The Online Mod/ern/ist Archive

archive of original modernist recollections and information .
we are glad to hear from anyone with memories of the time, but we do not rewrite history .

19 Sep 2007

Bowie The Bowie Man

Timothy White speaks to David Bowie about his mod years.

Tell me about adolescence, your early teens.

I had the usual desire to break ties with home and parents, the general anger of youth. I have a half brother brother and a half sister, neither of whom I've ever been particularly close to, because they've never lived at home. I was brought up ostensibly as an only child, and they put in these lightweight appearances.

I lost contact with my stepsister Annette when I was 12 that was the last time I saw her she was quite a lot older than me and went to Egypt to get married.
We've none of us heard a word from her since, and we've tried to trace her.

I was living up in Brixton until I was 11 years old, and that was enough to be very affected by it. It left great, strong images in my mind.
Because the music that was first happening in my early teens was happening in Brixton, it was the place one continually had a relationship with.

All the ska and bluebeat clubs were in Brixton, so one gravitated back there. Also it was one of the few places that played James Brown records, other than two French clubs in town, La Poubelle and Le Kilt.

A friend of mine, Jeff McCormack, who ended up as Warren Peace in the Diamond Dogs band, had the big ska record collection, and it just wasn't worth competing with him, so I went straight into buying Chuck Berry, Little Richard and the blues stuff.

Were white teenagers welcome at the shebeens?

At that time it was cool. If you expressed an interest in the music and got off on what was happening in the clubs, it was a lot easier, I guess, than it is these days. Although I don't know; I haven't been to those clubs in years.

I've hardly been in London in a social, living way for so long that it's almost an alien city to me now which is unfortunate in some respects, but you lose some and gain some.

At the start of your career you spent a lot of time around the legendary Marquee Club, which had weekly R&B nights featuring twin bills like Sonny Boy Williamson and the' Yardbirds. What was that scene like in the early 1960s?

I got friendly with the owners; for me there were no rules at the door so I used to creep in and watch what was happening. The Marquee, the Scene, Eel Pie Island in Twickenham, they were all a circuit.
At the time 16 years old, for me when I was frequently in those places it was during the era of the first batch of mods. There were two batches of mods in England, the first lot being in 1962-63.

The initial crop called themselves modernists, which reduced itself down to the mods. That was excessively peacocky.
These weren't the anorak quilted, gabardine raincoated mods that turned up later on motor scooters. The scooter thing wasn't quite as big with the early mods at that time; it was still trains.

But the first mods wore very expensive suits; very, very dapper. And make-up was an important part of it: lipstick, blush, eyeshadow and out-and out pancake powder not Clearasil. It was very dandified, and they were the James Brown-lovers. Elitist. Pills always played an important part; everything was fast.

You weren't supposed to like bands like the Rolling Stones, and especially the Action, the Who and all that crowd who came along later these were the anorak boys in the later `60s because they weren't real mods.
I did secretly. But I felt sad the former fashion had died out.

I dressed the archetype: mohair suits, two-tone suits; the shoes were high pointers; Billy Eckstine shirts with big roll collars. You either had a pinned collar or button-down or roll collar.

How would you earn the money to dress up?

(Snickering, with a wink) You earned the money somehow or other, wheeling and dealing. Also, a popular thing was to go down the back of Carnaby Street late at night and raid the dustbins.
Because in those days if anything showed the slightest sign of deterioration, or a button was missing, or there was the least thing wrong with it, they used to throw it out, so you could pick up the most dynamite things down there I This was just as the street was becoming popular.
Indeed, there were only about four shops along there that sold clothes of that nature, so it wasn't a tourist thing at that time.

Also, you could get some good suits made in Shepherd's Bush. There were good tailors there that would knock up a suit quickly and inexpensively, out of material (big grin) which you didn't ask how they could get so cheaply.
So you'd get dressed, go round to the Marquee Club and just get looney and listen to rhythm `n' bIues. Fundamentally it was a rhythm `n' blues period, which had just hit the underground in a big way.

I wasn't a hundred per cent into performing music at the time of the mods, but I'd been playing saxophone since about 13 years old, off and on.
The things I'd considered doing once I left school were either to continue being a painter, start working in an advertising agency or be a musician if I could possibly get that good.

Entrepreneur Kenneth Pitt had seen you at the Marquee Club around the time you were 18 and led the band called David Jones & the Lower Third.
What kind of group was the Lower Third?

I guess it wanted to be a rhythm `n' blues band.

We did a lot of stuff by John Lee Hooker, and we tried to adapt his stuff to the big beat never terribly successfully. But that was the thing; everybody was picking a blues artist as their own. Somebody had Muddy Waters, somebody had Sonny Boy Williamson. Ours was Hooker.

It also was the first band where I'd started writing songs.
I think the first song I ever wrote there might be others but this is the only one that sticks out was called `Can't Help Thinking About Me' (breaks up laughing).

That's an illuminating little piece, isn't it? It was about leaving home and moving up to London.

`The London Boys' was another one about being a mod, it was an anti-pill song; I wasn't particularly pro the thing after a bit.

14 Sep 2007

Even Mo' forgotten - Alan Kotz Story

Brian Kotz (Brian Betteridge of Back to Zero) interview by Alex M Franquet

- How did you become a mod?

- I had developed an interest in Mod through my teens. I was a fan of 1960's music, and I'm sure this had something to do with hearing music being played round the house when I was growing up by my brother, who is 13 years older than me.
I was aware that he had been a Mod and I had taken an interest in this.

- What kind of records did your brother left you at home. Do you remember some of those records? Was that mainly black music?

- Yes, from around 1963/4 onwards, my brother Alan's record collection consisted almost entirely of black American R&B/soul.

Here's a selection of the classics he bought at the time:

Soulful Dress - Sugar Pie DeSanto
You're My Remedy - Marvelettes
What's A Matter With You Baby - Mary Wells & Marvin Gaye
Dimples - John Lee Hooker
In Crowd - Ramsey Lewis
Shame Shame Shame - Jimmy Reed
Always Something There To Remind Me - Lou Johnson (the original)
Shop Around (EP) - Miracles
Get Out My Life Woman - Lee Dorsey.

The one non-R&B single he owned was "Sins of a Family" by P.F. Sloan, which was massive on the Mod scene - they recognised a soulful performance when they heard one.

Of course, he had more well-known stuff too, like 1-2-3 and Shotgun Wedding.

-What did you brother told you about the Stanford Hill Mod scene and Marc Bolan? Did he met Bolan?

-Although we moved from Stamford Hill to the suburbs when I was a baby, Alan still went to school further into town, so his social life continued to revolve round his former locality.
The main meeting centre was an amusement arcade known as the "Shtip", but they wouldn't stay in the area to socialize.
They had shops and clubs to move on to elsewhere. A lot of the early Mods had relatives in the "rag trade", so good suits etc were within their grasp, but they had their favourite shops.
Alan always bought his shoes at Rael, which eventually became Ravel.
He used to go and see loads of bands with his friends, but they didn't buy their records, preferring to buy original U.S. stuff; my analysis is that this is a reason that some of the best groups had little commercial success, because they were more of a live attraction.
His faves were Downliners sect, who he used to see every week at studio 51 off Charing Cross road, and Zoot Money's Big Roll Band.

He knew who Mark Feld (later to be Marc Bolan) was, and saw him around, but didn't know him personally, although he had friends who knew him.
Ironically, I met Bolan whenI was 14, (2 years before his death)at a TV Pop Quiz for teenagers that I took part in, but I didn't ask him any of the questions I'd have liked to, because I was too nervous and lost for words!

- Can you explain us some anecdote or funny story from the sixties that your brother told you?

- Well, Alan claims that the original reason that the early Mods started to take speed, was because after being up allnight at a club like the Flamingo, many of the guys played football in youth leagues on Sunday mornings.
They realised at some point that products like Dexedrine and Drinamyl could keep them awake right through the weekend, so as well helping them through the night, they could carry right on and play the football match.

They must have been fast-moving games!

- I think you know an interesting story about a New Musical Express article.

- Yes, in april '79, NME published the amazing "Young Mod's Forgotten Story", about the early Mods, as part of their Mod special.

Alan knew nearly everyone who was mentioned, and was annoyed that he wasn't; one guy who was written about was called Malcolm Chiswick. When he saw that name, he said, "Malcolm wasn't even a Mod, he just used to sit in the Wimpy Bar in Oxford Street all night when we went on somewhere else"!

- I think they hated a lot a certain band.

- One group that him and his friends DIDN'T like when they saw them was The Rolling stones at The Crawdaddy Club.
They walked out, because the group waved their hands when they played "Bye Bye Johnny", and they thought it was silly!

- What happened to the mod scene in that area?

- I think that one reason that whole period came to an end for the Stamford Hill Mods is because of the very individuality that set them apart at the beginning.
They wanted to get out of the area and move somewhere nicer, do their own thing and get on in their lives, like any working-class kids.

I intend to find out more about everything eventually, as not enough has been written about them yet.

- And your brother, could he imagine that mod would last forever, until today?

- I'm sure that my brother didn't stop once to think whether Mod would last, as he was too busy living it!
I suppose that I may have given it a bit more thought in '79 - after all, we were building on the previous scene.
I remember a lot of cynicism at the time, of people saying all the old crap about something coming along and replacing it, but of course that missed the point.

Mod has had, and continues to have, a lasting influence on so much beyond its own scene, and elements of it will be around forever, but I'm telling this to someone who already knows that!

Whether we knew that in '79 is another thing. I'm sure we'd have hoped so.

The Young Mod's Forgotten Story

(by Penny Reel) New Musical Express (1979)

In the beginning - or so the story goes - there are only three real mods, and one of these is flecking Lea Davis' brother. Mind you, it is Lea Davis himself who first puts this about in general currency, which means it is not necessary true, as it is known locally and wide that Lea Davis is more than somewhat fond of his brother, whose name is Wayne and who is said to have the best collection of Jimmy Witherspoon records in London.
Personally, I always consider that Lea Davis is a real mod, but he assures me this is not the case, so I reserve judgement and buy a collarless brown Pierre Cardin jacket in Harry Fentons and wear it on a Saturday afternoon idling expedition along Whitchapel Road, which is were I run into Charlie Steiger and Yonker Malcolm Chiswick out searching for this Ben E. King LP that is supposedly on sale in some shop in Mile End - this being around the time when Ben E. King LP's are as rare as albino negroes in this man's town, or even rarer.

