The riots on the beaches of Southern England in May 1964 were the culmination of ill feeling and frequent altercations between British youth sub-cultures the mods and rockers.
The mods saw rockers as hasbeens who listened to outdated 1950’s Rock & Roll music; they had greasy slicked back hair and rode around in dirty oily leathers. Mods were the new youth of sixties Britain and they wanted to live a completely different existence to their parents and previous generations. Mods did not want the norm of a mundane low paid job, followed by marriage and children. Mods were rebellious in every conceivable way and were depicted by the media at the time as troublesome, no good and devilish.
Rockers on the other hand saw mods as effeminate weedy ponces. Neat haircuts and an obsessive desire to look good were opposite traits to the macho image and beliefs of a rocker. The Italian scooters adopted by mods were seen by rockers as pathetic, incapable of speed and once again, the complete opposite to the more powerful motorcycles rode by themselves.
With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to see how two cultures so completely different, with opposite beliefs, would clash and that such confrontations would lead to the infamous beach riots in early sixties Britain.
The riots took place at such southern English seaside resorts as Clacton, Hastings and Brighton. In Brighton, the riots lasted for two days and led to many arrests. The famous British cult film Quadrophenia, produced by iconic rock band the Who, portrayed the riots between mods and rockers in Brighton.
It is ironic that two youth sub-culture movements who ultimately despised one another are permanently etched together in British history. There were youth clashes prior to 1964 and there have been many clashes since, most notable being rivalry between football hooligans which occurs on a weekly basis. Why is it then that the mods and rockers riots received such notoriety? Obviously, mods and rockers were very much in the news prior to the riots and they are clearly opposites in every conceivable manner. What ultimately separates these youth sub-culture riots to all others is the scale of events. The pure numbers involved is pretty unique and the press had a clear distinction to make between the two youth movements.
Watching the riot scenes in cult British film Quadrophenia you cannot help but join in to the famous chant of ‘We Are The Mods, We Are The Mods, We Are, We Are, We Are The Mod!!!’
More articles on mod culture 🙂