Mods vs Rocker at South Hill Park tonightBy Caroline Cook
July 12, 2012
Mods vs Rockers is on tonight at South Hill Park, Bracknell (01344) 484 123 or go to www.southhillpark.org.uk
Rival gangs have stalked the pages of books and glowered at each other on movie screens for years.
Shakespeare gave us the Montagues and the Capulets, West Side Story pitted the Sharks against the Jets and Grease saw the all-singing, all-dancing T-Birds fight it out against the Scorpions in a drag race.
But while writers have dreamt up scores of fictional gangs, back in the 1960s the real thing was taking place on the beaches of Britain with the Mods and the Rockers.
“It was about 1964 when the Mods and the Rockers first came into my life,” says Johnny Warman, frontman of The Mods who arrive at South Hill Park tomorrow.
“I was 13 and at school and it was the biggest decision we made.
“It was all about the sound and the look and for me there was no question I was going to be a Mod.”
With their designer suits and Vespa or Lambrettas The Mods sloped around the town, looking cool and listening to the likes of The Who.
At the other end of city the Rockers revved their motorbikes, screeching through the streets in leathers and blaring out songs from Elvis and Gene Vincent.
But it was when the two came together that things got heated with dozens of teenagers being arrested in Brighton and Margate in 1964 following a weekend of violent clashes.
Bottles were thrown, deckchairs were smashed and youths in leather jackets strutted up the promenade shouting ‘Up the Rockers!’.
“It made headline news and was all over the TV,” says Johnny.
“It didn’t really matter because it was just a case that everyone listened to whatever they wanted in their own rooms, but it was a big fashion statement.”
At the time people declared the rivalries to be the end of British morals and associated the groups with drugs, violence and teen pregnancy.
“I never got involved in the violence, I was still a teenager,” says Johnny.
"I do remember there were huge gangs who would walk past when we were playing football with chains in their hands.
“It was quite intimidating back then but I never got involved.”
Instead Johnny says it was all about the music for him, confessing it was his love of The Who which led him to become a Mod.
“When we were teenagers my friend said to me ‘have you heard this?’. It was Won’t Get Fooled Again and it really did change my life,” he says.
Inspired by the British band, Johnny went on to write songs, working with Ringo Starr, Peter Gabriel, Sir Tim Rice and many other well-known musicians.
The Mods formed in 2010, wanting to create a tribute to the era rather than just one band.
“I’m still writing and doing that side of stuff, but it’s about keeping the music alive,” says Johnny.
The Mods will be bringing their latest show Mods vs Rockers to South Hill Park tomorrow and audiences can expect a big night of music from the likes of The Who, The Kinks, The Doors, The Rolling Stones and The Small Faces.
“People can expect to see some great musicians playing with 500 per cent commitment,” says Johnny.
“We have a real passion for what we do. We really love the songs and we try and encourage people to sing along with songs like Lola by the Kinks.
“But it’s not cheesy – it’s a show that has these songs everyone knows.”
With Johnny fronting the band as a Mod are there are Rockers who have snuck into the line-up?
“I haven’t even asked them if they’re Mods or Rockers,” says Johnny. “It’s 30 odd years since, and besides we all became hippies a few years later.”