Well, I stand there with Charlie Steiger and Malcolm Chiswick for some time, talking of this and that, until Charlie Steiger suggests that the three of us might just as agreeably carry our conversation to Tower Hill and at the same time amuse ourselves in the extraction of enjoyment out of the pariahs and prophets, nomads, seers, racing tipsters and other lusus naturae who regularly and often congregate there, such as Derrick and Pilgrim, Fascist Frankie, Moshe Bagels, Prince Honolulu, Big Jesus, Born Again, and many other wondrous and colorful characters, this being a long established favourite pastime of Charlie Steiger and Yonker Malcolm Chiswick, and indeed of many other citizens as well.

So here I am standing on Tower Hill in the company of Charlie Steiger and Yonker Malcolm Chiswick, discussing the relative merits of Shep and the Limelites, heckling Fascist Frankie, and joining the evangelist Born Again in a loud, lusy rendition of "Whilst I was sleeping somebody touched my soul", when who should come into view brushing an imaginary speck of dust from his mohair and doing the Continental Walk, but flecking Lennie Tyler.

Now Lennie Tyler is probably the most clothes conscious guy I ever meet in my whole life, although you wouldn't really be aware of it just to look at him, as he is conservative to the conservative guy all around.
Unlike most of the guys you see about in these times, Lennie Tyler shuns the sartorial fripperies of fashionable emporiums such as Conicks Young Esq. in the Kingsland Waist and Gaylords of Shaftesbury Avenue, preferring instead to cultivate business acquaintance with old-fashioned gents outfitters in the City and arcane tailors among Pentonville Road for his wardrobe, or at least he always claims.

Personally, I walk down Pentonville Road on many occasions, but I never see any tailors down there, arcane or otherwise.
Furthermore, Lennie Tyler is a very intense and temperamental character, much disposed to extended bouts of broody, sulky silence, even in gay, lively places like Tottenham Lido and the Royal and especially in the latter.

The general consensus of opinion is that Lennie Tyler is somewhat neurotic, and probably more that somewhat.

On this occasions of which I am speaking, he is dressed casually in a simple midnight blue mohair suit, a dazzling white Fred Perry jersey shirt and wearing narrow fitting black Chelsea shoes with a slight suggestion of a chisel point on his feet.

Now Lennie Tyler is an old friend of mine, and in fact I sometimes go around his house to listen to his Jack Jones records and ogle his younger sister, Lennie Tyler having a very pretty young sister, so I give him a big hello, and he stops and the following conversation ensues: "How is it going with you, Len?" I say to Lennie Tyler, although of course I do not really care on soul how it is going with him.

"It's not too often we see you down Tower Hill of a Saturday afternoon".
"So who flecking reckons himself in his new collarless brown cord Pierre Cardin jacket that he more than likely bought in Harry Fentons?" Lennie Tyler says, referring to me in the third person, such as is a common mannerism.
Who's a little mod boy, then?".
"But Len", I say, "You are also a mod".
"Listen son", Lennie Tyler says, "there are only three real mods, and one of these is flecking Lea Davis's brother".

I never get to personally meet Lea Davis's brother, although I do see him on one occasion, hanging out by the pinball tables in the Schtip on Stamford Hill and listening to Fats Domino records.

Schtip being more than somewhat yiddish word used to describe the prodigal waste of money, and with its rows upon rows of gleaming pinball machines, one arm bandits, and a juke box containing some 50 rhythm and blues records, the Schtip offering more than ample opportunity for Lea Davis's brother to do as much, in spite of the fact that Lea Davis's brother is not in the least bit yiddish at all.

Nevertheless, although I cannot honestly claim any acquaintanceship with Lea Davis's brother, I am on reasonably chatty terms with Lea Davis himself, and in fact one time recommend a hair lotion to him, Lea Davis being slightly obsessed with fears of premature baldness, and seeking my counsel on the subject.

Seeing as Lea Davis never shows any sign of premature baldness in all the time I know him, I assume that he takes my advice about the hair lotion.
Whatever, Lea Davis always gives me a large hello whenever we meet, and I am extremely careful to respond in a like manner.

Now Lea Davis is very modernistic in his outlook and dress, and is in fact the first person to turn up in Dalston's Chez Don club wearing a brown bri-nylon mackintosh, although he discards it the following week when Grocer Peter Bendon arrives wearing a raiment of identical design.
Furthermore, Lea Davis hangs around Wolverton Mountain, where the Courtney brothers tread warily, and where he keeps the company of some very dangerous parties indeed.

Some of these parties, such as Crazy Danny Rushton and Buster Boulter, are from Shoreditch, and several are from Hoxton, including Stanley Churchill and Big Sandra O'Sullivan, who even though a girl is at least as formidable a fighting proposition as any of her companions, especially when she starts scratching, and others are from Hackey Wick, London Fields and Haggerston, and none of these parties are any concession at any time.
Of all Lea Davis associates, however, there is one who achieves singular notoriety in this town, and this guy by the name Beardy Pegley.

Standing less than five feet tall in his high heel Chelsea Boots, Beardy Pegley is a brawny, red-complexioned youth with gingerish hair and beard, shaggy red eyebrows, heavily-freckled face and hands, bronze-green eyes, a full sensous mouth, and a all-round generally hirsute appearance.
He lives in turning off Victoria Park Road and is only slightly less well-respected in the district than the Krays, this being at the peak of the twins' East End rule. Around 1965, Beardy Pegley gets his mug in the national dailies when he leads a gang of mods to the amusement arcade in Mare Street, draws a John Roscoe on rockers autocrat Buttons Walsh, and shoots him three times in the chest, apparently as retribution for Buttons Walsh's superior winning ways with the female sex.

The upshot of this is that Buttons Walsh gets a free ride to Hackney Hospital, where he wakes up close to death, and Beardy Pegley is sent to prison to repent his evil ways.

Later, a fully recovered Buttons Walsh goes on to become commander in chief of the UK Hells Angels and ends up alongside Flann O'Brien, Damon Runyon and Anita Loos in Picador Books, who publish his autobiography Buttons in the 70's.

When I know him, Beardy Pegley is already fully embarked on his profligate and primrose path, though at this time he doesn't possess a gun, but gets by fine with a flick knife, a rubber cosh and the most exquisite collections of knuckle-dusters I ever see.
Moreover, Beardy Pegley is celebrated among the leading lights of the local modernist movement, and indeed is one of its most progressive and original element.

Unlike Lenny Tyler and Lea Davis, however, Beardy Pegley positively revels in his role as mod notability, and conducts himself in a manner that would even have put Dion DiMucci's lady love Donna in the shade.

Not only is the first guy I ever see wear hair lacquer and lipstick, but he is also the earliest on the scene with a pink tab-collar shirt, a grey crew neck jersey, knitted tie, scarlet suede jacket with matching leather collar, navy blue crombie overcoat, white half-mast flares and candy-stripe socks, as well as being the first mod to sing the praises of Laurel Aitken, James Brown, the Pretty Things, the Flamingo Club in Wardour Street, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and marijuana, insult Eden Kane in the Chez Don and is still the only guy I ever meet who owns a pair of bright emerald green fur booties all this circa 1962.

Now I am a guy that keeps pretty much his own counsel, and rarely talks to anyone at all, so even though I see Beardy Pegley around and about for some considerable while, and recognise him at that I do not feel any particular compunction to introduce myself, and besides I figure he shares a similar attitude, since we never get around the exchanging even the most perfunctory of nods, until one night I am sitting in Stamford Hill bowling-alley sipping a Pepsi-Cola and thinking about slightly less than nothing when Beardy Pegley comes over to where I am sitting, orders a coffee, and says to me like this:

"I hear you reckon Solomon Burke as being keen", says Beardy Pegley. "So do I".

Now, of course, I do no feel inclined to ask Beardy Pegley how he comes by this information of my feelings for Solomon Burke, as he will probably will probably think I want to know, so I merely nod my assent and say I think "Cry to me" is one of the best records I ever hear. "Furthermore", I say, "I think Solomon Burke is the best rhythm and blues singer I have heard since Chuck Jackson".
"You check Chuck Jackson?", Beardy Pegley exclaims.
"Have you heard "The breaking point" by any chance?".
"Yes", I say, "but I don't rate it nearly as high as "I don't wanna cry", which is currently my favourite record on Top Rank, although Ulysses Samuel Bonds' "Quarter to three" runs it a close second".
"I like New Orleans' best of his", Beardy Pegley says, "although "Not me" was pretty keen, too. You ever heard of The Pastel Six?".
"Of "Cinnamon Cinder" fame", I say. "How about The Desifinadoes?".
"You mean "Mister Dillon" on HMV", says Beardy Pegley. "Same label as "Imagination" by The Quotations".
"Bit too second-rate Marcels for my liking", I say. "How about proper rhythm and blues, Bo Diddley, Hank Ballard...."
"Little Walter, Jimmy McCraklin, Howling Wolf", Beardy Pegley says. "Tell me one more thing, do you know about Blue Beat?".
"I've got "Too much whisky" by Errol Dixon", I say, "and also "Gypsy Woman" by Derrick and Patsy, which is on this new Blue Beat label called Island.
But I don't really know much about it - I mean one of them are American hits or Record Mirror new releases or anything".
"Yeah", Beardy Pegley says, "I know. I've also got this record on Island: "King of Kings" by Jimmy Cliff. I don't know what it's all about, but it's great.
You know something", he adds. "Lea Davis is right about you, you're a clever little bastard, and too cocky for your own good, but you're an okay guy".

"I mean, you reckon Solomon Burke", Beardy Pegley says.

The maiden wave of modernist youth emerges out of the East End and Essex some time around 1960, as reaction in style against the coffee-bar cowboy definition of check shirts, striped drainpipe trousers, winklepicker shoes, Tony Curtis hair styles, Marino Marini records on the Durium label, and Old Compton Street in Soho.

In short, against all things that men like Jack Good and Tommy Steele hold dearest to their hearts - men like Jack Good and Tommy Steele representing total anathema to the emergent mod movement.

Precursors of the new look wear their hair short in the French style, back-combed, and with a centre parting.
They dress in severe, clerical shirts of simple design, with detachable stiff white collars, navy-blue or grey terylene trousers tapered to a baggy 14 inches sans turn-ups, black round-toed shoes, preferably with a patent leather tip, carry umbrellas and LP's of the soundtrack from On the Waterfront, smoke Sobranie cigarettes, and put their hands in their back pockets, Bette Davis style. At first, these are very rare and wonderful people, such as you might see no more than a half a dozen, and probably not even that, on a Sunday morning saunter along Middlesex Street and Club Row markets, mods having an unsual prediction for Middlesex Street and Club Row markets, and later Berwick Street market in the West End.

