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 .

2 Sep 2008

Happy Birthday to

... US

- The blog is one year old !!! -

21 Aug 2008

The diary of a mod

Some extracts from the personal diary of 18 year old Bernard Schofield – October 1964

(Originally published in Extraordinary Sensations fanzine 24 years ago)

October 3

Thank God for Saturday night. Downed five blues. Took a tube to the Dilly + waited for Maureen. She was dead late, I thought she’d never turn up.

We walked up to Wardour Street and met Mick + co. Something tells me Maureen fancies Mick, she kept glueing him in Smokies. Up the Disque watching those guys dancing and it’s quite easy to analyse, I hope I learn it soon. I mean I know the basics but I don’t want to look stupid out there.

Maureen had to go home so I walked her down to Charing Cross. I met Sniffer in his new suit, and me & Sniff walked round for a bit. There was plenty going on tonight. We saw a fire in Leicester Square and a fight near Charing Cross. We went back to the Disque, met Bob then made it round to The Scene. Spent some time up there tonight as Viv and Thelma were up there. Ralph pushed us some of those new yellow pills called Dexes which made you feel sick. I had to to have a Coke to settle my stomach but it only made it worse. Varnie said Ralph was on the con with those pills, he reckoned they were Pro-Plus. Whatever they were, they had piss-all effect and I felt ill. I really dug it up there tonight – plenty of people about.

October 7

Those photos arrived today, of me & Maureen in Hyde Park – Christ I look awful, like I was on some terrible come-down (probably was!). I was thinking about my very first fashion that got me hooked. It was Sinclair at school who came one day in a real sharp pair of Italian-cut Prince Of Wales check trousers and a pair of Denson Pointers. It seems like a life time ago, yet here I am, still out for fashion kicks!

October 8

I guess I’m really attached to Maureen now, yet still it’s not completely fixed. Tonight could be my big night. Met her in the evening and she was pleased with the photos. Had some kinky dress on. Eventually Dave left for the Disque and we got down to it straight away. Dammit, she just wouldn’t let me shag her, I just couldn’t get her sexed up. I soon had both her dress & my trousers off. She didn’t like my hairy legs at first but she got used to them afterwards. We had our usual row about why she won’t let me – I think it’s because I won’t use anything.

October 9

Feeling desesperate now, I’m literally wasting my time doing nothing, going nowhere.

I don’t fit in anywhere.

Bought a blue polo neck today.

I really must organise my life.

Back home Dave went up the Disque.

Not looking forward to Saturday and I’m not taking any pills…

October 10

Didn’t go to work today and my hair’s a bloody mess. Met Maureen down the Dilly – she had a smart polo neck and a grey skirt on. We decided on the Flamingo so that’s where we went. It was incredibly hot and packed. There was a guy doing the most fantastic dance and his girl was good too – really sexy – you should have seen her arse! The Supremes weren’t on ‘till midnight so we had to stomach the boring Chessmen and the Topics, who both played the most played out number in the ‘Mingo – Green Onions -.

We came out at one stage and met Bob, Dave & Pete – Bob was as stoned as a newt. Maureen had to go home (what a drag!) so I dropped her off at Leicester Square and made it back to Wardour Street. Bumped into Polly Perkins who was staying out all night. I was glad to see him, especially when he said Roma & Co were coming up too.

By the time we actually got to Wardour St. it was packed with people – the Whisky crowd stared down with disbelief at the mob in the street – it made me laugh really.

Saw Dave, he said the fuzz were about to raid the clubs again tonight – he’d just been searched again.

Somehow I didn’t fancy the risk tonights so I sodded off home …
I woke up to the usual invasion from the Disque. Dave walked in with Sniffer, Pete, Brenda and a load of others. That Jackie’s a right little darling. That love bite I gave Maureen was 3 inches square!

October 13

Maureen rang and said that the police had been round about that drinking fiasco & that they know all about our flat & our scene at Putney. They told her I would be best advised not to move – Bloody cheek!! Dave wants me to move up to the Kings Road with him & Ralph to some dive for a fiver a week. He’ll be lucky!

October 22

Up the Disque tonight with my girl. A fight flared up at one point and some guy got it in the back of the head with a bottle of Hubbly. We were watching the dancing. It drive me wild to see those guys move! I just can’t get those complicated steps.

Don Middleton turned up with Dave who had picked up some right old scrubber. Later we all made it back to the flat. Buckingham was already there with his sort. I went to bed but couldn’t sleep cos Don was setting to with the scrubber and Buckingham was humping away on the floor.Dave’s bed was creaking and groaning away ten to the dozen. I just can’t stand it any longer…

(Part two of Bernard’s tales of (lack of) sex and drugs and r&b follow soon …)

19 Aug 2008

The Ace Face's Forgotten Story - Part One

Social revolution on Speed, Side Vents & The Scene club.

"I'm the face baby
Is that clear?
I'm the face
if you want it.

All the others are third class tickets by me

Baby is that clear?"

Pete Meaden for "The High Numbers" (1964).

The late Pete Meaden was he man who introduced The Who to the hardcore mod cult of 1963. He became their manager, christened them The High Numbers, and wrote their first record. These interviews uncover the sometimes disturbed visions of one of the leaders of the original mod movement.

By Steve Turner. (New Musical Express 17th november 1979).

Typing by Àlex M. Franquet.

(The story was reprinted in NME's Originals Mod issue - but some bits were missing ... so here's the first part of the unabridged article )

Towards the end of his life, Pete Meaden told me that he'd read an interview in which Nik Cohn, writer of the story that becaume "Saturday Night Fever", attributed the origins of the tale to his own memories of Shepherd's Bush mod society circa 1963.

In particular, it was from this experience that he took the idea of "The Face", an idea which focused itself in the movie when Travolta swept into the 2001 Odyssey disco to hushed whispers and respectful glances. Travolta was The Face.

