Thursday, 19 July 2012

Mods & Rockers

The mods and rockers were two conflicting British youth subcultures of the early to mid 1960s. Media coverage of mods and rockers fighting in 1964 sparked a moral panic about British youths, and the two groups became labelled as folk devils. 

The rockers considered mods to be weedy, effeminate snobs, and mods saw rockers as out of touch, oafish and grubby.

[wikipedia description of conflicts]

In the United Kingdom, rockers were often engaged in brawls with mods. BBC News stories from May 1964 stated that mods and rockers were jailed after riots in seaside resort towns in Southern England, such as Margate, Brighton, Bournemouth and Clacton.
The conflict came to a head at Clacton during the Easter weekend of 1964. Round two took place on the south coast of England, where Londoners head for seaside resorts on Bank Holidays. Over the Whitsun weekend (May 18 and 19, 1964), thousands of mods descended upon MargateBroadstairs and Brighton to find that an inordinately large number of rockers had made the same holiday plans. Within a short time, marauding gangs of mods and rockers were openly fighting, often using pieces of deckchairs. The worst violence was at Brighton, where fights lasted two days and moved along the coast to Hastings and back; hence the Second Battle of Hastings tag. A small number of rockers was isolated on Brighton beach where they – despite being protected by police – were overwhelmed and assaulted by mods. Eventually calm was restored and a judge levied heavy fines

[Encyclopedia of Brighton]

The Mods and Rockers were two rival youth groups that clashed several times at Brighton in the 1960s, the most infamous occasion being the so-called “Battle of Brighton” during the Whitsun holiday, May 17-18 1964. The Brighton Police were prepared for trouble, as there had been clashes in Hastings at Easter, and the town was invaded by up to 3,000 youths. The leather-jacketed ‘Rockers’ arrived on their motorbikes on the Sunday morning, but were challenged in the afternoon by a much larger number of the neatly-dress ‘Mods’ on their motor-scooters. 

Several small scuffles broke out, but the most serious trouble was around the Palace Pier, where hundreds of deckchairs were broken, pebbles were used as missiles, and the windows of the Savoy Cinema were smashed. Eventually, 150 police and a police horse quelled the disturbance, but the violence was repeated the following morning, with several thousand spectators watching the confrontations from the Aquarium Sun Terrace and Marine Parade, while sea-front traders rapidly boarded up their properties. Fortunately, no-one was seriously injured in the disturbances. 

26 youths appeared in the juvenile court the following week and were handed stiff sentences. The 1979 film Quadrophenia, based on The Who’s 1973 rock opera, drew on the Mods versus Rockers culture, and featured running battles on Brighton sea front.

The events of Whitsun Sunday holiday of 1964 were never repeated again in such magnitude, but trouble amongst youths has flared on several Bank Holiday weekends since, notably in 1969, 1970, 1974, 1977, 1980 and 1981. However the worst violence seen in the town in recent years occurred after English football team’s World Cup semi-final defeat to West Germany on July 4th 1990, when mobs of youths ran through the town smashing windows and looting shops. 

Mod associations
  • originated in london in late 1950s
  • fashion obsessed (bright and bold, Italian fashion to escape dreary English fashion, well tailored, vintage)
  • music (ska, british beat, 60s, soul)
  • scooters (vespa and lambetta)

history of mods (wikipedia)

Mod (from modernist) is a subculture that originated in London, England, in the late 1950s and peaked in the early-to-mid 1960s.

Significant elements of the mod subculture include fashion (often tailor-made suits); music, including African American soul, Jamaican ska, British beat music; and motor scooters. The original mod scene was also associated with amphetamine-fuelled all-night dancing at clubs. From the mid-to-late 1960s and onwards, the mass media often used the term mod in a wider sense to describe anything that was believed to be popular, fashionable, or modern.

The term mod derives from modernist, which was a term used in the 1950s to describe modern jazz musicians and fans. This usage contrasted with the term trad, which described traditional jazz players and fans. The 1959 novel Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes describes a modernist as a young modern jazz fan who dresses in sharp modern Italian clothes. Absolute Beginners may be one of the earliest written examples of the term modernist being used to describe young British style-conscious modern jazz fans. 

rocker associations

  • motorcycles (to project masculinity, power and intimidation)
  • rock & roll music 
  • fashion (leather trousers and jackets, brother creeper shoes, leather boots)
  • originated in United Kingdom during 1950s

history of rockers

Rockers, leather boys or ton-up boys are members of a biker subculture that originated in the United Kingdom during the 1950s. It was mainly centred around British cafe racer motorcycles and rock and roll music.

The rocker subculture came about due to factors such as: the end of post-war rationing in the UK, a general rise in prosperity for working class youths, the recent availability of credit and financing for young people, the influence of American popular music and films, the construction of race track-like arterial roads around British cities, the development of transport cafes and a peak in British motorcycle engineering.


  1. This was fantastic, thank you!
    I found this while promoting the new musical "ModRock.". I am over the moon.

  2. MOD Tuesday Detroit Riot on Tap 6:00-8:00. The Jam, The Small Faces, The Who, soul, ska, mod rock & reggae. Put on your dessert boots, fire up your Vespa and join us.

    1. 6/17/14 6:00-8:00 pm US EST. Free, streaming, online...

  3. Hi, do you know who had the copywrites to the picture at the top of this page were the guy is throwing the chair? Been trying to find it for ages? Really appreciate your help. Please reply to me on if you do. Thank you. S

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