Len Deighton's London Dossier, Chapter 1: Teenagers

By Kevin Mills Last edited 25 months ago
Len Deighton's London Dossier, Chapter 1: Teenagers

A look at Len Deighton’s London Dossier, a guide to modern London published during the height of the allegedly swinging 60s.

Photo by Matteo Tessarow in the Londonist Flickr pool

Not much is known about Jane Wilson. From her self-penned biog at the start of the chapter, it seems she was on the staff of a glossy magazine. Possibly Rave, Teenscene or Petticoat. Can't think why none of those is still around.

In this chapter she breathlessly describes the lives and hangouts of London's teens. The largest sub-group by far was the mods. Hippies hadn’t been invented yet, and the only other group she identifies are hitch-hikers, who reside 'at the far end of the Rocker tribe'.

Mods decided which were the in and happening places. They were so cool they didn’t even go to bistros! "They prefer the Golden Egg type of restaurant", writes Jane. They frequented the Marquee in Wardour Street and a place called Tiles, where they grooved along to Steve Derbishire and the Yum Yum Band. Yes they did.

Those crazy mods were at the forefront of fashion, wearing PVC Bermuda shorts one week and Hebridean tweed culottes the next. It seems Carnaby Street was already starting to lose its appeal amongst the mod cognoscenti, however, being too short for the necessary promenading. "Once you’ve been the length in your purple and yellow-striped Mongolian lamb coat - that's it". Once sounds more than enough, you might think.

We learn elsewhere that mods don't drink much, that chromium-bedecked scooters are giving way to vans as the preferred transport mode de jour, that a cool place to hang out at lunchtimes is a Lyons restaurant in Chancery Lane, that signs outside clubs might proclaim 'no girls in trousers' and 'no unusual dress', and that the "biggest beat ballroom of them all" is the Orchid in, wait for it, Purley.

Other instalments

Introduction
Chapter 2: Food
Chapter 3: Drink
Chapter 4: River

Last Updated 22 April 2016

Colin Wren

Wow how things have changed! I don't think the different 'tribes' / 'sub-tribes' / 'post-tribes' of London could even be counted now.