The connection Meaden was making was that if the Goldhawk Club equalled 2001 Odyssey, and if The Face equalled The Face, then Pete Meaden was John Travolta. The last time something like this had happened was when The Who released "Quadrophenia" in 1973. He had listened to it and thought: "I am Jimmy. Townshend's writing about me!"

Even if neither connection was justified, Pete Meaden deserved to feel that he was the stuff of legend. After all, it was he who saw the possibility of calculatedly making a rock group the focal point of a teenage revolution. The Who, being the group. The mods, being the teenage revolution. Without his style, his "suss", it's doubtful whether The Who would carry the cultural weight they do today and it's doubtful whether Modism would have spread so far, so fast.

What Meaden had was a flair for image, a love of music and a gift for gauging the spirit of the times. What he didn't have was organisational ability and a tough business edge. His shortcomings saw him virtually giving The Who's management away just as the group were making it on the strength of his ideas.

I first met Meaden in the summer of 1975 when I was researching for a book, "A decade of The Who" (Fabulous Music Ltd.) After a series of 'phone calls, I tracked down the man nobody had heard of for years. He was a patient in a mental hospital just outside London.

Our first talk together on the 'phone got us off to a good start and resulted in the two interviews combined below – one of which took place in my flat, the other back at his room in the hospital. He’d talked to the press only once before and it was as though all the accumulated history was bursting out now he’d found someone to listen. He also seemed to feel that he’d found an opportunity to establish his role in the history of The Who.

Later I talked to Pete Townshend who admitted that there have been no Who as we know them today if it hadn’t have been for Meaden. Daltrey was too quick to confirm his role. “He didn’t really have to force his ideas on us very hard. He thought we could pick up on the mod thing and he was right because mods had no focal point at all and The Who became that, we became the spokesmen. When Kit and Chris took over management they basically just took Meaden’s ideas and made them bigger”.

I saw a lot of Pete Meaden during the three days following our interview. It was a time during which he pulled himself together after years of drug abuse, a nervous breakdown and a divorce. He got back into the music business co-managing The Steve Gibbons Band along with Who manager Bill Curbishley. A decade or more after The High Numbers, here he was back again in The Who camp.

The last time I saw him was in June 1978, when he came along to hear me read my poetry at a small theatre club in Waterloo. He was full of smiles but there was a vacancy behind it all. We went for a drink and his conversation was disjoined, abstract. All I can remember now are some apocryphal visions of the end of the world and some questions about religion: “Who’s the one then – Meher Baba or Jesus?”

Within a month, he was found dead in bed of barbiturate poisoning. He was 36 and back living with his parents in the home where he’d dreamed up The High Numbers and written “I am the face”. The coroner passed an open verdict although close friends feel that Meaden knew too much about drugs to die of a careless mistake.

It seemed a very mod place to die, a cramped terraced house in an Edmonton cul-de-sac, and also a very mod way to die. Before his death he’d been feeding in ideas to the writers and producers of Quadrophenia. I think he would have liked the result but I can’t imagine him being more than amused at the mod revival: the spirit of modism was after also much against re-creating the past. Modism was pushing forward.

- Where do we begin?

- Existing is what it’s all about because with society as we know it breaking down, I think that survival is of the utmost importance. It’s all very well being immensely talented, having a good time and making great music – but not being able to sustain it. This sustaining bit is the most important of all, and The Who are survivors. That’s what I’m interested in, what I’ve always been interested in. There was a long period of time when The Who didn’t have any hit records at all, but their music is survival music, by the pure power of sustaining, sustaining power. That’s what you have to say about The Who. This is what I built on in the first place. I say I, because I think nodody’s had more effect on their career, as I did, in putting together The High Numbers. I met them with a guy called Bob Druce and another feller called Helmut Gordon. Bob Druce was an agent who booked them and he said he had a contract on The Who in his desk. I was introduced to The Who by my barber, via a friend of mine who was a mutual friend called Phil The Greek. Phil The Greek was later to appear on television on Ready, Steady, Go! with a loaded sawn-off shotgun, you know? He was one of the great legends of folklore and pop history.

- Do you think the Mod thing is still alive?

- I wonder actually where all the old Mods went. They’re probably all in garages, second-hand car outfits, scrap-yards, something like that. ‘Cos there’s such a thing as Mod Suss – you know – sussing out a situation. That’s what Mods are about – suss out a situation immediately, its potential, controlling it. Rather than letting the potential control you. So I would think they’d get in the car game – that’s were most money is made very quickly.

- Are you in touch with some of your old mates?

- Yeah, one’s a coke dealer, one’s in prison, and another one’s Phil The Greek, the guy who appeared on TV with a shotgun with The Who on Ready, Steady, Go! who was a great Mod leader of them all. Pete Townshend and I talk about him often.

The black girls are Mod chicks of today. Those little spade chicks you see running round in stacked heels and wedges, wearing sort of Ossie Clarke clothes. The blacks were always there in ’64, there weren’t so many of them – they were late-night kids like us – you’d go out on a three-day bender, you know? Hit out on a Friday night, high on speed, down to Ready, Steady, Go!, down to The Scene Club, dance all night till Saturday morning. Saturday, you’d go shopping, to buy a pullover, or scarf, or something – pair of socks, ‘cos your feet hurt dancing all night in Desert boots. And then all through Saturday night again at The Scene Club all through to Sunday morning, that’s when the come-down comes down, ‘cos you can’t sustain it much more than three days, two nights. Three days and you start heading home to Mama’s place, you know ‘cos you live at home, you can’t afford to live anywhere else. And then you crash, round about Sunday morning, if you can get a lift home to North London, where I was. And that was the life – It was the most amazing sort of life you could imagine – it was so amazing.

- What do you mean when you say ‘you got The Who together?

- I got them together in that I love the life so much. I got The Who and I dressed them up in Mod clothes, gave them all the jingoism and all the paraphernalia of Modism, boxing boots and fashionable things, right on the buttom, timing just right, ‘cos timing is where it’s at.

- You were already a Mod by then?

