Two Tribes Go To War (The story of mods and rockers) British Culture Intermediate/advanced English lesson.

Essas aulas de inglês são para alunos intermediários e avançados de inglês como segunda língua. Eles incluem “Ler”, “Ouvir” e “Escrever”. Basta seguir a lição respondendo às perguntas à medida que as encontra. Todas as vagas em negrito devem ser traduzidas para seu próprio idioma para ajudar na compreensão do novo vocabulário.

(British Culture 1)

Fifty-eight years ago the famous showdown between Mods and Rockers in Britain’s seaside towns. But what were/are “mods” and what were “rockers”?

Section 1 Introduction

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Fifty-eight years ago, on the weekend of the 16-18 May 1964, the youth of Britain went mad. If you believed the newspapers, that is, who went with screaming headlines like ‘Battle of Brighton’, and ‘Wild Ones ‘Beat Up’ Margate’ .  Editorials fulminated with predictions of national collapse, referring to the youths as ‘those vermin‘ and ‘mutated locusts wreaking untold havoc on the land’.

1964 has become famous as the peak of the Mods and Rockers riots, as large groups of teenagers committed mayhem on the rain-swept streets of southern resorts like Margate, Brighton, Clacton and Bournemouth. Extensively photographed and publicised at the time, these disturbances have entered pop folklore: proudly emblazoned on sites about Mod culture and expensively recreated in the 1979 film Quadrophenia.

Section 2

Yet, as ever when you’re dealing with tabloid newspapers, things are not quite what they seemed. What was trumpeted as a vicious exercise in national degeneration was to some extent, pre-hyped by the press. It was also not as all-encompassing as the headlines suggested: although an estimated 1,000 youths were involved in the Brighton disturbances, there were only 76 arrests. In Margate, there were an estimated 400 youths involved, with 64 arrests. While unpleasant and oppressive, this was hardly a teen take-over.

The cycle had begun six weeks or so earlier, during a dull and unseasonably cold Easter weekend. Up to 1,000 or so young Londoners had descended on Clacton, a smallish resort on England’s eastern coast. Bored with the bad weather and limited facilities, groups had separated according to their tribe: there were scuffles and stone-throwing, and the generally threatening appearance of teenagers en masse, barely restrained by an underwhelming police presence.

Section 3

VIDEO LISTENING CHALLENGE: (Watch the video and answer the five questions below.)




  1. What year did this historic clash between the mods and rockers happen?
  2. Define the difference between the mods and the rockers.
  3. What was the name of the seaside town where this historic, cultural event happened?
  4. How many people were arrested after the “battle on the beach
  5. Do some research on Google and answer this question:      Who are The Who?     

Section 4

On Easter Monday, the press went big with the story: ‘Day of Terror by Scooter Groups’ (Daily Telegraph), ‘Youngsters Beat Up Town – 97 Leather Jacket Arrests’ (Daily Express), and ‘Wild Ones Invade Seaside – 97 Arrests’ (Daily Mirror). Citing “fighting, drinking, roaring, rampaging teenagers on scooters and motorcycles”, the Mirror referenced the notorious 1953 Marlon Brando film, The Wild One, which in mid-sixties Britain was still banned by the British Board of Film Censors, as likely to incite juvenile delinquency. 

After that sensational write-up, the pattern was prepared for the next public holiday, and  southern seaside resorts became the theatre. Contrasted with the anomie of Clacton, it became split along stylistic and tribal lines: between smart, scooter-riding, of-the-minute Mods, and leather-jacketed, scruffy Rockers − the younger siblings of the early 60s Ton Up Boys. ‘Grease’ they were called, and, although they had long hair − longer than many Mods − they were seen as throwbacks to Marlon Brando and 1950s Teddy Boys.   THE WILD ONE   FULL MOVIE:

Section 5

The 1964 disturbances announced the fact that a new generation was claiming its space and its time. As evidenced by the interviews in Generation X, the early baby-boomers were more confident, better educated, and even more restless than their 1950s counterparts: the Edwardians, later Teddy Boys, who had become notorious for their combination of strange, exaggerated clothes and tendency towards extreme violence.   

Section 6

‘Moral panic’

The Mod/Rocker disturbances soon faded as other styles came into youth culture prominence, but they set a pattern of tribal violence that would continue on and off throughout the rest of the 1960s (Skinheads v Hippies), the 1970s (Punks v Teds), and the 1980s − when the front cover of Time’s European edition for 24 October 1983 showed a scary-looking Mohawk punk with the cover strap The Tribes of Britain. Inside, the lurid copy presented a country riven by inter-youth culture battles.

The events of 1964 were also a textbook example of what the sociologist Jock Young termed “a moral panic”. This idea was explored by Stanley Cohen in his ground-breaking study of the Mod/Rocker riots, Folk Devils and Moral Panics: “a condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become a threat to societal values and interests; its nature is presented in a stylised and stereotypical fashion by the mass media”. Moral barricades are manned, solutions are devised by ‘experts’, and the episode fades or is successfully ‘dealt with’.

Section 7


It also fed back into popular culture. The early to mid 1970s saw all manner of nostalgic elements enter the pop mainstream, as the modernism of the ’60s was replaced with an awareness of the past: the early 1960s retro of the vastly influential George Lucas film, American Graffiti, (recommended movie)   the Pop Art references in Roxy Music’s Virginia Plain, the Mod pop retro of David Bowie’s 1973 covers album, Pin Ups, the harking back to the 1964 heyday of the Mods and Rockers in the Who’s 1973 album, Quadrophenia.


Write about a culturally important phase in your countries history.  WRITE HERE  and send to me for marking

GRAMMAR TO USE:   Use one example of the following tenses:

  1. Simple past
  2. Past progressive
  3. Past perfect
  4. Past perfect progressive

Do you like British music?  Enjoy Quadrophenia the album

The Quadrophenia movie link (recommended movie)

TWO TRIBES (Franky Goes To Holywood)

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