Ever wondered what a night out was like in the 60s? Saturday Night Mods by Johnnie Taylor looks back on a typical one for him in London.
I suppose a typical night out for us, and I’m talking about Saturday now, would be to meet at the usual pub where there would be a lot of Mods about. These places were more or less taken over by us lot, especially at the weekend. We were not ‘scooter boys’ you realise, they had their own places. We didn’t look down on them, but we wanted them to look UP to us.
From there we would ‘scout out’ the young ladies of course, & find out who was going ‘up west’ later. The other thing was to find who had some gear (pills), to buy & sell some if we had plenty. Sometimes we pooled our money to buy a tin (1000) from one of the places we knew…so we had plenty to sell to others.
Other times, someone had done a bit of ‘robbing’ from a chemist somewhere and had lots to sell. Some scooter boys would come around looking to score some, which was ok if we were selling. We always liked to have some with us, although I never had any trouble getting some ‘up west’ if I didn’t have any. It was always good to have some to sell to people, made you feel a bit ‘flash’, and the girls may show their gratitude later (if you know what I mean and I’m sure you do).
We had our best clothes on of course, I was always fond of my Madras cotton jacket in the warmer weather, but an Italian jacket or even a mohair suit (two vents of course) was good too. We tried to wear something new if we could on a Saturday.
After sorting out rides we would leave to go ‘up west’ although occasionally go to somewhere like the Ricky Tick Club in Windsor first if Georgie Fame or Zoot Money was playing there. It was always a good place for girls and selling gear too. It would close about 11pm, so we would make our way to the west end, getting blocked on the way.
We might wander around to scope out Ham Yard (where the Scene club was) first. Always a load of people hanging about outside. We would have a chat with some of them, before going round to Wardour Street where our club of choice, The Flamingo, opened at midnight. You could always buy a pass-out ticket to the club for about half the regular admission price from some black guys outside if you just wanted to go in for a while and then go on somewhere else.
The club was in a basement with another club, ‘The Whisky-A-Go-Go’ situated above it. Down some stairs into a large cellar room which was hot and dark. Soon Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames (our favourite) would come on, usually starting his set with ‘Let the Good Times Roll’.
You had to be there to know what it was like. We had cash, we looked good, and the rush of those pills in your bloodstream, eyes wide open, and the music pounding out in that crowded room was just so bloody marvellous!
‘You only live for once, and when you’re dead you’re done’ said the lyrics and that just about summed it up. Everyone would be just feeling great, talking to the boys, chatting up the girls and seeing a lot of familiar faces…and dancing to great music.
There was a bar in the club where you could buy soft drinks and ice cream at outrageous prices. The owner of the club would actually announce that people were not buying enough of the drinks at the high prices and that he was not making enough money and would raise the temperature in the room unless we started spending!
Lots of people coming up to us, asking for gear as they could see we were well blocked, but it was dangerous to sell in the club itself. We used to tell them to buy from the guy who was always stood outside a cafe on Wardour Street. A thin fella with a beard looked like a beatnik.
One night we thought of rolling him as we figured he must have taken a lot of money that night. We followed him, but when he turned the corner, he was suddenly joined by two big ‘really hard looking’ blokes who looked after him I suppose…oh well.
Back at the club, there were always lots of celebrities dropping in, especially if there was a guest American band or singer playing. Long John Baldry, The Animals, even a couple of Beatles.
Sometimes there were some great jam sessions. During the break (or when John Mayall used to come on, not our favourite wailer), we used to go out for a bit, wander around or go for a coffee. Nothing like walking the streets of Soho in a group at 2:30am on a Sunday! We thought we owned the area, kids like us everywhere, laughing, no worries, all having fun.
If you went by Piccadilly Circus, there were always hundreds of gay men there, the place they met on Saturday night. Don’t know what they thought about suddenly having thousands of young smartly dressed lads suddenly in that area, but they soon found out we didn’t share the same sexual preferences as them.
Back to the Flamingo for the 2nd set. Really hot by then, the walls would be wet sometimes. It was the fashion at one time to use this silver spray in your hair to put grey streaks in it, both sexes used it. When the Flamingo got really hot, it used to run down our faces in black streaks making us look like ghouls! Washed off easily though. Used to stay out until the places closed up (about 6am) when the whole area would be packed with mods again as the clubs emptied. There were a few places to go then, but for most it was home and a comedown from the high of the night.
Never forget those nights and I know anyone who was there won’t either. I don’t look back upon the times as stupid either, as I know some people do when they look at their pictures when they were hippies, or with big sideburns and flares during the disco days. Still dress to some extent in a similar style as I did then, my hair is still the same, but I don’t need that grey spray anymore!
I wore out the ‘Georgie Fame Flamingo’ album. Just unplayable, still have it for the cover though and have all the tunes again in MP3 format.
I remember walking down Wardour Street during the old ‘flowerpowerb***ocks’ time and seeing they had renamed it the ‘Pink Flamingo’ and made it into a psychedelic club!
Nearly made me cry.
If you want to know more about the Ricky Tick club, I would recommend picking up a copy of As You Were: The True Adventures of the Ricky Tick, which is available for £5 on Kindle but harder to find in its original hardback.