Dressing in velvet collared long drapes seem to have gone out of fashion in Britain after the summer of 1958 with the Notting Hill Riots having equated teds not only with hooliganism but with out-and-out racism. Coincidentally the rock’n’roll hits from America were beginning to soften the beat and to add orchestral arrangements and ballads came back to the fore. Quiffs remained, but the Italian style was taking over with bum-freezer jackets and winklepicker shoes. Not all the style was going in the European ‘classy’ style which ended with the mods in the early 1960s, the style could be more ‘everyday’ with a variety of jackets: leather jackets, suede jackets, casual American-style jackets (for want of a better description), donkey-jackets which could be worn with upturned denim jeans (an American style which was not commonly worn in the mid 1950s). [See the post ‘The ‘I got the I can’t work out what being a ted is all about blues’’ where I first discussed tail-end teds which I think is a better cover-term than bum-freezer teds which should be reserved more specifically for those teds who wore short continental (Italian) jackets].
A film source for tail-end teds – which I recently got to watch – is the film ‘Some People’. I thought I’d give forum members a run-down on what is of interest to us in the film.
Filmed in early 1962 and released in June of the same year, ‘Some People’ a film by director Clive Donner and by writer John Eldridge, was shot entirely on location in Bristol. Firstly, it is nice to see a British film set in a provincial city, Secondly, it is nice to see things in colour as opposed to most of the black-and-white films of the early 1960s. What is more the film is unique in that it is both a social-realist ‘kitchen-sink’ drama and a youth exploitation film: think Albert Finney’s ‘Saturday Night, Sunday Morning’ (1960) meets Cliff Richard’s ‘The Young Ones’ (1963).
This makes it a bit of a mixed bag with a serious coming-of-age and parting-of-ways storyline hooked to somewhat corny propaganda for the Duke-of-Edinburgh Award Scheme against the background of fairly subdued rebellious youth being tamed by a church-run youth club which allows them to set up a music group (I hesitate to label it rock’n’roll …).
Its saving grace, from our point of view, is that it is a fairly accurate portrait of British youth before the coming of the Beatles’ (their ‘love me do’ was released October 1962 along with their first tv appearance, and they had only adopted their moptop hairstyle the previous autumn in Paris).
‘Some People’s plot basically revolves around a trio of adolescent lads in Bristol who are at a loose end after losing their driver’s licenses following a 100 mile-per-hour accident on their motorcycles. ‘https://youtu.be/a_kERbgZOdcJohnnie’ (Ray Brooks) & ‘Bill’ (David Andrews) & ‘Bert’ (David Hemmings) are bored and alienated they assemble a rock band with the aid and encouragement of Smith (Kenneth More), the choir director of a local church who offers his facilities for rehearsal space. Both Johnnie and Bert accept a proposal by Smith to ‘improve themselves’ by taking part in the Duke-of-Edinburgh Award Scheme, but Bill remains recalcitrant, suspicious that they are being sucked into behaving in a conventional way acceptable to the older generation. The end of the film sees Johnnie and Bill part ways as life takes them on a different road.
I thought the film was good in parts – sometimes even really good – but corny in others, thus not all scenes are of interest. Commenting in 2013, on Amazon.co.uk, *Mike, a Bristolian “of similar vintage” who lived just around the corner from the church hall featured in the film thought it “a bit patronising in places but as a snapshot of life as a teenager back then it was spot on”.
We get to see coffee bars, ballrooms and ton-up boys. Curiously, in one scene the lads cannot afford a coffee and so must roam the streets, but previously they were able to be ton-up boys, each with their motorbike, and later when they assemble at the church hall, they seem to have no trouble in bringing along an electric guitar each.
We first see Johnnie and Bill working at the timber yard, dressed in their donkey jackets, upturned jeans and winklepickers. See them on Youtube < www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1mtGgIfWX8 > at 01:03–3:12.
Johnnie takes off his donkey jacket at home and later when he is seen about town he is wearing a light leather jacket, but Bill often wears his donkey jacket even on social occasions. And if proof was needed that donkey jackets were worn outside working hours, a later scene in the coffee bar shows some teds in the background, one, an impressive redhead, with a donkey jacket.
