Tag Archives: Mods

Roy Hinton, The Caxton, Pimlico RIP

9 Aug

We all live with death these days, but there are some deaths which stun us such as that of JFK or John Lennon. It’s too soon, just not now, please. Such was the reaction when my good friend Ian told me of Roy’s passing. Ian had turned me on to the Caxton in 1965 as I approached the age of 14. I was already six foot one inch tall, had a part-time job and money in my pocket to buy those Ivy look mohair suits, American button-down shirts and American shoes.

Max Justice, hard Mod and supplier of mohair suit lengths!

My first night there was like a religious experience as we descended the stairs into the dance hall where at the end sat Roy at the first twin record deck in London, playing music I’d never heard before apart from the stock soul tracks you’d get on Radio Luxemburg when the medium wave allowed. But added to that was the Ska music of Jamaica, even more exotic than the soul coming out of Detroit, Chicago or Memphis.

Roy and I soon became good friends to the point that I’d play the records myself if he was needed elsewhere. From that, I started calling round for him to go to the club together. Those early evenings waiting in his flat turned me on further to even more far out stuff such as Jimmy Smith, Miles Davis or John Lee Hooker. While not played in the club, these guys were nevertheless part of the cool scene going on in the world of the Mod.

Soon after, I accompanied Roy every weekend to either Sir Coxsone’s Downbeat Records in Brixton for the Ska imports From Jamaica or to Soul City in Monmouth St, WC2 for the latest soul imports from the USA. Soon, the word of the Caxton spread south of the water to Clapham, Brixton and Lambeth and the crowd got very glsmorous style-wise albeit slightly tense in gang terms with serious dancers in search of these stomping sounds.  Roy never let the crowd down, often surprising them with a rare track which produced a stream of queries after their titles.

By 1969, I’d bailed out of the scene as reggae became more mainstream and was getting associated with the more violent Skinhead movement. I moved on to become a mix of a jazz and suedehead, digging CSNY, Santana or my father’s cool music. As my mates moved on to long hair and flares, I kept the faith with my sharp suits, shirts and ties to the point where, if out, girls thought I must have just come out of prison to be hanging around with those Yetis.

Like most people, I got on with life until one day Ian phoned me to say he’d been on a stroll down memory lane and stumbled through the door of The Caxton to not only be greeted by Roy and his assistant Jan, but to be shown our contemporary signing in books and photos that I remember being taken down there in 1967.

I shortly followed Ian down there to be met likewise by Roy and to see that the club was now an educational centre for the disabled youth of Westminster. Indeed, Roy and Jan had been awarded the MBE for their services but they typically played this down. The lnk below shoees the difference that can be made to people’s lives.

If you’re lucky, some people come into your life, even if only briefly, and change it utterly and forever. I can say that Roy is one such person for not only myself but also for many other Westminster kids who otherwise may have ended up in prison or dead, given the gang scene that was emerging. But that music lives on in all of us and I won’t be the only one forever transported back to that romantic and electrifying dancefloor when today we hear Pheonix City by Roland Alphonso or Things Get Better by Eddie Floyd, too many more tracks will do the same but are too numerous to mention here.

Ian recalled in tribute to Roy that “It’s true to say that my life would have taken a different course without his musical inspiration”. Certainly, without Roy, I wouldn’t have the record collection that I have. I owe my musical tastes today to him.

Roy, you’ll never know what you were and still are to us Pimlico kids, I can’t hear certain records without seeing your face there at the record counter. Your cancer took you away far too early, neither we ravers of the Sixties nor the lucky kids today who’ve had a leg up to achieve self-respect and worthiness despite their disability can thank you other than by following your example and not crossing over to the other side as is so easy.

Roy Hinton; friend, legend, inspiration.

To my soul brother here’s the tune–my own group’s last tune–that heralded the end of the night and the walk home through Pimlico’s then shabby post-war streets.




It Was 45 Years Ago Today

2 Jun

Or was it 20? Oh no, that’s when Sergant Pepper told the band to play. There are certain albums released through time that change the whole scene. Miles Davis’s Kind Of Blue, Carole King’s Tapestry, The Stone Roses’ eponymous first album all come to mind. But slam dunking in the middle of that triumvirate has to be The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, released June 1st, 1967. I’d only been buying mostly Mod, black American music and ska till then and so Sergant’s purchase was a departure and I don’t think anybody saw me coming out of the shop with it in any case. I needn’t have worried about such reputations, as I was instantly grabbed by its mix of realism and surrealism, ground breaking production techniques and certain there was little of note to possibly precede it.

I’m no music journo, so I won’t eulogise in that style, all I remember is its impact on a working-class kid in Pimlico, London, a paid-up Mod rather than a hippy or dandy, the kind of which we only saw either down the nearby King’s Road, Chelsea or in San Francisco via TV. This was the Summer of Love, agreed, but there were two kinds of Sixties going on at the same time. It’s said that this famous decade in London was about a handful of people–the boys, Jagger, Marianne Faithful etc, that if you remember the 60s, you weren’t there, the inference being you were off your head on the gear. I only ever took one solitary but mind-bending pill and yet six pints of draught Double Diamond in The Locarno, Streatham had no less effect on my sense of what was happening all around than had herbal substances and psychedelic images projected on to blank walls at Chelsea parties we used to bunk in to on Saturday nights. Bands like The Smallfaces were our standard bearers, of the working class and living around the corner from us in Pimlico in post-war Regency shabbiness as shown below.

Free Love? Maybe in the grand Georgian houses or bedsits of surrounding areas, but in our estates the stigma of having to get married if pregnant with your girl/boyfriend was the greatest contraceptive going. In any case, you didn’t buy condoms in barbers because you’d be too embarrassed to ask for them. Certain surgical shops advertised them in their windows alongside trusses and other physique-defying garments, but you needed a nylon mack to go into them.

In Space terms, we were only up to Apollo 3, two years away from Apollo 11 landing on the moon in a sitting room near you or even a bar in Manhattan where all crime briefly stopped. Yet later that year, I was briefly and naively convinced that humankind had reached its limits when the world was joined together as 400 million people watched the BBC’s One World broadcast of The Beatles’ live recording All You Need Is Love in the Abbey Road studios, carpeted by a worshipful of Who’s Who of the In Crowd. My sister and her husband had come to our flat from their nearby bedsit (Old Man Steptoe was their neighbour) to sit on our floor hippy-style to watch this epic-making broadcast.

And forty-five years on, there is little evidence of the world changing for us then, other than perhaps the ever-renewing graffitied devotions to the boys on the white walls outside the Abbey Road studios and columns of tourists walking across the famous zebra crossing.” Oy mate, you’re supposed to take your shoes off”, I heard a taxi driver shout to one of them once. Carnaby Street is no more than a theme park, only us of a certain age remember where the great shops and the dodgy clubs were. But who cares anyway? Perhaps I’ll start carrying the Sgt Pepper album under my arm again.