Home Penny Reel - Oral History Interview

Penny Reel - Oral History Interview


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Audio interview with Penny Reel

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Reel, Penny (Subject of [term no longer used for interview subjects, see Ownership])


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Also present – Barry Service

Interviewer: Sue McAlpine

SM: First of all I would formally like to thank-you very much for coming in and giving up your time. Could you start by introducing yourself.

PR: My pseudonym is Penny Reel I have been collecting Jamaican music since 1961 when I bought my first tune. In the 1970’s I started writing for International Times, which was an alternative magazine.

SM: Were you born in Stamford Hill?

PR: No, I was born in the Mothers Hospital in Lower Clapton

SM: And brought up in Stamford Hill?

PR: No, brought up in Stoke Newington. In 1960 a bowling alley opened in Stamford Hill – the first US-style bowling alley in Europe. It opened in January 1960 and I went there in March and for me, that’s when the 60s started. I’d been into music since I was small; I used to listen to the radio. My mother said that before I could talk I could sing – the tunes, the lyrics, everything – before I even knew what they meant. ‘Run rabbit run’ you know them kind of tunes. I remember standing up in primary school at the age of 5 and singing ‘How Much is That Doggy in the Window?’ And then I discovered Rock ‘n’ Roll; Elvis, Buddy Hollie, The Everly Brothers and that lead me on to Fats Domino, Clive McFatter and Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke, Ben E King and The Drifters. So at the age of ten or eleven I got into ‘Black’ music and really, that’s been my interest ever since. I think ‘Black’ music is far superior to ‘White’ music – which is decadent, finished you know. But ‘Black’ music, even that has run its course, but there is still something there. And I started collecting the Ska records in the 1960s along with the R&B and the Soul and then in 1967 I discovered the alternative society so I started to listen to The Doors and Love and Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead. And for the next five years I immersed myself in this and I went to the Arts Lab, Drury Lane that Jim Haynes had, and the Kibbutz shop run by Barry Miles – which is where I met Nick Kimberly when he had Compendium. And I saw the whole thing grow up around Chalk Farm – Harold Pinter had taken over and turned into a kind of venue. I went to Middle Earth in Covent Garden and then to the Roundhouse in 1969 where they did something called Implosion which was every Sunday afternoon – they put on a thing which lasted till about 11 o’clock at night and they were all lunatics there like Michael Chapman who was 6” 6’ who had a thatch of orange hair and wore a dustbin on his head and was part of the Exploding Galaxy in Balls Pond Road which was run by… was it Chris Madala. Exploding Galaxy was just a free-form art group and Michael Chapman was a poet, he used to do something called The Fly which was a concrete poem, he used to say “Zzzzzzzzzzzz’ and then he’d do Hot Chocolate Drinking Chocolate which he’d mix up with Ticka Ticka Timex, which was another concrete poem. And it was all great fun you know, we were all in our late-teens and early-twenties and everything was psychedelic and goblins and elves and Tolkein and it was a fun time. And then when the second Crosby, Stills and Nash album came out, I thought, you know what, I don’t really like this Rock music, and I got back into Reggae. In 1973 I started writing about Reggae for International Times and Reggae has really been my life ever since. I know loads of Jamaican people – I’ve met everybody; I played football with Bob Marley, I met Peter Tosh, I know every musician in Hackney, I know them all. I worked at the NME for 11 years, I was there as their Reggae correspondent and I worked for Black Echoes for 20 years, I worked for Darker than Blue, I worked for Sounds, I worked for Untold, Time Out, I’ve written a few books and that’s been my life really writing music and writing. You know I wanted to be a writer from the age of 7 and I kind of achieved that and I’m a working-class guy from Hackney. My father was a Press Photographic Salesman, my mother used to take in clothes and embroider them – people used to wear a lot of sequins and things in the 50s and 60s. She was a dressmaker as well, she made children’s dresses – my sisters dresses. I grew up in Coronation Avenue in Stoke Newington which is an industrial dwelling society flat, we had a tin bath that we used to fill with hot water to have a bath and four kids would have it, one after the other – so it was all pretty primative and things have improved obviously.

SM: Can you tell us - did you buy records at the R&B Record shop?