The lads also are ton-up boys (or rockers as they later became known) and we see them at a meet kitted up ton-up style in woollen-collared bomber jackets and helmets. Each has a nickname on the back of their jacket: ‘Beeza Bill’ – ‘Bobo Bert’ – ‘Your (?) Johnnie’.
The ton-up boys were pretty convincing because apart from the three leading actors they actually were Bristol ton-up boys. Anneke Wills, who becomes Johnnie’s love interest later in the film, in 2013 remembered the making of the film:
Clive Donner had us all go down to Bristol a few weeks before so that the boys could learn the Bristolian accent and meet the bikers. … Clive Donner’s way of working was cinéma vérité, so to get the flavour of authenticity the wonderful people of Bristol were in the film, and we, the actors, ad-libbed everything. … At the end when Bill steps into the Filton Church Hall with his mates – they were real biker boys! So Clive Donner says, “OK guys, when I say action – trash the place.” The boys very determinedly went straight in. They knew what to do! < www.entertainment-focus.com/featured-slider/anneke-wills-interview-2 >
Ton-up bikers with Bill at their head get ready to thrash up the church hall.
One could go further with the way the ton-up boys are in this film (see ‘Some People rockers’ on YouTube), but I want to return to the more casual dress styles of the three ‘teds’ of the film.
As I said, for socialising the three lads seem to dress casually in winklepickers and upturned jeans and different jackets (Light leather jacket for Johnnie, donkey jacket for Bill, American style jacket for Bert) although at other times they seem to dress more conventionally in ordinary jackets and ties when they are dating (this probably reflecting the dress codes of ballrooms of the time) but in their casual mode, they are meant to convey delinquency. This is best seen in the scenes where bored and at a loose end they approach the ‘North Bristol Youth Club’ and enter it without much enthusiasm (Bill says “we could play hymns and ping-pong …”). They go inside and younger teenagers are busy chatting, playing ping pong and snooker all looking more conventionally dressed than our protagonists (although many of the younger boys have upturned jeans and pointed shoes). The piano on the stage is is locked, but they take down the panels and Johnnie begins to play a boogie at which the youth immediately start to jive. This does not last long as the janitor (Richard Davies from South Wales) barges in shouting:
Janitor: Hey! What’s going on up there?
Bert: What’s the matter with you?
Janitor: We’ll have none of your types in here!
Johnnie: What d’you mean my type then, ’ey?
Janitor: What I say!
Bill: ’Ere, what’s he doing wrong? He was only playing the piano!
Janitor: Yeah! That piano was locked. Now look at it!
Bert: Well, what’s the use of a piano if it’s locked?
Janitor: I’ve seen you before, haven’t I?
Janitor: I remember, you’re a troublemaker. Well, we can do without your sort. Now get out! Take your pals with you. I’ll not have teddy boys contaminating my boys and girls.
Bill: ’Ere, who you calling teds? If you want that sort of trouble, mate, I’ll bring a gang of proper teds and then you’ll see.
Johnnie: Come on, let’s go! It’s no good talking to him, he’ll never understand, this one.
Janitor: And I’ll have none of your cheek either!
Johnnie: Come on, come on …
Bill: And mind you who you’re calling teds in future, right?
So what we can gather from this scene from 1962 is that they were taken for teds by the janitor. Bill objects –mainly it would seem – because he understands that by being called teds they are equated with delinquents or hooligans. The throwaway threat by Bill, who is portrayed as the meanest and moodiest of the three, that he will “bring a gang of proper teds” to show the janitor what “trouble” hardly means – I am sure – that Bill was able to procure some bequiffed lads dressed in Edwardian drapes and velvet collars, but that he was able to procure other lads dressed similarly to themselves who were in fact tearaways and delinquents, i.e. ‘proper teds’. This scene, I contend, illustrates an important reason why the teddy boy style disappeared, it became too synonymous with hooliganism (an equation which was largely, although not wholly, the consequence of the press’s attention during the 1950s).
I described the three Bristol lads depicted in this film as ‘teds’ in citation marks, because they are not expressly termed as such in the film except ambiguously in this particularly scene. However, if you were to look for teds in the early 1960s, in pre-Beatles times, they were dressed like these lads and not like the Edwardian and classic teds of the 1953–58 period. Look at Roy Williams, well-known ted dj of 1970s London, as a teenager in Aberystwyth in 1959. He was then described as a ted but he’s certainly not wearing a drape.
