2009 – Memories from a Mod
On March 3rd, 2009, the Nottingham Post published an article written by Andy Smart under the heading Nottingham Mods the Kings of Cool. It covered the Mods of Nottingham in the 1960s as seen through the eyes of Alan Fletcher, the author. The musical, ‘Mod Crop’, was about to open at the Theatre Royal, which was based on his book ‘Brummell’s Last Riff’ which covered life in Newark, Nottingham, the Dungeon Club, Skegness, all things Mod. Here is an extract from the article.
Nottingham Mods – the kings of cool!
SUDDENLY, the Mod culture is back in fashion with an exhibition opening in Notts and a musical set for the Theatre Royal. ANDY SMART traces its roots
SHARP-DRESSED young men in their three button suits, Fred Perry shirts and a multi-mirrored scooter to lean on, the Mods saw themselves as the kings of cool.
They were styled by Burtons, John Collier and Hepworths. Deep, centre-vent suits with shaped waists and, most importantly, a ticket pocket.
Alan Fletcher, ex-Nottingham Mod turned author and period consultant, said: “When they ordered their suits, the guys in the tailors’ shops were mystified … it certainly stretched their tailoring expertise.”
Fletcher, from Newark, recalls one local Mod who had a suit made to measure – in maroon.
“I decided I had to have one like that, so I went for green gabardine. I felt like a king in that suit.”
Like so many things to emerge in that decade of change, the Mods were a reaction to the dour austerity of the Fifties and its bland pop music.
The Small Faces were their heroes, the Dungeon Club their lair. On bank holidays they would roll into Skegness, the promenade lined with shiny Vespas and Lambrettas.
There is an image of violence around that part of the Mod culture. Greasy rockers were the antithesis of everything they believed in and a good old-fashioned ruck has become part of the history.
“That really grew from incidents at Margate, Clacton and Brighton,” said Alan, “but a lot of it was media hype. It was a bit of bravado, nothing more.
“What was the point in saving up for three months, just to get your suit ripped in a beach fight?”
Alan describes the Mod culture as “a long weekend that lasted two years” but the memories lasted a lifetime.
In the early Seventies he wrote a film script, called Two Stroke Sonata, which he sent to another Mod icon, Pete Townsend of The Who.
It was an inspired move. On the strength of his writing, and his experiences, Alan became story consultant on Townsend’s movie Quadrophenia, and wrote the accompanying novel which sold almost 100,000 copies.
Twenty years and a blossoming career in journalism later, Fletcher returned to Two Stroke Sonata and used it as the basis for a trilogy of Mod novels.
The first of the series, Brummell’s Last Riff, is now being developed into a musical, called ModCrop, which will have its world premiere at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham.
Fletcher has teamed up with Wollaton playwright Steve Wallis to bring his story to the stage.
The music sets the tone. More than 20 classic Mod favourites like Gimme Some Lovin’, Under The Boardwalk and Woolly Bully will be threaded through a story of three Mod mates on a bank holiday jaunt to Skegness who have to balance the pressures of everyday life against the joys of being a Mod.
Wallis, whose play Make Do And Mend was successfully staged at the Theatre Royal in 2007, says: “The casting is primarily local. One of my ethics is to get locals, there are a lot of very talented young people out there.” There will be an exception to that rule, the inclusion of Sheffield pop star Dave Berry, who had a huge hit in the Sixties with The Crying Game, and will be performing the song throughout the show’s Theatre Royal run.
To set the scene for the musical, a Mods exhibition is being staged at the Millgate Museum in Newark, packed with Mod culture, photographs, clothing, memorabilia and, of course, the soundtrack of the Sixties.
It opens on Saturday March 7 until April 19. It will be supported by a short season of films, to be shown at the town’s Palace Theatre, including Quadrophenia, The Knock, Up The Junction and Blow Up.
Here is the link to the full original article.
The cast for the show included Dave Berry. During the run at the Theatre Royal, various scooters were exhibited at the front, including some from the film ‘Quadrophenia’.
The article asked for comments from Nottingham’s ex-Mods and here are some of those, printed in the paper on March 23rd, 2009.
Why 1960s suited me
I was a lucky young man to be a teenager during the 1960s, a Mod with my mates, and then a Skinhead prior to joining the Army in 1970.
The clothes were special to us, getting ready to go out into Nottingham to some great clubs.
My first suit was a made-to-measure Burton’s number, brown herringbone cloth, with two button holes and 16 inch vent. The jacket looked ripped open, had eight buttons on the cuff, three-inch pocket flaps, plus ticket pocket. The trousers were cut as pegs a bit narrow at the bottom and I wore a white Fred Perry, Ben Sherman or Brutus shirt; shoes were lofas, or highly-polished brogues.
