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Hard Mods by John Waters

Hard Mods by John Waters
Hard Mods by John Waters
Note that I independently write and research everything in this article. But it may contain affiliate links.

Most people’s views of 60s mods are of effeminate West End dandies. Original 60s mod John Waters gives us the lowdown on a less familiar side of the Mod coin.

With regard to the Mod scene back in the sixties, to my way of thinking there were two distinct types of Mod within the London area. The first was the familiar scooter boys which have become the generally accepted face of sixties Modernism. However, there was another type of Mod back in those days.

These were the members of the many Mod ‘firms’. These were members of street gangs each with their own manor e.g. The Highbury mob, the Archway, Somers Town, Elephant and Castle, Mile End etc. These gangs consisted of anything of between 50 to a couple of hundred in strength at any one time.

Turfs were strictly patrolled and borders laid down. Gang members intruding on other’s turf risked a severe beating if caught. Gang members were meticulous in their dress, the order of the day being the mohair suit, velvet collar overcoats and as often as not a ‘blue beat’ hat. Each manor had its own ‘caffs’, snooker halls and sometimes dance hall or club.

I lived in Upper Holloway and therefore was a member of the Archway mob. One of the smaller gangs numbering around eighty to a hundred. We congregated in two or three local cafes and pubs and our main enemy was the Highbury and Mars (Finsbury Park) gangs.

There were many and sometimes violent skirmishes but the odd thing was that on occasions the mobs would align with each other to take on other gangs. I remember one instance that sprang to mind when both gangs combined to ‘visit’ the rocker enclave at Alexandra Palace.

Members of these gangs would not be seen dead on a scooter. Their preferred mode of transport being a car. Like most other Mods at the time we were fans of Motown, Soul and the Who, Small Faces etc. We frequented the pubs of the East End and clubs of the West End.

Although we visited many clubs such as the Flamingo, Scene, Whisky and Marquee we tended to stick to one particular club. In our case, it was the Discoteque and regarded this as ‘home’ turf. Again on the annual visits to the coast we would often meet up with other firms and head off, in our case, to Brighton.

My own particular memories of that era are mainly concerning music as an ardent follower of Soul music. Solomon Burke at the Flamingo; robes, crown and all being joined on stage by Dusty Springfield belting out ‘Everybody Needs Somebody’.

The Who at St.Josephs Church Hall, Archway just after they hit the charts with ‘I Can’t Explain’ and having a few ‘sherberts’ in The Cat next door with Moon. Friday and Saturday night up West.

First, a few pints down the East End at The Green Man or Blind Beggar then off to the Coffee An in a cellar down the bottom of Wardour St. Then up to The Discoteque to dance the night away to some of the greatest music ever to make it on to vinyl.

Early next morning meeting up at the all-night cafe ‘El Passant’ on the Strand (what a great jukebox). Heady days! People often find it hard to understand the reverence that the sixties are held in by many. In these days of clubs on every corner, high tech, computer-aided music etc everything is pretty much en-passe. The thing about the sixties was that everything was so new. The clothes, music, clubs etc and for the first time, we had some money in our pockets to indulge.

I do not live in the past by any means and there is much to be said for the present day but it will never match the absolute excitement of the sixties.

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  1. Put simply, I would say the “hard mods” were the working class mods who would eventually evolve into skinheads.

    • David Lowey

      Hi John , yes my brother in law was a hard mod till 68-69 and then went skin being a few yeard younger I kind off missed the mods but became a skinhead in 69 , thanks for the read Dave.

      • Yep, as one original skinhead recalled, “When we started out we didn’t call ourselves skinheads. We were just mods with close-cropped hair. Other people started calling us skinheads, and we thought ‘Okay, that’s what we’ll call ourselves’.”

  2. Great article. We need more of this sort of information, showing the variation that lots of different groups had in appearance, location and hangouts. He even brings up preferred mode of transport (perhaps affected by economics and geography). Details matter.

  3. Yeah thats interesting. Back in the eatly 2000s I knew a guy in his 60s who worked in health and safety for an investment bank in Canary Wharf. East Ender. He was always very well dressed with a bit on early Faces Rod Stewart feathercut, although not in a clearly ‘ mod style’. Anyway turns out he was an original Mod. Used to travel up the Twisted Wheel alot. I suspect he was an ‘ard Mod’ because the thing he said he remembered the most about his friends was the ‘sudden unpredictable violence with knives and iron bars and such appearing from nowhere..’
    Although I was dying to chat more , he seemed a bit embarrased by his past teenage self!


    I was a member of the Quadrant gang in Highbury in the late 50s and early 60sand frequented the cafe in Blackstock Road which I remember as being called Ma’s Cafe after the rather large mum of the Italian family who ran it. We would spend many hours listening to the Dell Shanon, Bobby Vee, Roy Orbison and many more, on the Juke Box.
    Most of our gang fights were with the Hackney Boys, and remember one fateful night when a lad called David Wynder was stabbed and killed in a phone box at the rear of Highbury Corner Station.
    It when I started work that I then had the money to buy the clothes, loafers from Bonwicks in Seven Sisters Road, queuing for Beetle boots from Anelo and Davids in Drury Lane on a Sunday morning. Hand made Mohair suits from Alfred Myers and Aubrey Morris at Highbury Corner, and I still have the coat hangers.
    Polo shirts from Krantz in Chapel Street and Cecil Gees in Shaftsbery Avenue, and of course Carnaby Street. Getting haircuts at Clubmans in Blackstock Road, and having your hair washed by a girl. Pork Pie hats, Cravats, Crombies, Blue plastic fold away raincoats, Harringtons and still by them these days.
    The local dance halls and clubs like the Tottenham Royal, the Noreik, and the one above Burtons in Dalston Highroad.

  5. The article could also have made mention of the Jamaican ska/rocksteady music (better known as bluebeat to British fans) that many hard mods were into, a trend that was continued by their cultural heirs the skinheads who embraced early reggae.

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