trACEy Wilmot's Posts (4)

MOD GIRL Memories

Mod Girl Memories


Back in 1982 a young mod girl stood back and admired her first scooter-a black Vespa 90 with customized Union Jack side panels. Bleached blonde and bouffanted wearing a little too much black eyeliner and an oversized parka resplendent with badges and tippexed band names Secret Affair, The Chords, The Who, she looks fragile but somehow manages to grab the handlebars and pulls back the stand without falling over. She sits on the polished leather seat in her black ski pants and dolly shoes steadying her balance as she is ready to take her first ride out. Mum and dad watch from the window-agitated. “Be careful-don’t go too mad!” shouts mum from the window. She looks back and smiles “yes mum” she groans.

 

Yeah that was me back then, its true to say I felt completely terrified and yet totally exhilarated that finally, I owned my very own scooter-now all I had to do was learn how to ride the bloody thing.

 

Back in those days all you needed was a provisional license and not much else-scary to think of that now. Several moments stick in mind in the learning process, in fact I didn’t even understand how the gears changed to begin with believing that as long as I stayed in second gear I would go slower-and almost managed to burn the engine out on my first trip out. Another time waiting at the lights the engine stalled and a gang of skinheads jeered at me out of the window of their car. I managed to get the engine started in the nick of time and made my escape.

 

Once while riding pillion on my boyfriend’s Lambretta I forgot he had taken one of the back foot rests off-he reminded me repeatedly to put my right foot forward and after a few beers I managed to forget as we journeyed along-some moments later when we arrived at our destination my shoe was literally on fire the sole totally melted on the exhaust, much to everyone’s amusement.

 

Two months later there I was, riding to the Isle of Wight scooter rally-the only girl in my group of eight other scooterist mod types of the lesser known Carpenders Park Mods known as The Way Out Scooter Club we were later joined by some of the Hemel Mods on my first long trip to the coast. Although I had been on rallies before I had always been on the back of someone else’s scooter so this time it felt strange that finally I had to worry about my own scoot and whether I would get there without it conking out (a common occurance) My boyfriend made a good job of renovating the engine, and in fact although it was registered as a 90 the engine capacity was greater-or so he claimed. I admit I knew nothing about what to do if it went wrong-I was young and naïve and was more concerned with the look of the thing than what was the engine capacity! I cant say I even remember much detail about my first coastal journey other than freezing my arse off and worrying about my hair when I took off my crash helmet (bouffants and beehives were never a good combo for the crash helmet issue.) No one warned me how bloody cold it was going to be on such a long journey regardless of the weather-and my teeth were literally chattering at one stage. I was grateful for the old army coat (oversized or not).

 

Once we arrived though it was like a scene from Quadrophenia as scooter after scooter cruised by with admiring glances. In my head The Who were playing My Generation and Dr Jimmy and I couldn’t stop smiling. It felt like I was living “the teenage mod dream” and as a female of the species I was a rare breed by this time.  In fact Mod girls were virtually extinct let alone on the back of a scooter by 1982-the mod scene was in decline giving way to the New Romantic scene where the blokes had more lipstick on than the girls. As for me I was happier with looking at the odd mod god in black eyeliner a la Jimmy in Quadrophenia, the futuristic element passed me by and I tried hard not to acknowledge it even when Soft Cell released their excellent version of Tainted Love. I was the only mod girl in the entire school, and one of only three mod blokes since there was a hard core Skinhead group in my area, plus a lot of mods defected to Suede heads and Two Tone before finally becoming “casuals”  

 

For that reason Scooter Rallies became more and more important at this stage and were not just about the scooters of course, it was (and still is) very much a way of life. We lived and breathed it and like Jimmy we couldn’t understand why anyone would want to leave it and we wanted to stay close to others that felt the same. Our evenings at scooter rallies were spent at pubs or make shift dance venues drinking cheap watery beer and smoking too many cigarettes. As a girl, for me being a mod was not just about the music, which I loved, but also about the look, the clothes, the hair and being totally colour coordinated from shoes to bags to earrings. Unlike the bitchiness of school girls- mod girls would want to know how you did you hair, where you got the shoes and bag, and complement you on getting it right. We admired the attention to detail and adored each others loyalty to the scene.

 

There were also the “plastic” mods that pretended to be in the scene but didn’t quite have it right. One hapless plastic I knew couldn’t afford Jam shoes so he tippexed a white stripe down his Hush Puppies, he also had the misfortune to be dyslexic and misspelt his Parka art work which was resplendent with the word “QUADPHENIA” and “THE CORDS” thankfully he wasn’t into tattoos.