By late 1962, the ranks of the modernist has swelled considerably to embrace the greater element of stylish working class youth in London and the suburbs, some still at school, but the majority of them ensconced as City clerks; working in shipping and insurance offices for the most part, for reasons that are never entirely clear.

It is around this same time that the more marked and outrageous constituents generally associated with the movement come into clearer focus, including the wearing of anoraks, crombie overcoats and G-macs, paisley and polka-dot giraffe neck shirts and pink tab-collar ones, the baseball jerseys and the inevitable crew necks, Blue Beat hats and leather trilbys, suede jackets, suede ties, suede cardigans and suede shoes, brightly coloured pants worn at half mast to display scarlet socks to their fullest advantage, the obscure blues albums, Prince Buster singles, and modern French literature.

It is also the same time as the word mod replaces the earlier definition of modernist; and the pep pills become a way of life, of endless night.

And it is also the same time that The Beatles break into the hit parade with "Love me do".

Mod boys hate Beatle boys.
Mod boys hate Beatle boys almost as much as they hate Rockers, and they positively detest the Rolling Stones.
Mod boys hate The Beatles because John, Paul, George and Ringo replace themselves in mod girls's affections, and also because the group are from Liverpool, and therefore rate as provincial louts.
They detest The Rolling Stones because The Rolling Stones are dirty, undesirable, long-haired art school beatniks who rip off riffs from mod heroes such as Benny Spellman and Arthur Alexander, because Mick Jagger has a pair of lips that just begs a mod fist, and because Brian Jones looks like a woman, or even worse an aesthete, but most of all mods detest the Rolling Stones because the Stones are mirror images of themselves, but who seem to be doing something with their lives that the majority of mods wish they had thought of first.

On one memorable occasion a crowd of over one hundred mods on scooters arrive at the television studios of Ready, Steady, Go with the declared intention of sorting out the four Beatles, who are at the time recording a session inside, and it is only the quick-witted presence of a policeman on a white horse...

Sometimes, mod aggression is put to positive use, like when Sir Oswald Moseley attempts a comeback speech in the East End and sets up a meeting in Ridley Road market on the platform of Jewish landlordism and black vermin overunning the country, whereby a united front of local mods and taxi-drivers hound the former Cabinet minister a his attendant pusillanimous blackshirts from the streets, never to return henceforth.

(Thanks to Alex M Franquet for the typing )

11 Sep 2007


Pete Townshend memories

Fragment 1 - Pete Meaden

1st Fontana session (1964). Pete Meaden decides to write songs. Persuades Who to change name to High Numbers. Thought Who was a "tacky, gimmicky name." Meaden gets unreleased R&B records from Scene Club d.j. Guy Stevens, steals music, writes his own lyrics. Pete learns to be a "relay" of the Mod scene; picking up new trends and dance moves from his vantage point on stage, then copying the best and getting the credit. High Numbers live mostly cover "growling R&B songs. Guitar feedback absent on High Numbers' record. Pete plays "weedy" jazz guitar on "Zoot Suit" showing how far he still had to go. Record did not break, selling "about 400 copies." Meaden misses the innovation in the band's sound. Mods, however, do get it finding The Who's "effeminate" Mod clothing combined with their aggressive sound an example of "the cult of the elegant, disciplined, well-to-do, sharply-dressed and sexually indeterminate and dangerously androgynous yobbo."

In replies Pete adds that Roger's older sister and her boyfriend were, in 1962, the only Mods he knew. Roger still dressed like Elvis. Older homosexuals were attracted to the young, well-dressed Mod boys while lesbians were attracted to the short-haired Mod girls. Pete also found the Mod girl look "extremely erotic." When an analyst suggested it was because they looked like boys, Pete dismissed the answer as "a little too obvious." His father's generation got the same thrill getting women out of their masculine army uniforms. By late 1964 Mod spread throughout London and the famous Mod-Rocker battles started. Some Mod boys went with Who manager Kit Lambert to Paris, tried out gay sex and came back more experienced in the world.

Fragment 2 - I Can't Explain

Pete and Nick's ex-girlfriend spend a weekend traveling around Brighton in late summer 1964; sleep together "platonically", did speed, shared a compartment on the milk train back to London. Basis for romantic images in Quadrophenia.
High Numbers fail audition at Decca. Would have passed if they had original material. Kit and Chris encourage Pete to come up with songs. Pete listens over and over to The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan and You Better Get It In Your Soul by Charlie Mingus. Searches for words about how the music made him feel but found "I can't explain." The phrase forms the basis of his second song. Records demo on "clunky old domestic tape recorder". Barney [Richard Barnes] compares it to Dylan with a hint of Mose Allison. Kit and Chris make contact with Kinks' producer Shel Talmy. Pete reconstructs song around "You Really Got Me" and changes words about music to love. Play tape for Shel at 2 'I's Club in Soho. Pete already wrote title "Anyway Anyhow Anywhere" on a piece of paper about listening to Charlie Parker. "I Can't Explain" recorded at Pye. Jimmy Page brought in as second guitar. Shel brings in replacement drummer; Keith tells him to 'scarper.' Shel brings in background singers to replace demo's harmonies ruined by Keith joining in. Shel gets good commercial sound. Page's "laughably weedy" guitar on the B-side cause Pete to not take him seriously for years.

Fragment 3 - Trapped

October 1964 - Kit and Chris gets Tuesday residency for band at Marquee Club in Soho. Took Who logo with arrow from Pete's notebooks. He adapted it from older Detours logo. Aubrey Dewar takes solo picture of Pete windmilling. Pete thinks he looks unattractive in photo. Graphic designer from Ealing makes the "Maximum R&B" poster. Central London covered with posters. Had out membership cards to "The 100 Faces" with free entry to club. No women got the card. Attendance 90% male. Pete looked forward to shows "beyond all measure." Pete then designing 'Pop Art' target t-shirts in his notebooks. R&B songs perfect medium for guitar feedback. Press begins to notice. Sexy blonde dances in front of group during all-nighter at Club Noreik. Sends letter to Pete; Pete brings her to flat, goes with her to Marquee date. Worries Mods will find her clothing uncool. Leaving her at bar while performing causes paranoid panic attack. Same thing happens at another show. Cannot deal with it and leaves without her. Feels "trapped" on stage, fearful partner will betray him during performance. Echo of mother's affair while father away performing.

In reply to my question, Pete says he was not on speed during the Marquee run, so it was not the source of any paranoia. Says he still feels "trapped" on stage today.

