From the early to mid-1960s young, mainly working class, Britons with cash to spend joined one of two youth movements.
The Mods wore designer suits protected by Parka jackets and were often armed with coshes and flick-knives. They rode Vespa or Lambretta scooters bedecked with mirrors and mascots and listened to Ska music and The Who.
Rockers rode motorbikes – often at 100mph with no crash helmets – wore leathers and listened to the likes of Elvis and Gene Vincent.
Inevitably the two gangs clashed. The 1964 Whitsun weekend violence in Brighton was famously dramatised in the film Quadrophenia (1979).
In August that year police had to be flown into the Sussex resort of Hastings to break up fights between the two gangs.
But two years later, most Mods had turned their attentions to the burgeoning, more laid-back, hippie culture
The Mods and Rockers were two rival youth groups that clashed several times at Brighton in the 1960s, the most infamous occasion being the so-called “Battle of Brighton” during the Whitsun holiday, May 17-18 1964. The Brighton Police were prepared for trouble, as there had been clashes in Hastings at Easter, and the town was invaded by up to 3,000 youths. The leather-jacketed ‘Rockers’ arrived on their motorbikes on the Sunday morning, but were challenged in the afternoon by a much larger number of the neatly-dress ‘Mods’ on their motor-scooters.
Several small scuffles broke out, but the most serious trouble was around the Palace Pier, where hundreds of deckchairs were broken, pebbles were used as missiles, and the windows of the Savoy Cinema were smashed. Eventually, 150 police and a police horse quelled the disturbance, but the violence was repeated the following morning, with several thousand spectators watching the confrontations from the Aquarium Sun Terrace and Marine Parade, while sea-front traders rapidly boarded up their properties. Fortunately, no-one was seriously injured in the disturbances.
26 youths appeared in the juvenile court the following week and were handed stiff sentences. The 1979 film Quadrophenia, based on The Who’s 1973 rock opera, drew on the Mods versus Rockers culture, and featured running battles on Brighton sea front.
The events of Whitsun Sunday holiday of 1964 were never repeated again in such magnitude, but trouble amongst youths has flared on several Bank Holiday weekends since, notably in 1969, 1970, 1974, 1977, 1980 and 1981. However the worst violence seen in the town in recent years occurred after English football team’s World Cup semi-final defeat to West Germany on July 4th 1990, when mobs of youths ran through the town smashing windows and looting shops.
On this day 18th may 1964: Mods and Rockers jailed after seaside riots……………
Scores of youths have been given prison sentences following a Whitsun weekend of violent clashes between gangs of Mods and Rockers at a number of resorts on the south coast of England.
Yesterday two youths were taken to hospital with knife wounds and 51 were arrested in Margate after hundreds of teenagers converged on the town for the holiday weekend.
Dr George Simpson, chairman of Margate magistrates, jailed four young men and imposed fines totalling £1,900 on 36 people.
Three offenders were jailed for three months each and five more sent to detention centres for up to six months.
In Brighton, two youths were jailed for three months and others were fined.
More than 1,000 teenagers were involved in skirmishes on the beach and the promenade last night.
They threw deckchairs around, broke them up to make bonfires, shouted obscenities at each other and at passers-by, jostled holidaymakers and terrified elderly residents.
At about 1300 BST Mods and Rockers gathered at the Palace Pier chanting and jeering at each other and threw stones when police tried to disperse them.
The teenagers staged a mass sit-down on the promenade when police, using horses and dogs, tried to move them on.
In Margate, there were running battles between police and up to 400 youths on the beach early yesterday morning. Bottles were thrown and two officers were slightly hurt.
Later, on the high street, around 40 young men smashed council flat windows and vandalised a pub and a hardware shop.
Last night, hundreds of young men and girls were still wandering around the resort long after the last train had left.
Police stepped in to prevent further violence and dispersed about 30 youths in leather jackets who marched up the promenade shouting “Up the Rockers!”
There were further clashes at Bournemouth and Clacton
History of mods
Mod (from modernist) is a subculture that originated in London, England, in the late 1950s and peaked in the early-to-mid 1960s.
Significant elements of the mod subculture include fashion (often tailor-made suits); music, including African American soul, Jamaican ska, British beat music; and motor scooters. The original mod scene was also associated with amphetamine-fuelled all-night dancing at clubs. From the mid-to-late 1960s and onwards, the mass media often used the term mod in a wider sense to describe anything that was believed to be popular, fashionable, or modern.
The term mod derives from modernist, which was a term used in the 1950s to describe modern jazz musicians and fans. This usage contrasted with the term trad, which described traditional jazz players and fans. The 1959 novel Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes describes a modernist as a young modern jazz fan who dresses in sharp modern Italian clothes. Absolute Beginners may be one of the earliest written examples of the term modernist being used to describe young British style-conscious modern jazz fans.
History of rockers
Rockers, leather boys or ton-up boys are members of a biker subculture that originated in the United Kingdom during the 1950s. It was mainly centred around British cafe racer motorcycles and rock and roll music.
The rocker subculture came about due to factors such as: the end of post-war rationing in the UK, a general rise in prosperity for working class youths, the recent availability of credit and financing for young people, the influence of American popular music and films, the construction of race track-like arterial roads around British cities, the development of transport cafes and a peak in British motorcycle engineering.