There is another scene in which two of the lads (Bill has now left them, disgruntled) dance with a girl (Angela Douglas) and another nerdy bespectacled bloke in the church hall where they rehearse together as a rock group. They do a kind of Shadows-like dance routine in the instrumental break of the song ‘some people’ which is a delight to anyone who likes winklepickers (L-to-R: Johnnie, Bert, Angela Douglas, bespectacled bloke).
See ‘Some People’ trailer at 01:33–01:38 for the winklepicker extravaganza.
One of the high visual points of the film is the lingering shot of young lad at bus station (see ‘Valerie Mountain – some people – end credits’ on YouTube for a bad quality version < www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVuwljxIEIo >). He’s unnamed, uncredited and doesn’t say a word but his shy eyeing up of girls is so well acted. I wonder who he was.
That scene was supposed to remind viewers of the opening scene and earlier scenes in the film when Johnnie, Bert and other lads are at the station doing exactly the same thing, eyeing the girls, with the implication that Johnnie has now found his way but the following generation goes on repeating the same scenario and is need of ‘redemption’.
Another scene of interest is one where Bert and Bill jive with each other in a church where Johnnie is playing a frenetic boogie.
Their jiving is definitely more rock’n’rolly than the dancing shown at the ballroom where although quiffs are ubiquitous the dancing is of the early sixties ballroom variety to Petula Clark’s orchestral version of ‘too late’. The version by Valerie Mountain and the Eagles recorded (but mimed by Angela Douglas on film) ‘too late’ is much better, Shadows style rock’n’roll, and the other songs by the same local Bristol group, ‘some people’, ‘yes, you did’ and their twangy instrumental ‘Bristol Express’ are good.
There’s a good review of the film, released on video in 2013, by Anthony Nield entitled ‘People like us: Some People reappraised’ in Quietus at < http://thequietus.com/articles/11484-some-people-john-eldridge-review >.
Some people (no pun intended) may want to restrict the term teddy boys / teds to a particular style which was debased after 1955. I think it is true to say that the term evolved during the 1950s and adapted itself to different styles adopted by male rock’n’roll fans, so that in the 1960s as in the 1970s teds commonly referred to individuals dressed in jeans and black leather jackets or other American styles as much as the original Edwardian long drape. The teds who fought the punks on the Kings Road in 1977 were not all be-draped as this picture clearly shows.
Part 4 More on tail-end teds
The three protagonists of ‘Some People’ as well as other characters fleetingly on that film seen give a good idea of the tail-end ted look; you may not think it was as elegant as the apparel of an Edwardian or a classic ted, but was a good practical look that has much to be commended as one the styles of British rock’n’rollers.
The film was written by John Eldridge, who began his career in film as a director of documentaries, and there is a naturalism to Some People’s representation of youth.
Anthony Nield. 2013. ‘People like us: Some People reappraised’. In Quietus at <>.
British cinema during the early 60s was going through a transitional phase thanks to the input and influence of the ‘Free Cinema’ movement and the theatre’s ‘Angry Young Men’. Whereas representations of youth in 1952 could be summed up by the scaremongering juvenile delinquent pic Cosh Boy (the first homegrown ‘X’-certificate movie), by 1962 more sympathetic portraits had begun to emerge. This was the time of Tom Courtenay’s Borstal boy in The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner and Rita Tushingham’s pregnant teen in A Taste of Honey, characters who have since become figureheads of the British New Wave. The production company behind Some People, Vic Films, was heavily involved in this period, funding John Schlesinger’s A Kind of Loving and Billy Liar among others, and that seems to have had an effect. The cast is made up of mostly unknowns, the juvenile delinquents at its centre are treated with sensitivity and the entire production was filmed on location, in this case in a Bristol complete with authentic regional accents.