PR: Well I started buying records in 1961. I really wanted a record player – a Dansette – where you put a stack of records on and they drop down one by one. My dad said it was a passing fad “they’re catching you out” or something – “it’s a trick for them to make money” – who ‘they’ were I don’t know. In the end I got him to lend me the £12 to but it and by then I was doing a paper round, and I’d pay him back 50p a week for the next 6 months or however long until it was paid off – so that’s how I got my first record player. And then I started buying records in 1961 – for a quid I’d buy three records a week – I’d spend all my money on records.

SM: And where did you buy them?

PR: All over. The main place I’d buy them was at the top of Arcola St, there used to be a place there called Words and Music. In Church St there was The Music Box I think it was called. In Kingsland Waste there was Teachers and in Stamford Hill there was R&B Records and I would buy from all of these shops from 1961 onwards. Oh and down the lane was a guy called… the name escapes me, but he had a stall there that was the place where I saw the first Jamaicans that came into the country – they wore baggy suits, you know, those Zoot Suits; big, wide, double breasted with hats – and they looked like Blues singers really, they looked like Lightening Hopkins. And they would stand around buying tunes, the same sort of thing I was into – Clive McFatter, Brooke Benton, Dinah Washington, Hank Ballard, Jackie Wilson. I also liked Elvis and used to listen to Jim Reeves and then when the Jamaican music came, it got more Jamaicans coming along to it. I liked the Jamaicans. I liked them because they liked music, and I was really into music and they kind of had the same enthusiasm that I felt – they would click their fingers, say ‘blood clot’ and be really excited by what they heard. When a new tune would come out 5 hands would buy it – it was great for them and it was great to watch. That’s how the early part of my 60s was spent at that stall on Ridley Rd Market buying records every Friday evening. I bought everything: Derek Morgan, Laurel Aitkin, Owen Grey, Shenley Duffus, Eric Morris.

SM: What about Marc Bolan?

PR: Well Marc Bolan, yes. I also used to shop in R&B, maybe from ’62 onwards.