Buzz Buzz with the Fuzz

Lee Harris remembers …

Well I was 27 when the 'mods' came, which was for the mods by 20 you were already too old, it was such a teenage cult and I do not know how I came in touch, I went first to the West End and I was aware at the scene clubs, a whole dance thing, a lot like the Ecstasy generation later.
So you suddenly saw an entirely different audience now?
Yes because what happened suddenly all these, and the age was like 15 to 17, with short hair and the Parkers, a whole lot of young kids, the girls had their hair short and looked like the boys, unisex, the first of the unisex things, and these clubs. A friend of mine ran a club called the Seam club, which Ronin Rahealey ran then, who had another club, Wardour Street and Hen Yard, Wardour Street they had the Flamingo. So already by the early sixties there was the beginnings of this whole new scene, which was the R n B, and the beginning everybody started at these clubs, so Lionel Blake ran the Scene Club, was the principal bouncer, he was later to go to Wormwood scrubs for running a disorderly house when people dropped their pep pills. And that was caused through me, and I will tell you what happened.
So you saw this new scene developing?
I saw this new scene developing, I had left drama school, I had done a bit of acting and I had started writing.
Right, you were living in the West End?
I was living in Earls Court, and I had become a night bird, I would sort of come into the West End at ten at night and leave at five, and sleep during the morning. I mean I was exploring these areas. So suddenly I came to this mod scene, and saw Wardour Street two-three o clock in the morning, hundreds of thousands of kids, and they were drifting into the dives, where in Wardour Muse, which is where the 2/3 famous dives were. And I noticed that they were all chewing gum and big dilated pupils, and started finding out and it was six pence a purple heart, that some of these kids were taking 80 or 90 a weekend, and having amphetamine psychosis, and brilliant dancing, because amphetamine is a perfect stimulant if you want to dance all night. And the clubs would end at five o clock in the evening, and these kids would have nowhere to go, all stoned out of their heads, and the dealers on Wardour Street, were young kids and other people, and also 'pills paradise' was up the road in Goodge Street with Greeks who were selling, and it was a huge big scene. And they were all going in the morning to the seaside, you'd see great gatherings at Waterloo, Liverpool Street, because nobody knew where to go, they all came from Illford and the suburbs, and suddenly huge amounts would end up at the seaside, which was the beginning of the mods and rockers thing. S o it was directly influenced from the amphetamine scene. So that was going quite nicely, and then I bumped into a boy there who was having horrors and bad scenes, and I went to his home and met his father, and he was badly addicted, and I was taping him. How I came to tape him is another story. 63 when this was happening it was the time of Christine Kealer and the Profumo. Now at that time I started smoking cannabis too. I will tell you the story too, because suddenly the Eldorado in Westbourne Grove, Kealer opened up first the cannabis thing, because she used to score the cannabis from in Westbourne Park road, the Eldorado Cafe because that had opened. I suddenly realised that we're in a vast big scene, why I was in the West End, because I was meeting the prostitutes who were involved in the Kealer case, that went to listen to the case, as I had so much free time I would go and queue in Marylebone to listen to Keeler. But this guy Terry Housego and I started smoking cannabis then, but I will tell you, called his MP, who was Ben Parkin, in Paddington, and we thought he said look, Ben Parkin had just made his name exposing Rachmanism, who became very famous because he was the first MP who brought Rachman's activities to parliament, which was an extension of Kealee, so then Parkin said to me, look I do not know anything about pep pills and drugs, there was an interview, I will raise questions in the Houses of Parliament, and then anyone who wants to know, I will give them your telephone number, because I was telling him what this boy's on, this kid's taking 90 pills, this boy his father had.
Is there something you thought was genuinely a problem?
I saw, I'd seen this boy who was having psychosis and going paranoid, kids were starting to get paranoiac, and seeing mice and spiders on the wall, and I suppose I was still an innocent and I was, I do not think I had started cannabis. I was a moralist, a friend of mine said to me, a psychotherapist who was sitting with Ronnie Laing, Sid Briskin said, because I had met Ronnie Laing then too, who had written his book, he said but you are a moralist. Ben Parkin MP brought up the first pep pill things in parliament. I got a call from Anne Sharpley who was a top investigative reporter on the Evening Standard, and did the royal tours and was a Beaverbrook protege, and I became a great friend of hers, and mentioned on her Desert Island Disks at that time 'needles and pins', but she said would you like to show me around the West End, so she was a tall lovely lady, and I said you can not come like that, come looking like this and I am going to take you on a tour of the dives. And I also had, which I had written as a prototype for my plays, a guy I met in 62/63, Johnny Colfer, who is an Irish guy, who not only smoked but was a heroin addict, not a heroin addict then, but was a pep pill addict, he'd take about 80/90 pep pills over the weekend, and chew his teeth, and talk, and when he talked he had a golden gift of the gab. I taped him, I got the tapes now on comedowns and his whole life, on pep pills. I've used them for a abortive book I wrote at the time called 'Living for Kicks', on youth cults, which Panther nearly published, but it was a hotch-botch of a book and liable reasons. but through him, so I introduced Anne Sharpley to him, and he was bubbling and we did a magnificent tour of Wardour Street late at night, where she went outside all the clubs and saw these thousands of young people, and saw the dealers passing the pills, and we went to the dives and that Monday was the heading of the front page of the Evening Standard, beginning of 1964, with a hand with pep pills, 'I See Soho's Pep Pill Craze', and it was the biggest story of the whole week, because the Queen Mothers' operation was the second. So by the Tuesday she had written the story of Johnny Colfer, the boy living on pep pills, the small sad world of, and pills paradise, and blew it open. But that Monday night the West End was deserted, there was not a sixteen year old, though the cops were not busy Monday, Tuesday. Suddenly there were questions in parliament the thousands of pounds the Evening Standard paid for the investigation, which of course I was given free meals and about fifty pounds for. But of course from then onwards I was rung up by Michael Hamlyn of the Sunday Times.
Oh were you in this article?
No, I was the stringer.
Didn't think so?
Yeah because I did not take any drugs, I mean I was a pure moralist, exposing, I was one of the biggest exposes of the time in the press.
That's quite ironic really considering the sort of career path you went to afterwards?
I was implementation, if you see the 1964 Misuse of Drugs Act, I actually when it hit me later and I looked at the Act and I thought 'Oh God I was one of the most important pinnacle in helping to bring forth that which rebounded on my friends.' So there was a terrific hue and cry, it was like the first big drug...Before that when I went with Terry Housego, this guy, to the Hews of the World offices, to see a journalist there, Derek, and look at their cuttings library, he said no, no, we're not interested in a story on mods and pep pills he said because look at the cuttings file, come with me, the only people who take pep pills are housewives in the Rhonda Valley, which the cutting were at that early stage, there weren't any youth associated with pep pills, Because it was not a craze, it all came from Welling Garden City 'Welcome' in Essex, a big factory was stolen, I do not know who was making a fortune.
Well it was a craze apparent?
Yes, it was coming.
The big criminal gains that were letting it happen?
Yes, but suddenly once I had exposed them, in that whole week, and I did quickly take down to the dives all sorts of.
It's probably just as well your name wasn't in the paper?
Exactly, except in the South African papers, I gave an interview that I had questions raised in the Houses of Parliament, I'd seen these kids in terrible, I was like equivalent to a Christian crusader. Though I also was interested in the underground dives, I suppose too, because I was sexually turned on by some of the people there, and had some erotic experiences, which were low life. I suppose coming from this pure prim background I needed to rebel in every way possible, so I suppose it would be inevitable, I decided I did not like pep pills myself, but I loved the dancing in the mod clubs and I loved the R&B and when you went down to the dives in Wardour Muse late at night at that period, it was the best period for dancing you ever saw, by the lesbians, fish dancing and of course all the R&B, all the Otis Redding, My Guy and all that bring memories of me of that period all night, the most primitive, erotic dancing. it was at night in these clubs would come out all these transvestites, all dressed up, and the knives and the lunatics, and everybody. The whole idea of these dives to seven in the morning was you'd dance, and the music, because R&B was in its heyday. what happened in these clubs with the music and these pills, was that all these groups started and I remember going at five o clock one evening to my friend, Lionel ran the Scene Club, to watch the. I forget the name now, who did 'Soot Zoot Suit' and 'I am a Mod' and later the Who, the High Nights with Peter Medin, and I went to the first ever performance at five o clock with our man doing Pete Townsend and his guitar, they had just come, they were going to play there, I mean I met Brian Jones there who is a friend of Lionel Blake, I would go to Brian Jones' flat.
Is this Lionel Blake still around?
I have not seen him in years, he was a South African and a bouncer, but I'll tell you through Lionel I met Paul who big groups who played there, and Georgie Fame, I'd go with him, but I ended up doing him harm. The outcome of my hue and cry in the press which I did took ground, different journalists dressed up to show them, it was a big thing then it spread everywhere, is that the clubs were raided. And a lot of police, and people dropped their pills and my friend Lionel was done for running a disorderly house and got twelve months in prison for it. And I went to visit him and gave an 'affidavit', and I felt terribly ashamed that in my zeal I had caused a bit of trouble for people and destroyed a lot of fun and but I do know that there was a lot of dangerous things going on, but people were young, people were having the horrors, but I was aware that as long as it kept down in the underground, or undergrowth it was all right. But suddenly it was all these ordinary young working class and middle class kids, and at twenty they were too old to be mods, it was essentially a youth thing.
You began to talk about Christine Keeler, the Eldorado, and cannabis, just tell me that?
That was among my spring of journalism and my low life thing, which I have tapes, which I'd showed to Dr. Eustace Chesser in his Harley Street rooms. My other interests besides, I suddenly got obsessive about drugs, because I did not know, but the other thing was sex. So the Keeler thing encompassed both. So I'd read a quote from Roger Gelbert in the New Statesmen on a play he'd written that 'male and female are beach heads of the vast unexplored territory.' So I had a big old grundig in 63 and I lived in Bayswater, and I decided because of the Keeler business, and because I met Julie Gulliver who was the last girlfriend of Steven ward, and I knew some of the prostitutes who had been involved in the Keeler thing. And I lived almost in the area. I went and did three interviews with prostitutes. one was a call-girl who lived in Chelsea Cloisters, and I talked to her in between clients, who would come to her room and cry, and tell her that they were sick of being an accountant, they lived with their mother, and one was a lesbian, who had been beaten in torture chambers, who had been abused terribly as a child and sold her virginity four or five times and had lesbian relationships. And the third one was a street girl from the Chinese street, Chinatown, Gerrard Street, who went with the Chinese waiters and 'Duhai' means business in Chinese, 'come to my loom', and take all her expenses off the Chinese waiters. She was a girl who had been abused by her parents in Cardiff, and the father had gone to prison for sleeping with her for five years. I had this extraordinary low life things which I was going to call 'Living for Kicks'. I was going to write my Genet type work, I would be the man who has seen the low life, of seedy London. And I could open the doors to people who did not know of this life for various reasons. So the Kealer thing was the first coming in the open of cannabis, because we were then aware and also the most important thing because of the Keeler thing and all that, in the mod clubs was coming the first use of 'spliff', of 'draw', because many of the mods liked the West Indian culture. I used to know mods who would shave their hair off and wear berets and talk with west Indian accents. So that was the first, besides pep pills, there was a big coming together of weed, draw, there's a whole lot of names.
Why you seem to be saying something, the expose of Keeler and all that had something to do with the growth of the use of cannabis?
Might well have done, the connection, the whole of 63 was Scandal 63, who is the man in the mask, who wore no clothes? Christine Keeler used to go off from Stephen Wards trial in the case and smoke cannabis, or sleeping and smoking cannabis with the Minister of War I think and the Russian Defence attaché and John Edgecombe. The whole Keeler thing broke of course because of this West Indian, John Edgecombe, who I have met through Howard Marks, who was Christine Keeler's boyfriend who used to score at the Eldorado and smoke, And then he got angry and jealous and other things of the news at Baker Street and came there with a gun, and got shot - he got seven years for that - but that opened all the rest of Stephen Wards thing, I mean that was the beginning of it which unleashed and of course Keeler and Mandy Rice Davis were involved with Rachmanism. And Rachman lived in the Grove. Also at that time I became interested in Rachmanism because of my other reporting things in 64 was exposing the housing conditions of the West Indian immigrants, the Irish people and Rachman were shoving them, whole families into one room at a high price, with one toilet, there were whole estates, I remember before the 63 elections.
Did the smoking cannabis bit around Keeler, did that get publicity as well at that time?
I think there was.
Was that part of the scandal?
Well I would have to research it, but it did, the Edgecombe and Lucky Gordon are still around the Grove. The cannabis thing was very big first among the West Indian community, in the dives with white women who went with them, but it was not open to a general public, because there were lots of people in the early sixties it was starting to go.
Why it drifted at that point? You think it's 63, you began to see these kids who were either used to chew pills and were now smoking dope or had been doing both?
Yes, what happened I can explain it from my own experiences. I was 27. Two things, I first wanted to smoke cannabis, and I had some middle class friends and some gay friends doing it who lived in Holland Park, and oh I must try this and I came with my big Grundig tape recorder and it was 63 and I was going to record the experience and it was a great disappointment, not only didn't I get high, but all I got were these two Jewish girls giggling in a corner who were rather droll. It was very disappointing because I what I would capture on tape was an amazing drug experience of cannabis people are talking about which I wanted to try. Only a little later in the West End in Oxford Street did I meet one of the Irish, because throughout 63 I also hung around in an all night dive in Queensway, and I met this Irish labourer guy also hanged around the West End, and this guy said 'would you like a spliff?' Now he rolled it up two o clock in the morning in Oxford Street, we walked along and we smoked it. And for the first time I suppose I got high on it. Now what you did then was you stayed up all night at the club, the big thing is the West Indians were becoming very big on the mod scene, and the saying was 'nice, man, nice' if you were stoned. So I think with the mods and the pep pills was the beginning for me and lots of people of coming into contact with grass or weed.
Because the mods began to get into black music?
Yes, and all the Otis. And suddenly there was all the West Indian culture, it was part. By the early sixties, 63, there was a beginning of a cannabis culture, which was very linked I suppose more with the mod culture and with the West End and the artists, art students, and the people who went to some coffee bars.
So how is it regarded again, it does not seem to me from a historical view, well it was no part of my life, but it still was not anything political or anything like that around at that time. That's from a later period, it began to get associated with the anti-war movement, students and all that?
Very non-political.
So this was just another way to get smashed basically at that time?
Yes, it was a way of getting high and throughout the mid-sixties of course, also what happened another thing in 63, besides the Keeler thing, I come back to because that was the liberating thing of the sixties. Because soon after that came a Carnaby Street, a 'swinging London'. So I am forgetting that the mod period was also 'I was Lord Kitcheners Vallet', the wearing of the uniforms, and the coming of Mick Jagger and The Beatles in 63. So how much was Keeler, how mush was The Beatles is hard to say but I mean 63 I often think was a defining moment - 67 was the next and a great defining moment for youth culture - in fact almost as big as 67 because it was the coming of the whole British - it happened here rather than in America, like 67 was with the Stones and The Beatles and The Yard Birds and Georgie Fame and all those and they were playing live at the clubs where the kids were. so it was a tremendous, though I was much older, the participant observer, I was fascinated because this was the first. the Elvis Presley in 57 was all right but it was not linked with any drug thing, with alcohol might be.
So how did things develop for you and your involvement in the scene, okay we are into the mid-sixties, you wrote this play didn't you?
Yes well I ended up in 64 writing a play, a one act play called 'Buzz Buzz' and the mods and pep pills with some of the tapes and with the lovely lingo 'watcha watcha Sammy Lee', 'How's it?'. What I met in the West End was what I call the mod cons - a group of five/six really nice guys, who were kids, who were hustlers, or they were on the street, the 'kicksters' I called them. They were the first kids I met who were living for kicks, that would outwit everyone, making life hustle, dealing drugs, had a marvellous lingo, the first sort of, I got a play 'Love Play' and Love Play is written in hippie language. 'I cut out, did you?', 'I split the scene, did you?' So in the early part the rhythmic speech.
Have you still got a copy of this?
I've got copies I'll show you. Buzz Buzz won me an Arts Council and the Star Certificate in Taunby Hall, National Association Youth and Jewish Drama Festival won star certificate. it was the first time, because it was ideal at youth clubs, I had sixteen/seventeen year olds to play the mods. So I wrote this play, and then I went, I'd had enough of the West End or because it's like a vice, in 64 I went to the docks and I caught a ship and went for four and a half months to Australia.

