On The Beach

It’d been a long bloody day. The usual Bank Holiday chaos in Brighton. After ’64 everyone seemed to stop paying attention, the daily rags no longer interested in reporting about working class kids heading to the seaside to kick fuck out of each other. But it was still happening. The news might have moved onto the next thing, but the gangs of youth patrolling the seafront hadn’t.

It’d been a early train out of London, jammed full of two very different sets of people. Families looking to enjoy their Bank Holiday by the seaside, catch a little sun, nosh on some fish and chips. All that sort of bollocks. Why they still came who knew, every year it was the same thing. And every year the families seemed just as shocked about the goings on.

The other set of people were the kids who hadn’t moved on into all the hippie bollocks after the national spotlight focused on the clashes between the mods and rockers. Truth be told by that point it had long ceased to really mean anything to those who’d been into it in the early days.

Many of the earliest Faces had moved on, regressed even further into a subversive yet conservative style. You could still spot them on the streets in the between years. Then around the tail end of ’67 a general Look had begun to form. It wasn’t all that different from the whole Mod look. More like it had been refined, stripped down a bit into a smart uniform.

The dancehalls and Jamaican after hours clubs were home to a new sound, they called it rocksteady. The music slowing down almost mirrored the manner in which everything had changed. Ska was the frenetic beat of the Mod heyday, part of the soundtrack to those Bank Holiday brawls in and around the dancehalls of Brighton.

Rocksteady was the cooled down world you were part of now. Violence still occurred just as often, let’s not be wrong about that, but it wasn’t the stage production of 1964. Often times it was more serious. A lot of the time you were fighting lads just like you. Neighborhoods the only difference really. Whether it was at the Four Aces or Green Street, rucks were a part of life.

It’d always been the same though, hadn’t it? The line they liked to bandy about now was that you were part of a lost generation. No national service and no conflict to give your life a sense of importance. No role to play. They didn’t get it. Never would.

Things had become smarter, more refined, in the meantime. Four years on and you looked better than any Mod ever had. The coach on the way down might have well been a fashion parade the way the lads were all strutting about in their smartest clobber. Your group was of course the smartest. You’d spent an agonizing amount of time deciding exactly what you’d be wearing on that very day. Mum thought you were bleedin’ crazy and had told you as much.

In the end it’d been a blue and green striped button down, sta prest and Weejuns. Prince of Wales harrington. You’d had your haircut straight after work on Friday so it’d be just the length you liked by Monday. The weekend had been heady, a dust up in a pub on Saturday night prior to the usual session at the Four Aces.

But everyone was waiting for Monday. Bank Holiday, Brighton, hopefully there’d be loads of birds about. Walking down towards the seafront it’d been exactly about thirty seconds after arrival that the first trouble of the day kicked off. It never took long.

It’d been Steve giving the big ‘un to some big Arsenal geezer and his mates. The usual boasts. Well this Arsenal lad wasn’t having any of it and you’d got stuck in. Lost the harrington in the confusion, someone sneaking off with it. But the Gooners had been sorted proper, the Mile End boys would be proud. But that jacket wasn’t cheap.

You’d been furious, swearing you were going to kill the cunt who’d taken it. A few hours of effing and blinding later you came across some twat with a goofy looking grin plastered on his face wearing your jacket. It had to be. The cunt was dressed like a melt otherwise. Needless to say you had gotten your jacket back.

Claret was everywhere and the muppet was in tears by the time you’d finished. Screaming at you to stop hitting him. You might have taken it a bit too far, there was something in the air today. Your mates had started giving you a hard time about it. Next thing you were telling them all to fuck off, go be a flippin’ hippy if they had a problem with it.

So here you were. The last train home had come and gone, and it looked like you’d be sleeping rough tonight. Sitting on the beach, staring into the pitch black nothingness ahead of you. There was lights in the far off distance. They might as well have been stars for how tiny they looked at that very moment.

The waves lapping up on the shore. That Paragons tune, “Tide Is High” playing in your head. You didn’t have a copy but it was always being played at the Four Aces. The red hot anger of the day had started to subside. It was frightening when it took a hold of you. Now you were sat on a beach, mum and dad probably terrified thinking you were dead somewhere.

It was going to be a tough thing to explain away. How would you tell them you just wanted to be alone, truly alone, for a bit. No one would understand that, they’d think you were fucking psycho or something. End up in an institution. You’d have to think of something good.

But for now all seemed right. Pitch black nothingness. And it sounded beautiful. It all started to envelop you. A warm descent into nothingness for a few hours. The only time you felt free of it all.

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