Casual kit was faded Levis, small turn-up, brown leather bomber jacket, or Levi jacket, stay press trousers, Doc Martin boots, or Doc Martin soles fitted to brogue shoes put on at Smedleys cobblers in Bulwell, opposite the Adelphi cinema.
We also wore a Harrington jacket. Overcoats were a parka from the Army Stores (Flittermans or Wakefields) or a nice black Crombie coat with a red hanky in the pocket held in with a stud.
I did end up with a scooter tarted up with loads of mirrors, tiger’s tail on the aerial, fox fur backrest and lots of spotlights. My first was an SX 200 Vespa.
The fashion shops in Notts were Roxy Threads – Rob, who ran the shop is still around and makes trousers for the Northern Soul group and will still visit the two Northern Soul and Motown venues I run in Nottingham twice a month – Jeff’s fashion shops, Birdcage, any Army store, Burton’s tailors, Smedley’s shoes and the markets in Nottingham.
The nightclubs were the Palais, Dungeon, Ad-Lib, Brit, Intercon, 360 Club Bulwell, the Twisted Wheel, Manchester.
The Bodega and the Fountain were the main pubs in town.
As for trips to Skegness, they were mainly at bank holidays, if the scooter made it. We all lined up outside the Chuckwagon on the promenade.
The music was the birth of Tamla Motown and then Northern Soul. It’s quite strange I now run the Federation Soul Club and the Central Soul Club in Nottingham. I have gone back to my roots.
But to be a teenager during those halcyon days in the ‘60s will never be forgotten and I still wear a Fred Perry, and Lambretta shirt. The fashions were great for the guys and gals, coupled with great music.
My days as a city Mod
I read the recent Bygones article about Nottingham Mods mentioning the Dungeon Club and bank holiday gatherings at Skegness.
It brought back memories of a great time in my life.
I was a regular down the Dungeon Club with excursions to Stringfellow’s King Mojo Club in Sheffield, Clouds in Derby and, very occasionally, the Twisted Wheel in Manchester, not forgetting the Beachcomber in the Lace Market. Happy days.
That was the era of mohair suits, the mini boys, characters such as Little Eddie, Radio and Tats, soul music and Motown.
Bank holidays in Skegness 1967, sleeping in bus shelters and launderettes, the memories came flooding back.
Your article is correct; this was only a very short window in our lives. I met my beautiful wife during this time. We married in 1970 at 18 and 19, and celebrate 39 years of marriage this year.
A great time and thank you for the reminder.
The Mods’ memories flood back
I LIKED your article about the Nottingham Mods scene during the late 60s – yes, they were fabulous times. The music scene was amazing.
To think we had Hendrix, Cream, Pink Floyd and The Yardbirds then; music that inspired us. Little Stevie Wonder, Chris Farlow, Junior Walker and The Spencer Davies Group.
The atmosphere at weekends, especially at the Dungeon, was electric, especially an all-nighter.
We went in Saturday night and came out Sunday morning for a breakfast at the greasy spoon cafe at Huntington Street bus station. (Then trying to tell your parents where you had been).
The pubs were a right laugh. The Royal Children banned us, The Salutation banned us, Sawyers Arms banned us, The Trip banned us.
There was one pub in the Broad Marsh bus station but that was very rough – the bouncers chucked us in!
So we would move on. and on another night we went to The Brit.
Wednesdays was a good night. After football training, a pint of Double Diamond with the edge of your glass so chipped you could peel potatoes on it .
Then the Beachcomber and The Boat Club, Eric Clapton and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers did a stint there.
The dress code, especially if you were a part of the scene and wanted to pull, was a mohair suit from Burtons in Hockley.
If you had a scooter (mine was a Lambretta) without the trimmings, (apprentices wages) you wore a Ben Sherman shirt from the Birdcage, Levis and Hush Puppies.
The local heavy mob were the mini boys – their reputation went before them. They held court for quite a while but they were pussy cats really: Welik, Tassy, Big Eddy, Roger and Pete.
The beach battles were history. I saw one at Great Yarmouth … I am telling you Quadrophenia had nothing on us.
Friday nights had a buzz, and The Kinks were singing Waterloo Sunset, and everybody was on a high, especially in the spring and summer, where you could show off a new ‘whistle and flute’.
Some were going to the Manchester clubs and some to Sheffield, and everybody caught up, on a Sunday evening, looking the worse for wear.
They were exciting times and an absolutely brilliant time to grow up in, but the emerging drug scene spoiled it.
I was there the night the Dungeon was raided, which made the BBC evening news and national press.
After that things went down hill, and the era of the Nottingham Mods faded.
I suppose we all grew up really. From time to time there have been reunions, and old aquaintances were spotted.
Items printed courtesy of the authors – Mal Redman, David Picker and Jim Higgins.