This is a part of an interview of Lee Harris – done by Harry Shapiro in 1998. No mistakes were corrected … the interview can be found in its entirety here : ... well, remember - just say NO !

A Little Mutual Admiration Society

Once again it is difficult to unravel the original elements that went into what was to become the « Swinging London » style. For one thing it all happened fairly fast, but most important is the way that in pop slang a word, in this case ‘mod’, changes its meaning to accommodate a rapidly changing situation.
Initially for instance ‘mod’ meant a very small group of young working-class boys who, at the height of the trad boom, formed a small totally committed little mutual admiration society devoted to clothes.
There was no sense amongst the first Mods of using clothes as a form of aggression as the Teds had. They didn’t want to fight or screw or smash anything. They were true dandies, interested in creating works of art – themselves. There had of course been dandies before but they’d always been upper-class dandies.
Now Macmillan’s affluence had helped create working-class dandies-dedicated followers of fashion.

There was admittedly a strong homosexual element involved – but it was not so much overt homosexuality as narcissistic. Girls were irrelevant. The little Mods used each other as looking glasses. They were as cool as ice-cubes.
The originals Mods had their clothes made, hunting down tailors and shoe-makers prepared to bend to their fantasies or, if they did admit something mass-produced they either modified it, took it out of context or insisted on certain stringent qualifications – their jeans, for instance, had to be American.
But the main thing about the first Mods was that they were true purists. Clothes were their only interest, but at the same time, in that they were the forerunners of a general trend, they carried with them their own destruction. As the ‘mod’ thing spread it lost its purity. For the next generation of Mods, those who picked up the ‘mod’ thing around 1963, clothes, while still their central preoccupation, weren’t enough. They needed music (Rhythm and Blues), transport (scooters) and drugs (pep pills).
What’s more they needed fashion ready-made. They hadn’t the time or the fanaticism to invent new styles, and this is where Carnaby Street came in.
John Stephen, a Scotsman, had opened his first shop for men in London in 1957, only a year after Quant’s first Bazaar. He’d done well but had attracted little general attention outside rather specialist circles. The point was that throughout the late 50s and early 60s any male fashion beyond John Michael’s discreet splendour or Cecil Gee’s continental ‘casual’ look tended to cater almost exclusively for butch trade.
I have for instance in my files a catalogue advertising an avant-garde men’s shop of the very early 60s which illustrates its collection in story form. The tale is simple. A young man called Ted is picked up by a lean mature film director called Lance en route to the South of France. Their relationship is underplayed, but their clothes are described in almost pornographic detail. ‘Ted’, reads one extract, ‘is open to all offers so make your bids now for this season’s slant on denim.’ Finally wearing ‘Tickling slax; slim cut thigh huggers at £3 9s 6d’, Ted decides to extend his holiday with Lance by accompanying him to Rome… ‘so take care Nero – they’re on their way’ is the sign-off line.
The growth of shops of this kind meant that when the ‘mod’ thing happened very little adjustment was necessary. Shepherd’s Bush, the main launching-pad for the blast-off stage in the Mod explosion, discovered Stephen and put Carnaby Street on the map. In no time at all Soho at week-ends was full of Mods piled up to the eyebrows, dressed like kaleidoscopes, and bouncing in and out of cellar clubs like yoyos.

George Melly – Revolt Into Style --- To be continued

4 Sep 2007

Various pictures by Terry Spencer

Photographer Terrence Spencer worked for Life Magazine photographing youth culture during the 1960s.

1964 'Mods' on scooters, Upper Richmond Road

For a serious 'mod' in the Sixties, the must-have fashion accessory was the scooter. The models to own were the Italian-made Vespa or Lambretta. This photo was taken in a year that saw running battles between mods and rockers. Many of these occurred in seaside towns near London such as Clacton, Margate and Brighton. Terry Spencer photographed this group of mods as they turned from Upper Richmond Road.

1965 Mods' try on Beatle boots at Annello and David, Drury Lane

n the 1960s, Anello & Davide designed a boot for pop group The Beatles. The 'Beatle Boot', with its Cuban heel and distinct style, became a fashion icon of the time. Queues of mods formed outside the Drury Lane shop to buy the essential footwear. Anello and Davide's reputation for high-quality handmade Italian shoes was already strong. Many of their designs were theatrical, including Dorothy's red slippers from The Wizard of Oz.

1969 'Mods', Borehamwood

In the North London suburb of Borehamwood, this gang of youths display the latest 'mod' style. The mod culture demanded that fashions constantly changed, so successive age groups developed their own look that differed from the early 1960s original. These youths have moved into the direction of 'hard mods', who rejected the finery of other mods and the hippies. The photo hints at Black style influences as well as the developing skinhead trend, particularly with the cropped hairstyles of both the girls and boys. There were distinct variations in dress between mods from different areas of London.

all photographs © Terrence Spencer

(source museum of London)

Hard Nut Mods (Jamie Rave speaks Charlie Steel a mod from Pimlico, thanx to and the old police cells museum)

The Sawdust Caesar's of 1964

Jamie Rave has a chat with Charlie Steel, a mod from Pimlico who was present at some of the festivities that fateful weekend
It’s the time of the season when a lot of young citizens thoughts turn to weekends away in the company of their mates, impressing each other with their gleaming Italian chariots, strutting about in peacock suits, looking for a suitably adorned partner to pussyfoot with and take in a change of scenery. These days the occasions are usually termed "Mod rallies" and are held in many countries throughout the appropriate seasons, from Germany to Sweden, France to England, Australia to Japan. Veritable cultural exchanges that owe very little to the original weekend excursions of yesteryear that gave us the term "Sawdust Caesar’s".

I wish it could be 1964 again...
Rallies! A quaint word that evokes images of jump-suited, turbo-charged nutters flying around a forest in Finland. Except the sort of rallies I’m thinking of usually consist of some young hipsters congregating in a seaside town showing off their blue mohair threads and occasionally dancing to a mooonster Mod sound in one of the specially-selected-for-their-Mod-friendly-bouncer type clubs.

Apparently our history lesson begins in 1964. Although the term ‘rallies’ was not heard of then (and the lucky sods didn’t have to put up with the word ‘retro’ either) large groups of youths made their way to resorts like Brighton, Hastings, Margate and Clacton. All snooty little seaside towns with a rabid judiciary and an endless supply of reasons to endorse euthanasia.

Convoys of Lambrettas, Vespas, Triumphs and assorted oily motorcycles scuttled their way to the coast with the intentions of having an ice cream and to make a sandcastle, sorry; to pose, dance, take a few pills and hopefully get laid. Oh, yeah, and apparently have a bit of aggro!

It’s better by ‘bretta
In 1964 a £20 down-payment meant you could drive away a new Vespa or Lambretta. With a kickstart that didn’t break your leg, minimum grease, a polish of those smooth lines and your hipsters stayed as crisp and your DB’s as clean as when picked out of the wardrobe. Besides the sensible extras for your scooter like luggage racks and panniers the Mods found they could also act as an extension of their peacock nature by decking them out in fog-lamps, Jaguar mascots, pennants, all-sorts of chrome accessories, and, quite befitting for the Mods vanity obsessed mind, their reflection in a dozen mirrors.

These elegantly contoured Italian stallions got you out of Hicksville and into the land of bright lights, coffee bars, and girlfriends. Not to mention the coast and it’s piers, crashing seas and salty seafront parades. They weren’t fast, but bloody nippy for the city, and whilst go-faster goodies were available, the Mods preferred their speed in the form of Drinamyl and Purple Hearts.

The quiffed and the coiffed
Legend has it that Mod types set about leather clad motorcyclists and kicked the dinner out of them (and vice versa) in between enjoying a frothy coffee and the odd dance on the pier. These gatherings of the quiffed and coiffed resulted in plenty of overtime for the police and casualty departments not to mention a promising career in fiction for the flock of journalists - who were often not even present - who managed to create a whole new meaning to the term "weekend breaks". Mods may have been the epitome of style and cool and having a nice bookshelf is one thing, but you had to be able to throw a punch.

"Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone" said some long haired hippy type. He must have said it on Brighton beach in 1964 ‘cos the pebbles were certainly flying that day!

I spoke to a sensible chap who was present at some of the festivities that fateful weekend. Charlie Steel, a Mod from Pimlico, who’s now something of a south coast property developer, and asked him to recall a few of the more light-hearted recreational activities they engaged in whilst on a weekend away.

"Well yeah, we were up for adapting the rockers wardrobe and often made them wear deckchairs, when you managed to grab hold of one another fave was checking if his leather jacket was waterproof - while he’s still in it - all that was par for the course, tit for tat like, they’d kick us, we’d return the favour, oh yeah, we didn’t bung him in the sea, there’s enough effluent bobbing up and down our coastline, once we came across some hiding in the aquarium and as it was way past the sharks feeding time..., well, being animal lovers we obliged."

