The Gents – How It All Began

I came across this record in 1986. Mod Revival was on the wane, and we were all transitioning to fully fledged ‘Scooter Boys’ by that time, enjoying the rallies, the live music and the beer that went with them. A part of me, however, remained a Mod and I was clinging on to that feeling for as long as I could. To be honest, I still feel like that today!

So, 1986, summer, a girl in a parka and a tent blasting out The Gents. She was slightly obsessed with them, and convinced me and my friend they were single handedly going to bring the Mod Revival back!

I was all too ready to believe her, and I do remember thinking this might be the beginning of a new wave of Mod music, a revival of the revival if you like. Alas, it was not to be. The Gents straddled the true Mod Revival era and the early nineties mini resurgence and as such went almost unnoticed. I purchased the album on my return from that holiday and, for a while, played it a lot, almost willing it to herald in the new age. Listening back to it now, that was fairly optimistic.

They say the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Well, not always it isn’t. How It All Began borrows from so many late 70s and early 80s bands but never reaches the heights that any of the originals did. That’s not to say this isn’t a good album – I don’t want to give that impression, I really liked it back then and I enjoy listening to it occasionally now, and with more than just nostalgia.

There are some genuinely good tracks, most notably their debut single The Faker (1981) and what should have been their second single, Tomorrow Never Comes are both stand out titles.

From the start you can hear influences from Secret Affair, Squire, The Lambrettas and Squire, and more than a little bit of Madness thrown in. New Direction is pretty much a classic Mod Revival track, and 5 years earlier would have been hugely popular. In My Dreams, Revenge and The Faker follow suit. Instantly recognisable with all the traits you’d expect from the genre, but without any real originality or identity of their own. After The Faker though, things start to go a little flat. Le Pink Panther and Day To Day leave you feel a little disappointed at the end of side one. It’s easy to see why they included the Pink Panther instrumental (think of The Jam’s Batman Theme, for example) but again it felt a little too late, like playing catch up. Day To Day starts like a Merton Parkas track, the opening riff very reminiscent of them, but then it gets confused and doesn’t feel like it really belongs.

The Gent on side two is like an attempted Soho Strut but at risk of repeating myself, that bird had already flown for Secret Affair. How It All Began and Tomorrow Never Comes rescues side two considerably, and actually they may be my two favourite tracks. Tomorrow especially sounds great turned up at full volume, and I admit to putting that on at local discos on more than one occasion!

The album ends on an ill advised cover of Shout. Yep. The Lulu one. Oddly Shout was The Gents first actual chart position (33 in the UK Indie Charts), so that shows what little I know.

I think the album reflects, and is probably a victim of the length of time it took to make – between The Faker coming out and the release of How It All Began, Mod Revival was almost done. The fact I’d never heard of The Gents until that summer of 1986 also reflects the lack of marketing I guess. I was consuming any and all Mod Revival bands at the time and had simply not heard of The Gents.

Anyway, I thank the nameless girl, lost in time, for introducing me to this album – it is very likely I’d still to this day not have played this LP without that chance meeting, and as I said before I do like it. It just borrows in my mind too much from bands I love, and was a little too late to the party.