SM: Tell us your memories of R&B

PR: Well R&B was a record shop run by a Jewish couple Rita and Benny Issel, who later became Rita and Benny King. In 1957/58 when the first Jamaican immigrants started coming to live in Stamford Hill and Tottenham, Stoke Newington and West Hackney they checked her. One guy went in and he wanted this record by Laurel Aitkin ‘Boogie in my Bones’ which was a bit hit in Jamaica but he couldn’t get it in England, so being an enterprising woman Rita King found out who produced it, rang Jamaica and asked if she could release it in England or rather asked if she could tell someone had a record label could release it, and this was Starlight. So the first Jamaican tune came out in about 1959 on Starlight – ‘Boogie in my Bones’ by Laurel Aitkin. And it immediately sold in the West Indian community – it sold out. And that’s how it all mushroomed from there really. By then Melodist Emile Shallot started the Bluebeat label and Densil Dennison and King Edward started the Rio label and Chris Blackwood started the Island label and Rita and Benny started the R&B label, plus other US stuff like the King label which mostly released non-Jamaican music. And like I said, everything took off from there. I went in there one day, into R&B when ‘King of Kings’ was a big hit and hearing them play it – that was on the Island label and that was a big hit in R & B – ‘King of Kings’ by Jimmy Cliff. And then you’d hear things like ‘Push Wood in the Fire’ down the market and you’d see the guys going mad, so you’d think ‘I’ve just gotta have that tune’ you know, and that’s how it was. Now in 1960 I went up to Stamford Hill and in those days west Hackney which was like Amhurst Rd, Stoke Newington side of Hackney, Upper Clapton, Stamford Hill and Stoke Newington and parts of Dalston Lane were all very Jewish. There were a lot of Jewish people - perhaps 30% of all people that lived here. The other 60% being indigenous white people and then maybe one Turkish person, a few Irish-Catholics – that was the demography of Hackney and this area at the time. In the 1950s and the 60s the Jews moved out to Essex and so did the better off, and so did everybody – there are now no people in Hackney that I recognise from my childhood with the exception of the guy who owns the vegetable stall at the top of Ridley Rd Market and the guy that runs the Fruit stall at the top of Ridley Rd market – their fathers run those stalls. I remember them as 8-year old boys. They were Princess May School, I was Shaklewell School and we had a fight – I remember those boys as I used to see them down Ridley, and yeah they were the enemy, they were from the other school across the road you know. At the time Stamford Hill was a Jewish playground, it was where the Jews hung out, you know. There was a ‘Schtip’, the Schtip was the amusement arcade. S-C-H-T-I-P. In there was Pinball machines, two racks of Pinball machines – twenty machines in all, and a Jukebox at the end, and the Jukebox had ‘Whole lotta Price’ by Fats Domino on it and ‘Ever Loving’ Ricky Nelson and ‘Hello Mary-Lou’. We used to go in there and other kids would play the tunes because we were pretty young and play a bit of Pinball. And that was where really a lot of Jewish youth hung out in those times. Hoxton crowd wouldn’t come up as far as Stamford Hill, they really come into Stoke Newington. In those days there were real divisions – like the postcodes now. There were divisions in where you could walk. If you were Jewish, you wouldn’t step out of Spitafields into Bethnal Green and if you were gentile you wouldn’t step out of Bethnal Green into Spitafields. The Fountain Rd roundabout on Stoke Newington Common was a dividing line because Fountain Rd is the border of Stoke Newington and Clapton and Lower Clapton was white, rough and Stoke Newington was more genteel and more predominantly Jewish. So there were these divisions that lasted right up to the mid/early-sixties. The thing that really brought an end to anti-semitism in Hackney was the arrival of coloured immigrants. Suddenly the whole ideology changed from religious to racial and anti-semitism more-or-less disappeared from public notice and race/racism became the focal point of white, working-class preoccupations. Stamford Hill also had a place – the E & A Bar – which was a salt-beef bar… you’ve got to understand Stamford Hill now from then was different, now its Hasidic, then it was working-class rough Jews; sporting men, gamblers, card-players, kalouki-players, boxing men, football men – and that was the crowd that was up there – the Schmuter-trade people, the rag-trade people. They were kind of comedy Jews really, they spoke a sort of Yiddish. My generation, the people that were there didn’t really speak Yiddish, but the parents generation spoke Yiddish, and the grandparents generation spoke Polish and token Yiddish. And from when the bowling alley opened, and because Stamford Hill was a focal point for Jewish entertainment on a Sunday afternoon when it was dead – you must have heard that Hancock programme about a Sunday afternoon, how dull and boring it was, nothing happened you know. Well it was like that, except the kids, the teenagers go out to Stamford Hill, meet your mates, play some Pinball, have a Luckquin [?!] in A-bar and go in the Bowling alley, which by then open and so there was something happening on Stamford Hill – there was really nothing happening in England in the grey ‘50s and suddenly things seemed to be moving. I first saw my Mods in March 1960. They were Jewish, they were Jewish kids and they were Tailors sons. The other thing that really separated the Jews and the Gentiles was the Jews had a Bar-Mitzvah at the age thirteen when they were required to get a suit, and their fathers being Tailors they had the pick of the new materials – they had the Nylon the Rayon, the Mohair, so these kids were dressed in these. These things that the Jamaicans wear, the suede and knitwear things – all the bad boys in Jamaica now wear them, but the Jews again were the first people I ever saw wearing them on Stamford Hill and there shops that sold them. And Kingsland Waste was thriving in them days – there were a hundred stalls there; comics, Japanese Paper-knives, Sarsaparilla stall, Ice-cream, thirty tailors along the whole street, a guy selling second-hand bicycles, lots of radios, box-television parts and a record shop and a comic stall. So there was everything that teenager wanted, so that was like paradise to us you know, we’d be down there every week. There was a guy called Don Brick, he ran a toy manufacturers…

[Barry Service – former employee at R&B Records arrives]

PR: … There was a place in Dalston called Don Brick, that was his name, ran a toy manufacturers in what was in the ‘30s the Plaza Cinema – it’s now a gym. But in those days he called it Chez Don, it was upstairs and it was a dance club, and the Mods by this time, 1962, the Gentiles had started to appropriate some of the Modernist ideas that had been developed over the last couple of years. And where Marc Bolan said that he was shopping in Bill Gores you know and all that – that was probably true, because you know, by that time we were going up to Liverpool St to look at the clothes up there because they were much smarter. And the whole thing of the detachable collar came in, I mean basically it was imitating the upper-class look; you know it was the fitted jacket with the vents up the back. And in the Waste all the Tailors were selling Pierre Cardin collarless jackets which became [?] jackets in three or four years after this. And like I said the Gentiles were starting to get in on this Mod thing, but they had adapted it. Where the Jewish youth had been wearing the Italian and French fashion, the gentiles started wearing American Ivy League fashions. And the hairstyles for what you would call rebellious youth in the ‘50s, the hairstyle to have was the greased back, Brylcreemed or Vaselined Teddy boy look. But the Modernists started the College-boy hairstyle

BS: Short back and sides huh.

