This was the Swinging Sixties: changes were taking place. The music became ‘cool’; therefore clothes had to be ‘cool’, hence the arrival of the Mods. The look was immaculate, Mods took a lot of pride in their appearance and always wore up to the minute fashion, otherwise girls would say things like “not very mod are they”.
Amongst the first I saw were girls with closely-cropped, shaped hair, dresses with flower, geometric or op-art designs, very colourful or just black and white. In addition they wore matching plastic daisy earrings and hair slides. All was covered with a see-through pac-a-mac, a very thin raincoat which could be folded down to purse-size so that it would fit into your pocket or handbag, which, being almost transparent, showed the clothes you were wearing underneath; the dresses of course were getting shorter with the introduction of the mini-skirt; competitions were held to find the girl wearing the shortest mini-skirt. Shoes or boots were made of patent leather, generally quite flat or with low heels.
The boys, with a typical Mod haircut, wore a parka if they rode a scooter, checked or brightly-coloured hipster trousers, jeans or a mohair suit, generally Italian and tailor-made. Under the suit would be a shirt with a button-down or pin collar and tie or a casual shirt, sometimes a polo-neck. I remember seeing guys with different coloured suits – bottle green, burgundy. On their feet, they would wear Chelsea boots with Cuban heels, desert boots, moccasins or bowling shoes.
We regularly travelled down to the ‘smoke’ – London – to look for clothes, Carnaby Street and the Kings Road beckoned. Jeans were worn, usually Levis or Wranglers as there was not the choice we have nowadays; some people, especially the girls, on buying a new pair of jeans would take them home, put them on and get in a cold bath to make them shrink! Both girls and boys liked to wear leather coats, very often long, down to the ground.
Mods liked to congregate in the Old Market Square in Nottingham, meet by the Lions in front of the Council House or just sit and chat in the square or one of the nearby popular coffee bars such as Lyons Tea Shop, the Kardomah, the Four Seasons Restaurant and the L-Shaped Room. They all liked to show off their scooters and would park them in front of the Council House; all sorts of Vespas and Lambrettas were there and my bright orange DKR Defiant, as I was always different. Suddenly everyone would leave, sometimes moved on by the police, to go nowhere in particular and a large snake of scooters would wend its way through Nottingham. One group who were always around were known as the mini-boys, as they drove around in mini cars as well as scooters; they were held in awe by many of the group.
Bank Holidays were spent in ‘Skeggie’ (Skegness) or Mablethorpe to have fights with the Rockers or ‘Greasers’ of just cause general mayhem. I never took part in any fighting but went along for the buzz. The towns would be flooded with scooters.
At the weekends, either instead of or after a trip to the Dungeon, there were always parties to gate-crash.
Although the Dungeon was probably the most popular of the Nottingham clubs at the time, there were others like the Beachcomber and the Boat Clubs – the Brit, the Boat and the Union.
With the love of dancing, all-night sessions developed. These were held at the Dungeon or the Beachcomber, but the Mods also attended sessions at other clubs, in particular the Twisted Wheel in Manchester and the King Mojo in Sheffield. I think I saw Ike and Tina Turner at the Mojo. Pete Stringfellow was the DJ there and he used to come over to the Dungeon to play a set.
After hearing all the soulful sounds played at these clubs, my band, the Salty Dogs, incorporated many of these songs into their set, songs by Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave. The Salty Dogs appeared at the Sherwood Rooms as support for Junior Walker and The All-Stars: when they arrived, we had to vacate the dressing rooms.
I went to the Dancing Slipper one occasion to see the Spencer Davis Group with the amazing Stevie Winwood. On the same night Wilson Pickett was appearing somewhere in town. I remember going up to the DJ at the Slipper to request him to play a record that we were dancing to at the Dungeon, ‘In the Midnight Hour’; not only did he not have it in his collection, but he had not even heard of it!
The Mod subculture did not last very long, perhaps a couple of years. Some people continued to wear the clothes, listen to the music and Northern Soul was born, others became ’skinheads’. Many evolved into the hippie subculture which had developed in the States. My hair grew longer; I listened to and saw more rocky and psychedelic bands – Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. People I’d seen at the Dungeon in backing bands became bigger names, for example Rod Stewart, Elton John, Peter Green, and Mick Fleetwood. The Salty Dogs added a keyboard player, changed their name to the Velvet Explosion and added more psychedelia to their set.
The Mods had encapsulated a neat, immaculate look and an energetic lifestyle based on shaking their bodies to vibrant dance music. The new hippie culture saw a wilder look of abandonment, perhaps more colourful, and the music was more complex and cerebral: more spiritual, mind-bending and thought-provoking and maybe more political. Instead of dancing the night away, people would sit on the floor and listen earnestly to all that was being said.
The Mod movement gave us direction, style, friendships and helped to launch a certain creativity and artistry; we never ‘grew up’ and still retain that youthful exuberance.