Origin: St. Catharines, Ontario
When you think of Mod music from the sixties that came out of Canada, The Modbeats are THE reference. They came out of the unlikely small city of St. Catharines, Ontario in the Niagara region. That didn't stop them from making a lasting impact on the thriving North American garage and psychedelic scene of that era.
Fraser Loveman, lead singer for The Modbeats, was not only in the midst of it all but also helped shape the landscape. He was there! This guy has seen it all! And he has a record collection of around 50 000 records to prove it!
The Modbeats LP came out in '67. On the cover, it boldly states "Mod is... The British Modbeats". So it was only natural that I would ask him what he viewed as Mod. He didn't start by reciting the usual "smart clothes, Italian scooter, Motown" rhetoric we usually reserve for people that are not part of the in-crowd. Instead, he gave a nuanced and insightful way of looking at things. "All of the music that the Mods attached themselves to was already here in North America. In England, they liked American music and here we liked British stuff. Today, people are living out what they think it was rather than what it was. The Modbeats during the sixties went way past the traditional Mod ethic and we expanded our look and sound."
I have to admit that I never looked at it that way before and it does make sense. I think we sometimes idealize the way things were and the way things are somewhere else. It's true that in the sixties, North Americans were all about the British Invasion and at the same time, the English had a romanticized version of the American Soul scene. According to Fraser, Mod means "cutting edge, new and modern". It's hard to argue with that logic. His father, James Loveman, was The Modbeats manager. He certainly was a big influence on the band and had a reputation for being one of the few honest managers around. “Make a splash. Be flamboyant. Be different. Don’t fit in.” was the family motto.
As for the "British" that was added in front of their name on the album, that was purely a record company stunt, trying to cash in on the British Invasion wave. In fact, Red Leaf Records had them record the entire album in less then 2 days. This explains in part why there's no original material on the album. Even if Fraser had a bunch of songs under his funky belt, they were rushed into production and they never got the opportunity to have a few original tracks immortalized. He has a clear memory of the photo shoot for the album cover: "The cover shot was taken behind Beattie's stationary on St. Paul Street in St. Catharines. The funny thing is we usually went barefoot but it was so cold that we did agree to boots. Unfortunately, our pants looked way too short!"
A lot of those wild shows were done in a club named The Castle in St. Catherines. "This place was better than anything they had in England or the U.S. A man named Ron Metcalfe ran it. Two stages, two dance floors, a snack bar, a coffee club where folk singers played and the greatest kids any band could hope to play for. It held over a thousand people and was usually packed Fridays and Saturdays.” recalls Fraser. A lot of well-known acts made the trip across the border to play The Castle. Mod favorites like The Marvelettes were amongst them.
The Modbeats also shared the stage with a few sixties greats like The Barbarians, JB & The Playboys, The Byrds, The McCoys, The Four Tops and The Rascals.