Brighton – My Generation

May 1964: People try to put us down – talkin’ ‘bout my generation!

Each generation has its own ideas, its own thoughts, its own hang-ups and doubts. Each generation believes its ideas are new and unique, each generation is sure that the thoughts it is having are new thoughts never considered before. Each generation is entirely sure that its worries are completely the fault of those that have gone before.

And then there is music.

Everyone knows that the music of their youth is the greatest music that ever existed and no amount of parents saying ‘You call that music!’ will ever change that.

But there was one generation for whom, perhaps, we can say that the music, the ideas and worries they had were unique. That generation was the one that came of age in Britain in 1964. For that was the year of ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ ‘Dancing In The Streets’ and ‘You Really Got Me.’

Jimmy knew all about music, or so he thought, and anything he didn’t now, his friend Leslie would surely know.

Jimmy was 19 and had left school the year before. He was young, bright, and had a lip, as his mum would say. He couldn’t help it. Everywhere he went he was frustrated by the old-timers clinging onto to power, having jobs just because they always did not because they deserved them, and telling him they knew better when it was clear they had no idea at all what they were talking about.

Jimmy had a friend called Leslie. Leslie’s family had come to the UK from Jamaica before he was born, and some people, despite Leslie being born in Brighton, considered him a foreigner. Some used worse words ‘darky,’ ‘nig-nog,’ ;spade.’ Leslie appeared not to hear those words, let them bounce of them, but Jimmy knew that Leslie hurt inside.

Jimmy and Leslie spent much of their time down the local pub. It was there that they hogged the jukebox and mad sure to play the latest songs they approved of from the Mersey Beat to Tamla Motown. When they weren’t there they were down by the sea, sitting on the beach letting the hours drift by, or perhaps at the Dome watching a new band trying to make it big.

Pretty much every hour they were awake Jimmy and Leslie were together. Some people used to make comments, ‘you’re like a married couple, you two,’ but they took no notice. They were happy with each other and they didn’t really need to consider other people’s views.

‘Leslie, it’s late, see you tomorrow by the pier?’

‘Yeah, around two. Alright?’

It was a bank holiday weekend, early May. The weather was the usual mix of wind and hints of sun. Jimmy decided he could wear his tailored suit, but he definitely needed his coat.

As he was walking to meet Leslie, he realised there were far more people around than usual. It seemed that the whole of London had made it down to the south coast, and not just the mods like Jimmy and Leslie, but the rockers as well.

‘This isn’t going to end well,’ he thought to himself.

Leslie arrived a few minutes after Jimmy.

‘How’s it going Leslie?’‘Not too good, I had to make a run for it from a bunch of rockers, they didn’t like how I looked.’


‘Yeah, anyway, let’s get out of here.’

The two of them started to make their away along the promenade. They were thinking of making for a coffee bar they knew just of the James Street, but as they were about to make the right turn onto Charlotte Street they saw a large group of rockers coming their way.

The sensible thing would have been to turn round and gone back the way they had gone as quickly as possible, but by the time they had realised this, it was too late and they were surrounded.

‘Well, look at these pretty boys,’ said the red faced one who was obviously the leader of the gang.‘Where do you think you’re going?’

‘Just looking for a coffee.’

‘A coffee? Why don’t you have a man’s drink?’

Neither Jimmy nor Leslie answered. It wasn’t that they didn’t have stronger drinks sometimes, it just didn’t seem like a question that was asking for an answer.

‘I suppose this nig-nog has at least got something he can share he can share with us. We haven’t come all this way just to drink coffee like you two poofters.’

‘He’s no nig-nog. He’s called Leslie. If you must talk to him, use his name.’

‘Who are you to tell me how I should talk to people? If I want to call him a nig-nog and you his little poofter friend, that’s up to me. Now tell me. Have you got anything for us, my little black cousin?’

‘Like what?’

‘Come on, we all know what you boys like to smoke.’

‘I don’t do that kind of thing. I haven’t got anything. Search me if you like.’

The rockers decided they would search the pair of them. When they had searched all the pockets of Jimmy and Leslie and found nothing they were angry and frustrated. That’s when the first punch landed.

