Teddy Boys……… Something should be said here about Teddy Boys and Teddy boy suits which were all the rage in my early teens. The Teds were a London subculture starting in and around the 1950s. The culture spread around the UK and when in the early-mid ’50s rock and roll took hold, Rock and Roll was the music of choice. With the likes of Bill Hayley and the Comets and of course Elvis Presley.
Many of Bill Hayleys big hits are still engraved in my head. Like,” Razzle Dazzle”, ” See You later Aligator” ” Shake Rattle and Roll”, and of course his biggest hit ” Rock Around the Clock”.
Elvis on the other hand, had the likes of” Blue Suede Shoes” and” Heartbreak Hotel” ” I want you I need you I love you” to name just a few. After the early years of Elvis, his songs changed to suit little old ladies no wonder he put on weight and died. Of the two I always felt that Bill Haley was the ” Father Of Rock and Roll “.
Gene Vincent of Be Bop-A-Lula fame is another rock and roller that springs to mind. I saw him live at the Kilburn Gaumont State theatre 16th. May 1961. Vincent was one of the big influences on the Beatles.
We were dancing to a live band when I spied this slimmish looking man walking tho’ the dancers on the dance floor. He was wearing a long straight grey overcoat, he was wearing the teddy boy hairstyle hairdo. I watched him get up on the side of the stage and disappear behind the side curtains.
When it was his turn to do his thing, there he was in an all-leather outfit. I noticed that he had a problem with one of his legs because he held it slightly out to the side. He was there to sing his biggest hit Be Bop-A-Lula and he was just like his record. I used to play this and the other side to his record Woman Love.
There is some debate about Vincent’s leg. It was rumoured that it was a motorcycle injury and the surgeon wanted to remove it, but he refused to let him do so. So he was in pain with his leg problem for the rest of his life and had to wear a steel plate around or on it.Vincent died from a ruptured stomach ulcer in 1971. A way inglorious way to go. But his name and music live on.
Just to touch on the TeddyBoy culture again here is the unofficial dress code of the Ted’s. Before the Mod look there was in England the Teddy Boy look, which meant the following, tight jeans They would be around 8” around the bottom Some time there was luminous socks Like lime green topped off with black sued Chucker boots with 2-inch thick crepe soles. We wore shirts with cutaway collars highlighted with a bootlace tie. The jacket length was down to the knuckles of the hand. Some Teds ( as they were called ) wore houndstooth suits highlighted with black velvet collars and black velvet flaps on the pockets
Some of the Teddy Boys carried bicycle chains knuckle dusters and razor blades. They just wanted to get into fights, usually with Teddy Boys from other districts or areas. They were just plain out and out thugs. Most Teddy Boys of the time just liked the fashion.
Mods…….When the Mod fashion arrived on the scene there seemed to be a line drawn in the sand Teddy Boys did not like the “ Mod ‘ and visa versa so if they ever met there was the likely hood of a punch up.
The Teddy boy hairstyle was as follows. The sides are swept back and they met at the back of the head in a DA, Ducks Arse. And sideburns in front of the ears. All topped off with a curly quaff on the front. The film star Tony Curtis and his hair cut was a classic example of a Teddy Boys hairdo.
It was around 57- 58 that the Mod style and unofficial dress code came on the scene.
Mod is a subculture that began in London in 1958 and spread throughout England. So, maybe I was one of the originals. We would go to the Lyceum dance hall which is in the Strand. Which is in central London. all dressed up in our Mod gear, and dance to the latest pop records.
A group of ” Mods” on their scooters, Looking like there on their way to either a trip to the coast or a dance club.
The Mod culture eventually spread to Europe somewhat. and continues today on a smaller scale. Mods focused on music and fashion, the subculture has its roots in a small group of stylish London -based young teenage lads in the late 1950’s. ( Me !?)
A 1959 Lambretta scooter my one was exactly like this.
The scooters of the day were either a Lambretta or a Vesper. there was the Lambretta Li150. or the 175. The Vesper was either a plainVesper or a Vesper GT which most Mods had. my Lambretta was one of the fastest scooters around bar nobody
Like I explained earlier; In 1954 Dennis and I started to get suits that were tailor-made when we were 13 years of age onward. The difference in the suit style was quite something. The trousers had flairs on the bottom and on the outside seam. there was a slit from the bottom of the trouser leg of about one and a half inches. Then bove the seam, three or four buttons were sewn on the seam. Then the Mod jacket in contrast to the Teddy Boy style was a short single-breasted jacket. Sometimes the jacket sported covered buttons usually covered with the same material that the suit was made of. The shirt had a cutaway collar and a narrow tie which would have a Winsor knot in it. The shoes were what at the time they called Winklepickersand they were faulty crocodile skin
We were the sharpest dressers around. and the Lyceum was one of the main places to hang out. Another place to go to was Catford City hall in London. Along with a club above a pub in Seven Sisters Road Road where the old Arsenal Highbury Football Ground was.
A photograph of two mid-1960s mods on a customised scooter
Mods and Rockers would get into a fight if they ever met. But beings, as we moved in different circles, meetings, were pretty rare.,
The only place that really springs to mind is on our trips to the coast. But usually, there could be more than 15- 20 scooters. If we saw any Rockers they would usually take off.
Conflicts between us began to subside and mods increasingly gravitated towards pop art and fashion. Swinging London as it was sometimes called became synonymous with fashion, music, and pop culture.
During this time, mod fashions spread to other countries and became popular in the United States and elsewhere—with the mod now viewed less as an isolated subculture, but emblematic of the larger youth culture of the era.
Popular gear to be worn on most scooters were army surplus Karki coats. I never personally wore one of these coats. I bought myself a big modern style grey overcoat. To top that off I wore as did others a blackberry down over my forehead just above my eyes.
It was very important that if you were a Mod you dressed as a Mod, we were very smart and clean. The girls too. I can’t remember what the girls’ fashions were but they dressed the part also.
In the late ’50s, early 60’s the best way to get around London to all the dance halls and pubs.was with scooters. They were either a Vestpa usually a GS. or a Lambretta either a 150 LI or a 175cc. There was also trips on the weekends, which I have properly mentioned already, trips to The South coast of England. Including the Isle Of Wright.
The Lambretta scooter that I had was exceptionally fast and not many could catch me. Witness to the fact that I was pulled over by the ‘ Flying Squad ” one morning at 3.a.m. They said I was doing 65mph.
Once I did come off my scooter. we were coming home from a dance, I believe that it was at Catford City Hall. It had been raining and the roads were really greasy. I was foolishly racing a fast vesper GS. He had a girl on the back. I had slowed down on this sharp S bend when I lost it and the Lambretta slide away from under me.
The driver of the Vesper had to brake to avoid me as I was laying in the middle of the road. his Vesper was going straight to hit me but I was able as it was moving to push it out of the way with both arms. So it did not hurt me. The guy on the Vesper and his girl were both O.K. the only damage to me was the knee of my almost new houndstooth suit. the right knee had an “L” shaped rip in it. I was really pissed over that. My scooter only had a bit of damage to the paintwork. which was red and cream. just like the picture