 

The music of course was important but it was also the dancing that made these events come alive. If you couldn’t dance how could you ever be a “Face”? Stuff like that was important to me. I learned my steps from watching others and reading vintage books and magazines from the 60s archives. Many of us merged what we knew with the now hugely popular Northern Soul dance scene. Back then we also had the stamina to keep on dancing despite the hazards of beer splashed or talcum powdered floors and thick cigarette smoke that engulfed the room. On one rally we had an old barn that was used for the dancing-as the night drew on the dust from the floor rose and mingled with the smoke so that we could barely see the other side of the room-I emerged at 5am covered in dust and my nose clogged with black soot! In fact one rally I slept in an old barn and was terrified to hear rats crawling about in the middle of the night-luckily a few mods had torches and kept them at bay; certainly it was not a luxury experience.

 

One rally in the Isle Of Wight I recall was a particularly uncomfortable one for me. At the end of the night my then boyfriend was so drunk he forgot what B&B we had booked and we decamped to a deserted garage with other hapless mods too drunk to care. While my fellow girlfriends sensibly shared the last few rooms that were available, I had to share one single sleeping bag with said boyfriend on a very cold floor. I was not impressed. The following morning bleary eyed I walked to the shops to buy him more cigarettes and watched while other mod zombies aimlessly walked about with grey dazed expressions, and  black eyeliner and mascara smudged on their eyes and cheeks (and that was just the blokes!) It was bloody freezing that morning and all I wanted to do was go home at that point.

 

Later in the day though, having partially forgiven him, we sought comfort in one of the pubs which had a mix of mods, skins and scooterists we knew. The Landlord was upset that someone had nicked some of his old pictures off the wall “Those pictures have been up there for 50  bloody years” he bemoaned to which someone at the back shouted “Well it’s about time you bought some bloody new ones then!”

 

Towards the end of the Mod Revival the antagonism between the many youth cults was waning-Mods started dancing to Ska and Skins danced to Northern Soul and everything was blurred and less defined. Maybe everyone was growing up and realizing that actually it was pretty pointless fighting or just that we all knew the scene was dying and we just wanted to enjoy the last moments of misspent youth in peace.

 

What I do remember is that I drove back from the Isle of Wight a different girl, somewhat more confident than before and already planning the next rally I would attend and what I would wear. My 1980-1982 diaries are packed full of detailed drawings and descriptions of what records I bought and my latest vintage discovery from Oxfam; Dolly shoes, button earrings, lacy tights, hipsters and ski pants. There are even notes on whatever bleach I was using on my hair at the time and what white lipstick was available. It was not unusual for me to act as hair stylist for some of my bloke mod mates in as much as I would bleach their hair in the bathroom on many occasions with the then popular mixture of Hydrogen Peroxide and Inecto Bleach-a messy affair that often resulted in daffodil shades of blonde.

Fast forward to today, here I am again at scooter rallies but this time with the mod icons of the day, still on top form, Secret Affair. I see the mod scene evolving and growing again, young faces stare up at the band on stage resplendent in boating blazers and Fred Perry’s. Some come to the gigs and rallies with whole families and kids decked out with their own tribute to the scene. It seems the scooter rally and the mod scene never really died but is still very much intertwined with ska, skins and reggae and is now reawakening, reviving and reminding us of good times and good friends we met along the way-while the new Mod waits in the wings for the next encore.

 

trACEy Wilmot 2011

This work is the copyright of Tracey Dawn Wilmott and originally appears in ZANI online magazine. The views expressed are purely those of the author and are not attributable to any other person or institution.



I know Tracey would love to hear any feedback on this article. You can add any comments in the forum here or I will pass on any messages to her using the contact address.

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The Method

My New Favourite Band...

Close your eyes for a moment and try to imagine a band that could capture every element of the mod scene you love, from the 60s to 79, from ska to revival, from Hammond organ to trumpet, be totally rooted in the original 60s mod scene, and yet utterly contemporary…an impossible dream?

In September I found that band. They soon became my favourite new band of 2011-The name? The Method. It was tricky because as you may know I fell in love with very few bands over the years. It’s rare for any support act to have me gushing like a teenager, and only The Vals and The Shoestrung had me excited enough to write a review and recco.  The Method was a band I knew zero about and leading up to the welsh gig for Secret Affair at The Factory in Porth. I confess I didn’t even have time to research them…so I stood waiting for Secret Affair to perform and suddenly the moment happened, The Method hit the stage like some iconic Mod heroes captured from decades past. Smart. Suited and booted. Cool and sharp mod haircuts. These guys literally owned the stage -from the very first number they had everyone’s attention-even the hardest mod ska geezer next to me couldn’t help but acknowledge their greatness. These boys have all the grit and determination of the youthful Small Faces and the aggression of The Who yet retain the youth and energy of a young mod cult band-from the brass to the rhythm section, they have it all.

