The Society of Cool
Being born and growing up in London’s Eastend it was inevitable that I would come across the great music and fashion called Mod. The music could be heard in any Church Hall Youth Club that we attended. People would bring their records along to play on the club's record player - usually a Dansette. The records would be 7" singles, they were the order of the day. 6s 8d each of 3 for a £1 - priceless (still got loads now 45 years on). The next step was to venture to London to hear this great music first hand and live...
I used jump on the train at Ilford station and in next to no time we were in the heart of London. I remember standing outside the Whiskey A Go-Go or Flamingo, listening to Georgie Fame and whoever was playing on a Saturday night. We couldn't get in - too young - but that sound and watching the older mods going in still sends shivers up my spine. They looked like gods to us (14/15 year old wanna be's).
Walking around soho in my dark blue leather 3/4 coat, levis/hush puppies/ fred perry I thought I was the dogs bollocks. The leather coat cost £20 bought with my Birthday and Christmas tips from my paper round - not bad for a 14 year old.
The music was we listened to was nearly all American R&B and the live British bands doing covers of them. Geno Wasington, Zoot money, Herbie Goins, Jimmy James, The Action, The Eyes and loads more.
In time I upgraded to Monday night at the Ilford Palais, from the Saturday afternoon session. I remember walking in, holding my breath thinking the bouncers wouldn't let me in, but they did. As I went through the doors, paying my money, Harlem Shuffle by Bob and Earl was playing - I will never forget that moment as long as I live.
During the next couple of years, seeing the Small Faces, The Who, Lee Dorsey, The Herd, Jr. Walker and The All Stars, Desmond Dekker, Geno Washington and loads more.
By now I was coming up to 16 and a scooter was the next step. Off to Eddie Grimstead at Newbury Park. £80 later I was a proud owner of a Vespa GS150. £20 deposit and repayments monthly (Dad signed HP papers). I wheeled it home on 30th nov 1966. My birthday was 1 December - I got up, ran downstairs, parka on and straight out on my scooter.
I now had the final piece in the jigsaw I was 'MOD' and the 'in crowd' beckoned. The mod scene (in Ilford and surrounding areas) took a major turn, the British bands playing covers of American songs started to change and start recording their own songs, this led to a break up of the mod scene as we knew it, some went into psychedelic music and the others to become skinheads. That’s a story for another day...
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