Postwar 1950s Britain | Rationing | Rock 'n' Roll | Rockers |
The Long and Troubled Road | From BLACKBOARD JUNGLE and 'ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK'…to THE WILD ONE |
The growing problem of dissafected youth throughout the UK
DANCEFLOOR DANDIES | JUST WAITING…FOR IT ALL TO GO OFF | 1950s—1960s
TEDDY BOYS a.k.a "TEDS"
Teddy Boys—A teenage, working-class subculture that started in the 1950s, in London—spread rapidly across the UK—and then became irreversibly linked with exhibitionistic and violent expressions of rock and roll. “Don’t you rock me, Daddio!”
The distinctive style was partly inspired by clothes originally worn by aristocratic ‘dandies’ of the Edwardian period (1890-1910)—a style that London’s Savile Row tailors tried to re-introduce to Britain's better classes, after World War Two, and that proved to be an abject failure. Enter the first stirrings of disaffected post-war youth out onto the streets—with a 'new look' they could grab hold of and adopt as their very own.
Legend has it that the name Teddy Boy was coined when a 1953 Daily Express newspaper headline shortened ‘Edwardian’ to ‘Teddy’—so much more appealing than the previous sobriquet of ‘Cosh Boy’—the threat of violence now discreetly hidden beneath the drape of a long, velvet-collared jacket. And the rest, as they say, is British urban sartorial history.
HAIR TODAY…GONE TOMORROW | SO THERE'S NOTHING ELSE FOR IT…BUT TO ROCK 'N' ROLL |
TEDDY BOY | REVOLT INTO STYLE | UK
The Teddy Boy style featured long, velvet-trimmed Edwardian jackets (similar to post-war American zoot suits); fancy waistcoats; frilly shirt fronts; bootlace ties; tapered ‘drainpipe’ trousers; glow-in-the-dark pink, yellow, or blue socks; thick-crepe-soled suede shoes, known as ‘creepers’—sometimes, even 'brothel creepers'.
And to top it all off—a Ted's hair—tricked and teased and greased—into peaks and plumes and cascades. The classic Elephant's Trunk swept back into a perfect D.A. (duck’s arse).
Only trouble was—the black velvet trimmed collars and black-suede crepe-soled shoes all too often had razorblades sewn or sunk into them—all the better to slice your fingers off or kick you into little bitty pieces with in a fight. And those long-coat pockets were the perfect place to conceal a razor-sharp flick knife.
“Ready, Ready, Teddy…to…uh…go…Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
They were called ‘Ton-Up’ Boys—in England—derived from having ridden a powerful motorbike at well over speeds of ‘a ton’—a hundred miles an hour.
All the sullen threating attitude—sudden explosions of violence—turned on—in a heartbeat—by the devil's music—rock & roll—like as not played very loudly on some juke-box—somewhere.
In the early Fifties, Bill Haley was king. In 1951—it was "Rock the Joint". In '52—"Crazy, Man, Crazy". Then—in '54—came "Shake, Rattle and Roll"—and finally 1955’s "Rock Around the Clock". The titles alone said it all and with the subsequent arrival of Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, and Carl Perkins—the style was set—Teddy Boys ‘n’ Rockers—and never any going back.
'Teddy Boys'. 'Teds'.‘Ton-Up Boys'. 'Greasers'. 'Rockers'. Whatever they were called—they were all juvenile delinquents—uneducated rebels without a cause—every last one of them.
How could you tell? Easy. By the clothes they wore. And the way they wore their disgusting greasy hairstyles.
Easy to see that they'd never amount to anything at all. And that they'd all end up as garbage—in the dustbin of history.
Unsung. Unloved. Unremembered.
"You'll never amount to anything looking like that, John."
Liverpool Dance Hall | Drape Jacketed Dandy | 1950s Ted
"HEY…YOU LOOKING AT ME?" | 1950s—1960s
Mods vs. Rockers? Hippies versus Skin-Heads?
Italian mohair suits versus blue denim jeans from America?
Flowers-in-your-hair? versus Heavy-studded-rings on fingers balled into fists?