- Yeah, I was a Mod. It was my life. There was as little club called The Scene, just a Ham Yard, off of Great Windmill Street, and there, on several nights a week the greatest records you can imagine were being played. There were records like “Ain’t love good, ain’t love proud” by Tony Clarke; Major Lance’s stuff; Smokey Robinson, early Curtis Mayfield’s Impressions stuff, you know, which was eminently danceable by people who where not emotionally involved with other people. There was a lack of women in those things. I mean we all dig women, but if you are in the West End, you know that you pay for your women, and well, you don’t get them, ‘cos the girls that come up are mysteries, right. You get girls that come up and dance around, little girls that just dance around in the pubs, just having a little dance, just having a little groove. The records were played by loud over those big speakers, like fairground speakers, and in a small room, which was what The Scene Club was, with concrete walls, so it comes bouncing back, hitting off the floor – there was no wooden floor, hits off the ceiling, so you’re getting saturated with sound, and then they start pulling down the stops, you’re getting a psychedelic record in ’64. So you’re picking up on the body all the time. This is what Mods are about, they’re very physical people. Drynamil is a drug for Mods, because it’s a functional drug, it’s a drug you can work on, you can steal in the shops on it, do all the things you need to do, you can dance on it – you lose all lack of confidence, you lose guilt. It opens up the capillary vessels of the body, therefore, with the aid of this drug you have your own society, you have Nirvana, in a single purple heart pill. Plus you got your togs, which is your clothes, you have the confidence, plus you have the sustaining power three days up, two nights up. I think it’s a groove, I think it’s fabulous, man!

- When did you first notice all this happening?

- When my doctor gave me Drynamil for anxiety. She gave me the original Drynamil, the original Purple Hearts. And I went back that night to my place, my parent’s house where I was working from, and I took one. It’s probably doing something physically way down your system and you don’t notice it. Then, suddenly, Bang! I was free! I was unburdened by chains of resistance. I was able to write and draw and do all the things I wanted to do, without the restraints of normal civilisation bothering me, like feeling it’s late, and having to go to bed. It was just as simple as that. I sat up through the night and finished the book in that one night.

- Were pills very popular then?

- No, well this is how I discovered them. This was 1962, actually.

- So the Mods weren’t in existence then?

- No, they weren’t in existence, but Jack Kerouac was. So anyway, I took the Drynamil. I finished the book that night and I was up for three nights trying to wear my energy off. My own personal feeling is that the debt you have to pay for drugs is too much to compensate for taking the drug in the first place. I always say don’t take the drug whatsoever. A few smokes, a few beers, speed a little bit now and again, be careful with anything else. That’s all.

- Did you sort of think that you were the king Mod at the time?

- No. I was the feller who saw the potential in Modism, which is the greatest form of life-style you can imagine – it’s so totally free – totally anti-family London – In so much as that there were lonely people having a great time. Not having to be lonely, not having to be worried about relationships, being able to get into the most fantastic interesting, beautiful situations, just out of music. You could dance by yourself, you could groove around. I saw this as a weekend. I mean, imagine this, on a Friday night I would go to Ready, Steady, Go! groove around there, and one weekend I had three people on there: I had The Crystals, Chuck Berry and The Rolling Stones – doing publicity for those three people. They used to say, The Weekend Starts Here and weekend would begin there. I would get my speed and go down there, I would go up to the Green Room, and watch my people, that I was working for having a great time at television. There’d be all the faces and people I knew. A face is just someone you recognise, you might not even know his name, but he’s known as a face.

Sid Price's Birmingham memories

I first knew I wanted to be a Mod at the end of 1963 early 64 at the age of 17. I was working in the centre of Birmingham at the time and opposite my place of work there was a hairdresser where I used to get my haircut. It was unisex hair salon where Mods from all over Birmingham used to come and get their hair cut. I used to go and chat to them, it was then I knew I wanted to become a Mod.

I found I had a lot in common in their taste of music, fashion and the way they looked at life. Later, when I went to work at Cadburys I met 3 lads who were also Mods and got to go about with them and that is where I met my girlfriend who eventually became my wife in 1969.

I have always thought Mod and never wavered from it, it has always been with me, once a Mod always a Mod that is my belief. I am 61 now and still think the same as I did when I was 18, much more mature now but still with my beliefs. I know people that are still into the Rock & Roll scene, who are older than me and still ride motorbikes.

I still dress fashionably with suits and smart casual wear, Smedley tops, Levi 501’s, tailored shirts and trousers and listen to the music I listened to in the 60’s, and still go to Mod rallies. I don’t think there are many who think Mod as I do at my age.

The music I listened to back in the sixties was Soul, Rhythm and Blues and British Beat. My favourite soul was STAX and Tamla Motown. Artists like Ottis Redding, Sam & Dave, Booker T and the MG’s, Eddie Floyd, The Four Tops and The Temptations etc. Also British Soul: Geno Washington, Jimmy James and the Vagabonds. Also British bands: Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, The Small Faces, The Who and The Yardbirds. My Favourite band from Birmingham was The Spencer Davis Group, who were an R&B and blues band.

The clubs I used to go to were mainly in the centre of Birmingham, clubs like The Le Metro which was situated under some railway arches and was like a cellar similar to the cavern in Liverpool. The Rainbow Suite where the smartest Mods used to go, and where some of the best music was played.

I saw John Lee Hooker and my favourite band Spencer Davis at a club called the Whisky a Go-Go. We used to meet every Thursday evening at our works (Cadburys) club, where DJ’s and our own local R&B band called The Cock- a- Hoops, who had an Hammond organ which I love the sound of, played.

We never got to any of the clubs in London as it was too expensive to travel, but a lot of the London Mods used to come up to the clubs in Birmingham.

I also saw The Small Faces at our local theatre called the Odeon.

Mods came to this venue from all over the country, at the same theatre I saw a STAX show featuring Booker T, Sam and Dave, Jimmy Ruffin, Arthur Conley, Wilson Pickett and The Bar-Kay’s.

