QUEEN, 26 August 1964,
Tickets And Other Labels by polly toynbee (consultant to Radio's The Teen Scene)
Lord Parker, the Lord Chief Justice, remarked the other day that it wasn't the young men who were responsible for the current teenage malaise but the young women. Right or wrong (and we happen to think he was right), the young women of today seem to fall into several distinct and restless groups. Superficial, resentful, slavish, uncomplicated, pretentious, respectful, whatever. They may be more self-conscious than their parents but no more complicated.
Shelagh is 16. Her father owns a newsagent's shop and she is a telephonist at £8 a week. She says "A smart girl is a mod girl". Her clothes come from Bazaar and the 21 Shop and she buys her shoes at Elliott's. She wears her hair Cilla-Black-style. All her friends are school friends. They have, or say they have, a definate routine for every day of the week. Saturdays they go to parties. Sundays they stay at home. Monday dinner-hour they go to the Lyceum in the Strand, a combined Mod and Beat dance hall, but quite different from the jazz clubs. Tuesdays and Wednesdays they are at films and Thursdays they go "up West" to shop, as the big stores stay open late. Friday night is casual night, when they go round the clubs, usually in the West End, like The Marquee in Wardour Street, and The Scene and The Flamingo. Mod girls are trying to break away but underneath there is still the old conservatism of 300-years-back issues of women's magazines. Not only are they conforming to their own rigid conventions but to the trite opinions of their parents. "My mother would kill me if I was seen with a nigger." "I'd never sleep with a bloke - well, it would be disgracing myself, and we aren't slags like the Tickets and Rockers." Respectability and reputation are more important than anything. Shelagh's reason was, "It would give you a shocking name, and you'd be called a tart." This is why pop music is important. It is the symbol of the difference between the two generations, much needed when the difference is so frighteningly superficial. "We don't care about politics. But we went on the Easter march - well, who wants to be blown to bits by bombs?" Shelagh's friends are more tolerant than some mods, "we don't mind rockers, we just don't associate with them".
Marleen is 17 and works in the canteen of a large factory for £9 a week. Her father is a house-painter. Her ambition is to be rich. She would like to be infilms, for the money, not for the fame or the glamour. Unlike Shelagh, she despises her parents and says she is rude to them although she is frightened of her father. "I hated school, and I don't see anyone who was at school with me. I meet my friends through work. I wouldn't go round with a bloke that didn't have a motor-bike, I'm not a Rocker for nothing." The word "Rocker" comes from a part of a motor-bike. Marleen is genuinely tough; tough enough not to mind what people say about her. She is not as opinionated as Shelagh and is far more relaxed in taking things as they come. "Wogs are alright. They're good blokes. I don't know about politics but I'm in a union - just to get good wages." She doesn't do much in the weekkdays but quite often she goes out of London with friends on motor-bikes at weekends. "We can't use the Ace Of Spades any more, the Press-men have moved in." When the Press-men move into a mod place, the Mods wait around to get their pictures taken. Sometimes Marleen goes to the Hammersmith Palais, and she often goes to Battersea Park. She meets her friends at the coffee stall at Chelsea Bridge. "I went to a youth club once. There was just ping-pong tables and a vicar, so we didn't go again." "When I was at school we had to do this Duke of Edinburgh scheme, hking and knitting and that. They don't even give you anything for it." Rockers are much toughr and despise the Mods as soft. They have no class pretensions and this is another reason why they despise the sedate propriety of the Mods.
Prue is a Ticket. She is 15 and has just left school, and so have her friends. She wears her hair very short and American-style cycle-shirts printed with slogans and the signs of the zodiac. Of course Prue doesn't say she is a Ticket, but both Shelagh and Marleen would claim that she is. In fact Tickets are a type of sub-mod, imitating the Mods but always three months behind. They are known for being conned by every con-man and advertiser in the business as their only concern is to be "with it" - and they are never quite sure what that involves. The Tickets are in the clubs like The Bedsitter in Notting Hill Gate, but they spend most of their time in coffee bars or, still worse, Wimpey bars. Some of them have even descended to the Bingo halls. It was the Tickets who were on the recieving end of the Purple Heart scandal as they did not back out in time before the Press moved in. They were being peddled drugs at two shillings each, most of which can be bought at chemists without prescriptions. Tickets watch television, which no Mod would ever admit to. Ready, Steady, Go! is a ticket show, although it has to call itself Mod to get an audience. Prue liked school, and she left only because she wanted money. her ambition is to get on to Ready, Steady, Go! as a dancer, but she admits that all she really wants to do is to get married. She takes Valentine and Romeo every week and sometimes reads Honey. Her friends do not have scooters or motor-bikes, so they were not at Brighton or Margate at Whitsun, although Shelagh and everyone who was there says that nothing happened and the whole incident was simply a Press invention.
