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A SUBURBAN MOD'S FORGOTTEN STORY Part 2

SHOPPING FOR CLOTHES

One good thing about being a Mod was that, because we always dressed so well, we didn't frighten adults !  I think my parents were quite impressed that I always went out in a suit, with collar and tie and shoes polished !  Even my hair was a neat 'College Boy' cut, not like those nasty pop groups on the telly !  Of course, we knew and they knew that our clothes were different, but we knew why and they didn't !

In the early days my wardrobe was done on a budget, but by carefully buying the right stuff for work, with a few additions it could see you right for the weekend as well. A good jacket, a bit like a conventional sports jacket but better cut, navy blue straight trousers, red socks, a decent shirt with a straight knitted silk tie and a pair of Hush Puppies or desert boots and you were set up.  You couldn't compete with the older guys, but it was enough to get you accepted as one of the crowd.  

As our wages went up, we were soon having suits made to measure (always three piece) and a lot of thought went into getting the details just right (vents just the right length, trousers the right width, pockets and buttons just so, lining the right colour) - the suit might take a few weeks to be made (including a couple of fittings) so you had to be sure that it was ahead of its time !  We also had separate jackets and trousers made to measure. Shirts were tab collared or Long John collars (long and pointed) in the early days and then American button downs by Tiger Foot or Brooks Brothers, later copied by Ben Sherman.  Shoes were mainly bought from little independent shops in London like Toppers or Ravel (before they expanded).  Blue nylon macs were useful in the rain (along with umbrellas from the British Rail lost property office) and long (full length or three quarter length) leather and suede coats or a smart overcoat kept out the cold. For more casual occasions, it was Levis with a Fred Perry or Ben Sherman topped off with a Madras cotton jacket or a Levi jacket in white or tan suede.

Harrington jackets in navy or beige came in a little later, along with Levi Sta-Prest trousers and Penny Loafers.

 SHINE ON HARVEST MOON

Back in Guildford, the Harvest Moon Club opened in early '65 and by the summer were holding all nighters.  The crowd weren't as hip as the 'Tick, and it was a year or so before they started booking decent bands, but it gave us somewhere to go if there was nothing else happening.  Apart from the All Nighters, it was also open seven days a week from late morning to late evening, so if you bunked off work or college there was always a place to while away the day where you would find a friendly face and get a cup of coffee or a coke.  Hardly any of the clubs that we went to were licensed for alcohol in those days, which meant that they could choose their opening hours and didn't need permission to stay open all day or all night if they chose to.

We rarely stayed there for the Saturday All Nighters, but often called in there in the early evening or on the way back in the early hours of Sunday morning.  The DJs always played good music and in the winter there would be a roaring log fire surrounded by old leather sofas.

 SEVEN DAYS TOO LONG

The weekend really did start with 'Ready Steady Go', on between 6 and 7pm every Friday  - I used to tape it by sticking a microphone from my reel to reel player in front of the speaker.  Recording quality was rubbish, but at least I could listen to it again without my Dad's inane comments !  Some of the items included could be a bit embarrassing (mime contests and so on), but the music was usually as good as you got in those days.

As soon it was finished, it would be a quick change into the latest suit (never went out casual in the evenings), check the tie and hair and then a quick dash to the train station, meet Malc at the next stop and on to Guildford to meet the rest of the boys. 

Fridays were spent at the Ricky Tick because you simply had to be there.  I remember one cold December evening when Malc was unwell and his Mum wouldn't let him out.  Howlin' Wolf was on (backed by the Muleskinners with future Face, Ian McLagan) and Malc wasn't going to miss that.  He snuck out of his bedroom window and met me on the train as usual, looking like death.  By the time the evening was over, he had a serious chest infection and spent that Christmas (and his birthday) in hospital !  Like I said, you just had to be there!

Saturday mornings were spent with scooters or cars, keeping them roadworthy(ish) and then shopping in town, picking up records you'd ordered the week before, being measured up for your new suit, checking the (one or two) decent clothes shops for new shirts etc., or just hanging around town. 

Saturday nights usually started at the Harvest Moon, to show off your latest clothes or just to make sure there wasn't a good party to crash, before climbing into Nick's Austin A35 van and heading out of Guildford, often to Windsor and then on to the Flamingo All Nighter. 

