'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
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
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'.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
He is now writing a book....
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,
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
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
By the way. I'm still undernourished… Still starving…