Tara is 18 and went to a grammar school but left before her A levels. her parents disapprove of her strongly, but she goes home fairly often. Her father is an accountant. There are not very many real Beat girls. They move around the country like the girl in Billy Liar. They are intellectuals who have moved "way out". The Mods categorise them as individualists and shout "Beatnik" at anyone in a long jersey and jeans. Tara gets kicks out of being an "outcast of society" but does not admit it. She calls herself an individualist. Some of them, or most of them, write poetry and think of themselves as some kind of unspecified artist. They are very concerned about their psychology, and develop and talk about as many conflicting complexes with as many traumatic origins as they can think of. But they are genuine and not at all pseudo. They have their own way of speaking, which is direct and uncomplicated. What seems like an affectation in being permanently depressed and down is mostly quite real. Some of them move on to being junkies. Beats are more or less classless and this is very important. Not only are they classless but timeless. Tara is not the product of this or any other society. Like the existentialists she does not belong to any particular era. What they have in common is intelligence. They live in a world of unreality, and poetry and jazz are tied up with this. They hardly ever work, but survive by living with people for a bit and then moving on, staying with friends all over the place, getting meals where they can. They are more envied than enviable as most of them do not have the happy personality that would make their life glamourous.
Alicia is 18, a fairly intellectual girl with Beat pretesions. She has been to a fashionable school where she was slightly to the left of her friends. Her father is on the Stock Exchange, and she claims to despise him for furthering capitalism. Her mother was a ballet dancer but gave that up early in her life. Pseuds admire Beats in the same way that Tickets want to be Mods. Alicia reads Beat poetry, but it does not occur to her that some of it, or most of it, is bad. The poetry she reads she buys from the Beats who peddle it on the big jazz clubs, full of Pseuds. She has not quite got on to Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti or Jackson, but she admires and quotes Yevtushenko. Her ambition is to live in Ibiza and to write like Muriel Spark. She is trying to make a start in jounalism where she will no doubt be successful. She likes to be negative and then she uses C. P. Snow. Frances is a Pseud as well. She is at a comprehensive school and works very hard. She spends all her money on going to plays because everyone is talking about them. She only reads so that she can talk about the books. Frances takes The Guardian and The Telegraph but reads the Express so that she can shout about Beaverbrookism to her friends at school, or to her parents. She tries very hard not to care what she looks like. She is a fanatic atheist, and is adamant in all her trite opinions. She loves school as this is probably the only place she will ever be where she will be thought exciting and eccentric. her teachers think her dashing and the embodiment of the idealism of youth which admits no compromise and shouts about the scepticism of age.
Caroline is 17 and was at the same school as Alicia and thinks her quite amusing and very cranky. Her friends are people who have come out the same year as she. She had already made friends with them before she came out. She had considered going to University as her sister was at Girton but she would now prefer to be in Paris for a year instead. In fact, she will probably do nothing. As far as she knows she is happy and secure. She believes in more or less what her parents do, and does not see the point of being any different. Her life presents very few problems for her. Caroline is uncritical of people and generally "nice". But Nanny is always saying what a horrid child she was. She is fairly straightforward with absoloutely set opinions, some of which are exactly the same as Shelagh's. The main difference between Shelagh and Caroline is that education has given Caroline a wider range of subjects to cover with trite opinions. Clothes are an important topic of conversation but not as important as "people". For the coutry girls, which a lot of the are, the general topics are the tennis club, swimming parties, hunting and the hunt balls. Books and education are neccesary for conversation, but otherwise of little interest. Caroline sometimes makes an effort to appear liberal but this depends very much on who she is speaking to. She was fond of school and liked most of the people there, although she only knew a few of them well. Caroline has just been thrown out into a hige machine called "The Season" which will do it's best to find her a suitable husband and a proper set of friends, on whom she can rely for the rest of her life.
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