After crawling home at dawn, Sunday mornings were spent in bed until lunchtime and then over to the Harvest Moon to avoid wasting the last of the precious weekend.  Unless there was a decent band on somewhere local, most weekday evenings were spent at each other's houses, listening to records and talking rubbish. 

 SHOP AROUND

At the office where I worked, each of us had to work a Saturday morning in rotation, and in exchange we got Wednesday afternoon off.  As no one else liked working Saturdays, I often covered for them to get as many Wednesday afternoons off as possible - because in those days most suburban shops closed on a Wednesday afternoon - except in London which closed early on Saturdays. 

The deal was that on a Wednesday afternoon I could meet up with any of the boys who worked in local shops, or on shifts, or who just bunked off work or college, and we would get the train to London for the afternoon to buy clothes and hang round Transat Imports in Lisle Street or some other record shop, listening to the latest sounds direct from the States, before deciding how many of them you could afford.

PILLS

Pills didn't figure too much in our lives, although there were plenty of others who did indulge.  We would sometimes take them to keep us awake through the night, but I don't remember any of us ever getting to the 'blocked' stage.  We liked a drink, but never too much and, later, we would often share a joint or two.  Basically, I think we were all enjoying life too much to need stimulants.

One scam we devised was to buy a large jar of ephedrine tablets (helped with asthma, but also a stimulant) from the chemist - no prescription was needed - and then pack them up in little envelopes of 10 and flog them (at a great profit) to the younger Mods at the Harvest Moon.  The pills were legal, the kids didn't know any better, and if you took enough you could get quite high, so everybody was happy (ish)!

 SUMMERTIME

Bank Holiday and some other summer weekends were usually spent in Bognor or Brighton.  In Guildford High Street there was a Mod coffee bar, The Continental, and the lay-by opposite would be filled with scooters on a Bank Holiday Saturday morning.  Almost as one, everyone would leave the Continental, get on their scooters and leave for the coast in a crocodile line (yes- Quadrophenia got some things right!).  Our four would go in Nick's van (meant we could hang up our suits) and, once we got beside the sea, we'd meet up with old friends and make new ones from all over.  I don't know about 'Sawdust Caesars', but we sure felt like Kings for a few days. 

At Bognor  there was the Shoreline Club (which also had a 'Teenage Hotel' attached, where most of the girls would stay for the weekend) or a short ride along the coast took us to Brighton's One-O-One Club.  Both usually had one of the many British R'n'B bands that made their living in the Mod/R&B clubs in the 60s.  Nights (what was left of them) were spent under the pier, or in a covered park bandstand or even in the Salvation Army tent which they put up at Bank Holidays - if you wanted breakfast as well, you had to stay for morning prayers !

 I'M A LOVER NOT A FIGHTER

There was never the amount of trouble between Mods and Rockers as the papers made out.  I only remember one Mod from Reading who got caught on his own by some greasers in Bognor, who put him in hospital, but I also remember some reporter or photographer in Brighton getting Mods to pretend to fight amongst themselves (there were no Rockers around) and pose for a photo.  If you look at some of the newspaper photos of the time, you can tell that they are also 'staged'.  Locally, you had probably grown up with, or gone to school with, any local Rockers that were left, so you were hardly going to pick a fight with them.  We always tried to avoid trouble anyway, didn't see the point in getting dressed up, just to go and ruin your clothes by fighting.

 THE WHO WHO SONG

The Ricky Tick, throughout 1965, continued to put on the best of the club bands, as well as visiting US R&B artists.  In May, the Who appeared for the first time, straight from an appearance on RSG to plug "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" and wearing the same clothes - target T shirt, Union Jack jacket etc. - almost fancy dress as far as we were concerned ! 

The door price was increased to 7/6 (37½p) and a guy who worked in the cloakroom at the time remembers all the local Mods walking out when they started playing !  I don't remember it being quite that obvious, but I do remember we were fairly underwhelmed by their act.  By the time they visited again in December, plugging My Generation, they attracted the younger generation of Mods and got a much better reception !   Mind you, even then you didn't hear their records played in the clubs, probably because you couldn't dance to them.

