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Clothing fashions both sprang from and had influence on the various youth culture groups of the time which diverged and evolved as the decade progressed. Rock'n'roll music had hit Britain in the Fifties, giving rise to two major cultural groups with a common love for the same type of music. Both groups had, of course, been around since the early Fifties but the advent of rock'n'roll gave them a new focus.

The 'teddy boys', or 'teds', were so-called because of their smart, tailored Edwardian style clothes. The leather and denim-clad 'rockers' belonged to the motorcycling fraternity and sported this mode of dress more to facilitate their mode of transport than as a fashion statement, but also influenced by American films of the Fifties such as 'The Wild Ones'. With the musical style and accompanying fashion changes of the Sixties many of the teddy boy fraternity, along with the new 'baby boom' teenagers and some of the fringe cultures that followed jazz and blues music, became influenced by the sounds and 'shiny suits' of the Beat Boom groups.   (more...)

The Sixties didn't just
happen in the UK!

Personal reminiscences
from Paul Gabor
His view of life in Hungary in the Sixties
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'All Dressed Up'
The Sixties and the
Counter Culture
by Jonathon Green
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' Mod - A Very British

by Terry Rawlings, Chris Charlesworth
Sixties City
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The 'beatnik' (this is the word Herb Caen coined for the Beat Generation in the spring of 1958 - insiders called themselves 'beats') culture of the early sixties was in some ways a kind of keyed-down precursor to the 'hippie' movement (again, 'hippie' is an outsiders name (much like beatnik), 'freak' is the insiders name) . It had its beginnings in Paris's St. Germaine quarter and was originally the Left Bank movement of writers such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Made more popular by 'style' models such as Juliette Greco and Brigitte Bardot it attracted, mainly, more intellectual middle and upper-class 'dropouts' who wanted to throw off their class trappings by adopting their own strange vocabulary and laid-back bohemian attitude, frequenting low-lit 'cellar' clubs and indulging their love of jazz and blues music.

It was a curious concoction of pop culture and high art. Most of their fashions were minimalist slim-fitting designs, hand-made sandals, black turtleneck sweaters, black berets and tight black pants. Like the hippies, they favoured longer hairstyles, although not to the same extent and the men commonly sported thin beards along the jaw line and horn-rimmed glasses. This look was made more fashionable by the success of the Manfred Mann pop group in the early sixties who adopted this style with great success, adapting blues music to the Beat Boom.

Another highly popular element around the music scene in the early Sixties were what are generically known as 'Irish Showbands', although this did not reflect in chart recording successes. Groups such as The Impact Showband and The Jivenaires often appeared as supporting acts to major chart-topping artists and groups at concerts in both the U.K. and the U.S.A.

The arrival of the Mersey sound in 1962-3, notably the Beatles, and other influential groups such as the Rolling Stones, the Animals and later, of course, the Who, led to a rapid rise and growth in the cultural group - the mods - ( short for modernists ) who seemed to come into being almost overnight but who had been around among the fringe groups following modern jazz. A curiously British phenomenon, their culture revolved mainly around dancing, fashion and music, taking little notice, publicly, of girls.

In order to get the energy for their 24 hour dance-til-you-drop lifestyle, mods popularised the perceived common use of drugs. There was always something happening somewhere and the Mod drug of choice, amphetamine, kept them going for days. Although available, marijuana did not fit in with the Mod culture as it had the effect of 'slowing down' not 'speeding up'. It is the modern perception that the Sixties youth society was rife with substances of various sorts, and there is no doubt that they were becoming increasingly available, particularly towards the close of the decade, but the fact is that they were generally pretty hard to get hold of and the actual overall usage was comparatively very low compared to today.


With 'their own' music, fashions, dances and chosen method of transportation, the Italian 'scooter', friction inevitably began to arise between the mods and the die-hard rock'n'roll, motorcycle culture of the rockers as they were progressively ousted from their traditional haunts. To Rockers, Mods were effeminate, weedy, 'posh' snobs. The Mods viewed Rockers as being anachronistic, loutish and dirty. Generally speaking, the Mod movement was based in the major cities, particularly rooted in London, whereas Rockers tended to be more rural. Mods had comparatively well-paid office jobs while Rockers were working class and the antagonism even stretched to musical tastes where there was virtually no common element.
More info: A Concise History of the British Mod Movement by Melissa M. Casburn (in .pdf format)

Fights fairly frequently occurred wherever 'territories' overlapped or simply when they came across each other. Some Mods took to sewing fish hooks into the backs of their lapels to damage the hands of their opponents. Weapons were also fairly common - flick knives being particularly common, along with coshes and knuckle-dusters.
This rivalry came to a head in a series of pitched battles between the groups, usually at coastal resorts on Bank Holidays, when large numbers of the rival groups descended on the seaside towns in organised outings, or 'runs'.

