The Society of Cool
Apologies ahead to anyone of a certain age who are not exactly enthusiastic towards anything post 1965. But for people of my generation this was a fantastic time. Between February and March 1980 we had songs such as 'My World' by Secret Affair, 'Maybe Tomorrow' by The Chords, 'Jimmy' by The Purple Hearts, 'Going Underground' by The Jam, as well as songs such as 'Geno' by Dexys that had a strong Mod connection to it coming into the charts. A month later seaside towns the length and breadth of the country were visited by large groups of Mods, many on scooters, who would encounter other youth groups in equally large numbers.
A year later, as lots made the pilgrimage to scooter rallies for the first time the possibilities of this sort of disorder diminished as no other youth groups would have been capable of descending on somewhere like Scarborough in their thousands. But what are people's thoughts on this time. Do you remember it fondly, or was it too wild and violent ?
My memories of that period are for the most part very fond ones. I was sort of brought up on the whole Mod thing but never was one myself until late 1978 when I was almost 15. I saw a few other early 'revivalists' at school and locally and as a regular at London Jam gigs it soon began to snowball for me at that time. Living near The Elephant And Castle I was quite close to a hub of new Mod activity and soon was seeing The Chords in pubs around South London and meeting other kids from other parts of London who themselves were branching out from their own local bands like The Purple Hearts in the East End. For the next two or three years it was full on for me. Gigs, Scooter events and 'nights' at pubs and clubs across London. Sadly it was period of pretty heavy violence. Much of which seemed directed towards Mods. I lost count of the amounts of clumps and spit that hailed down upon me on my way in and out of gigs and stuff. Me and my pals were decent sorts and not really aggro merchants and slowly but surely they dropped out of it all leaving me. In the end after a visit to the hospital with a broken nose, cracked ribs and a far more damaged ego I thought perhaps I needed to change my perspective on things and as the scene as a whole was dwindling I sort of went into my own 'Mod' shell. I still wore all the gear as I do now I suppose but it was a slightly toned down version and I chose things to wear dependant on where I was going. I was never 'The Only Mod In The Village' as there was still something of a scene in London and still is but the intitial youthful fervour had sort of died for me as I was by now in my twenties. However given all of that that it is all still part of my life and the good times I had back then are memories I will treasure always. The early Rob and Tony Class Mod Nights, journeys across London to see bands like The Merton Parkas and The Purple Hearts, going to Southend and Brighton on the train as at that point none of my pals had scooters and meeting up with other lads on the way. I guess now I am less likley to get into bother as a 48 year old and atmosphere in general has changed although sadly 'street crime' is worse it seems. The things I go to now have just about the best crowd you could ever wish to meet. Into the same stuff with the music and the clothes and scooters but without all the teenage testosterone flying about.
Great stuff Martin. I was not quite a Mod then, but it was the first time that I had a notion of getting into it. I got into the scene around September 1980, but I do recall the start of that year very well with all the brilliant music around and the sight and sound of the scooters driving around the part of north Glasgow where I stayed. It was certainly a violent time right enough as there was also gangs of skins, rockabillys, and teds around who were not exactly keen on Mods and trouble was always nearby. It was still the case when I got into it and the number of fights were incredible. But I suppose we were all young and daft. Now a lot of us are still very much into the whole thing the same as yourself, but this time also without the aggro.
I really could never understand the 'Tribal' violence aspect it all back then but it was just so prevalent. Perhaps the maddest thing for me and the Mods in my area was that the 'sworn' enemy of Teds/bikers/rockers or whatever was non-existent. Those we did come across were generally like I am now, middle-aged and seriously into the bikes, clothes and music and were not the slightest bit interested in bother with a teenage kid like me or my mates. The real cause of bother in my area were the 'Casuals' or 'Soul Boys' or however you want to refer to them. The irony of course is that they were teenage lads from rough areas but who dressed to the nines in American and European fashion, prided themselves in their appearance and loved black American music. Sound familiar?? The infamous incident of a young Mod being 'bricked' by a gang of local 'Casuals' causing him to fall into the path of an oncoming lorry off the Old Kent Road was one I was unfortuante enough to have been close by to. It was all just mental really but the true sense of what Mod was all about is still with me to a large extent and I cherish the memories. I doubt the parents of the kid who was killed feel the same though.
Sorry to hear about that poor Mod being killed. I knew of a lot of incidents where people were injured but never anyone losing their lives.
It was a strange time looking back. I don't think there has ever been as many youth tribes around at the same time and it did lead to a fair few fights. We were lucky in many ways. When the revival hit Glasgow in 79 it seems there was similar numbers of Mods, punks, and skins and everyone mostly got on fine. The only real trouble then seemed to be with rockabilly's and neds. When I got into it the Mod scene had flowered in Glasgow and although we did not get along at all by this stage there was not enough of the others all joined together to take on the Mods. But the trouble to me disguised the fact that there was some brilliant music around from late 78 to 1982 and some of the gear that people either found or got made was fantastic and showed there was a lot more to the late 70s Mod scene that violence.
Chris no worry mate. It was a long time ago now and the kid wasn't someone I knew but was part of the crowd in the pub we were at. It was a Mod night in the famous boxing pub The Thomas A Beckett in the Old Kent Road. One of the earliest ones Rob and Tony Class did as I recall. A big gang of local 'Casuals' tried to crash there way in and were chased out and took a bit of a hiding from some of the older harder blokes in the pub. When the lads on scooters took off at the end of the evening this gang of casuals hung around a few hundred yards down the road and from the balcony/walkway of a block of flats began to throw bricks and other stuff. One poor lad was hit and came off his scooter into the path of a lorry. I was on foot and walking along with some mates and saw it all happen in the distance. Bloody tragic stuff. For a 16 year old kid as I was at the time it was all a bit much considering it was just about music and clothes as far as most of us were concerned. Same goes for football I guess when you hear of that sort of thing or nowadays with postcode crime. Bloody madness.
When you are young and stupid you get up to some crazy things without ever thinking through the consequences Martin. These arsheholes lobbing the bricks probably thought it was a bit of a laugh and that the worst that would happen is someone may fall off their scooter. The amount of times I got hassle while out on my scooter was incredible but that was just the time, and we were not exactly flavour of the month with many people back then. The strange thing to me looking back is that some of our crowd, who could turn quite violent and nasty were the same people who would get all worked up about having covered buttons on their trousers, or if a certain shirt went with certain shoes etc.