I also saw at the Rainbow Suite, a band called “Listen” whose lead singer was Robert Plant who was a Mod at the time and later fronted Led Zeppelin.

I used to and still do wear Smart Mohair Italian Style suits, three covered buttons, 8 inch side or centre vents, button down collared fitted shirts mainly Ben Sherman. I also had a three buttoned burgundy and grey boating blazer, Fred Perry polo shirts and John Smedley three buttoned polo Knitwear.

Later around 1965 I wore hipsters, my favourite pair of hipsters were a Rupert Bear check in a camel colour that I wore with a polo neck or turtle neck sweater and desert boots. Also had a grey short Military coat, grey with a mandarin collar, centre vent and patch pockets. I wore this with a black polo neck sweater. Shoes I wore were mainly loafers, desert boots and bowling shoes. In the early sixties we used to wear striped or plain shirts with detachable collars which were fastened with a stud, it was very tricky as you had to fasten one at the front of the collar and one at the back, wore with slim knitted ties.

The Sixties Mod scene was brilliant we all liked the same sort of things, Fashion, Music, Scooters whether it be a Lambretta or Vespa, my preference was a Lambretta as they looked more streamlined. Mods also went Ten Pin Bowling, we had a local bowling alley where we used to go once a week, hence the bowling shoes being fashionable.

There was always something to talk about, always something new happening which is what the Mod scene was all about, and always somewhere to go whether it was clubs or a weekend trip to the seaside, which was a Mod thing to do. Also riding your scooter through the streets dressed really smart gave you a buzz!! Sometimes we had encounters with Rockers but it never ever come to much. The clubs were superb we all loved dancing with always a new dance to learn virtually every week. It was a really cool scene.

Drugs raised their ugly heads sometimes - they weren’t hard drugs though. Uppers and Downers were taken by some to get through all-nighters, and also Bluey’s which were a bit stronger. Not all Mods took drugs and neither myself nor my girlfriend now wife ever touched them.

This is how the scene was every one had there own taste and individuality and it changed all the time. All the Mods I knew were dedicated to the scene and what it meant.

Thanks to Sid for the article and photos ... also thanks to Claudio.

16 Jul 2008


Soho - Peter Brooker recalls the all-niter and a method to stay awake - July 2008


The word “gear” for the mods out on a Saturday night in the West End , didn’t refer to clothes and fashion, but was the word commonly used for amphetamines or doobs, blues, dexies, bombers, ‘earts or even plain old pills.

I suppose I was a bit naive on my first ventures to the clubs to dance and listen to the music. I spent a lot of Saturday nights in the old Ronnie Scotts club, stretching out the length of time it took to consume my lagers ( twice the price that they charged in the pub) so that I could watch and hear some of the jazz greats. I knew about the clubs that were in that area , especially the ones that stayed open all night , but had never been to them.

It was in a coffee bar one night before going to Ronnie Scotts, that I got talking to a couple of girls, Pam and June, who were on their way to the Flamingo club a little later.

I saw them both at a local dance hall the following Thursday night and they told me what a great time they had at the Flamingo, great music and atmosphere and that they were going “up West” again this Saturday. I talked to my mate, Paul, and we decided we would try the Flamingo ( really it was called the Allnighter ) that Saturday night as Tubby Hayes was playing there as well as Georgie Fame and the Blue flames.

We arrived there for the 12-6 session and the atmosphere and music was hard to beat, but a little after 3:00 am , I found myself sitting in the seats near the stage and feeling really tired. I dropped of to sleep and missed the second sets from the bands, while all around me mods of both sexes danced the night away and talked non-stop.
I returned home on Sunday morning, still tired and went to bed thinking that if I was to return to those clubs I would stay in bed most of Saturday so that I would be able to stay awake all night.
The following Thursday I again met the two girls and related what had happened. They laughed and said they had been to the Scene club in Ham Yard that night because they didn’t like jazz that much.
“You’ve got to take some doobs if you go to the allnighters” Pam told me. I looked blankly at her. “Here” she said leading me to a quiet corner. “Take these before you go next time” she said and discretely handed me 5 triangular shaped mauve coloured tablets from a packet in her hand bag.
I was quite shocked at the time. To me drugs were that hashish stuff the beatniks used to smoke, or that heroin which was instantly addictive and ruined peoples lives, I’d seen it happen in the pictures, so it must be true. “Don't worry” she said , we take them every weekend, they won’t hurt you.”

The following Saturday my friend and I once again made our way to Wardour street and entered the Allnighter . I had not told him about the pills that were wrapped in a piece of paper in my pocket. At about one am I slipped one in my mouth and let it dissolve. It was bitter tasting like sucking on an aspirin, and after half an hour I felt no effect from taking it, and made my way to the washroom were I swallowed the remaining four with some water.

Sometime later in the club, I found myself feeling very hyper and wanting to move to the music that was pounding out, and I danced with several of the girls who were on the dance floor. I was also wanting to smoke more heavily than I usually did, and felt the need to chew on gum to keep mouth moist.
I was talking a lot to Paul who by then was eying me somewhat suspiciously. After the Blue Flames first set, John Mayall came on, and even after the pills, I didn’t really want to sit and listen to his wailing , so I suggested a walk round to the Scene. We walked to Piccadilly, up Windmill Street and turned into Ham Yard which was packed with mods including a bunch who were sat on their scooters.
The two girls were there talking with a couple of lads so I didn’t bother going over, but Pam spotted me and waved for us to come and join them. We walked over and when they got a close look at me they started laughing.
“ Your blocked aren’t you” June said, and here was me who didn’t think it was obvious.
I had to explain to John what was going on and, as he was always game for most things, he asked if he could try some too. June asked one of the boys if he had some and he swiftly produced a brown packet which turned out to contain 10 pills. “ Five bob” he said ( it had cost us ten shillings to get in the Flamingo). “ How many should I take?” John asked. “ I usually take the ten” said Pam “ but maybe you should take five now and five later.” John borrowed a swig of her coke and swallowed five. After talking and hanging around for 30 minutes we decided to wander back to the all-nighter and on the way Johns pills started to kick in and soon he was talking away ten to the dozen and snapping his gum furiously. Back at the club we danced and chatted up the girls, and took a trip to the bathroom to finish off the rest of the packet between us.