‘Just a little warm-up hit before the big fight later.’

Then more punches, and kicks, and before anyone had even thought about it a knife as drawn.

The sharp blade entered Leslie so smoothly that he didn’t take in what had happened. But then he saw the red blade make the same path into Jimmy. He looked down and saw the blood soaking through his jacket. He tried to fight back, to get u and protect Jimmy, but the sky started to fade away in front of him, and he fell, his head hitting hard on the concrete.


He heard Jimmy scream. And then silence. Nothing.

Brighton – May 2003

For most of the kids at school the bank holiday was something to look forward to, but not for Julie. Normally she loved a day off school, but Monday was the day when it was supposed to happen – that’s what all the messages had said.

They had started a few months ago. When it was just one unkind message on her timeline she could ignore it. But since then it had grown, from once a month to several times a day. And the messages were everywhere – on Facebook, Twitter, on her phone. Yes, her phone, too. How had they got the number? She’d changed it, and they still knew.

She’d deleted her Twitter and Facebook account, but that had only made it worse. Now not only did she not know what people were saying about her – she’d always be the last person to know, after everyone – like really everyone – at school knew – but she was also now even abused for not being cool enough to be there.

And always the comments were the same. There were three themes: she was fat, she was ugly, she was a lesbian, because no man would have a girls who was fat and ugly, and so it would go, endlessly.

Only lately had they changed. Now they had gone from the abusive to the threat of violence. She should look out. They were going to get her. Their patience had run out.

When her mum asked Julie to go out to the shops on Monday to get some milk she’s tried to resist.

‘But mum, do I have to?’

Sometimes this whining worked, her mum would rather do the job herself than listen to her teacher daughter moan about it. But this time her mum was insistent.

‘You haven’t left the house the whole weekend, the least you can do is spend five minutes popping out to the shops.’

She couldn’t really argue. To argue would have involved telling her mum why she didn’t want to leave the house, and she really didn’t want to have to explain everything to her. Her mum was a bit old-fashioned, would she understand about her and who she was? 

Julie had been walking along Charlotte Street for about five minutes when she was sure she heard steps behind her. She sped up a little, and so did the steps. She wanted to run, but she was no good at running. And she didn’t want them to know she was that scared. She wanted to look round and see who was there, but someone she thought that if she could just keep looking ahead perhaps they would go away.

That’s when she felt an arm go round her neck and grab her, locked, defenceless.

‘I’ve got you now,’ snarled a voice she wasn’t sure she knew.

She was scared. How could she defend herself?

‘You’ll be no use to any man or woman when I’m finished. Now come with me.’

The man, she could tell it was a man, just wasn’t sure which. Was it Graham from the Chemistry class? Don from History? Was it one of the boys from the sixth form whose names she was never quite sure of?

Whoever it was dragging her into a side alley. When he got her there he started the attack, Fast, brutal.

Julie gave herself up to the pain. It was what she had been waiting for.

But just when she thought she was done for she saw the shadow of two men come from nowhere. The two men took on her attacker, they had him against the wall.

‘Look at you – pathetic – taking on a girl. Don’t you have anyone your own size to pick on,’ said the tall black one.

‘If we see you anywhere near this girl again, we’ll have you. Understand?’

But he was too scared to answer.

Julie had to go to hospital. Her mum was worried sick, but after a few stitches and a few days of a mother’s love she was fine.

Julie explained what had happened and why.‘It was them two, wasn’t it?’ her mum said.‘Them two? Who? What are you talking about mum,’ asked Julie.

‘Jimmy and Leslie. No-one talks about them anymore, but back in the sixties it was a big story. I never really knew them, but I’d seen them, heard of them. In those days everyone was a Mod or a Rocker, you had to choose: Gene Vincent or the Who. They were Mods. And they were Black and White and that wasn’t really the thing then, Black and white mixing. And some people said they were, well you know.’‘You mean like me mum?’

‘Yes. Well, May Bank Holiday back then it was a riot everywhere, people, fighting all over the place. About music, can you believe it? And somehow those two got in the middle of it down Charlotte Street. They were beaten up, knifed, bled to death on the pavement.

But they’ve been back since, looking after folks like them.’


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