PR: No – not short back and sides – the College-boy. Short back and sides is what those who had no clue wore, you know – the dunderheads. But for those that had some sort of fashion and style, the College-boy hairstyle – which is what Pat Boone had – you had a dip here…

BS: Like what Tony Curtis had

PR: Tony Curtis was the Rocker style, the grease-back

BS: Uh OK.

PR: After Tony Curtis came the College-boy, the Pat Boone look and that was popular right up to 1963/4 when it started getting longer. Yeah when I saw Marc Bolan there in 1960, he was about 13 and he was hanging around with boys about 16 and he always went to the same club we met in - the Stamford Hill Boys Club, the Boys and Girls club, sorry. And I saw him there a couple of times, but he wasn’t someone I really knew. He was with a different crowd. He was a year older than me, and he hung out with boys older than him anyway so I didn’t really know him. He knew my cousin who went to the same club …

BS: Is that the one near the Library?

PR: Yeah, pulled down now. Called the Montefiore Estate, but it was then Montefiore House. The Montefiore family lived there in the 19th Century – they were a famous family from Spain that became big Financiers and Bankers and married into the Rothschilds – so they were at the very peak of Anglo-Jewry. And there, at that club Helen Shapiro and Malcolm Edwards, who became Malcolm McClaren and a boy called Richard Spyvak who I knew on the NME in later life. And others, Alan Sugar, Susan Singer – people who were going to make something - they were all motivated. Also they were unlike their parents, who were Socialists and Communists, they were more Tory. Of course we’ve seen what happened to Basildon – them working-class places have turned Tory over the past 50 years. The working-class Tory is a phenomenon of the last 50 years as everyone becomes, what they call, more middle-class. Dom Brick’s was kind of a rough place: it was Gentile youth and it was Gentile Mods, and the Police were always stopping people outside there. For two or three years it was a place where people were always being stopped and searched – they were looking for purple hearts, they were looking for knives. And then there was this whole thing with this shooting in 1963 – this guy from Hoxton shot a Policeman and robbed others of their leather coats. And then there was the ‘Beardy-Buttons’ confrontation in 1966, which was the last big bundle in Hackney really. And then the whole Mod thing really died out, you know. The Waste and Mare St became virtually no-go areas – they just became dead. When I grew up around here, there was like a fish & chip shop in Mare St, 7 cinemas along the street, theatres, boys clubs, pinball arcades – by 1970 that was all gone. You know, the streets were just desolate. And the Waste - similar. The Waste went down to about 6 or 7 stalls. The Ridley Rd Market continued to thrive because of the West-Indian community, they bought life back to it. The Jewish community have moved on – the West-Indian community were here. They brought their jams, their green-bananas, their mangos. And they bought a new life to it. Then in the eighties the Turks came. They woke up Stoke Newington Rd and Stoke Newington High St from its long decline and slumber. They bought cafes. They made it safe so that people could walk that street of a nighttime. They bought a great change to the area. And then after them came the Poles and the Africans and the Portuguese and everyone else and multi-racial London is here you know. 30 years ago, you couldn’t walk in Hoxton – there was one of the indivisible barriers. A Black man couldn’t walk there, a Jewish man couldn’t walk there, an Indian man couldn’t walk there. It was rough. And now it’s a multi-racial as any other part of London – as Deptford, as Bermondsey – wherever you wanna go. It’s a fantastic phenomenon that I’ve witnessed over the last 50 years – the way the world has changed you know – the way we accept each other here. You know I’ve been friends with this man [gestures to Barry Service] for 40 odd years. You know, race is gone. I don’t even see colour anymore – I’ve seen different colours; I know Japanese, I know Chinese – I know people from all over the world. I know people from Brazil, Israel wherever. New Zealand, Australia and Hackney is changing so fast. I mean, in some ways, it’s the middle class that has benefited, but you know, it is a change for the better. It is better to have coffee shops instead of dark streets where no-one walks and slums like it was twenty years ago.
Marc Bolan I never knew. He was just a guy I saw around. To me, I didn’t like him. He seemed arrogant. I never liked him – I never liked his Tolkein-esq rubbish you know. I never was into fantasy of that sort – not from the age of 15 onwards. I read the Lord of the Rings - that trilogy, and I read a number of fantasy books when I was 15, but by the time I was 17 I’d moved on.

