Mods and Rockers

A generation gap

1964 – pop music, long hair, pink shirts, hipsters, flairs and kipper ties –  just about everything my father and his contemporaries despised. The generation gap had never been wider. My goodness, what had they fought a war for?

A staunch council estate Tory, my father was struggling to come to terms with Harold Wilson. An Oxford don with a double first meant nothing to him. All he saw was a shabby little man in a mac with a peculiar accent.

‘How could any world leader take him seriously? Sir Alec, he’d been born to rule. It was in the blood.’

 He derided everything new. ‘Cassius Clay never beat Liston.’ The cocky Clay with all the dancing and talk was no match for a proper boxer like ex con Liston. The Beatles, ‘Give e’m a year.’

‘Before the war you could hear the words, politicians were proper gents and Stanley Matthews had a fag and a cuppa at half time.’


Before the war

His contemporaries constantly harped back to ‘before the war’ as if it had been some halcyon period of peace and prosperity where politicians told the truth and class warfare, inner city slums, hunger marches and rickets were figments of the imagination.

Maybe it’s not surprising that a generation that had live through the horrors of the WW2 retreated into the realms of a mythical pre-war utopia and resented the lifestyle choices of those they considered ungrateful. However, many young women had never enjoyed such freedom as they had during the war and for many children like my father the war had been exciting and national service a chance to see the world.

Parents and teachers

Parents and school teachers desperately tried to instil in the new generation the social conformity, deference to authority and shared values of the 1940s. They seemed to regard everything we did as a personal affront or as an act of rebellion. Long hair really wound them up.

‘You going for a haircut or an estimate?’ ‘If you want to look like girls, lads, then you’ll have to wear bathing caps.’ ‘You can’t tell the boys from the girls these days.’

Unsurprisingly, we had no such difficulty.

The media

The media were similarly blinkered and appeared to regard teenagers as some sort of sub species to be studied and categorised. We were not sons and daughters, young people or even the next generation, we were a phenomenon to be observed from a healthy distance and feared up close. Middle aged men with public school accents were bewildered by working class youngsters with pronounced  local dialects who clearly didn’t crave their approval.

While opportunities for young women were still limited and the pill yet to make a real impact on society our parents didn’t like the way things were going. Neither did the establishment who felt it was losing control.

Mods and Rockers Rebooted BBC Documentary 2014


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