Tony Beesley, one of the faces!

Tony Beesley is a author whose background and love of the British Subcultures has seen him produce one of the finest published pieces of work regarding the "Mod Scene" with his book "Sawdust Ceasers".

With its title coined from the infamous description of young Mods up in front of the Judge after disturbances in Margate in 1964, the book is a first hand account from people who were there and details the scene from its origins until the present day.

Lovingly compiled, and packed full of pictures that provide an amazing document of a scene that keeps reinventing itself, Sawdust Ceasers is in Mercs opinion a must have for anyone with more than a passing interest in the Mod Subculture. 
Described by Paul Weller himself as a "great piece of work" it covers the whole spectrum of this Culture and quite simply represents "essential Modernism across the decades"
Whereas most books represent a one sided view of the authors opinion, Tony has with Sawdust Caesers created a collection of opinions and views via first hand accounts and personal experiences of being a Mod. 
The book also collects together images and photographs from the personal collection of the contributors that provide the reader with images of a time gone by, the way we were and in many cases still are. 
Merc was delighted to spend a bit of time with Tony to find out a little bit more about him, his writing and his involvement with the British Subcultures.
A way of life.

Tell us about Tony Beesley?

I am a self-published author and owner of ‘Days like Tomorrow Books’. I have a massive passion for music and all the relative pop culture that goes along with itmost of all the early punk period of the 70’s and the sixties and beyond Mod culture. Following the loss of my day job in 2015, I decided to go full-time with my writing and publishing, which had actually started in 2008 publishing six books so far. I also write free-lance for magazines such as Vive Le Rock, but I have written features for magazines such as ‘All Mod Icon’ and ‘My Kind of Town’. I also contribute, when asked to, other writer’s books such as ‘Thick as Thieves: personal Situations with The Jam’ etc.

What first attracted you to the Mod Subculture? 

I wasn’t really aware of Mod as such in my younger daysduring the 70’s, though my older brother was a bit of a Mocker as Ringo Starr once said, attending Sheffield’s Mojo and Esquire clubs etc. I was a huge fan of The Jam from the summer of 1977 and soon became completely galvanised and obsessed with the punk and the new wave explosion. Though, initially, too young to be active on the gig front like some of my older mates, I set about buying as many of the records as I could, often cheap a few months after release. This was followed by the instinctive creativity I felt as a result of the punk influence. I did a makeshift and very rudimentary 2-3 copies fanzine called ‘Clash’ for example. From these crude attempts at pro-active creative self-expression, grew a life-long yearning to express myself via words - first lyrics, fanzines and theodd record review - then later the full time writing itself. Punk, for me, was a completely different interpretation than the fashion and nihilistic vision many embraced. It was more a naïve suburban poor kid’s burning desire to be noticed and step out of the conformity of the northern working class background I was brought up in … and much more besides of course.

Tony backstage with the Legendary frontman from The Clash, Joe Strummer ! 

Tony Beesley in Joe Strummer's "White Riot" shirt.

Back to the Mod thing: it was actually my older brother who saw me wearing a combination of Mohair sweater, Jam shoes, short and unruly cropped Modish hair and a pair of slightly too-flared trousers, to which he told me ‘If you wanna look like a Mod, ditch the flare on the trousers.’ This would be around Spring 1978. I obviously knew of the Mod influence on The Jam, but to be honest I considered it all a part of the punk revolution, not a sixties style at all, crazy as that sounds now. I was 13 after all and a lot yet to learn! I had already bought the maxi-single by The Who ‘Substitute’ in 1976, again not really piecing the Mod connection together but this comment from my brother along with talk of Mods in the NME and Sounds becoming more regular, especially during the following year (and the notion that Mods were a sixties thing too)stuck with me and later on, I would investigate deeper.

Away from the numbers, Tony Beesley.

How did it impact on your life?

Good question. It’s more an ongoing and constantly evolving influence. To begin with, and this would be around the time of the post-punk period of the early 80’s, it was the typical influences of Black American music of the classic Mod era combined with the typical Mod attire (admittedly rather rudimentary and ill-informed to begin with). Later, it became more of an understated influence, sort of less is more. I lovedthe minimalism, the subtle addition of small details that can make an impact when applied just right. 