SM: But would you ever have described yourself as a Mod?

PR: Well, yes – I was part of the second generation of Mods. Obviously I came from quite a working class poor family. There were four of us you know. We used to bump our rent – One and Thruppence to the Housing Association. We didn’t live off very good food – it was a struggle really. So I never had the money to buy the clothes that these guys were wearing, or get given ‘em. Because like I said they were mostly sons of Tailors anyway. And there was no religion in my family so there was no Bar Mitzvah for me you know. We were just atheists the whole lot of our family for generations. Just didn’t believe in religion. Never had candles or anything in the house. We celebrated Christmas and we celebrated Easter and we celebrated Bonfire night. Those were our three big seasons of the year yeah. And the holiday in Brighton once every summer – the same flat inn Brighton where my Mum went on her Honeymoon you know – that was life. The same spot on the beach!

[SM/BR: Laughs]

PR: The same spot. You’d look around and you’d see the people from Evelyn Court where I lived sitting all around the beach. That’s how it was, everything was pretty localised. People hadn’t started to explore each other.

SM: Did you try to save up money to buy a suit?

PR: Well by the time I was 16 my Dad bought me a suit and I had it with the 12 inch…

BS: With the flares?

PR: No, not with the flares… the 12 inch [gestures to torso]

SM: Tapered

PR: Tapered and then Chisel-toed shoes or Chelsea Boots. I had a pair of Chelsea Boots, I had a couple of pairs of Chisels. And they all started going down the West-End. We first started going to Liverpool St where there were sport shops and some of these interesting clothes shops. And then we went down to the West-End…

BS: Carnaby St

PR: No, before Carnaby St. Shaftesbury Avenue and Charring Cross Rd were to two places. And there was a place in Shaftesbury Avenue called Gaylord’s. Well the name ‘gay’ we didn’t know what that, you know, that wasn’t anything… It did have that meaning, but we didn’t know about it. That was a shop for gays – they had pink shirts. And of course that was the Mod thing to have was a pink, button down or tab-collared shirt.

SM: Tie? Did you have a tie?

PR: Yeah we used to wear a knitted tie with it. The knitted tie was the other thing that was very popular at then, or a silk tie. You could get a cheap silk tie – poor quality silk – but they were silk ties. And yeah, that’s where I first saw pink shirts and yellow shirts. I mean in those days, everything was grey and brown. And so a yellow shirt you really stood out in it. And of course we were all preening exhibitionists and narcissists. That’s what the Mods were; they were nervous, restless narcissists.

BR: The scooter boys

PR: Yeah. And the gentile and Jewish Mods were of a similar stamp. There was this restlessness among the youth of the time. Everything was a fight you know; the 12 inch, the tapered shoes, the chisel-toes, the belt instead of the braces, the long hair, the beard – everything was a conflict with my father. And that was repeated across the board. There was a generation gap then like there’s never been before or since. My son is part of my generation, but my parents were part of that generation. They had been through the war and we had a completely different idea of what the world should be like. We had the counter-culture of the late 60s. We embraced other races and Reggae in the 70s and like I said, so it’s gone on. Now I know so many people from different backgrounds. The whole world is like a rainbow of lovely people. I’ve really gained a lot – mostly from the Caribbean community but also from the other communities that I’ve met since.

SM: Just going back to the scooters, I remember you saying that the early Mods didn’t have them.

PR: No

SM: When did they come in?

PR: About ’63. And again, Jews and Gentiles both had scooters.

BS: Vespas

PR: Vespas yeah, that again was another Italian export that came along with the Italian suits you know and the nylon.