The 59 Club - Graham Hullett collection
Pictures above are from the Graham Hullett collection at The Spirit of 59 website where there are larger versions and many more images of the 60s biker scene

The first major confrontation came at Margate on 18th May 1964 resulting in a rampage of violence and destruction around the town. This was followed by similar outbreaks at Brighton, Clacton, Broadstairs, Bournemouth, Southend and Hastings.

These almost ritual battles seem to have been almost entirely confined to 1964 and 1965, appearing to die out almost overnight as quickly as they had begun. This was no doubt helped along by an ever-increasing police presence and a large number of arrests, but was more likely just a result of natural transition of the mod culture which, by 1966 was in decline, partially giving rise to the 'skinhead' movement.

The standard mod 'uniform' of the time consisted (for the average Mod) of the American 'parka' style coat with fur-trimmed hood for protecting their expensive shiny two-tone mohair suits while riding their highly decorated and customised scooters. 'Aces' or the richer, highly fashionable Mods wore full length leather coats. Other affectations were 'Fred Perry' or small collar shirts, narrow ties and the famous 'winklepicker' toed shoes or elastic-sided 'Chelsea' boots, although there were variations on this theme as fashion changed so rapidly. American shirts (tab and button down) could be bought from an American Gents Outfitters on Shaftesbury Avenue for £59/11 (£2.98p) and Madras-striped cotton jackets were hunted for at various out of the way shops according to 'locals' knowledge. Rare 'white' Levi jackets could be acquired from a ships' chandlers in the East End along with a consignment of J.C. Penney's 'Harrington' jackets. Other favourites were red wool 3-button shirts, continental cycling jerseys and Italian 'driving-shoes', a type of loafer with a rubber heel back made by Ravel. Various styles came and went: round-toed, almond-toed, chisel-toed, winklepickers with the points chopped off.

Still from 'Quadrophenia'
Hush Puppies or bowling shoes were big favourites as they were good for dancing and really 'In' were Clark's desert boots. Some mods even took up the traditional 'city gent' look complete with brolly and bowler hat.

The styling of jackets was of major importance, the deeper the side or back vents the better, being as much as 10" in extreme cases. The girls favoured hipsters, ski pants or long straight skirts, later taking up the mini skirt/dress fashion, often in PVC, with the stark, bold primary colours as used by Andre Courreges and, commonly, large black and white checks or stripes. Their hair was straight, chin-length and with a centre parting or deep fringe. One of the more popular male styles involved having a short half-parting high on the head from which the hair was back-combed with a 'bobble-brush' so that it gained height - as much as 2 or 3 inches - at the back.

The main popular haunts were centred around the West End, particularly Soho, in clubs like The Scene, The Scotch, The Ad-Lib, The Ram Jam, The Crazy Elephant, La Discotheque and The Flamingo where the resident band were Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames. Another top mod hangout was The Goldhawk Club in Shepherd's Bush. Top mods, the ones responsible for initiating fads or changes in style were known as 'faces' and often used mascara and eye make-up to enhance their looks. There was quite a hierarchy in the mod movement and various factions were known as 'stylists', 'individualists', 'numbers', 'tickets', 'mids', 'mockers', 'seven and sixes', 'states', 'moddy boys' and 'scooter boys', amongst others. Constantly driven by changing music and fashion tastes and styles, the mods appeared to diverge fairly rapidly back into their various sub-cultures dependent on their individual or group preferences.

After 'mod' there followed a comparatively brief period of 'Regency', which was a 'Beau Brummel' look using Buttons, bows, velvet and frills, epitomised by the dress of some of the major pop groups such as The Kinks and The Walker Brothers during 1966-67, and also the photographer Patrick Litchfield. Although these movements and fashions survived to some extent late into the decade they were eventually swamped by the huge influence of the hippie psychedelic 'flower power' culture of the mid to late Sixties by which time a new generation of teenagers were making their own individualism and preferences apparent.

Other facets of the 'psychedelia' of the Sixties included Pop-art and Op-art. Although generally believed to be the same thing, they were quite distinctly different art forms.