So the media was right, it was just a gang of thugs popping down the coast on a weekend for a mass fight? "I was joking Mr Rave. That stuff did happen, but I was interested in more than chasing some greaser about. Of course aggro kicked off, we weren’t going to turn our backs on somebody having a pop at us. Aggro plays a major part of life for kids then as now, but we were older, the main point of going away was to have a chuckle with your mates, we never dreamed that when we went to the seaside we’d end up decking rockers and getting charged by the police, the whole thing was sent way out of control by the press. For us it was just a weekend away from London, actually some of the south coast disco’s were really good."

So how did the idea of groups of Mods going away for a weekend come about? "As far as me and my mates were concerned, we used this old boy barbers in Wardour Street, Antonio’s; he knew his way round a head of hair, and we got what we wanted, which was quite an achievement then, 5 bob for a smart French crew, incidentally, at the same time, my bird was paying 25 bob for a cut at Vidal Sassoon, as he’d take the money off you he’d look you in the eye and say "anyting fora de weekend sir?" We just laughed and occasionally had some johnnies off him, even though he was a catholic he did his bit to stop unwanted pregnancies! Then in the cafe’s... actually, I think the first time we really discussed it was in Heaven and Hell, in Old Compton Street -they did the best cappuccino there- it was like, yeah that’s a great idea, why don’t we pissoff for the weekend? Head for the coast on our scooters, catch a last bit of summer sun, and maybe get rid of some of these bloody johnnies we’d accumulated from Antonio."

So with all the newspaper stories and the general mood of the public towards Mods, didn’t you have a problem finding somewhere to stay for the weekend? "Not at all, this was September ‘63, nobody, least of all us, had an inkling of what was to come. And Danny Golding had an aunt who ran a B&B in Brighton, in the beginning there were a few others besides our crew, just 6 of us were going down, then it grew and come our first weekend there about 20 ended up going, all on scooters, some of the lads took their birds, we couldn’t all stay at Danny’s aunt’s place, she sorted them with a rooming house further up the coast road near Hove."

"It was in ‘64 that loads of day-tripper Mods started to arrive, and those that stayed over usually ended up on a beach."

So what was the catalyst that tempted kids to visit the seaside en masse? London sounds as though it was a pure buzz at that time, with stuff happening all over club, gig, clothes and Mod wise, wasn’t it difficult to tear yourself away from that for a weekend in the country? "Why not take a break to the seaside, a break from those hectic weekends at home? Loads of people did it, our parents did it, when we were old enough to go on our own we did.. We ate whelks and ice-cream and pissed about on the pier. It was a different buzz to the smoke. To be honest we downed so many pills and were full on so often that going away was a welcome break, not that I want to sound old before my time. Even getting there was a chuckle.

We saw rockers there that first weekend, but apart from a few sneers and the occasional banter it was nothing, we were busy poncing about on the beach, the sound of the waves rolling up and the taste, the smell of that salt air filling your lungs, lovely! It was the first time most of us had done anything like that since we were kids, and then it was with our parents, now we could do what we wanted, go where we wanted, and have it all on our own terms.

It was real easy to pull down there, we knew all the latest sounds from the Scene, Discotheque, Last Chance, the local Mods thought we were well way out, which, compared to them I suppose we were. Some of their crew were well handy in a ruck, their club was called the Brighton Scooters."

So tell us something about your mates, we get the impression there were ‘gangs’ of Mods in different areas. "Yeah, that’s true, there were the Ealing, the Croydon, the Stamford Hill, the Ilford, the Tottenham, get the picture? Every area of London had a crew, there were the Cockney Scooter Club, who were from all over East London and Essex and even a few lads from Lambeth sided with them and a crew called the Streatham Scooters, some of them got on, some of them didn’t, I was from Pimlico, but my stomping ground was around Soho, my firm were from all over, I suppose our allegiances were a bit difficult to define, like, our lads may live in Chelsea, Brixton, Leyton or wherever but our work and main club haunts were Soho so that’s where our allegiances lay.

We were up for aggro, it wasn’t the prime mover in our lives, but we got a lot of grief and you had to make a stand. Pete and Ade ended up with The Firm, a group of hard-nut Mods who rarely paid when they went out, but that was to ponced up west end clubs. They started in the days of the Flamingo, they’d do stuff like take all the chairs and tables from the front of a cafe in Soho when they left, just put them in the back of a van! Then when they did a bit of vandalism it was quite arty, like cementing a Hoover to a bath, or burning down the Speakeasy, you had to understand how it worked, like, all the posers who went to that place really pissed us off, so they got some petrol, added calcium carbide, which when you throw it on water forms acetylene, that was great, watching the posers coming out, tears streaming, watching the fire engines, the police, The Firm thought the prices were bad. I must admit, I fancied myself as a bit of a gangster but luckily didn’t get that involved in it, when we were out and about, only a few times at the coast, and we got involved in aggro with some rockers, we were quite vicious, make no mistake, the lines were drawn, them and us you know, it became kind of like of a war, only for a while."

These weekends away became notorious, could you explain for the novice, what happened? "Well, in the space of 6 months of our first scooter trips to Brighton came that Easter weekend, the one where it all went off in Clacton, we were in Brighton at the time, but then surprisingly it didn’t really happen like they said it did, some mates of ours went there, and a lot of others besides, but we’d already booked up with Danny’s aunt and she’d arranged the Hove B&B so we didn’t want to piss her about you know? It was funny how it went, although there would be Mods at most of the coastal towns on a holiday weekend, it was kind of organised in word-of-mouth way, you just knew where everyone was going, I was going steady at the time and, a few of us who were that touch older, decided to miss Clacton. On the Monday we saw the papers, it was mainly about Clacton, where some of our firm had gone, the Daily Mirror had this "Wild ones invade seaside town" headline, comparing it to that Brando movie in which some outlaw bikers take over a town for the weekend. Something that I remember well was how Danny flew into a rage about that headline, he was really pissed off that Mods were being called "Wild Ones", I mean it was alright for the rockers, but how demeaning, comparing us to some poxy scruff.

Somehow all the hysteria was like the Twilight Zone, quite unreal you know? It was the coldest Easter weekend in Clacton since 1884, when we spoke to Stevie, Sawn-off and Mitch afterwards they told us how there were hardly any holidaymakers there, the shops shut early, Stevie, Johnny, and a load of other Mods from London got kicked out of a cafe and had a punch-up with some rockers, who were locals, some kids jumped the turnstile to get on the pier for free, so here was the town refusing to serve food or drink to anyone over 14 or under 25, what do you do when you’re cold and hungry? Hit back! That was it really, then the Monday papers carried the story of riots between Mods and rockers, some of the Cockney scooter club left on the Sunday and word had already spread around the street and it was on the news, so come Monday loads of Mods and rockers from all over went to Clacton, not us though!"

I told Charlie of some of my own research I’d done via archives. I found a piece in a Clacton paper where a council spokesman estimated damage at £500, ten times less than many newspapers were reporting, and he added the press had grossly exaggerated the whole incident and "there was nothing like gang warfare - Clacton was not ransacked". I asked him what he felt when hearing something like that. "Well, I saw a lot of crap in the papers, just like now, they don’t always print the truth, which isn’t surprising. I suppose that hearing something like that now, 33 years after the event, makes me a bit angry. I mean the whole history of Mod was changed after that, life was still good but we had a lot more crap to put up with."

So the aggro that came out of those coastal excursions, it was a real negative thing for Mod? "Definitely, the publicity was very much a defining moment, all of a sudden the beach fights and the crap that started to spring up around Carnaby Street started to drag the Mod thing down, there we were surrounded by a lot of pratts jumping up and down in tacky clothes shouting out they were Mods, they didn’t know anything about the Mod ethos, they just bought some clothes and got a haircut, it was fashionable, much the same way you must feel about it now, I understand all things Mod have become somewhat fashionable again. Although it was still exciting for years after that, the boundaries were blurred, Mod became fairly mainstream, the media and business started to dictate what they wanted to market as Mod, luckily there were still enough creative kids on the edge, not going with the flow, you saw that a couple of years later in bands like The Eyes with their purple parkas and The Creation, what they were doing, playing with pop-art imagery, wearing lary clothes and making feedback, was not at all new, they just played with it in different ways, it was progression and they exaggerated the thing. But I did used to wander how much more creative energy the Mod thing could have produced if it wasn’t tarnished with the fighting." The damage was done. The media expected and desired violence at Bank holidays. At the next Bank holiday, Margate, the police used dogs and horses to keep the Mods and rockers moving up and down the beach.

Mod Squad to the coppers: Didn’t work did it copper?

That Clacton weekend saw 44 arrests, 37 of whom were accused of using threatening words and behaviour, a catch-all the police use when they pick someone out of a crowd, and only one with assault. Yeah, like Mods really committed offences against the law of the land.

Mod Squad to the media: What pitched battle Mr Editor?

That same weekend cars killed 90 people, caused grievous bodily harm to 400 others. Without taking into account the medical or personal loss, the damage to cars and property was over £100,000. It received a helluva lot less coverage than a few kids breaking windows and being violent to deckchairs. The Daily Mirrors reporter was not even in Clacton on that Sunday, Wax lyrical Mr Reporter.

Coppers & Media to the Mod Squad: "What disparity in your treatment Mr Mod?"

So what was important to you at that time Charlie? "Most important to me was my mates, being Mod was important to me. We had a crew, all the stuff we did together, the clubs, the whole scene, the music, the R&B, the soul and some of the jazz, it was real exciting, I’m starting to remember that! We’d spend money on gear and having a real good time out, buying the latest records, even the occasional book! When this stuff with the coast runs started being purely an excuse for a punch-up we let it go. I also really enjoyed the scooters, I wasn’t averse to Vespa or Lambretta, I liked ‘em both, I guess I had my last bike the longest, that was an SX200 with a Supertune set-up, but before I didn’t hang on to them for more than a few months, we’d swap ‘em or trade ‘em in, once I had a GS with coppered panels and all the foglamps were yellowed out, like on the continent, no other accessories on that one, no mirrors, when the panels started going green I swapped it for a GT, that was all mirrored up, but I think Vespa’s looked better with all the accessories, Lambrettas looked better with just a few pieces on.

They were well handy for buzzing around the west end on, gadding about to the clubs and coffee bars, but there were real problems with them getting nicked, some people seemed to spend their waking hours stealing and selling scooters."

If you weren’t going to the coast for a weekend, what clubs did you visit, how did you get your pills and stuff? "London and clubland, most of us popped a few pills, you could get pills nearly anywhere, from people on the street, in the cafes you’d buy a cup of tea either ’with or without’, you’d get some hemp from the spades in Tiles or wherever. It was easy to get hold of drugs, and being Mods, we took loads of them, there wasn’t even a drug squad around until 1967. Sometimes we’d even be checking out the birds!

