Okay, first things first, despite the name, Mo-dettes were never anything to do with the Mod movement. The ‘dettes’ part (and don’t ask me about the hyphen) was chosen to resemble classic all-girl groups like The Ronettes and Marvellettes, while Mode was just a word they instinctively liked the sound of – they later used it for the name of their own record label.
Actually, each of the four members: Ramona Carlier, Kate Korus, Jane Crockford and June Miles-Kingston, possessed impeccably punky credentials; Jane the bassist (she of the impressively arched, painted on eyebrows) had gained instant notoriety during 1976 when NME ran a live review of an early punk show at London’s ICA with the headline: ‘Cannibalism at Clash Gig’, after a fracas in the crowd ended with her biting Shane MacGowan’s ear. The reviewer, Miles, a rather genteel type stuck in the 1960s, went overboard in his report, claiming she had bitten his ear off but although she did a draw a lot of blood it was only a minor wound. Never trust a hippy, indeed.
Jane later briefly shared a flat with Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious, while Kate was the original guitarist with The Slits, supporting The Clash at the Harlesden Coliseum (no real cannibalism that night either) and fitting in a show at the Roxy, before she briefly hooked up with The Raincoats.
A former student at the National Film School, where she met the director Julien Temple, June’s first drum-kit had once belonged to Paul Cook and, along with Kate (they’d both started planning a group together) she worked on the pre-production of The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle – the toilet of Jane’s flat was considered as a location for the scene where Malcolm McLaren takes a bath but was rejected although while Julien Temple judged its suitability, June and Jane got talking about joining forces.
By this point, Ramona had packed her bags and travelled over to England due to the less than vibrant punk scene in her native Geneva. In London, she’d met Jane when Jane was a member of The Bank of Dresden, which must be a strong contender for any top ten of godawful band names. Ramona with her very striking good looks and glamour on a shoestring style looked like a star and when Jane asked her if she was a singer she claimed she was. The pair began practising together and now with with June and Kate ready to step on board, the Mo-dette jigsaw was complete.
John Peel played them regularly and they recorded three sessions for his late night show on Radio 1; they made the cover of Sounds, Jane was an early cover star of The Face and all four of them were given a centrespread in Smash Hits but, sadly, none of this publicity helped them make any real kind of breakthrough.
Written by Jane, who also provided a great galloping bassline, I especially liked the post-punk edged pop sound of their debut single, White Mice, which they released on the aforementioned Mode label, after Rough Trade turned them down after judging them ideologically suspect because their look wasn’t austere enough and they weren’t especially keen on feminism, although to be fair to Geoff Travis, he did help pay for the recording and manufacture of the single and was happy for Rough Trade to distribute it.
Whether Travis ever deciphered the song’s lyrics through Ramona’s sexy, heavily accented vocals remains a mystery. ‘Don’t be stupid, don’t be limp, the chorus went.’ No girl likes to love a wimp.’
Around the time of the release of their slightly disappointing album The Story So Far, I saw them playing the Bungalow in Paisley, a bar that put on a surprising number of very good acts at the time – I also saw the likes of Aztec Camera, The Revillos and Positive Noise take to the stage there.
Today there’s a different Bungalow Bar in the town that hopes to revive the spirit of the original and maybe one day I’ll get along to it.
And now for Ming City Rockers, a band that in the January/February issue of Vive Le Rock were proclaimed as ‘Immingham’s greatest export’ which I’m guessing might be damning them with faint praise. ‘Immingham,’ they declare, ‘is so bad they put it next to Grimsby.’
Here’s their current single, I Wanna Get Out Of Here But I Cant Take You Anywhere. See what you think… Rocking? Or Minging?