When the club closed at six am we made our way home via public transport, still feeling the effect to some extent and agreed to meet for a drink later that night. I dozed on Sunday, unable to sleep properly and ate nothing except for some fruit. That night at the pub we both felt pretty lousy ( my very first comedown ) and snapped at each other and at people around us who gave us a wide berth, they could see we were in rotten moods.

On Monday I felt a little worse for wear, but not too bad, and felt no physical craving to take the drugs again. But I did start to think about what I great time I had that Saturday and I knew that the allnight clubs would be my destination the next weekend.

22 May 2008

Ooops - Wrong Street !

Mods outside a discothèque in Peckham watching a passing rocker

28 Mar 2008

Any Price For Style - Part One

Life International July 27 1964

Restless, ‘Rich’ and Bored, British Youth Reflects a Widespread Problem


Thrice this year, at holiday time, segments of Britain’s youth have exploded into senseless, savage rioting, and details of Britain’s police – ready to wield their rarely used truncheons and equipped with fast cars – await with understandable concern the coming of the Bank Holiday of August 3.

Comprising the mobs were « Mods » like the lads shown at the left, who fancy themselves modern, and «Rockers » like the youths below and at right, who derive their name from their taste for Rock’n’Roll rhythms.

Rival groups, they scorn each other’s modes and manners but both hold a tremendous, virtually irresistible attraction for Britain’s adolescents and represent a widespread phenomenon : they have counterparts among France’s Blousons Noirs, Sweden’s Raggare, Russia’s Stilyagi and America’s street gangs.

« It’s a key decision in the life of every British teen-ager who has reached the maturity of 14 or 15 years » cables Life correspondent Tim Green from London, « to choose the side he will join ».

Will he become a Rocker, clad in a black leather jacket garnished with shining studs, blue denims and heavy boots, doing ‘the ton’ (a speed of 100 miles per hour) on his motorcycle along Britain’s inadequate roads ? Or will he become a Mod – a dandy in pastel suits, shirts with tab collars and fancy cuff links, and a dashing boater on his head as he putt-putts on his scooter ? He can of course opt to be a ‘Mid’ but a ‘Mid’ these days is definitely out.

« Whichever side they choose or stumble into – and most elect to be Mods – Mods and Rockers have two things in common. First, British teen-agers have far more ready cash to spend than did those of any preceding generation. In the few glorious years between starting work and getting married, they can just give ‘Mum’ a few shillings every week and the rest of their wages is theirs to spend on high living. Many teen-agers, with overtime, can earn up to the equivalent of $ 60 a week, and the combined spending power of the nation’s teen-agers is $ 2,500 million a year. They have for the first time enough cash to buy themselves scooters, motor bikes or even second-hand cars, and this makes them the most mobile teen-age generation that Britain has ever known.

If the word goes out that there will be fun or a punchup at Clacton, Brighton or Margate, Mods and Rockers can be there in droves within hours.

« The second point Mods and Rockers have in common is a sense of frustration and boredom. For both, the fun is the actual journey – zooming along the roads, swerving in and out of traffic. At both ends of the journey, they are bored. The most commonly hear phrase among the two groups is «’What else is there to do ?’

« Lacking anything constructive to occupy their minds, they stand or wander endlessly around the cafés of their home towns or the beaches of seaside resorts. Though they do not set out deliberately to fight each other, inactivity and boredom often lead to the taunting of one side by the other, and quickly to battles which become riots. » (The taunts often include references to homosexuality, but actual homosexuality is apparently rare among both groups, and « birds » - i.e., girls – are more or less popular.)

« Of the two groups, » Green continues, « the Rocker is definitely the conservative. His clothes are unchanged from year to year, he is still twisting, and he still likes ‘Rock’n’Roll’. He strongly defends his black leather uniform with the question ‘How do you ride a motorbike in Mods’ clothes ?’ and the explanation ‘You can’t change a plug and get all greasy in a lightweight suit. This gear is washable and you can wear it year in and year out.’ His bike is his first love. ‘I’ve had a bike since I was 16,’ says John Clarke, 20. ‘I saved up for it at school. I wouldn’t give it up for a car. If you have a car you just sit there in a traffic jam. But on a bike there is a sense of pleasure and a sense of speed all the time. You can have more fun on a bike, swerving in and out.’

« ‘There’s more skill to riding a bike,’ says Charlie Williams. ‘You can just sit in a car and steer, but on a bike you’ve got to concentrate all the time.’ »

Man in mirror. Bob Yeats, 19, tries on new outfit in a Stephens shop. He paid $ 13.50 for boots alone.

The Mods

Artist. A Mod who is a commercial artist, Roger Earl,18, earns $ 25 aweek, spends much of it in Carnaby Street shops that sell apparel which helps wearer « stand out in a crowd ».

Apprentice. In from Peterborough to update wardrobe in Carnaby Street, Dave Richens, 17, is engineering apprentice who earns $ 15 a week. He wears pointed boots with heels 2 ½ inches high.

Electrician. Colin Bond, 18, spends $ 9 of $ 20 weekly earnings on clothing. Mods explain, « You’ll meet a mod who will say ‘I haven’t a penny to my name’ – but he is very smartly dressed . »

Auto Worker. David Payne, 20, earns $ 55 a week in an auto plant. « I give about $ 7 to me mum », he says « and I spend a lot of the rest on clothes. » He paid $ 48 for suede jacket like a mate’s.

The Rockers

Electrician. Rocker Charlie Williams, 23, is from Watford. He earns the equivalent of $ 46 aweek as an electrician , a trade which has its representatives on the other side among the Mods.