BS: I think at that time the Teddy-boys, they ride the motorbikes and Mods rode Vespas

PR: [to BS] So when did you come to this country?

BS: ‘60

PR: So that was the year that the Stamford Hill bowling alley opened

BS: Yeah I’d been there. That was the first time I went to a bowling alley.

PR: It was the first bowling alley in Europe. What year?

BS: I went there about ‘62/’63

PR: So with another crowd of Black guys?

BS: Not really. It was like a Sunday afternoon thing

PR: See it was always a Sunday afternoon! When it was dead quiet.

BS: Me and my girlfriend and my cousin, ‘cause he used to live in Bentham Rd

PR: Where did you live?

BS: I lived in Barnet

PR: Oh wow, so you lived right out there

BS: But what happened is, well it was dead quiet. Friday night I’d come over to my cousin […] and I never went back ‘til Sunday night. After we left Flamingo – I went back.

PR: You used to go down to Flamingo from ’62?

BS: Yeah, yes.

PR: See I went down Flamingo from about ’63 and I couldn’t get in. Well I could get in, but they’d chuck me out at midnight. And I was there to see Georgie Crane who everyone was talking about. And all I saw was a club full of Black guys and they were playing modern jazz. And then they kicked me out, and as I was going out I saw all the Mods come in. And they said ‘you’re not 16’ and I wasn’t. I was 15, but looked about 12. I was very small. And Judge Dread was there – it was Judge Dread that kicked me out.

BS: He was a bouncer was he?

PR: Yeah, he was on the door. And then later on I went there and it became the Temple, it became a kind of hard rock thing.

BS: The Temple? Paddington side?

PR: No, no, no. It was the Flamingo. Yeah, it became a hard place in the late-sixties. Long after Dick Gunnered [?] had left. First it became the Pink Flamingo for about a year and then it became the Temple. That was in the late-sixties.

BS: I remember when it was the Temple, but I never went there

PR: No, you wouldn’t have liked it at all. It was scuzzy, it was very scuzzy.

BS: See I was more into Jazz

PR: So did you used to go Ronnie Scotts?

BS: Yeah I used to go to Ronnie Scotts

PR: Did you used to go to the Blue…

BS: Gooseberry

PR: …Just round the back of Tottenham Court Rd

BS: Blue Angel?

PR: Blue Angel. Yeah, remember that place?

BS: And the Hundred Club that was…

PR: So what sound did you used to follow?

BS: Most of my friends were based at Brent – Holloway – near Highbury side. And over there was … [inaudible] … and Fanso

PR: Fatman?

BS: No, not Fatman …[inaudible] … He originally started with Fanso, Tropical Downbeat. See that’s where I came into the music tight.

PR: So the guy who was in Tottenham with Tropical Downbeat – who called himself Tropical Downbeat? Clint? Well, we knew him as Clint… Lionel. Yes.

BS: Yeah he used to work with Tropical before he went back home

PR: And Dennis Onslow, he used to be with that sound as well didn’t he?

BS: Not too sure about that

PR: Did you ever like Dees, did you ever like him?

BS: Dees. Yeah I was with him Saturday night!

PR: Yeah, but did you follow his sound back in them days?

BS: Nah, he was more a younger crowd. By that time I was still with Shelley – the biggest he got was Four Aces.

PR: So you know Tanya from the Four Aces?

BS: Tanya? Yeah, and his brother is Sam. When Tanya first come to this country it was me and my cousin that show him and take him around.

PR: Verdunkly [?] and Country Rob and all that lot

BS: Yeah I never mingle with Country Rob

PR: Yeah no-one would

BS: I know of him – that wasn’t my kinda…

PR: You always were a good boy Barry weren’t you … [laughter] … you were a bit of a rude-boy, but you were always a good boy.

BS: Yeah I think so. I could’ve been worse! [laughter]. Those were the days though, it’s a different atmosphere to now. Them times you could walk down the road and you didn’t necessarily feel no tension or no…

PR: I don’t now. There was tension – there was tensions for Blacks, there were Teddy-boys beating you up.

BS: Mmm, not when I got here, that was sort of over with and they were dealing with the Indians.

PR: But what about the National Front in 70s? Did you not get any trouble from them?

BS: Not me personally and not my little crew, but places like Shoreditch and so…

PR: Yes, yes – bit rough.

