familiarity of the red sleeve, The Jam’s polka dot logo and the Polydor label beckoned me. I was immediately transported back to ‘82, hence my opening line “As a young mod growing up in Brighton, The Jam were everything to me...”

I’d spend Saturday afternoons hanging about with mods outside HMV in Churchill Square, before wandering around the North Laine visiting vintage clothes and record shops. Saturday nights were spent listening to music, falling in and out of love, and dancing at a hall in Southover Street. ‘Fortune Teller’ by Benny Spellman and ‘Israelites’ by Desmond Dekker always remind me of those times. Every Bank Holiday Monday we’d meet at Black Rock before walking along the seafront to town singing “We are the Mods”. I watched Quadrophenia repeatedly. I sat waiting for Top of the Pops to start every Thursday to catch a glimpse of my favourite bands, and I would listen to Radio One every Sunday to record the top 40 onto cassettes. I read NME and Melody Maker, and cut out photos to pin on my bedroom wall. I’d get the train to London to visit Carnaby Street and Soho.

I went to The Jam’s last ever gig at The Brighton Centre on 11th December 1982; a date ingrained in my brain as somewhat traumatic. I cried for what felt like weeks, knowing I’d never see them play again, and thought my world had ended. I didn’t know at the time that I would soon get over my loss with the arrival of The Style Council and the Red Wedge movement. It was Thatcher’s Britain and Weller’s lyrics resonated with me.

Now, as a mental health nurse, I understand the important role that music and creative arts can play in recovery. That’s what Tonic is all about. Our free workshops and punk / ska choirs help people express themselves through singing, writing lyrics, playing instruments or simply listening together. Music can influence our mood and help us feel more connected with people. It can be life affirming.

Morgan Howell


Morgan, thank you for being one of our ambassadors. A supersize Town Called Malice now joins all mod cons in my kitchen; taking centre stage, sandwiched between Horace Panter’s ‘Enjoy Yourself’ and Chris Barton’s ‘Stanley Road’.

Oh and Paul, if you’re reading this, please get in touch?! Tonic would love to work with you…

Vicki Barwood

Trustee – Tonic Music for Mental Health

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