Racer. Peter « Spud » Hucklesby, 17, has taken part twice in annual Dragon Rally in North Wales, a major event in Rocker year. He is a laborer from Bushey, Herts, earns a wage of about $ 35 a week.

Fitter’s Mate. Ray Southgate, 19, hails from Watford, earns $ 43 weekly. A dedicated Rocker, he wears his hair like The Beatles, a characteristic found among Mods, and resembles Ringo.

Individualist. Rocker Paddy Welsh, 17, a garage mechanic from Epsom who earns about $ 30 a week, has star tattooed on ear, and wears on shoulder a strip reading « Rocker Forever».

« Ask almost any Mod why he is a Mod, » Green reports, « and he says ‘Oh, I’m not a Mod, I’m an individualist.’ » But while the Rocker could not care less about fashion, the Mod works hard at conformity to the latest styles in his own and his scooter’s adornment.

« Mod fashions change every four days, » Mod Magazine declares, and the chief beneficiaries of Mod dedication are the owners of shops in Soho’s dingy Carnaby Street that bear such names as Male West One, Paul’s Male Boutique and Mod Male. Six such shops are owned by John Stephens, 28, who arrived in London from Glasgow 10 years ago with $ 40. He nowaffords a Rolls-Royce : « We came in the right business at the right time ».

. Mods consider a Carnaby Street purchase. Some travel hundreds of miles on Saturdays to buy the newest in Mod garb, and many spend as $ 30 a week to be in style.

. Shop manager Pat Simm,22, runs down Carnaby Street with striped Madras jackets, the rage of the moment. Salesmen dress like Mods so that "they are on the same wave length" as patrons.

Garb to dance in. Bound for dance, Barry Hall, 17, Ken Todd, 18 and Brian Hemmings, 17 (all with face powder), show off their new suits. They spend $ 15 a week on garb like that.

21 Mar 2008

The Mods and Rockers Ride Again

from 1966's Modern Man - the adult picture magazine ...

28 Feb 2008

Gay London at Le Duce

Haydon Bridge's history of gay clubbing in London

The 60's - In which queers shift their traditional allegiance from prostitutes to the black community; Italy and France influence the style of the secretly queer mod movement; and the partial legalisation of homosexuality makes no difference to the London queer scene - or does it ?

Peter Burton (centre) and his sister Pamela and friend Stevie posing in D'Arblay Street 1967

where we went

Are you ready for the story of gay clubbing in London – more than 50 years of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll?

Yes, we really have been partying for that long - even before the first discothèque opened in 1960.“There’s a great myth that gay life didn’t start until 1967,” says Peter Burton, who ran
the gay mod club, Le Duce, which writer Alkarim Jivani calls “one of the trendiest places to be seen in London.”

“Amber”, now 71, arrived in Soho in 1948 at the age of 13. He can reel off a list of queer bars in Soho in the 50s:“The Alibi, the Huntsman, Take 5, The Apple, No. 9, the Casino. You didn’t have to go 100 yards.

We had more places then than now.”

Most of the bars were in basements and attics.They were tiny, but some had a juke box and people would dance.Amber reminisces about the Mambo in Greek Street. He must have been there in 1956 because Fats Domino’s ‘Blueberry Hill’ was on the juke box:

“It was the pits.

When they all started jiving, you could see the floor going up and down.”

Ironically, the Wolfenden Report, which recommended to the Government in 1957 that “homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence”, made life more difficult for queers.

Homophobic police stepped up raids on queer meeting places.They rarely made arrests, but intimidated everyone by taking names and addresses.

Corrupt cops also took cash and booze from bar owners. Queers took refuge in illegal drinking clubs.

Gay activist, Claire Andrews, remembers, “They were usually run by black people, who were sympathetic to lesbians and gay men who didn’t have a place to go.”

In 1964, when homosexual law reform had become inevitable, the Director of Public Prosecutions warned the police to ease up. But by that time gay life in Soho had been decimated.

It wouldn’t recover until the late 80s. In a double irony, the renowned Le Duce was co-owned by an ex-cop, Bill Bryant.

In 1964, he and his partner, Geoffrey Worthington, had opened a discreet queer bar, The Lounge, in Whitehall. It didn’t work, and the pair moved to Soho’s D’Arblay Street, where they got the formula right with their queer version of the nearby straight mod club,The Scene.

Like their hetero counterparts, queer mods wanted to dance non-stop (and had the drugs that enabled them to).

Le Duce was open all night every Saturday.The basement room had a door policy that kept the club fashionable (and predatory older men out).Working class poofs and straight dolly birds danced to black music – Jamaican blue beat,Tamla Motown.

“They spoke directly to us,” says Peter Burton, who was in charge from 1966 to 1968, when he
moved on.

By then Soho had been carved up by East End and Maltese gangsters, who were getting rich from hetero strip clubs and clip joints.

The queer scene moved to West London, where it was to thrive in the 70s. Incredibly, a prototype back room operated at the Gigolo in King’s road, Chelsea, from 1967.

“It was a long cellar and everyone would cram up the far end,” recalls gay historian Dr David Lawrence.“The lights were dim. It was like a scrum. Nobody ever came up and stopped anything.”

Alan Jones, co-author of disco history, Saturday Night Forever, is more explicit.“The first time I was ever given a blow job was in the Gigolo,” he reveals.

Meanwhile, in 1967, homosexuality was made legal according to the Wolfenden recommendations. It was little more than a rubber stamp.“It never changed my life in any way,” declares Amber.“It didn’t provoke a rush of new clubs,” agrees Peter Burton. But drag legend Pip Morgan feels that after 1967 there was a subtle change.“You used to keep an eye open for people who were in trouble,” he says regretfully.

“But when everyone could do what they wanted, people stopped being nice to each other.”

what we wore

“GROWING up gay and realising that one is different means a constant questioning of who you are,” says “John”, interviewed by the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Shaun Cole.“Experimenting with clothes is a way of exploring this difference, a way of showing or accepting your difference.”