The two camps—the two tribes—will never go out of fashion. All of it to do with how others see you on the street—in a pub—in a club–in a bar—on a dance-floor. "Street-cred" it's called. And you've either got it or you've got trouble. It signals to people the gang or group you belong to and tells them just how they should R-E-S-P-E-C-T you.
Fracas or Fashion? You pays your money—and you takes your choice. Montagues versus Capulets—anyone?
GEORGE HARRISON | PETE BEST | JOHN LENNON | PAUL McCARTNEY | IN FRONT OF RAY McFALL'S 'CAVERN-MOBILE' COMMER VAN | MATHEW STREET | 1961
But by the end of the decade it was all over. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper went down in flames one dark day—the day the music died—in 1959.
In 1960—while on a tour of England—Eddie Cochran died in a car crash while on tour in England—the same one that left Gene Vincent with even more of a limp. Little Richard had got religion. Jerry Lee Lewis had got busted—for marrying his underage cousin. Elvis was in the Army—hair shorn—turning into the boy-next-door. Dick Clark was in firm control of the seemingly never ending parade of clean-cut young American boys and girls who appeared on American Bandstand.
England's top hit parade stars—Cliff Richard and Adam Faith—were already ‘clean-cut boys next door’. You could even take Billy Fury and Marty Wilde home for Sunday tea with mother. And—ever leaning over backwards to embrace the traditional—the true, the tried, and the trusted—England was soon awash—drowning—in Acker Bilk's ‘Stranger On The Shore’ and Kenny Ball’s ‘March of the Siamese Children’.
Rock 'n' Roll was dead—The Teddy Boy destined to go the way of the dinosaur—the way of the dodo—to make way for the London Scene—and Mods. Even so—the Teddy Boys and the Rockers didn’t go quietly—they fought on the beaches, the car parks, and pub-grounds—anywhere they could throw insults or punches—or swing a bicycle chain or flick-knife.
The US film Blackboard Jungle proved a real watershed for Teddy Boys in the United Kingdom. When the film was shown in 1956, at the Elephant and Castle, in south London, the audience of Teddy Boys began to rock 'n' riot—tearing up the seats—dancing in the cinema's aisles—singing-cum-yelling—"One Two Three o'clock…Four o'clock…Rock". All of it triggered by scenes of teenagers rioting to 'Rock Around The Clock'. Suddenly there it was—their music. So go Ted go! Life's brutish, sordid, and short. All made worse by rationing of anything worth having. So go tell the world you're here. And they did. Angry young men with no other cause than to show the world they existed. After which—Ted riots took place around the country whenever—wherever—the film was shown.
And as the working class teenagers grew a little older and a little more affluent—from working in burgeoning factories—and the odd office—the greasy hairstyles morphed onto motorbikes—with attendant leather jackets spotted with studs, and blue jeans and steel-capped leather boots—all the better to ‘boot you into next week’ with. Marlon Brando—'The Wild One'—anyone?
The film was released in the US in 1953, but was banned in Britain and not screened throughout the UK until 1968—and even then with an Adults-Only ‘X’ certificate. Although photos of the The Wild One—Brando, in particular—ripped from US film magazines—had been traded on British streets for years.
THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED | 1959 AND ON INTO THE SIXTIES
'Rock the Joint' | 'Crazy, Man, Crazy' | 'Shake, Rattle and Roll' | 'Rock Around the Clock' |
…and so…“Don’t You Rock Me, Daddio!” |
First stirrings of disaffected postwar youth
Hair tricked, teased, and greased | into peaks, plumes, and cascades
ROCKERS | IN THE SMOKE | BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN REBEL AND MANHOOD | DREAMING OF DOING "A TON".
TEDDY BOYS | TON-UP BOYS | GREASERS | ROCKERS
"YOU BETTER LEAVE MY KITTEN ALONE" | 1950s—1960s
FOOT NOTE | WHY DON'T YOU SOCK ME…DADDIO?
Rumour has it—the Teds are still at it—waiting to come out of the shadows—and more than ready to Rock ‘n’ Roll.
And even if only a sight for sore eyes—the very best site for it all is unquestionably:
"Rock…Rock…Rock…Everybody. Roll…Roll…Roll Everybody!"