The Mods and Rockers of Brighton
The Mods and Rockers were two conflicting sub-cultures prevalent in the early to mid sixties. Headline news coverage of the ‘Battles On The Beaches’ during the August Bank Holiday in 1964, secured everlasting notoriety for both sets of the British youths of the day.
Both groups could claim working-class stature but had conflicting styles in three major contributing life-style choices, clothing, transport and music.
The Rockers focused on motorbikes, which in turn required the accompanying leather gear and heavy boots, styling themselves on Marlon Brando in his role as ‘The Wild One’ and preferred the rock‘n’roll of the 50’s such as Eddie Cochran, Bo Diddley and Gene Vincent. The pompadour hairstyles otherwise known as ‘The Duck’s Arse’ would only be seen once they disembarked from their bikes and removed their crash helmets.
The Mods on the other hand would not always be so safety conscious and only a few wore helmets, these being of a softer style, open faced and known as ‘The Viper’. They usually wore parka jackets but when ‘partying’ invariably left the scooter at home anyway. The scooters they used were referred to as ‘Hairdryers’ by the Rockers as they had nowhere near the equivalent horsepower of their enemies. The Mods wore tailored suits and loafer shoes, but preferred the suede ankle-high desert boots when dressing more casually. This would include polo shirts: sporting fashionable brands such as Fred Perry. Their choice of music would include up-and coming bands such as The Who, The Yardbirds and The Small Faces.
The Who released an album called Quadrophenia in 1973 and eternal cult status for the Mods & Rockers was assured when the film of the same name was released in 1979. This even altered local geography after the film showed two of the main characters making-out in an alley whilst trying to escape the fighting on the streets between the two groups and the local constabulary. Quadrophenia Alley was born in that scene and remains a ‘must see’ place of interest to many visitors to the city.
Phil Daniels played the lead role with Leslie Ash as his fleeting love interest. Sting made his debut in the film as a real cool dude, whilst Toyah Wilcox was in a small yet important role. Ray Winstone is a rival rocker and the plethora of young British actors in this iconic film goes on and on.ray
The rivalry continued for quite a few years and spread along the coast to Hastings and back on numerous occasions. The judges handed out excessive fines for the unruly behaviour and the Press made mountains out of molehills much more than necessary.
These days there are still a number of nostalgic gatherings down by the Pier on bank holidays but the need for any aggro has petered out, thank goodness!
Short sparks sometimes light up over the years. Back in 1981 The Punk band The Exploited were appearing at Finsbury Park on the same night as The Jam were playing nearby. They had recorded a B-side entitled ‘F**k the Mods’ and on the sleeve it encouraged punks and skins to keep on Mod-Bashing.
Trouble ensued: no surprise there then!
Check out our interview with John Lassetter of Quadrophenia Alley here!
Words by Stevie Martin