BS: I had a friend in 70s whose son died – they killed him in Shoreditch, near the church

PR: Stabbed?

BS: Hmm. He was from Holland and when that happened they left and they went back.

PR: Back to Holland?

BS: Originally they were from Guyana – Dutch Guyana. They used to come in the shop – music and things, and I got close with them. And then one day the father came in and told me his son got stabbed. I said ‘what ya talking about?’, he said ‘yeah, you heard about the stabbing down in Shoreditch?’ It was his son.

PR: There used to be a tailors, just by The Birdcage pub – Windus Walk

BS: That was erm… Asha D’s dad – he made trousers for me, that’s how I remember

SM: We want to put some of those Mod clothes in the exhibition – how can we get hold of some?

PR: Well it depends on what you mean by Mod clothes, there’s three phases of Mod. Like I said there was the Bar-Mitzvah boys of 1960, there was the second generation Mods of ’62 and there were the ‘mock-Mods’ of ’63 – The Who, you know…
You see if the Mod thing started in London among Tailors sons, then it spread to other people in London. And then by the time Eric Clapton or Pete Townsend heard about it it was old. Mod was also a really young thing, by the time you were 17 you had grown out of it.

BS: From when they start driving their Mini’s. They get their licence at 18 and then it change.

PR: Yeah, so it was something that 13 to 17 year olds would obsess with. After that, all the original Mods of 1960 – by 1963 they weren’t Mods anymore, they were responsible young men raising families in Edgware. And then a new lot of Mods come, and they were much more… they wore make up, they wore green fur shoes, they were much more exhibitionist than the original Mods. The original Mods were a kind of conservative smartness. Which was a reaction against their socialist or communist childhoods. And the next lot of Mods they were a different breed, and the third lot of Mods again, they just saw the commercial implication of it all.

SM: Ideally we would like to show the clothes of those early Mods. But really we can show both we can show how it developed…

PR: Dog-tooth suit in grey wool would be an early 1960…

BS: Burtons

PR: Yeah Burtons, Burtons suit and Burtons tie. I mean that black suit that I’ve got on in there [referring to the self-penned article featuring a photograph of himself], is the kinda thing – I bought that in Burton – I bought that in 1966. This is me in 1967…

BS: Oh!

SM: Never recognise him would you!

PR: And this is what you call the second generation Mods [were] wearing. You see you got the candy-striped, American style, you got the vents up the back. You’ve got the little cuffs…

SM: Turn-ups

PR: Yes, little turn-ups on Levis jeans. You’ve got the haircut which is starting to get a bit longer. They’re all kind of a [?] style, although that looks like a later Mod style. That’s a typical college-boy haircut. And of course the Tilby tips would come in, you know the Blue-beat hat.

PR: Of course it was a normal record shop selling across the community. There were a lot of white that went in there, but the white people didn’t really buy the Caribbean music and by the end of the sixties it was virtually entirely Black frequented shop. There wasn’t any white people that came in at all. Some days they would, sometimes they’d buy Brooke Benton there, Dinah Washington, Sam Cooke, and soul was popular – Otis Reading and Aretha. But by the end of the 60s and like a lot of hackney and Stoke Newington became more West Indian. West Indian became the dominant force, I mean the school I went to in Upton House there was only one Jamaican boy in the whole year, the only black boy in the whole school. By the time my brother went there a third of the class was black and by the late 70s 90% of the school was Afro-Caribbean that’s how it went. All the white people ran out of Hackney when the Black people came along, and all the Jewish people ran out of Hackney – they were improving their social status. They’d moved from Whitechapel to Hackney between the two World Wars and then after the war they moved out to Essex. The white working class also moved out to Essex, you don’t have a white-working class population living in Hackney anymore, you have various races working class living in Hackney. The white cockney population was settled in Hackney and Hoxton for a hundred and 50 years when they were misplaced from the city. They went to live in Islington, Hackney, Stoke Newington and these places, and went with the building of the railways, but for a hundred and fifty years they lived there, and then they moved, they’re all gone…

BS: Romford and

PR: Chingford, South Woodford, Dagenham. Romford for the white working classes, Ilford for the Jews. Yeah it was Gants Hill and all those places. Goodmayes for the English. Again the demography has changed so much.