Their debut album ‘Dissident & Dancers’ is powerful and dancey, hypnotic and trancey  and drags you into its world from  the very first track ‘Your Humble Entertainers’ reminiscent of The Specials and early Blur and yet unique and utterly new. ‘The Gatekeeper ‘sends you into a world of the early mod R n B scene era with a vibe created for dancers of every genre.  ‘Whip Around’ is more contemporary and familiar with powerful drumbeats and horns that resonate in your head for days and days…catchy beats and iconic vocals-this could be their anthem..but the band live? My oh my you begin to fall in love with this band when you see them perform on stage.  These guys are heads above the rest and deserve to go far.

My favourite track off the album played that night? For me it was hard to pick just one track (unusual) ‘Consider This Your Warning’ has all the aggressive edge of The Yardbirds with the wailing of The Specials Ghost Town vibe about it and yet has a contemporary edge that just has you moving and dancing however reluctantly. I haven’t stopped playing this album since the band gave me a copy, it’s the power chords and Hammond, it’s the brassy brass-yes I am raving about this band… I defy you not to get on your feet for ”We Don’t Know” this is a number that had me hooked and hearing the trumpets in my head for weeks after.

Trust me you will fall in love with the Rich’s vocals the catchy numbers and the passion of The Method.  This band can write great numbers and they know who they are and where they want to go. Look out for these guys on FaceBook, listen to their album, and make time to see them-you too will be addicted.

Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.

trACEy

 

Listen to The Method and visit their Band Page

 

This article originally appears in ZANI online magazine. You can find many other great articles, interviews and reviews on ZANI.CO.UK
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A Birds Eye View

Behind Closed Doors - The Ladies Rooms

 

Let’s face it-there are certain things that only us womenfolk are able to experience or understand, you know the sort of thing, the need for vast numbers of shoes for example or the reason we possess ten lipsticks all the same colour, and why it takes us hours to pick a dress yet less than five seconds to choose which chocolate we are going to devour from a tin of Roses Chocolates. It also struck me how we have the ability to make even the most mundane visits to the ladies room an extraordinary source of information and social occasion. How often have I been privy (excuse the pun) to boyfriend break ups, tears, tantrums and traumas in the ladies room? Often the powder room is the source of much gossip and bitching (who knows who is sitting in the far cubicle ear wigging?)

 

I recently overheard a conversation between the cubicles next to me at the recent Nottingham Pulse Festival which amused me

 

“I can’t believe Barbara isn’t wearing any knickers” said one Brummy accent. “Yes I know made me feel quite nauseous“was the response. Only to hear the aforementioned and evidently knickerless Barbara bang on the door and ask how they all knew and had they told anyone. On another somewhat urgent visit to the loo at the Light Bar I was left bewildered by the loud conversation in the queue. Two somewhat tipsy twenty something’s were audibly concerned at the prospect of removing what they described as their “fat sucking pants” in order to use the facilities. It took some moments for me to understand that “fat sucking pants” were the slang term for the latest line of lingerie for women in order to lift bottoms and disguise love handles-literally sucking in, smoothing and disguising any overspill reducing the chances of the muffin top but not terribly comfortable to wear. The problem being (apparently) is they are extremely difficult to get on and off with any sort of speed-all very disabling when there is an urgent bathroom visit on a pub crawl. As I sat there listening to these distressed females battling with their undies I tried to envision how our men folk would handle “fat sucking pants” in an attempt to disguise protruding beer bellies  lets say. Imagine if you will, the cries of agony at the saga of hoisting them up and down during frequent visits to the “crapper” (yes men have their own less glamorous lingo for the loo too) the trauma of such frequent visits especially since beer is usually the preferred tipple. The amplified groans of despair as their nether regions became compressed, lifted and hoisted in an attempt to look slimmer? No it just wouldn’t happen would it? Because most men-lets face it- would certainly never put themselves through such pain, indignity and discomfort. Rather, there is almost a sense of pride in having a rotund belly; I have even witnessed the patting of paunches with some sort of fondness and pride.

 

In the meantime the “fat sucking pant” girls having successfully managed to help each other to pull up their resistant lingerie departed the toilet slimmer and trimmer having but apparently slightly breathless and with the traditional piece of loo roll trailing from their left shoe leaving me to wonder if the days of the tight corset and fainting maidens really had past?