Saturday morning we’d mosey on down to Carnaby Street or Portobello, The Scene was supposed to shut at 3 on Sunday morning, it didn’t always, if it did we hopped it to the Flamingo or Discotheque and come chuck out time it was off to get a fresh shirt in Petticoat Lane, intersperse that with a bit of pie and mash and the occasional dolly bird and bob’s your uncle. D’you get the picture?"

I reckon I do Charlie. I thanked Charlie for his time and he went off to his quite luxurious house in Hastings.

© Jamie Rave 1997 - 2007

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additional pictures from 18 may 1964 :

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London : Max The Mod

I was born in 1947 in London and Moved to Atlanta, Georgia, USA in 1976. I spent several years of my miss-spent youth hanging around pubs and clubs and got to see some of the greatest performers of all time. I played professionally during 1966 and early 1967 before starting a real career in Advertising for a decent wage of £10 a week! Max The Mod

It all started on December 21, 1963. I went to St. Mary's ballroom in Putney to see the Rolling Stones.

I distinctly remember the Detours as the support band and being amazed at how loud they played! John and Pete were both playing Epiphone guitars, and Roger played some harmonica.

Pete had a tab collar that went right up to his chin. They played an opening and a closing set. This was a double event for me since not only did I become initiated to new music, I also saw Mods for the first time! During 1964 I heard reports of The Who and saw the Marquee posters across London, but never ventured to see them until late March 1965. I was totally in awe as I recognized three players immediately. I saw the band on nine occasions during the course of the year. I hope my personal experience helps you relive the most important period of the band, "The Who London 1965."


As far as the British Public were concerned there was no such thing as "mod" until the Easter of 1964. A major riot in the south coast resort town of Clacton announced the arrival of a new cult.

Nobody can pinpoint the arrival of the first mods since, for the most part they were invisible other than to themselves however the first so called "modernists" had appeared by 1962.

The abolishment of National Service (conscription) and a low school leaving age contributed to the rapid growth of the youth market in post war England. This new youth society produced young wage earners who were able for the first time to get rid of their parent's influence and create a whole new scene for themselves.

Mod has always been considered more of a lifestyle than a clothes fashion but the wardrobe was essential. The early mods sought out and wore the sort of clean looking fashions that were more popular in Europe. We are talking "mens wear" here since "mod" was primarily a male cult. Suits made from mohair and Italian knotted silk ties were items "de rigeur" and the clothing was often so finely tailored that outsiders were unable to recognise the subtleness. This in itself was a subversity and allowed mods to flourish in the mainstream and work normal office jobs unlike the punks and new romantics of recent years.

All cults have leaders and followers and mod was no exception, there were Faces and Tickets. The Faces were the originators of the fashion styles and the Tickets were followers who ended up wearing the accepted uniform of mod, i.e. Parka coats, mod hats, Fred Perry shirts etc.

Unlike their teenage counterparts, mods were not interested in the new "Merseybeat" music from Liverpool. Mods were interested in contemporary dance music from the U.S.A. such as soul and Motown with a touch of blue beat or ska. There were specialist shops and stalls in the street markets that catered to this new music market.

An automobile was out of reach for most British teenagers in the early 1960's.The generally accepted method of transportation was the motor scooter as it was (and still is) practical and affordable to get around London, which was the Mod mecca. In the early 1960's the pubs would close at 11pm, public transportation shut down and there was not much to do. There were however, a few mod hangouts and "all-nighter" clubs. Scooter transportation helped the mods get around with "speed" being provided chemically by "Purple Hearts"and "French Blues".

These were the mods that invaded Clacton in 1964. These were the Vespa driving, pill popping horders that became to be recognised as "the mods" when in fact they were no more than soldiers in uniform rather than the "faces" who had set the styles. In the Who's Quadraphonia, Jimmy is a journeyman mod. In another era he could have just as easily been a high street Punk or a New Romantic.


In 1965, the Marquee Club was the premier venue in London. Music was featured up to seven nights a week, and there were occasional afternoon sessions on Saturdays. There were normally two bands playing per night and each played two 45-minute sets.

I saw The Who on six occasions during the year, including November and December dates. On these latter dates, The Who played a one-hour set. The procedure went something like this: The support band played a 45 minute set and the headliners played their first set, whereupon the support band went in for their final set, followed by the headliners again. Everything was usually over around 11:00pm, in time to catch the last bus home! The Marquee Club was not "licensed" which meant that alcoholic refreshment had to be obtained in-between sets. I used to go the "Ship" just up the street and Roger and Keith were regulars!

On one occasion in April 1965 there was a taping for a radio Luxembourg radio show. I'd seen several of these tapings before and the featured band normally "mimed"to music. You can rest assured that this was not going to happen at The Who's session. In fact, they never even played "I Can't Explain" during the month of April as they probably wanted to appear as "purists" to their peers in London. I remember hearing a playback of "Daddy Rolling Stone" at the taping which was yet unreleased.

The support bands tended to vary, but often it was the "Mark Leeman Five" and on one occasion it was "Jimmy James and the Vagabonds" who joined The Who on stage for an encore of "Please Please Please".

I distinctly remember the occasion when Pete first used his VOX A.C.100 on stage. It literally self-destructed during the second number and real ozone started to smoke from the back. Pete nonchalantly disconnected the head and chucked the smoking missile in the direction of the band room and proceeded to set up his old stack while the rest of the band kept playing. In keeping with tradition, the show must go on!

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The Clacton Giggle

Where to go for a giggle? In the teen joints of Soho, the word went out: make it Clacton. Like a flock of noisy starlings, more than 1,000 youths buzzed into the dismal North Sea resort for Britain's four-day Easter holiday. The weather was foul—and so, Clactonians decided, were their visitors. Most of the invaders "slept rough" on the beach, warmed only by their "birds" (girl friends) and quantities of "purple hearts" (goofballs). Inevitably, the giggling had to stop, for Clacton's invaders belonged to London's two hostile teen cults: the "Mods" (for Moderns), foppishly dressed youths who drive souped-up, chrome-plated scooters; and the "Rockers," who wear black boots, black leather jackets, drive powerful motorcycles, and scorn the Mods as "queer." The rumble erupted on the second day.

Roving mobs of cold, bored teenagers swarmed over Clacton's pier, smashing windows, overturning cars, stealing liquor. Pistol in hand, one youth used a big storefront window for target practice. When a local type admonished the rioters, he was tossed over a 20-ft. bridge. Clacton police called for reinforcements from a neighboring town, fought pitched battles with the teenagers, many of whom were armed with ax handles and furniture legs. Finally the bobbies restored order: over 60 youths were arrested on charges ranging from burglary to assault.

Wild Ones. The Clacton riot climaxed a longtime rivalry between the sartorially splendid Mods and the hot-rodding Rockers. One British sociologist claims that their hostility is based on class. The Mods are artisans and office workers, he claims, and look down on the Rockers, who tend to be scruffy worker types. As a London Mod explains the feud, "The Rockers are just interested in their cycles. This isolates them. Mods are more aware, fast moving, hip. With us, it's like a club. If you wear the right clothes, you're accepted."

The Rockers have no desire to be accepted. At truck stops outside London, they sit by the hour rolling cigarettes and jabbering intently about motorcycles. Only when a covey of new cyclists roars into the parking lot do they look up to see "who's got a new bike." Though they all look like Marlon Brando in The Wild One, they worry about their reputation as troublemakers, claim gravely: "That film did us a lot of harm." The Rockers do not conceal their disdain for the Mods. "The money we spend tripping around and going places, they spend on clothes," sniffs one. For a Rocker, clothes are strictly functional. "People don't seem to realize that a leather jacket is the warmest thing to wear when riding."

A Mod, by contrast, would rather go naked than don a leather jacket. Mod styles tend toward pastels and velvet, collarless polo shirts with horizontal stripes, and ankle-high "plimsoles" (sneakers) with thick white rubber soles. Mod girls wear no jewelry and no makeup save brown eye shadow and false eyelashes. Hairdos are short; flat shoes are In. Skirts vary from ankle-length to midcalf.
The fashion Mecca for Mods is Soho's Carnaby Street, where a string of shops offers pink denim shirts, crimson leather vests and blazing red tartan pants for ultra-slicks. Most of the shops are owned by a young entrepreneur named John Stephen, who has wholeheartedly embraced Detroit's idea of planned obsolescence. Pants are pegged one month, bell-bottomed the next. "To the person who keeps up," says one of Stephen's clerks, "style can change every week. But some suits are in style for months."

Top Faces. London's top Mod hangout is an ill-lit, black-walled club called The Scene, which boasts 7,000 members; at least 600 can be found dancing there to phonograph music every night. Mods change dances even faster than they change trouser-widths. The "Shake" and the "Bird" are both passe, and only the Rockers would be caught doing the Twist. The current dance craze is some thing called the "Face Twist," which has a tricky hand and heel movement that resembles a cross between a hula dance and a High Noon gun draw. While the Mods are still loyal to the Beatles, they have resurrected Bill Haley, one of the originators of rock 'n' roll, as their idol. "The pop papers said that Bill Haley would never come back," says one Mod. "It just proves they were wrong."

Modland's heroes are called "faces."

Top faces right now are Patrick Kerr and Theresa Confrey, a young couple that demonstrates new dances on a popular TV record show, Ready, Steady, Go. When they got married last month, Patrick, ever aware of his sartorial responsibilities, wore a curly-brimmed grey bowler, velvet-collared thigh-length jacket and a grey velvet waistcoat. The bride wore a "skinny strapless evening gown." "We don't really like to fight," explained one Mod after the Clacton giggle. "Our clothes cost too much."

Source : Time US 10th April 1964

2 Sep 2007

MANCHESTER : THE TWISTED WHEEL - Roger Eagle - the godfather of British soul (thanx to Paul Welsby and The New Breed)

Roger later found fame running Eric's club in Liverpool in the days of the city's post-punk explosion, and later helped numerous Manchester musicians on their way (Mick Hucknall being but one). Over the years he developed a more eclectic taste in music but Roger never lost enthusiasm for his first love, Black American music from the 50s and 60s.

The New Breed carried out this interview at Roger's home in North Wales in February 1999 and because of his poor health, decided to conduct the interview in stages over a period of time. This is a complete transcript of the first interview, because sadly we didn't make a second as Roger's health progressively worsened over the months. This is Roger Eagle's last interview. At the time we never expected it to be a Tribute.

TNB : When and how did you first become interested in Soul and R&B music?

