Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Early Mods, Villains and Heroes

"They were the best years of our lives. They called them the swinging sixties. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones were rulers of pop music, Carnaby Street ruled the fashion world... and me and my brother ruled London. We were fucking untouchable..." – Ronnie Kray

The public at large has always had the inclination of turning villains into heroes. Stories of Robin Hoods and Jesse James', and Ocean’s 11/13 fascinate us, and we are disappointed if the ‘good’ bad guys get caught! So, don’t hold it against the 60’s Mods if amongst their heroes were some of the most celebrated criminals of the decade.

What in American jargon is named a mafia ‘family’ is in London slang termed a ‘firm’. In the 1960’s the two most powerful of the ‘firms’ were the Kray Twins and the Richardson Gang. These two firms were so high powered in their ‘business’ ventures, that it was not unusual to see them hobnobbing with the cream of society; especially the Krays. The twins Ronnie and Reggie, were mentioned in the press on a regular basis, their name being associated with ruling politicians, famous artists and film stars, going as far as to have a portrait photograph taken by cult photographer David Bailey

It was generally known on the street that the two brothers did not only carry spare change in their pockets, but also loose policemen; which literally, allowed them to get away with murder! But in fairness to the gangs, the killings were kept in the family. There was always speculation amongst the Mods of the time, that the pillars holding the Hammersmith fly-over contained more than just steel and concrete!

Though the, South London, based Richardson’s were not as infamous as their East End counterparts, I think they were the more sadistic of the two gangs; it was not by chance that they were called the ‘torture gang’.

Thousands of words have been written about another group of ‘business associates’ and their company’s venture -the great train robbery of 1963. Their exploits, even after their arrests, of prison break-outs and last minute escapes from capture, kept us well amused. A cocky edited quote from 'The Scarlet Pimpernel’ could have easily been applied to the episode- ‘they seek them here, they seek them there; those coppers seek them everywhere. Are they in heaven?- Are they in hell? Those damned, elusive train robbers.’

Members of the firms were very Mod in their fashion sense. In fact I wouldn’t have minded some of the suits and shoes that they wore, and the same as most Mods at the time, they had an eye for detail; as a recent auction of some of the Krays personal belongings shows.

Keeping in line with our theme, a Mod hit from the time- Prince Buster's ‘Al Capone’ makes a fitting finale to this post!

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