When Rebellion Ruled Brighton
|The following article appeared in "The Argus", the local paper for the Brighton area. There is also a picture at the bottom of the page.|
The face of Brighton changed dramatically in the sixties when thousands of mods and rockers roared into town.
The cropped mods, wearing sharp suits and riding Vespas and the rockers, dressed in leather and on motorcycles, staged pitched battles on the beach and ran riot in the streets of the town.
Every weekend Brighton was invaded by hordes of rebellious teenagers from around the country.
The violence which erupted between the two rival gangs stretched the resources of the local police to their limit and gave Brighton a notorious reputation.
Now a book written by one of the original mods, Howard Baker, gives a unique insight into the electric atmosphere in the town during the height of the troubles.
The front cover of Sawdust Caesar proclaims "Mods and Rockers. They came. They saw. They smashed the place up" and features a photograph of the writer as an angry 16-year-old clutching a people and shouting abuse.
The novel features scenes set in Brighton which were inspired by the writer's personal experiences, including a ferocious fight involving thousands on the beach and a tense stand-off on Marine Parade.
Mr. Baker, who is now 52 and lives in north London, said he decided to write Sawdust Caesar as a gritty and realistic presentation or post-war youth culture.
He became a mod at the age of 16 and can still recall his first trip to Brighton.
Mr. Baker said: "What stood out was the amount of people my age who were there. It was astonishing to see the hundreds of people who had turned up just by word of mouth. It was electrifying."
He reveals how Brighton was seen as the embodiment of cool by the youth of the day.
teenagers would invade Brighton at the weekend and strut around their favourite haunts, which included the Lorelie cafe, Madeira Drive and the Aquarium dance hall.
But the mods and rockers movement had its dark side and the violence which broke out between the rivals at times threatened to spill into anarchy.
One of the worst incidents was on May 17, 1964, when mods armed themselves with stones from the beach and went hunting for rockers.
Screaming mobs congregated at the Palace Pier and skirmishes broke out on the seafront.
More than 100 policemen were drafted in from around Sussex and arrested 50 people, many of whom were later round armed with weapons such as airguns and studded belts.
Mr. Baker said: "I remember one bank holiday weekend there was a stand-off on the seafront when we stood on one side of the road and the rockers on the other. We were always in the majority.
"From the east there was a strange humming noise which got louder and louder and no-one knew what it was.
"Suddenly, hundreds and hundreds of scooters came out of nowhere."