Aged 15 in 1960, Peter Burton “favoured shirts in delicate pastel colours (lilac was a firm favourite)…a bouffant hairstyle and a tortoiseshell cigarette holder.” This dandy look, popular since Quentin Crisp’s heyday, was superseded by the Continental style, promoted to London queers by Bill Green, a former physique photographer, who opened Vince Man’s Shop in Soho in the 50s.

... Next to advertisements for John Stephen - Man alive published such ads for Domino mail order - fantastic text ...

On a trip to the South of France, he noticed such novelties as black jeans and tight swimming trunks. Rome’s ‘Dolce Vita’ period at the turn of the 60s was the next big influence.

Within months of the film’s premiere,Vince marketed “bum freezer” jackets, drain-pipe trousers and winklepicker shoes.

Green’s sales assistant, John Stephen, left to open His Clothes, around the corner in Carnaby Street. Stephen developed his own style, accentuating the male form even further by lowering trousers from the waist to the hips and minimising underwear (“hipster briefs”) accordingly.

This sexy and essentially queer look was appropriated by the mainstream rag trade to dress the mod era, big from 1963-6, when The Beatles helped to make London the most swinging city in the world.

By 1967 mods had been replaced by hippies with unisex clothes and shoulder-length hair. For the rest of the decade it was often difficult to determine gender, let alone sexuality. But this situation began to change around 1969, when some working class lads reacted to hippie androgyny by shortening their hair and wearing braces.

Were these first skinheads as gay as the skins at Hard On?

“They were always gay!” laughs Alan Jones.

“Braces! Even then it was a gay code.”

what we listened to

For decades working class queers and female prostitutes formed a natural alliance against the authorities that wanted the trouble makers off the streets and into jail.

But from the early 60s, when the legalisation of “discreet” prostitution and homosexuality became imminent, working class queers began gravitating towards the immigrant community from Jamaica.

This defining relationship between outcast societies can be traced through to the present day (and makes the homophobia of some Jamaican dancehall stars all the more preposterous).

From 1963, both straight and gay mod clubs played danceable records by Jamaican blue beat stars like Prince Buster and Desmond Dekker, music which became part

of the soundtrack of the mod era.

But queers also liked the whole package – the beat, the lyrics and the camp image – of US soul groups like The Miracles, Martha and the Vandellas and especially The Supremes.

At Le Duce the only white music played was “blue-eyed soul” by the likes of Dusty Springfield, who also happened to be gay and made-up like a drag queen.

Although ‘The Green Door’, a hit for both Frankie Vaughan and Jim Lowe in 1956, allegedly refers to a queer bar, the first unequivocally queer song,‘See My Friend’ by The Kinks,
reached number 10 in the British charts in 1965.

For the rest of the decade queers generally ignored protest songs and flower power in favour of bubblegum music, the camp fun of Tiny Tim and Harpers Bizarre, and stuff promoted by gay radio jock Kenny Everett.

Incidentally, all records played in gay clubs in the 60s were on juke boxes. London’s first disco, La Discothèque, and its more successful rival, the Whisky-a-go-go, were in Wardour Street from the early 60s; but there was no openly gay club night in the capital until Tricky Dicky (richard Scanes) began at the Father Redcap in Camberwell in 1971.

how we danced

The jive and its variations, introduced to the UK during World War II by American GIs, retained its popularity throughout the 50s, but mainly with straight kids.

Queers preferred the rare luxury of dancing arm in arm. everything changed in the early 60s, with the arrival of the twist, first popularised in New York’s Peppermint Lounge,“a gay hustler joint, frequented by sailors, lowlifes and street toughs in leather jackets,” says DJ historian Bill Brewster.

The first dance in which partners didn’t hold each other, the twist was perfect for queer bars.

When the police arrived, dancers quickly turned towards a person of the opposite sex.

Unfortunately, this didn’t work when the pretty police were on the floor.

In 1962, David Browne, manager of the Kandy Lounge in Gerrard Street, was hauled into Court because the club had been “visited by plain clothes policemen who observed men dancing the twist with each other.”

Browne’s counsel maintained that the men concerned were dancing the madison, in which people of the same sex formed a line.

It didn’t wash. Browne was found guilty.

The twist spawned several variations - the fly, the mashed potato, the locomotion, the pop pie – whose names were more familiar than their steps. (When Kylie revived the Locomotion in 1988, nobody could be found who remembered Little eva’s original dance).

In 1963, despite the continuing success of the twist, its prime exponent, Chubby Checker, turned his attention to the limbo.The next major development was the blues, the first of the “standing still and twitching” dances, supposedly invented by Dave Clark as a publicity stunt for his record ‘Do You Love Me?’ (1963).

It became the mods’ favourite dance, and was later “mod”ified into the hitch-hiker and the shake.The latter superseded the twist, but by the end of 1965 it had evolved into the frug, which became the staple dance of the late sixties.

how we got wasted

AS QX said in 1998,“Queers are always first to discover a new drug.”

And so it’s always been. Most of the queer bars of the 50s and 60s didn’t serve alcohol. Cocaine, which had virtually disappeared before World War II,hadn’t returned.

Therefore queers went in search of new excitement.

A popular destination was the branch of Boots on Piccadilly Circus, which stayed open all night. here you could buy a tube of Preludin, a slimming drug, which delivered a nice buzz for quite a few hours, or a tin of ten amyl nitrate capsules, intended to treat angina.

(You snapped or “popped” the capsule into a hankie and inhaled.

Poppers weren’t widely available in bottles until the late 70s).

Queers and Jamaicans bonded not just because of music but weed.

Cannabis was unknown in the UK until Jamaicans brought it here in 1948.At first it was used only among jazz musicians.

The first drug bust was in Soho in 1952, and this alerted the local queer community.Amber used to buy four ready-made “reefers” (spliffs) for £1.

