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Mods & Rockers on the Box! 22/05/2014

TIMESHIFT – ‘MODS, ROCKERS AND BANK
HOLIDAY MAYHEM’

BBC Four - Monday 26th May -  9pm

Fifty years ago, in May 1964 – as people enjoyed their
bank holiday break - households across Britain were
rudely awoken to the news that that all was not as it
should be among the nation’s youth. Newspapers,
radio and television announced the arrival of angry
young men and women apparently converging on
British beaches for pitched battles. Up and down the
south coast, and at beach resorts around the UK, a
new generation of teenage tear-aways burst into the
public consciousness – they were known as the Mods
and the Rockers.

Timeshift takes a look behind the headlines to find
out who these Mods and Rockers were and to
examine the unique set of circumstances that set the
course for a head-on collision of ideas, styles and
‘fists’.

Cast by the media as two polar opposites, Mods and
Rockers had more in common than was first
obvious. But it was their differences that set them at
odds with each other: sharply dressed Mods riding
continental scooters versus ‘greasy’ leather-clad
Rockers on dirty British motorbikes. What both
groups shared was their fortune of birth; both groups
grew up during a period of post-war prosperity; with
more jobs, more money, more leisure time and,
crucially, more freedom.

With first-hand accounts from original Mods and
Rockers, ‘Timeshift’ presents a vivid snapshot of the
moment this ‘youthquake’ changed the course of
British popular culture. Why was society so anxious
about these young people, ‘out of control’ and up all
night in ballrooms and transport cafes throughout the
UK? Why did they appear to behave so recklessly;
Rockers risking their lives on the roads in their
efforts to ‘do a ton’ and Mods dancing all-night
fuelled by a cocktail of Purple Hearts and American R
‘n’ B. These rebellious young people were all the
more threatening because they had something their
parents never did – spending power. They expressed
their new found freedom outwardly in their individual
styles; defying convention and their parents to adopt
new youth uniforms of mohair suits and leather
jackets. With an ability to travel, either on Vespas or
BSA Gold Stars, and spare time on their hands, it was
only a matter of time before these young people met
- as everyone did - on the bank holiday weekend,
down at the seaside.

Whether the resulting ‘clashes’ reported by the press
were minor scuffles or the riots they claimed them
to be, the headlines captured the imagination of the
British public and forever defined these youth tribes
as ‘folk devils’. The events of May 1964 were, for
many Mods and Rockers, a watershed moment. Some
Mods decided they didn’t want to be associated with
violence and labelled as social outcasts; for them it
had always been about the music, dancing and
wearing great clothes. Similarly, Rockers were not
happy being vilified; their motivation was thrills via
speed not violence.

Both groups watched with dismay as the media and
the establishment whipped the nation into a moral
panic about our wayward youth. For that generation
– the first baby boomers – they couldn’t have been
born at a better time and, regardless of how history
has recorded those few days of fighting on the
beaches, they will always remember their days as
Mods and Rockers as the best of times ...

Produced & Directed by: Rebecca Whyte Series
Producer: William Naylor