Now read Part 1

continued in Part 3

TRACK LIST

Shopping For Clothes             The Coasters (1960)

Shine On Harvest Moon          Mance Lipscomb (1965)

Seven Days Too Long              Chuck Woods (1967)

Shop Around                           The Miracles (1960)

Pills                                         Bo Diddley (1961)

Summertime                           Billy Stewart (1966)

I'm A Lover Not A Fighter        Lazy Lester (1958)

The Who Who Song                 Jackie Wilson (1967)

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Comments

  • Just read one two and three.........It reads like the story of my life .....So true.......Many thanks for taking the time to put this together and posting it...Cheers Jimmy N an Old London Mod....
  • And Alan of course--how could I forget him?
  • Dave, do you remember you, me, Malc and Will all piled into toilet stall at the Ricky Tick smoking enormous three-leafers? For some reason we thought nobody else would smell it because we were behind a door-At least by the time we fell out the door laughing that is what we thought :) Great write up!
  • great read bring on part 3
  • Detailed and accurate. Change the name of local clubs and shops, and everything reads like my own experiences in Peterborough. Many things being common but for us it was Great Yarmouth (or Skegness) rather than the South Coast resorts. Regular Saturday trips to London. Shoes from Toppers, or Ravels on Shaftsbury Ave, Carnaby Street when there was only Lord John, and John Stevens. Nighters at The Flamingo, La Discotheque and even The Marquee for the Long John Baldry residency (on a Thursday?). The Scene was a bit intimidating for us younger out of towners.
    Clothes Clothes Clothes - Smart Shirts with Long John Collars, or Tabs, Blue plastic macs over a mohair Suit. Summer of 65 when the look changed to Madras Jackets, Levis, Fred Perrys, or button down Ben Shermans and Hush puppies.
    Scooters were important, but although i recall my couple of years on a Sportique with really great memories, the purchase of a smart little Renault Dauphine car from my Dad really opened up a new world.
    As the Scooter Boys were getting a bit too 'larey', we soon adopted the tag of being 'Stylists', and that meant even more emphasis on Suits. Regular visits to Petticoat Lane to pick up cloth to then have made up by a local tailor, or even at Montague Burton.
    As Soul became the preferred music against British bands performing RnB, Nottinghams Dungeon Club, or the Boat Clubs, the nighters at Sheffields Mojo, Leicester's Burlesque or Night Owl were the destination. By now - Sept '66 I had started promoting Clubs first of all playing playing every Sunday as a DJ at Peterborough Souldiscotek, where all the Mojo Nighter 'pop eyed' returnees pitched up.
    So a new journey of music and style took me through the Motown second wave, explosion Prog Rock, Funk, Jazz Funk, Disco....but that's another story. Thanks Dave for refreshing the memories with your excellent recall of the fashion, the music, the places, and the faces of a special era to be part of!
  • This is probably the best summary of early/mid 60's Modernism that I have read, almost a mirror image of my own recollections! So pleased you remember the 'nylon macs' (NO, everyone did NOT have a full-length leather coat, a la Quadrophenia) and also pleased that you mention the fact that 'The Who' were not exactly representative of the movement and were almost 'cooked up mods' by publicity stylists (as bands are still subject to,today). OK a scooter was fine,for a while, but most people after 18 aspired to a cheap-car, or preferably a small van with a rear 'seat conversion' ( I had a Triumph Herald van!) that could double as a 'shag palace' on wheels, down at the coast! The specialist import shops you mention (Even Dobell's Records were good!) enabled you to access your 'own' music (jazz / blues/ soul), which you played on a Dansette multi-changer, in your bedroom. Not like the multitude of radio-stations available today at the flick of a switch. In closing,

    I acknowledge that 'fancy dress' thing is happening amongst todays so-called 'Mods', i.e the 'military' parka, 3-button mohair suit, a festooned scooter, target n' union jack decals, etc, etc. It was not about any of that, it was about detail, quality, fit, style and mainly attitude. It was also about knowing how to 'use a knife and fork properly' and, as a working-class fella, finding out everything you could about aspirational living, in order to get 'smoothly' to the next level. That's something you had to 'be there' back then, to experience,... you can't buy it, 'from a Mod-shop'!
  • A good realistic read with a great flow mate. Looking forward to Part 3
  • Another great read and fantastic insight. Thanks for adding to the site.
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