Jeff Barrett | 22 August 2020, 08:30am
About ten years ago I received an email, totally out of the blue, from a fella that I knew when we were teenagers. He was a school year older than me, and to be honest we weren’t ever close mates – but when I was fifteen he made a massive indelible impression on me.
This guy had a ‘look’ – outside of Paul Weller he was the first person I ever saw rocking the Mod look. This would have been spring, 1978 – way before the ‘mod revival’ (although All Mod Cons was just around the corner, and that inner sleeve was set to light the fuse).
I’d been excluded from classes at school and my desk was in the entrance hall. One morning this guy came strolling past me, having tailored his uniform to suit his look. I was knocked out. He looked fucking amazing. And then he formed a band.
This face was Dave Lewin. In his words below he refers to a kid by the name of Jonny Walters, I knew Jonny, he was in my school year. Jonny invited me to a band practice and I went along. It was at a local scout hut, I remember helping to carry in the gear and how exciting that felt, the first time I lifted an amp. And then the noise. This was my first ever up-close experience with a group.
I think these pictures are ace – some were taken to send in to the casting team of the Quadrophenia movie in the hope of becoming extras – and Dave has given me the full back story.
PS: Dave is concerned that their use of the Union Jack back then could be misinterpreted today. It’s easy to see why in 2020 but these kids weren’t racist or nationalist. They weren’t stupid either, they were cool kids, they were mods. As anyone with a passing interest in youth culture and British street style will know the Union Jack-as-pop-art icon was a thing for young mods in the sixties (see Pete Townsend’s jacket) and Ricki-Tics were simply paying homage/copying the look.
Jeff – you asked me about the Ricki-Tics photos I sent you, and how the band started. The Beeston Station shots were around the time me and Chris first met Paul Weller before his June ‘78 Jam gig at Barbarellas in Birmingham. I think you came to see us support Martyn Watson’s Wendy Tunes for our second gig at Leicester Phoenix (and there’s a cassette tape of this somewhere ) The Bodega gig took place sometime in September’78 -maybe our third gig.
I’d started dressing that way more and more towards the end of ‘77 and began writing songs with Mark Husbands – and planning the Ricki-Ticks Feb ‘78. As you know, it was difficult to source any clothes out of the mainstream in Nottingham at that time, so it was a case of scouring second-hand shops, having clothes altered at home or via a tailor, visiting a shop at the bottom of Hockley to search out old Sta-Prest, Ben Sherman shirts, and Slazenger knitwear (dead stock), a few old stock Fred Perry pieces from Victory Sports in Stapleford, raiding my stepdad’s cases in our attic for Lutz cycling jerseys (see the Bodega pics), down to London ( Shelly’s near Kensington market ) for ‘Jam shoes’, Loake Royal brogues, Ravel loafers, and a few pairs of trousers made to measure from Jakeman & Kerr. I remember my delight when I first saw ex-US Army fishtail parkas (with detachable lining) in Wakefield Army & Navy stores, May/ June ‘78. Before the parkas, it had been either Crombie or Harrington jackets.
At first, it was a look I launched myself into and an idea Mark liked – and adopted gradually ( his hero before this had been Faces era Ronnie Wood). I talked Neil into getting involved Spring ‘78 (buying a drum kit and a Lambretta) with Chris immediately following suit with Vespa and ‘the look’. We had to somehow have Chris in the band because his image matched ours so perfectly – but didn’t manage to talk him into buying a bass until mid-Summer ‘78 …. and it took a few months more to show him the bass lines to the songs me and Mark had written- so he didn’t play with us until the end of ‘78.
This was why Jonny Walters was in the band for the first few gigs – he was a natural musician, but I couldn’t persuade him into the all-important ‘look’. In the Bodega pics, he’s wearing button down shirt and Jam shoes I lent him for the evening. In the shot where I’m changing my guitar strings whilst talking to him – pre-gig – I’m sure by the look on his face, I’m having yet another go at him about his haircut.
I first started to hear about other enthusiasts late summer’78. First via a Zig Zag interview in which Paul Weller mentioned us, The Purple Hearts and The Chords – then later from speaking to and meeting some amazing people whilst following The Jam around on the All Mod Cons tour autumn ‘78. My passion for the modernist style came from a few different sources. My elder brother (who took all the accompanying photos) happened to like The Who and bought Meaty Beaty Big & Bouncy when it came out, 1971. It was the first record of his I really got into/took notice of.
By 1973 I had started playing guitar, and spending more time with an uncle who was primarily a jazz musician who had also played in soul bands through the 1960’s. Whilst the rest of my family were laughing at my Oxford bags, platforms and approximated feather cut circa 73, he talked to me about the styles he’d been into whilst living in Brixton around the beginning of the ‘60’s. I remember him trying to explain the switch from the Ted look he’d had in Derby, to the ‘Italian look’ he moved onto when he relocated down to London and started going to jazz and r&b clubs like The Flamingo. This led onto him playing me Tubby Hayes, assorted cool jazz, Georgie Fame & Blue Flames ‘Live at the Flamingo’, ‘Otis Blue’ and a Geno Washington live album.
In 1973 I heard Bowie’s Pin Ups, and more importantly SAW the album Quadrophenia. The accompanying booklet and photos completely transfixed me. I’d read about ‘mods’ before, but that was the first time I’d seen ‘the style’ laid out in front of me. Physically, I didn’t really start to grow until early ’77 ( when I was 14 in ‘75 I looked about 9) so couldn’t carry any look or style without looking ridiculous. I’d been fascinated by the Northern scene, and was a big Motown fan but, again couldn’t carry off the look, and wasn’t a dancer.
By late ‘75 I’d heard about a band called the Sex Pistols from one of my brother’s friends, a student at St Martins in London and was reading NME cover to cover every week.By late 76 I’d managed to acquire most of The Small Faces back catalogue. I’d heard some Dr Feelgood LPs, bought Eddie & the Hot Rods ‘Live At The Marquee’ ep ,The Damned’s ‘New Rose’, and then Anarchy In The U.K. singles – and was hungry to hear more.
Sometime early ’77 I began to see reviews of a group called The Jam – I think they had a residency at The Red Cow at the time. They covered ‘Ride Your Pony’ which I’d first heard via Geno Washington … some Motown… played Rickenbackers… wore sharp suits…and reminded people of the early Who. Just hearing about them – before I’d heard their first records or seen their pictures – galvanised me. Everything started to feel like it was coming together and started to make sense. The energy of seeing The Clash and The Buzzcocks (Nottingham Palais, June ’77) combined with the style I’d been fascinated with for the previous few years, and the pure excitement of the sense of a new youth movement seemed to crystalise, take on a life of its own….and this being 1977, the outlet – as soon as I could work out how to make it happen, had to be via forming a band.
Remember how TRIBAL, vital, and polarised things seemed then ?
It was really something to be 15/16 in 1977 wasn’t it….
Jeff Barrett founded Heavenly Recordings in 1990.
2020 © British Culture Archive.