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Mods go by bus

Tonic supporter Steve Robson writes about seeing the Jam at Brighton Conference Centre.

Paul Weller


Who goes by bus?

Mods do, when they’re 15.

In the early 80s, a teenager was usually a Mod, Skinhead, Punk, Rocker, Goth, New Romantic, Casual, or Scooter Boy. If you were none of these, then it was highly likely you belonged to the most unfashionable tribe of all – the Nerds.

At the end of my street growing up, you either turned left for the local primary school or turned right for the local middle school. All of the kids living in the street knew each other, as they went to the same schools and played together at the weekends. When I moved up to high school – and discovered the Mod subculture – it was inevitable that my new mates were all Mods. However, my two best mates from the street had gone in different directions – one became a Punk and the other a Rocker!!

Punk was running right through the middle of the Mod Revival sound, so I was quite happy at Johnny’s place, my Punk mate, doing our usual – taking it in turns to play records. I got to love the Stranglers, the Buzzcocks, the Undertones, and Public Image Ltd. The Jam was the connecting link, as we both loved them. The Jam’s ‘In the City’ debut album was pretty much a punk album and we spent many a day leaping around to it.

At my Rocker mate Darren’s house, it was a bit trickier. It was Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, and his favourite Queen!! How could a proper Mod listen to this?!

At this point, I still hadn’t seen Quadrophenia, as I was still too young, but I had seen images from the film, and read loads about the Mod vs Rocker seaside clashes. So, to be sat in a Rocker’s den, listening to Rocker’s music, felt like a betrayal of everything I had become. However, I had known Darren from first year of primary school, so we found a way around it – we took the piss!

He would put on Bohemian Rhapsody, while I held my bleeding ears – “shocking mate” – before I put on some proper music. On would go The Chords’ ‘The British Way of Life’ or The Who’s ‘My Generation’.

I was always a tall lad for my age, as was Darren, but he was very stocky with it, and pretty much had a beard by middle school. He was very handy to have about if you had any bother at school. So, when I finally broke my mum down with my pleading to go to a Jam gig, it was because I told her Darren would be going with me. I hadn’t even asked him – taking a Rocker to a Jam gig was far from perfect, but it was worth it. I had to see the Jam.

He finally agreed to go, so long as I agreed to go to a Queen gig with him. This was shamefully a promise that I never intended to keep…

Mods go by bus


So, on 5th November 1980, we set off from The Hard in Portsmouth in a Jam fan club-organised bus, off to Brighton to see the mighty Jam. There were a fair few Mods about on the Isle of Wight, but my Mod journey thus far had mostly been solitary – listening to music, looking at pictures and dreaming. Sat on the packed bus with 40 other Jam fans (and one Rocker – I did make him leave his leathers at home!), all talking about the Jam, and what we were about to witness, was heaven.

Arriving at the Brighton Conference Centre, I was taken aback by the size of place, but mostly it was what everyone was wearing that blew me away. Everywhere I looked I was sucking up information – that’s a cool jacket, look at that Parka with the Secret Affair keyhole on the back – I’m doing that tomorrow! It was Mod overload. My Mod wardrobe was still fairly limited, mostly made up of bits I had stolen from my dad. I was wearing some pinstriped trousers, a Fred Perry polo, and a dark grey mac with Jam pin badges on the lapels, as well as my favourite Shelly Jam shoes, purchased from Oxford Street on a family trip to London.

The venue was packed by the time the support band came on – two thirds Mods and a third Punks – so, looking slightly camp in matching Breton-striped tops with their Poppy sound, ‘The Piranhas’ didn’t get the best reaction. The Punks absolutely covered them in phlegm, and I mean covered them. It was disgusting. I don’t understand why they didn’t just walk off stage, but no, fair play to them, they played their full 30-minute set.

Paul Weller’s dad then introduced the Jam and the confident trio appeared on stage. Every band has its peak and for the Jam I believe this was 1980 – two number one singles, a number two album with ‘Sound Affects’, and a sell-out nationwide tour. Paul was knocking out classic tunes effortlessly, famously claiming to have written ‘That’s Entertainment’ in just 10 minutes after returning home from the pub pissed!

They kicked off with the haunting intro to ‘Dream Time’. Weller’s guitar then kicked in, punching a hole from the stage to the rear wall with ease.

The set that night included Thick as Thieves, Going Underground, When You're Young, The Modern World, and my all-time Jam favourite Strange Town, as well as most of the recently released Sound Affects album.

I had managed to get front of stage, not too far away from where the Punks were, directly in front of Paul. It was crazy, everybody crashing into each other. I lost Darren and ended up crushed against the stage rail, until a bouncer pulled me over the rail and took me to the side of stage. He gave me a bottle of water and told me to sit down. “F*ck that mate”, I shouted, as I ran back into the mayhem.

The energy, the passion and the anger of the Jam flowed over every one of us in the hall that night. Even my Rocker mate had to admit, “They’re a bloody good band.”

Hot, sweaty and knackered, we climbed onto our bus behind the Brighton Centre, and sat there for a while waiting for stragglers. Staring out the window, recalling in my mind’s eye the night’s events, I saw another coach pull up behind us. Our bus started its engine, closed its doors, and started to pull away, leaving the memorable night behind us.

But then, some doors flew open at the back of the hall, and there was Paul Weller, followed by Bruce, Rick, and an entourage.

“DRIVER, LET US OUT!” the whole bus screamed. “Sorry lads, we gotta go” he replied.

Out of the back window, 20 squashed lads got a wave from the man himself as he climbed aboard the Jam’s tour bus.

That night in Brighton wasn’t equalled until the following year, 16 years old, riding my first scooter back to Brighton for my first ever scooter rally. Now that really is a story…


This is Part 2 of a three-part story. To read Part 1, click here.

Part 3 comes outs next week.



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