Living in 1966. They say if you remember the 60s you weren’t there. But some of us kept a diary!
Readers of this blog will know how important Georgie Fame was to Chelmsford mods. He was a regular at the Corn Exchange in Chelmsford. I have written before about him and those days.
So imagine my delight and excitement when music writer Val Wilmer invited me to a recording of Mastertapes for BBC Radio 4. We strolled through the leafy streets of Maida Vale to the BBC studio, and then began a wonderful afternoon as he talked about his album Rhythm and Blues at the Flamingo.
Read about his influences, the early days of the Blueflames, and his memories of Chelmsford Corn Exchange here.
The action now takes a step to London. What did we in Chelmsford know of London in the 60s? We knew Oxford Street – it was in the C&A store there that I bought my suede coat. At last I was a real mod. I was so proud of it – it was brown, it was soft, I could swap buttons with Christine and her brown leather. I didn’t realise till later that it was wrong, the sleeves were too wide and it had an A-line shape, akin to what was then called a duster coat. It wasn’t a straight, narrow tube. But it was suede, real suede. And it came from London.
What else we knew about London (apart from Trafalgar Square where we fed the pigeons when we were small and gathered at the end of Ban the Bomb marches when we were teenagers) was that there were clubs. Christine, my best friend, and I didn’t know them personally. On Saturday evenings in Chelmsford, when the groups had finished playing at the Corn Exchange, the mod boys would mooch up to the railway station to jump on a train, or hop down to the A12 to hitch a ride to the Smoke, to go Up West, to the Flamingo or the Marquee, where they would often see the same group that had just been grooving it up in Chelmsford.
And now the two worlds will collide – in the best possible way – at the London launch of A Sense of Occasion.
Planning the Chelmsford launch of my book, A Sense of Occasion – the Chelmsford Stories
Lights, music, sparkling wine. The Saracen’s Head will be fizzing. There will be a prize for the best mod outfit, which of course I shan’t be able to win, but I have to set an example. I am in major conversation with Frank, my hairdresser, about the appropriate hair-style. We didn’t have curls or waves in those days, it was all (an attempt at) the smooth Cleopatra bob as worn by Cathy McGowan on Ready Steady Go. It will be a good evening. Loads of old friends and family (including Auntie Rita hopefully). The book is something I’m very proud of, and I’m really looking forward to being in Chelmsford listening to the music that ushered us into the Corn Exchange on Saturday nights.
Can’t resist including Going to a Go-Go again. Fantastic.
Brenda Holloway – what a voice, what a song.
Modstock was one of the subjects on the Robert Elms programme on Radio London 94.9 yesterday (8 April 2014), where there was a discussion on all things Mod. Full of the confidence that can only come from having just made a Betty Crocker cake, I rang in. It was a 3 hour show – if you want to jump to the part that could possibly, on another planet, be called ‘the best bit’ jump to 1 hour 49 minutes in, and hear me talk about my beloved pinstriped fan-pleated skirt, the Corn Exchange, the Milk Bar and the wonder of Horlicks.
The first thirty seconds of this video are wonderful. It looks as if it’s a party in someone’s living-room, with a juke-box… apparently for posh people – notice the bow ties – but taken over for a few seconds by the mods in the room.
This didn’t ever happen at the Corn Exchange in Chelmsford, but I remember something like this in 1965 when the girls’ High School had a dance. The boys from the Grammar School came and as the first notes of a good record like this started, the mods among them moved onto the floor in a group, followed by the High School girl mods, and they danced – the Block or the Bang – a mod dance.