 

But I digress; rather let me ask our lady readers, how often do toilet visits descend into cosmetic, fashion and hair discussions? Recently while travelling  I had an audience of several female tourists watch in awe as I applied my liquid eye liner and eye lash curlers and before long we were all sharing tips on makeup techniques and the best mascara-they in broken English, me in various degrees of sign language and gestures. Further back I recall in the early 80s at a mod do in Watford hosting an impromptu dancing class  in the ladies room -egged on by some younger 14 year olds anxious to learn “60s style moves” they had seen me do on the dance floor. My boyfriend, thinking I was unwell, sent in a search party after thirty minutes of waiting only to find us all twisting and shimmying our way across a grubby tissue strewn floor.

 

Take a moment if you will, to remember the lovely toilet attendants  in rather more posher establishments and hotels who armed with copious bottles of perfumes and deodorants offer us some sort of refreshment for an agreed tip. I paused to talk to one pleasant woman in London’s finest loo and remarked knowingly in a nudge nudge wink wink sort of way “I bet you see and hear a lot in here don’t you?” She looks skyward and with a deep sigh whispers “You have no ideahow embarrassing it can be, and pointing to the last cubicle she added “last night there were two people having sex in there-they made such a racket you wouldn’t believe (but I got a great tip for turning a blind eye” Little wonder she had added condoms to her “shop” next to the Tic Tacs and Gucci fragrance.

 

So next time when you wonder why oh why does it take your lady friends  so much longer in the loo than men yes its partly due to the fact we are doing our hair and make up and squeezing our rear ends into fat pants but mostly its because we are having a whale of a time planning our weeks social calendar and are very likely talking about you…

 

 

trACEy






This article originally appears in ZANI online magazine. You can find many other great articles, interviews and reviews on ZANI.CO.UK
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CHELMSFORD SCOOTER CLUB

WINTER WARM UP

 

Step back a few decades to the 1960s and Pontins was probably once a thriving little holiday destination with Camber Sands as the perfect beach  backdrop. Nowadays though the old place has lost its sparkle and the chalets are a little sad with the same old style kitchen appliances that were probably installed when the place opened. The carpets are beer stained and faintly sticky (well you get the point) That apart I was there to see Secret Affair and enjoy the other mod bands and acts for the weekend scooter rally-my first to Camber in fact.

I indulge in a bit of banter with my mod pals and admire a few well designed scooters; there were a fair few designs that looked cool artistically capturing their favourite bands or music while some were dedicated to the band they had come to see, Secret Affair. By now I was ready for the nights entertainment. It was good to see Tony Class, and Mark Sargeant on the DJ list, Tony was still dancing and playing discs at 5am looking younger than ever and miraculously I too was wide awake having been up for 24 hours myself after arriving into London at 6am on a long haul flight.

So, band wise who was on offer? It was a good night, I was delighted to see "Pritty Green"(sic) for the first time, playing a set of tribute songs to bands such as Small Faces, Kings of Leon and The Jam interspersed with a smattering of Motown and Ska. Actually the front man was a confident and interesting man to watch on stage, energetic and engaging and with a strong voice, and with the brass section and chunky bass lines they looked and sounded "Pretty Good" .

As they depart the stage I notice the audience is a mix of old and new mr and mrs mods awash with Ben Shermans' and Fred Perrys' and more tartan checked shirts than Scottish Fashion week (if it exists). The scooter rally these days is a family affair-kids and parents into the same scene and I guess that's pretty cool when you consider the government lays claim that the family unit is in decline, certainly not the case in the mod/skin/scooter world.

As I ponder this point the DJ plays a mix of ska two tone and rudeboy tracks to keep the audience happy and chants along "Lip up fatty" -the alcohol kicks in and people bob up and down in two tone unison. I down a few Jack Daniels in response.

Next up is Secret Affair the darlings of the mod revival who now have the respect of many a non mod fan from Goths to skinheads and the new mods of today. The lads play an hour long set with as much energy as they did in 79 to a mish mash of old and new fans, one skinhead girl told me she had forgotten how many songs she liked from the boys until they played. Maybe it was the string of snappy tracks from the covers Get Ready and Going to a go go or the rousing lyrics of My World and Glory Boys that moved the audience soon all the boating blazer types were singing in unison with the boots and braces crew to the chorus. The encore finished with an outstanding 8 minute version of I'm not free (but I'm cheap) to whistles and cheers of approval. 

The music continues til 5:30 after a dance competition of the Northern Soul genre, and as I see one gallant girl fling her legs in the air and do the splits in the words of Harry Hill "I made my excuses and left". I rejoined the dance floor later to relive the days of 79 when I was somewhat more athletic and join DJ Tony Class on the dance floor who leapt off the stage to "Move On Up" and joined me for a few nifty moves (where does he get his energy from?) Secret Affair have just announced more dates for 2012 www.secretaffair.info

 

trACEy






This article originally appears in ZANI online magazine. You can find many other great articles, interviews and reviews on ZANI.CO.UK
Read more…