• Mods & rockers (Who were the -?)

    We're in the 1960s. England has just organized (and won) the F.A. World Cup. Transformed by the irruption of Rock n'Roll in the media, the British scene is changing, and there will be no backward move : pop music, the miniskirt, youth subculture. Sometimes violence spoils everything, like the Mods and Rockers conflict ...

    (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia This article is about 1960s British youth subcultures.)


    The Mods and Rockers were two conflicting British youth subcultures of the early-mid 1960s. Gangs of mods and rockers fighting in 1964 sparked a "moral panic" about British youths, so the two groups were seen as "folk devils". The rockers adopted a macho biker gang image, wearing clothes such as black leather jackets, unlike the mods, who adopted a pose of scooter-d riving sophistication, wearing suits and other cleancut outfits. By late 1966, the two subcultures had faded from public view and media attention turned to two new emerging youth subcultures -- the hippies and the skinheads



    Rockers, who wore leather jackets and rode heavy motorcycles, scorned the mods, who often wore suits and rode scooters. The former considered mods to be weedy, effeminate snobs, and the latter saw rockers as out of touch, oafish and grubby. Musically, there was not much common ground. Rockers listened to 1950s rock n' roll, mostly by white U.S. American artists such as Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran.  Mods generally favoured 1960s rythm and blues, soul, ska, by African-American and Jamaican musicians, although many of them also liked such British R&B or beat bands such as The Who, The Small Faces and the Yardbirds.  

    Physical conflicts

    John Covach's Introduction to Rock and its History claims that in the UK, 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 on the south coast of England (Margate, Brighton, Bournemouth, etc.) .  The mods and rockers conflict led sociologist Stanley Cohen to coin the term "moral panic" in his study Folk Devils and Moral Panics, which examined media coverage of the mod and rocker riots in the 1960s.  Although Cohen admits that mods and rockers had some fights in the mid-1960s, he argues that they were no different than the evening brawls* that occurred between youths throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, both at seaside resorts and after football games. He claims that the UK media turned the mod subculture into a negative symbol of delinquent and deviant status. (*Voc. brawl : bagarre, rixe)

    Fights occurred where territories overlapped* or rival factions happened upon each other. As noted above, there was an urban / rural split, meaning that the groups could only fight if brought together for some reason -- most often the seaside during summer. The film Quadrophenia, on the other hand, depicts some violence within London. Mods sometimes sewed fish hooks* into the backs of their lapels to shred the fingers of assailants. Weapons were often in evidence; coshes* and flick knives* being favoured. The conflict came to a head at Clacton during the Easter weekend of 1964. (Voc.: to overlap : (se dit quand deux territoires) se chevauchent, fish hook : hameçon, cosh : matraque, flick knife : couteau à cran d'arrêt)

    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 Margate 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 were 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*, describing those arrested as "Sawdust Caesars".(Voc.: seaside resort : station balnéaire ; Whitsun[tide] : Pentecôte ; to levy a fine : infliger une amende ; sawdust : sciure)


    The press described the mod and rocker clashes as being of "disastrous proportions", and labelled mods and rockers as "vermin" and "louts"*. Newspaper editorials fanned the flames* of hysteria, such as a Birmingham Post editorial in May 1964, which warned that mods and rockers were "internal enemies" in the UK who would "bring about* disintegration of a nation's character". The magazine Police Review argued that the mods and rockers' purported* lack of respect for law and order could cause violence to "surge and flame like a forest fire". (Voc.: lout : voyou, pignouf ; to fan the flames : souffler sur les braises ; to bring about : causer ; purported : prétendu (e))

    Eventually, when the media ran out of real fights to report, they would publish deceptive headlines, such as using a subheading* "Violence", even when the article reported that there was no violence at all. Newspaper writers also began to use "free association" to link mods and rockers with various social issues, such as teen pregnancy, contraceptives, amphetamines, and violence. (Voc.: subhead : sous-titrer)


    In popular culture

    A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess's contemporary novel, (first published in 1962) is in part a commentary on Mods and Rockers as the adolescent extremes of the day.

    The conflict between mods and rockers was the butt of a joke in The Beatles' 1964 film A Hard Day's Night.  At a press conference, a reporter asks Ringo Starr :"Are you a mod or a rocker?", to which he replies, "No, I'm a mocker."

    The 1979 film Quadrophenia, based on the 1973 album of the same title by The Who, commemorated the Mod subculture and its clashes with Rockers. The album and film are considered by many to be the authoritative historical fiction documents on the subject of Mods and Rockers.  

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  • Comments

    Friday 9th February 2018 at 11:04
    Struggles to put a coherent analysis together by the author.
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