Op-art had emerged in the 1920s and the 60s artists such as Bridget Riley, Frank Stella, Victor Vasarely and Richard Anusziewicz belonged to a movement that explored a purely optical art form stripped of perceptive associations. The optical trickery of line and contrasting areas of colour were the inspiration to clothes designers like Courreges, Ungaro and Julian Tomchin. Bridget Riley's early works were mainly in black and white, painted on a large scale in an attempt to produce visual disturbances in the viewer by the use of moire patterns that confused the eye.

a website with a fab gallery of op art shapes and pictures
Larger image

Pop-art was a movement that emerged in the late Fifties as a reaction to the seriousness given to abstract impressionism. It attempted to fuse elements of, and remove boundaries between, popular and high culture. The main exponents of pop-art, spearheaded by artists such as Peter Blake and Robert Rauschenberg, were Roy Lichtenstein, Allen Jones, Tom Wesselman, John McHale and, of course, Andy Warhol and David Hockney. Their style was simplistic, reducing a subject to its lowest common denominator and then converting it with exaggerated colour to express abstract formal relationships.

Possibly the best known examples of this were Warhol's silk-screen paintings that made use of monotony and repetition such as the images of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis, but many other of the more famous pictures involved everyday objects such as soup tins, cans of baked beans, Coca Cola bottles and the dollar bill. Both types of image appealed to the rebellious nature of Sixties youth, being the antithesis of the older generation's concept of art and hardly a teenager's bedroom wall didn't sport pop or op art posters in some form or other. Warhol went almost completely bald before he was 20. He wore brown wigs at first, but in line with his outrageous art he adopted much more flamboyant silver, blue and his favourite white ones. He had a collection of more than 500, all of them made by the same wig-maker in Manhattan.

Andy Warhol also diversified into the film industry where he gave us a 3 hour silent film of a man sleeping, called 'Sleep' and an 8 hour view of the Empire State building called - you guessed it - 'Empire'. Apart from these, he produced 'Kiss', 'Blow-Job', 'Flesh', 'Harlot' and 'Trash' and also gave us Edie Sedgwick, Nico and Velvet Underground. The 'underground' press that thrived in Europe and America from around 1966 were also influencing or being influenced by this. One of the most famous underground magazines was 'OZ', created by Richard Neville, which featured humorous or satirical articles by young authors such as Clive James and Germaine Greer. The various publications became a channel for youth to produce its own alternative to the more ordinary magazines on sale and led the way for a sub-culture of 'underground' groups, festivals and films.

Hippies, the 'flower power', make love not war, pro-drug, anti-establishment, protest music-loving dropouts of the mid and late Sixties, wore whatever they wanted, doing 'their own thing'. This generally derived from their LSD tripping, psychedelic fantasy drug culture which reached its peak in 1967, flooding the 'alternative' fashion world with kaftans, afghan-style coats, beads, body painting and flowers in the hair. Brought to the fore by their protests about American involvement in Vietnam, the main centre of hippie activity was in San Francisco where thousands of them, many of them draft-dodgers, lived in communes which were the catalyst for the legendary huge outdoor rock Peace festivals of the Sixties using the music medium for their anti-war and personal freedom messages. Other major hippie centres were located in New York's East Village, Boston and Los Angeles in the States, but virtually every European country had its own centres and communes.

The hippie movement really marked the end of cultural change in the Sixties. The early seventies saw many of its own rises and falls, but there was a feeling of artificiality about it as if trying to regain the freshness and originality of the Sixties, which were purely spontaneous and not the false, commercially manufactured circus it has since turned into.

The Sixties in Hungary - Some Memories from Paul Gabor

In his own words, as sent to me by e-mail
. He is now writing a book....

The year, the date, the hour I remember vividly. It was on a November Saturday evening, about 6 o'clock. We, The Funny Fools - yet only No.2 position on the popularity vote, -for creating mass-hysteria comparable to that of The Beatles far away - were to play a ball-event at the big leather-processing factory's ballroom in my hometown, southwest Hungary.

We were notorious for blasting at the highest volume in the country having just acquired a set of "Selmer" amplifiers from England (great, beautiful amps, the front cloth design was later used by WEM) and those amps BLEW and we loved to blow, big time. Anyway, at seventeen, having acquired sudden FAME at such an early age, I was a conceited, spoiled brat - though I worked for our success like an obsessed devil. So, when I arrived at the scene I picked a fight with the band claiming that I could have as much success playing all by myself - like Don Partridge - which was stupid. So I grew out of it quickly.

