In the Autumn of 1962 when I was fifteen I was working as an office junior in Manchester, like most teenagers I was into music I liked the Shadows (without Cliff Richard) and Billy Fury, the Beatles had just burst onto the scene with “Love Me Do”. The older people where I worked, although they were only in their twenties seemed really old to me, like they were fifty years older not ten. Some of them had been “Teddie Boys” and to me were really old fashioned in their taste in clothes and music, I wanted to be different from them but at the time didn’t know what to do about it, as mod culture was still a year or so away in Manchester. There was a girl in this office where I worked that I really fancied and so I asked her out but she was going out with someone and so suggested a blind date with one of her friends. This friend lived in Romiley and I lived in Middleton and so it was agreed that we would meet at Piccadilly Station in Manchester at 8pm on a particular Saturday night, I think it might have been called London Road Station in those days. I arrived at the station just before eight on a really foggy night, we used to have very thick fog then, pea soupers they were sometimes called and I waited and I waited but my date never showed. It turned out that because of the thick fog her mother wouldn’t let her travel into Manchester. I headed dejected back down through Piccadilly and Market Street towards Cannon Street bus station for my bus home in my narrow bottom trousers , narrow tie and chisel toe shoes. Before the Arndale shopping centre was built there was a cinema called the Cinephone on Market Street that showed French and Italian films, they were known as art films, I stopped outside where they would post still photos of the film being showed. As I teenager naturally I was attracted to the photos of scantily clad (by those day’s standards) girls and so went in. I can’t remember what the film was called or what it was about as it was in French with subtitles but it was really cool. When I say it was really cool you have to understand the diet the film industry fed us on in those days, American films seemed to always star John Wayne, Robert Mitchum or Jeff Chandler either winning the war in the pacific or at the Alamo. The British films starred Kenneth Moore, Ian Carmichael or John Mills either flying spitfires or appearing as upper class toffs. There were some noteable films that were exceptions like The Loneleeness of the Long Distance Runner and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and the first James Bond film Dr No was released around this time but most British and American films were uncool. We couldn’t and didn’t want to identify with any of the characters in them. The French and Italian films were very different, they were really cool and so were the characters. I really noticed the casual clothes they wore, lightweight materials and well cut, we British just couldn’t do smart casual like them. Yves Montand, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Marcello Mastroianni, Jean Seberg, Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren these stars knew how to light a cigarette, pour a drink, wear a jacket, everything they did was cool, even the way they walked was cool. I mean would you prefer a date with Diana Dors or Catherine Deneuve? Norman Wisdom or Alain Delon? need I say more. I left that cinema knowing that even in foggy Manchester there was a window of opportunity for something new and cooler particulary in music and clothes. The Dawn of Mod In 1963 I was attending Manchester College of Building on day release and at night school which was in Hardman street just across Deansgate from Brazenose Street where the Twisted Wheel Club was, I started going to “the wheel”at first for lunch time sessions and then the evening. The music being played at that time was mainly blues by people like Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, John Lee Hooker, Howlin Wolf and Jimmy Reed to name just a few. By 1964 the British pop explosion was in full swing following groups like the Beatles were the Rolling Sones, the Kinks, the Who and others as many more British bands poured through the airwaves, some very good, some good, some average, some mediocre and some just rubbish. When you took out the half dozen or so goods bands, the rest was very average, we felt the same about clothes by 1965 we had all adopted that French casual look so we all looked like we were in the Small Faces or the Who. As our taste moved away from blues and R & B and we tired of the Stones and the Animals and all the other groups that had ditched their R & B roots we played more Tamla Motowm and Soul music, this musical transison in Manchester and at the Twisted Wheel is already well documented and so I don’t want to dwell on it too much. I prefer to concentrate on the influences that put and kept mods in suits, these mods were sometimes called “Soul Mods” Soul Mods I remember seeing The Miracles and The Temptations on the T.V. they were wearing suits but not suits like The Shadows wore, these suits were cool. Go on to U-Tube and watch the old grainy black and white film of the Temptations doing “My Girl” look at David Ruffin in a suit and glasses, just like Hank Marvin but at the same time nothing like Hank Marvin, David Ruffin was cool, he knew how to wear a suit. At this time there were many high street made to measure tailors as well as Burtons there was Hepworths and John Collier, I think I remember one called Weaver to Wearer. Another mod a friend of mine Dave who I went to school with told me one day that I think it was Hepworths was doing a promotion on Pierre Cardin suits, these were a French style and were in a lighter weight material than we were used to, they had a three button slighty flared jacket with eleven inch side vents and the pockets had slanted flaps, the trousers had sixteen inch bottoms, we both ordered one The next time we went to the wheel in our new suits boy did we feel cool, somebody called us “King Mods” and the name stuck, in the south you were a “Face” in the north you were a king mod. It was around this time that we got rid of our scooters, Lambrettas may have been great for zipping around Milan or Rome but not in cold wet Manchester or when wearing your mohair suit, they got creased and dirty. After that we started designing our own suits, we moved away from high street tailors and went to small independent tailors, there were many jewish tailors in Manchester at that time. The cloth got lighter and mohair became popular, I think I had nine ounce mohair for one suit, vents side and centre (not on the same suit) got longer, trouser bottoms got wider. The soul mod culture got tighter and tighter you had to wear a suit in the clubs, although Levi’s were O.K. for wearing during the day. You had to listen to soul, we became very dismissive of mainstream music and styles and looked down on anybody who didn’t conform to our culture, just like the “In Crowd” by Dobie Grey. In the summer of 1966 I went to an all-nighter at the wheel with Dave and another king mod called Bob to see Joe Tex, due to problems in New York he never showed and a new band on their very first gig appeared, they were called Cream. Their style and music wasn’t for us, they looked scruffy and their music wasn’t to our taste, although we had been big fans of the Yardbirds and I like Eric Clapton and Cream now. Post Mod By now the mod culture in London and the south was being diluted as everybody became the same and the mods started drifting apart as they felt that being a mod was no longer different. They felt that they could now buy their clothes at high street shops, they also felt that British music had matured enough to be listened to. I read somewhere that many mainstream groups like the Who, Beatles, Stones and others had progressed but we felt the opposite. The Stones who were great in the beginning were now turning out Tops of the Pops blandness, even the Beatles went through a bland period. The only group that really progressed through the mid-sixties were the Beach Boys culminating in Pet Sounds in 1966. The Stones starting turning out great music like Sympathy for the Devil in the late sixties, by 1969 Cream had already broken up. Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin were only just starting and the Who were yet to enjoy their greatest success. In Manchester and the north this dilution was not as complete, we felt that British music had lost it,s way and so kept playing our American soul and wearing our suits, in another article I read it stated that many mods were joining the hippie movement but I strongly dispute this. The mod and the hippie movement were at total different ends of the scale, their cultures were totally different, their clothes their music. Mods were stylists their clothes were the most important thing to them, hippies were untidy scruffy even. Soul music was exciting, polished it was produced well and most important you could dance to it the, west coast American hippie stuff we felt was boring. The soul mod culture continued until late1967 when most of us hit twenty, however out of it “Northern Soul” was born.
Northern Soul - Manchester Evening News