Amphetamines, notably Benzedrine, were widely used as stimulants during World War II; and under their street names – purple hearts and black bombers were most common – “uppers” became the mods’ favourite drug.

Sleep became difficult without barbiturates (“downers”).

Pip Morgan remembers that the dealers were often girls (they were good at charming prescriptions out of doctors).

Peter Burton says that the fish in the tank at Le Duce kept dying because clubbers threw their pills into the water whenever there was a police raid.

Pip Morgan circa 1966

He also saw clubbers removing the wadding from Benzedrine inhalers and dunking it in Coca Cola, and Samantha the transvestite cat burglar sniffing her wig cleaning fluid.

Queers (or “gays” as we became known from about 1969 onwards) generally remained loyal to uppers and downers well into the 70s.

Lysergic acid (LSD), which arrived around 1966, didn’t suit queer club culture.The swirling patterns and dreamy,jangly music that contributed to the first Summer of Love in 1967 were pretty much a hetero thing.

Originally published in QXmagazine

1 Feb 2008

It was a tribal thing

This writer, a pioneering mod, recalls a world of clubs, cliques and fearless tailoring

IN THE FIFTIES, everybody grew up looking like their parents. It was just so grey. There was no music, no clothes and you didn’t have that many places to go. My sister Gloria, who was four years older than me, was a bit of a Beat, as they were called at the time, and she used to go to London for the coffee bars. The Two I’s was the famous one but there was a whole load of others — the Macabre, the Bastille, Les Enfants Terrible.

This was round about 1959. Then she really got into R’n’B music, people like LaVern Baker, Joe Turner, Ray Charles, the Drifters. Her big favourites were the Shirelles and she actually got to run their fan club, which unlocked a whole lot of things because then she started taking me to the clubs where all this music was going on. I guess I was about 14 and we used to go along with her pal and her brother, Geoff Lewis. So my sister was the one who told me: “Get some pointed shoes,” and got my mother to take up all the turn-ups on my trousers and put buttons on my shirt collar.

I was now a Mod. I used to come up to London and buy clothes but an awful lot of stuff you got made or you made it yourself or you found things in bizarre places. We used to buy cricket whites, cheap cotton ones from C&A, and dye them ourselves — bright yellow, orange — because you couldn’t buy bright coloured clothes.

We would have them shortened by two inches so you could show off your socks. I remember buying a scarlet shirt and my dad saying to me, “Where are you going? Bullfighting?” He’d never seen a scarlet shirt before. My mother was brilliant because she was a dressmaker and she used to make stuff. At the time, we used to go to the Scene club in Ham Yard (Soho) and try and wear something new each week. I would get my mother to make tartan shirts, polka-dot shirts, or maybe one guy down the Scene would have something on and we’d think, “That’s nice” and get it made for the following week. Once I saw something on TV with these American kids’ initials on their shirts. At the time the most sought-after things were these Italian lambswool tops which had a little button at the back of the collar. I got my mother to make some felt letters and she sewed an F for Freddy (my English name) on to one and a C for my mate Cliff on to the other. We wore them down the Scene club and the next week everybody had them. I loved a shop called Austins, that was a real favourite, and we also went to Cecil Gee and Annello and Davide, the shoe people in Covent Garden.

All they made were dancing shoes but they had these shoes with a Cuban heel and a seam down the middle, which was very unusual. I think they were flamenco shoes and somebody saw them and said: “Right, I’ll have those.” This was well before the Beatles.

We used to go to Heathrow airport on our scooters. There was a bowling alley there and the shoes were fantastic, three colours and with your size written on the back. So we would put on our sy shoes and walk out in a pair of these bowling shoes, cost you nothing. Then you would get a coffee late at night in the airport.

Mods were not that interested in groups. We were into records. Monday nights we used to go to the Lyceum in Streatham and the Orchid in Purley, sometimes both on the same night. Tuesday we stayed in. Wednesdays was the Wimbledon Palais, Thursdays it was the Locarno in Streatham. At the weekend the Scene was the big club and then there was the Flamingo where we went to see Georgie Fame whom we really loved. You’d go and see Georgie and you’d think: “What’s this music he’s playing?” So you would go and check out Mose Allison or whoever and that’s how you got put on to various artists. I still see Mose Allison when he’s in town, he’s brilliant. At some of these clubs you would take records along and you’d go up to the DJ and say: “I’ve got the new Maxine Brown single.” They would have a separate deck to preview new tunes and then they’d play your record, which was really cool. The Lyceum in London was a Sunday afternoon dance and that was a big Mod club.

You had to watch it a little bit if you went to clubs in different parts of town that were not your own. You tended not to chat birds up at those places although there weren’t that many good-looking Mod birds to go round.

It was a very male thing. It was also a tribal thing. There was a period when all the East London boys wore blue suits and all the South London boys had grey suits. You had your little teams and you were very stuck up, you were very proud. Fraternising with others was a bit like lowering yourself. It was very insular that way. You wanted to be the one who wore things first, not the one who wore it three weeks later.

In my team there was Denzil (who appeared on the cover of the Sunday Times Magazine, August 2, 1964 – See “Changing Faces” elsewhere on the blog) and Pete Saunders who later became a DJ. The other one who was a pal was Mickey Finn, who got pally with the DJ Guy Stevens and later on teamed up with Marc Bolan in T. Rex.

There were a few fights but unlike what Stan Cohen, the sociologist, says about it all being speed orientated, it wasn’t. People only really took speed at the weekends and they did so to keep awake. Then they started thinking, “This pill isn’t bad,” and stepped up the dosage until they got right out of their boxes.

The end of it was Brighton in 1964 and the riots. Those guys weren’t right. It was all watered down. They’d bought a parka but that was it.

What broke your heart was that it all got so big, plus it didn’t help when the papers blew up the stories about the pills. The centre of gravity moved from Carnaby Street, which was now exploiting people, to the Kings Road, and that became the new scene. For me it was all over. I pulled out.

From July 28, 2003