RE : Well I was originally a Rock'n'Roll kid until I heard Ray Charles. The 'In Person' and 'Live At Newport' LPs from around 1958/59 really converted me. Rock'n'Roll died in 1958. Ray Charles was the first to see the possibilities of mixing different types of musics. He mixed R&B, Rock'n'Roll and even country. There were other acts at the time that were a great influence. Fats Domino, a lot of the R&B releases on London Records. Gary US Bond's 'New Orleans'. Arthur Alexander. LaVern Baker. Chuck Willis' 'The Sultan of Stroll' that was a very, very important LP. I love Chuck Willis.

How did you pursue your interest in this (at the time) very obscure music?
There were various coffee bars in Manchester, like The Cona Coffee Bar (in Tib Lane near Albert Square) where you could take in your own records to play. You would take your own in and also listen to other people's and pick it up from there. There were a few like minded people around and you would bump into them or meet them in places like The Town Hall pub.

As for getting hold of the records, you could get hold of some but it wasn't long before I was importing records directly from the States. I must thank two guys - Roger Fairhurst and Mike Bocock who taught me how to import records from the States. I was getting hold of records from the US even before they had been released there! Tracks like 'You Don't Know Like I Know' by Sam and Dave. I was the first person to play that record in Britain. It even got to such a stage that I was involved in writing sleeve notes on a Bobby Bland LP for Duke Records in the US.

How did you first become involved with the Twisted Wheel?

Before I got the job at The Twisted Wheel, my only DJ experience was taping tracks on one of these reel-to-reel recorders and taking them along to parties to play. One day I received a parcel from the US that contained all of the Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley back catalogue LPs. I took them down to The Left Wing Coffee Bar, just to have a look at them. I was approached by the Abadi Brothers who said 'we're buying this place and turning into a night club - do you know anything about R&B?' so I said 'Yes' and they offered me the DJ job there and then.

To be honest, the Abadis didn't really have an appreciation for the type of music that was popular at the club. They just saw it as a way to get the numbers coming through the door. Only once did they insist that I played a pop record. I argued against it but to prove a point I played it and emptied the dance floor. After that they never interefered again on the music side.

I wasn't a particularly high profile DJ. I didn't have the ambition and I certainly didn't have the patter. I was happy playing the music that I loved. I would play six or seven hours solid singlehandedly - with just an hour or so's break for the band - for £3 a night. I was happy playing the music that I loved but with hindsight I would have appreciated a little more money.

Seven hours of record playing is a long time and there weren't that many Soul and R&B records available at the time so I had to mix in Rock'n'Roll tracks to fill out the time. In fact Carl Perkins was a particular favourite amongst The Wheel crowd. He even played live at the club. In the very early days, when the club first started, we relied very much on word of mouth recommendations. We had the likes of Roger and Mike and their mates from Bolton, we had people coming over from Liverpool and all over the place. I guess it was the start of the whole scene where people are willing to travel to hear the music that they want to hear.

The Wheel was a big scene in the North West, how much did you know about what was happening in other parts of the country?

The only other club anywhere that was playing anything like what I was playing at The Wheel was The Scene Club in London. I used to get on well with Guy Stevens and we used to exchange records. Like I said, I was getting hold of some records before their release even in the States, things like Stax and so on. We weren't conciously trying to create a movement or anything like that. We just liked to have a club that played the right kind of music.

Obviously the music that you played and crowds that you attracted were very much part of Mod culture. Did you class yourself as a Mod? Did that side of things appeal to you?

No, not really. You could say that I tipped my hat towards the things that were happening. But it was the music that came first and was paramount above everything else to me. Of course I dressed in the styles of the day. I was smart but I wasn't at the sharp end style-wise. My money went on vinyl and importing new records. I left the clothes obsession to the kids coming to the club.

Did you set out to make The Wheel a Mod club?

No, as I said before, it just grew and happened. You knew what was going on though. The punters were generally sharp but some were way ahead. I couldn't keep up with them ! I got respect through the records that I was playing. That to me was enough.

Although many people often forget it, The Wheel did have a bit of a reputation for the quality of live acts that played there, many of which were White kids influenced by the kind of music that you were playing.

Yes, we had the lot. I used to be friendly with Steve Winwood. He would come round to my place and listen to records when The Spencer Davis Group played the club. Georgie Fame did some good things - very King Pleasure influenced. The important thing is to take the influence and then add a twist and take it on further. It's important to remember that there is a big big difference between Club Groups and Pop Groups. Eric Clapton was a good friend at that time. I remember one Sunday morning after he had played at the club, he brought a good-looking young Mod girl round to my place and she got completely pissed off because all he wanted to do was listen to Freddy King records.

In 1965, the 'original' Twisted Wheel in Brazennose Street closed down and a 'second' Wheel opened in Whitworth Street. Legend has it that the original crowd didn't move on to the new club. Is that true?

No, that's not true. The music policy at the new club was just the same. I moved over with the club, I spent roughly two years at the first Wheel and a year at the second, roughly.

During 1966, you left The Wheel. Why?

Well, I left because they wouldn't pay me a decent wage. After three years hard graft for maybe £3 a night I asked for a fiver and they said they couldn't afford it. I was also getting bored with the music and there were a lot of pills going on. Kids were in trouble with the pills and all they wanted was that kind of fast tempo soul dance. So, I was very restricted with what I could play and I thought 'I'm not getting paid enough money to do this - I ain't going to do it no more'. So I left and immediately got paid a decent wage by Debbie Fogel at The Blue Note Club. I got a fiver a night for four nights, besides doing other things.

I was able to play the kind of music that I liked. The range of music. Whereas the pill freaks only wanted the same dance beat - which is what makes it so boring. Its okay you know there were some decent sounds but they made it so boring. You're trying to talk to kids who are off their heads all night on pills and its really hard. And the Abadis didn't want to pay me what I felt I was worth.

So you just completely disassociated from them ?

Gone. Yeah. I was a black music fanatic and I had respect for what I was dealing with - I don't think they did.

And then you started the Staxx club. Was that after the Blue Note?

Yeah, briefly. It was at the The Three Coins in Fountain Street. The music policy was similar. It was R'n'B and Soul. But you see I was trying to play funk. Early funk. In fact, 'Funky Broadway' by Dyke & The Blazers was probably the last record I played at The Wheel. It was just starting to change and they didn't want it. They didn't want it to change. It just split. I was progressing to funk, very early funk but they didn't want to go with it.

So when you started the Staxx Club, presumably you were pulling in a different audience to the one that you had had at The Wheel?

I don't know really. They were just people around town. Pill freaks that just popped in and out. You can't look at it with hindsight, at the time it wasn't 'oh we're going to start a movement!' . It was just the place to be. It was the place for The In Crowd...for a while.

And then you moved completely at a tangent to the Magic Village Club?

I just started getting into rock. It was a completely different track. Things like Captain Beefheart, John Mayall, The Nice and so on.

That's just about taken us through your 'Soul Years' but there's just one last question. It's about a story that's become almost an urban myth - and we wondered whether you could clear it up once and for all. It's about the time that The Rolling Stones came down to The Wheel after playing a gig in Manchester...

Yeah. I'll tell you exactly what happened. The Stones came down to the club and they were standing in the coffee bar having a cup of coffee. The kids were standing round them - just looking at them. Not talking to them - just looking. And I played all of the original tracks off their first album, which had just come out....'I'm A King Bee' by Slim Harpo, 'Walkin' The Dog' by Rufus Thomas, Arthur Alexander... They knew exactly what I was doing... I played them in exactly the same order as the LP. It was just me saying..there's a North/South thing. I'm a Southerner by birth - but a Northerner by emotion. I prefer the North. I'm not saying I don't like Southerners, but they tend to be so temporary down there. To me if something's solid then its worth looking after. Whereas they're into it and out of it. Which is really not the Northern style.

I actually got on OK with The Stones. Brian Jones bought a copy of R&B Scene [Roger's own magazine fom the early/mid-60's] from me when I was in London. Mick Jaggger once bummed a cig off me. That sums up The Stones for me. But joking aside, I'm one of the DJ's that publicised the music, but when when The Stones went to The States they got Howlin' Wolf onto primetime national televison. Fucking Hell. That's the thing to do. I admire them for doing that.

I'd be playing tunes in the club and those guys would be listening. You know Rod Stewart and those guys. Pete Stringfellow used to come over and write down the name of every tune that I played. I didn't really know what was going on. I wasn't sharp enough business-wise to realise what I had going. I'm not bitter about it because I am absolutely totally committed to the music. It means so much to me.

I recently met this black American guy who came over to see me. He's at University in The States and he's doing a thesis on Northern British Appreciation of Black American Music. He'd been to see everybody on the Northern Scene...all the Northern DJ's and so on they all said 'go and see Roger Eagle - he started it all'. Eventually he turned up here with a camera and I blew his head off completely. I started playing him tunes...he went away with a cassette - with what you would probably think are fairly obvious tunes on it. His mind was completely wrecked. This guy's in his 40's, maybe 50's and he's a serious man ....and he's never heard Ray Charles! I said, if you want to talk about Northern Soul there's plenty of people better placed than I am to tell you ...but if you want the history about white Northern English appreciation of Black American music you talk to me! I'll straighten it out for you. I did.

I said: this is where it started in the 50's. When it was exciting. I don't want to know about white artists ripping off black artists ...that's bollocks. Everybody covered everyone else! Nat King Cole - one of the most successful black entertainers of all time - he would cover white show tunes, pop tunes, blues tunes - across all boundaries. He didn't care. Ray Charles was one of the first black artists to see the possibilities. I said to this guy 'have you ever heard "I'm Moving On" by Ray Charles? As far as I know it's one of the first cases of a black artist covering a Country & Western song - a Hank Snow tune'. I had to put it on tape...he'd never heard it. I love the train rhythm through the track building up towards the end. As far as I'm concerned a tune this strong ought to be played. I bet you've heard it so many times without really clocking just how strong a track it is. It's a head record. Atlantic were starting to experiment with different instrumentation. Moving away from the basic drum, bass, guitar, sax and piano. They put a distorted pedal steel guitar on it. It's one of my all time favourite records.

Ray Charles is the only artist I've never managed to meet. I was at the Free Trade Hall and he walked right past me. His bodyguards - New Yorkers in pork pie hats and shades - said 'Yeah you can talk to Ray..... in London. Make an appointment son'. I said 'No I want to talk to him here.....'. It's a shame. It was about '63/'64 he had a huge, huge band.....but he'd lost it by then. You know I talk to people about Ray Charles and they immediately think 'Take These Chains From My Heart' and they say 'Ray Charles??'. He was a genius.

This interview was originally published in issue 2 of the Mod 'lifestyle' fanzine The New Breed.

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