We blew through that night, too, and the kids gone crazy. My favourite instrument was a wide-body acoustic twelve-string which I've outfitted with a self-wound pickup. (I used my own tuning). Our new hit was "Hold Tight" (No.1 - according to NME!!) and on that night I got that great opening distortion sound by holding my twelve-string in front of the speakers; the slight detune of the string-pairs causing a sustained feedback/resonation which beat the original. (We also played our own material - all in English - a good two years ahead of the pack - but about this some other time). Back to "Rosie" - OK, there's a SLIGHT chance that I had been talking about Dylan in that same context. I will find out!! (But hey, come on, this is not what it is all about, right? It's about the good times, overall!.)

My previous band was called "The Springing Beetles" (!?). We were playing in the great ballroom of the city's Grand Hotel. This was in the spring of 1965. (The band before us was the last local representative of the "American Schmaltz" music - Elvis interspersed with some very well played Shadows. I think some of the members got drafted into the armed services, so the guys played their last gig wearing a black mourning-band. The fans got a bit upset and wrecked the furniture. The place had gilded furniture, etc. so the end was that, as retaliation from the police, ALL the band members got their draft papers soon thereafter.)

These gigs were the regular ones back then; on Sunday evenings, officially called "5 o'clock teas"… Usually some old fashioned, polished private dance school teacher organized them - at various halls over the city, but Pannonia Hall was the top one. So Frantzie Hermann called me to replace the "Rocco Band". We were the first "beat band" that did material like the Beatles. The second Sunday the house was packed, the third, you couldn't drop a pin… We were playing "Have I The Right" from the Honeycombs, and the kids were jumping and bouncing with the beat so that the building swayed - but held. (It's still there…) The police showed up. For some perverse joy they enjoyed calling themselves "The Yard"… We called them that, too - by different motivation!

These were plainclothesmen - I noticed them immediately, halfway through the song, as they were trying to make their way towards the stage. This took them a long time; you couldn't move, cops or not. But they were coming. They came for me… I knew that. I was a public enemy, turning on youth to western cultural values by large numbers. They were afraid. They wanted me, bad. My best friend hung out on stage - he became my rhythm guitarist with The Funny Fools partly because of what transpired. I motioned him over, stuck the guitar in his hand and walked back behind the heavy, crimson rear curtains and in their cover, into the Hotel's backyard, various corridors and labyrinths - and ended up on a backstreet. (Some cops were beating up a person…)

I got away, easy. That was our last gig at Pannonia Hall. Next week "The Phantoms" played. I believe, at this time, they were better. They played the rougher end of the spectrum, Stones, Animals, Them. Very well. Yet, somehow they didn't generate mass-hysteria. I received a lifetime-free pass from daddy Hermann and was back with a vengeance next year with FF. Next day I was called to the school principal. She was a communist. The big, burly gym teacher was also there. We went downstairs, to the next available barber and my hair was cut… The gym teacher kept apologizing - but the hair was gone. And the band banned from public appearances. So I formed The Funny Fools that summer - and went on turning the city on it's head.

I have a little story about "Tell Me When" - your favourite, and mine… I believe it was featured in one of those "first-ever-videoclip" movies that you list in your movies section. You know, the film-clips-movies. They showed them in Hungary very quickly after their British release - and everybody saw them (many times). That was our first visual glimpse at all those stars - previously the propaganda department withheld any visual information. Me and the band - and all the other bands - went and saw these movies a number of times, and we happened to like "Tell Me When" so much that we decided to put it on our roster. However there was no way of recording it to learn from.

So we memorized our respective parts, carried them back home in our heads and reconstructed the song as much as we could. The lyrics we couldn't really make out so we filled in the missing stuff. About the "exotic angle" of how the Sixties happened everywhere behind the Iron Curtain. I think, for us, there, it was even more of a THRILL for a number of reasons. To us it was the only cultural nourishment we could get from "the world beyond" the World we thought of as "paradise". This sustained many of us. But, to add to the ecstatic pleasure, it was also a Forbidden Fruit and it tasted so much more delicious. Intoxicating. And it was scarce; while you guys were buried under magazines, articles, instruments, and the live, touchable persons, we had to dig hard for every little iota of information. Like, you know, diamonds are so valuable, because they are so hard to get.

And one more thing: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and all the others meant Freedom for us; we could touch Them (even if only through the music) - and we could touch freedom… Once, in high school some stupid "Youth Magazine" posed the grand question: what's all that screaming about at rock concerts? I sent in my answer, I really answered it - and they put it in the paper. They still had some guts…

By the way. I'm still undernourished… Still starving…

Yours truly:
Paul Gabor

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