To be fair, the trio of lads who make up Some People’s main characters aren’t really delinquents. They’re at an age where they chain smoke but have yet to take a real interest in booze. Their passion is for their motorbikes, though that particular pleasure is denied them following a bit of tom-foolery under the Clifton Suspension Bridge. (Just one of the many refreshing location choices at a time when the British film industry was split almost solely between London and grim portrayals of the North.) Thus the boredom sets in, and the petty behaviour, or at least until Kenneth More’s benign cardiganned choirmaster offers them a potential outlet: the use of the church hall as a place where they can bang out a few tunes, one of them being more than proficient on the piano and all three owning guitars. Such a description potentially gives the whiff of some ‘let’s put on a show’ musical (especially with the presence of kindly Kenneth More), but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The gang aren’t working towards putting on a gig or cutting a single; they’re just hanging out and killing a bit of time. Indeed, Some People is at its best when it simply hangs out with them: a single-take stroll around a shopping centre than sounds entirely ad-libbed; a quiet chat down the pub between father and son.
Had the film been made two years later it would likely have been very different. Some People pre-dates Beatlemania and A Hard Day’s Night and therefore comes from a time when the British pop movie was of a quainter, quieter variety. Whereas the US instigated the trend with Rock Around the Clock in 1956, our first foray into big screen rock ‘n’ roll had come with The Tommy Steele Story the following year. Shortly afterwards we had the likes of Rock You Sinners, The Golden Disc and a spin-off movie from the BBC’s The 6.5 Special, but if you had a few hits under your belt and were hoping to make the transition into cinemas then you tended to get lightweight comedy musicals. Adam Faith, for example, made What a Whopper, a farcical Loch Ness Monster tale co-starring Sid James and Spike Milligan. Billy Fury and Helen Shapiro, meanwhile, acted for a very young Michael Winner in Play It Cool. The energy and invention that typified A Hard Day’s Night simply didn’t seem like a possibility.
Of course, the music was much quainter too. The kids in Some People seem to be channelling The Shadows more than the most, right down to the fancy footwork. (The title song, incidentally, would be covered by former Shadow Jet Harris shortly after the film’s release.) In reality it was Bristol-based band the Eagles providing the tunes with the help of Valerie Mountain on vocals, another Bristolian thus adding to that authenticity. She’s lip-synched by Angela Douglas, though the rest of the onscreen band had musical credentials. Lead actor Ray Brooks, who plays Johnnie, learned to play guitar whilst a teenage redcoat at Butlins and was very almost signed by Andrew Loog Oldham. Drummer Frankie Dymon Jr, who would later venture into political activism, later recorded a Black Power-influenced album entitled Let It Out: Poems In Words And Music. (The character’s ethnicity is pleasingly uncommented on throughout.) And David Hemmings, playing Bert, had first found fame as a child opera star for Benjamin Britten. He would also make an LP with the Byrds in 1967 by the name of David Hemmings Happens. By that point he was one of the decade’s fully-fledged stars thanks to his appearance in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup. In fact, seeing the baby-faced Hemmings in Some People only goes to show how far off this all was. As said, the film comes from a different era – it feels as though it’s on the cusp of something and that makes for fascinating viewing.
Furthermore, it’s probably safe to say that Some People itself is the real recipient of the airbrush. The film has gradually slipped into obscurity since its initial release, barely cropping up on television (the most recent was on satellite channel Bravo during the mid-90s) and never appearing on VHS or DVD.
In part, this is likely to down to the unassuming nature. Some People refuses to try as hard as some of its contemporaries in presenting a more ordinary walk of life on screen. There’s no fuss to be made about the characters it’s portraying or the times they live in. As such the details are allowed to breathe: Anneke Wills wearing her jeans in the bath so as to get them sufficiently tight; Angela Douglas at work in a cigarette factory; the biker fashions and the cheeky, knowing dialogue. The decade would arguably produce more authentic portraits of British youth as the years progressed (John Fletcher’s all-improvised 1966 short Paddy’s in the Carsey and Barney Platts-Mills’ Bronco Bullfrog stand out in that crowd), though nothing quite compares from this very particular period. In fact, that may very well be the other reason for its obscurity. Some People resides in a limbo somewhere between the teenage years as documented in Colin MacInnes’ Absolute Beginners (first published in 1959) and the over-exposed ‘Swinging’ sixties as defined by Time magazine in 1966. Its era has yet to become a source of fascination or nostalgia – it’s either too early or too late for that – but then that only makes it all the more intriguing and ripe for reappraisal.
For vehicles, see < http://www.imcdb.org/movie_56509-Some-People.html >
POSTED January 2015.