Mod, in my opinion, should always be continually evolving and adapting in order to survive and I mean that in a positive way, not as an avocation of the cheap ‘n’ nasty styles some may consider Mod. I suppose Mod’s profound influence is something deep inside me, it’s not a phase or a competition, I honestly really have little choice as it’s so ingrained. It continues to be a guiding source of positive influence, as much about attitude and how we perceive style as it is about a particular look.

Cheers ! 

What does "Mod" mean to you? 

I always consider Mod to be a personal interpretation, we all have our own preferences and how we relate to it all, be it music, clothes or across any other medium. For me, it’s about good taste with an attention to the fine details in all that we absorb and enjoy, filtering into every aspect of our perceptions. Visually it has to be clean, considered and well-presented. Ultimately, the strongest related influence for me is music, something that will always be a hugely important part of my life and is constantly changing … also greatly informing my writing style and ideas for design etc..

Sawdust Caesars 

Your book "Sawdust Caesars" is a lovingly put together collection of first-hand accounts from within the Mod culture, what prompted you to compile this? 

Just about all of my books seem to happen almost by chance. There’s rarely a decided choice of what I am going to create and write about. It’s always an instinctive development. With ‘Sawdust Caesars: original Mod Voices’ (the title by the way was directly inspired by the 1964 sentencing of Mods by the Margate Magistrate in 1964, which I used as a juxtaposition kind of way to measure against – all of which is clearly explained within the final pages of the book), I felt it historically important to document the voices of Mod themselves across the decades. I also took a slightly different stance in that I covered less celebrated areas of Mod, region-wise and subject matter in order to expand the knowledge of the bigger picture. I feel that, along with the handful of other well-created Mod history books, we are now starting to see positive and wide-ranging document of Mod history for future generations to read, enjoy and learn from. These are books containing the real voices of Mods, non-judgmental and not deliberately over-academic in approach, told largely by the people who were and (often) are still a part of it. These accounts are not assumptions based on media reportage of the time; these are distinct and authentic first-hand memories and accounts.

Andy Crofts from The Moons (and Paul Weller's Keyboardist) knows the score ! 

How did you go about collecting and compiling the stories and tales that make up the book

It was a huge task. Scores of interviews, phone calls, essays submitted, questionnaires sent out, contacts, visits, meetings and endless months of research. Thank God for the internet and social media to a large degree, a huge positive in tracking people down and a source of communication that saves so much valuable time.

Sawdust Caesars documents the story of Mod from its origins in the late 1950s to the present day, what's your personal favourite era

Without question, my greatest fondness is for the early formative days when the original Modernists were being replaced by the early 60’s Mods. The music of that period has always been a huge source of influence and inspiration, specifically record labels such as UK Sue, Pye International, Chess, Stateside, Blue Beat and others.

On a personal level of Mod involvement - during the 80’s I thoroughly enjoyed my days performing (as songwriter and rhythm guitarist) in Mod band The Way and playing to the local Mods. Those days were amongst the very best in my life.

The Way, Tony 2nd from the right

There are some amazing photographs that go with the publication, is there a stand out one that sums up "Mod" in your eyes

It has to be a twin appreciation and love of the front and back cover photographs: the cool minimalist Steve McQueenstyle of Steve Austin on the front cover and the charming beauty and female Mod personified look of Gill Evans on the rear. In both cases, as soon as I set eyes upon the photos I knew that they were absolutely perfect for the book cover images. I can vividly remember seeing the one of Gill and almost immediately tracking her down, the day after I was conducting a 3 hour interview by phone and she was really friendly accommodating and soon became a good friend of mine.

Gill Evans then !

Gill Evans now ! 

What's next for Tony Beesley

Next up is the follow-up book to ‘Sawdust Caesars: original Mod Voices’ titled ‘Mojo Talkin’- under the Influence of Mod’, which, as the title suggests, digs even deeper into the many areas of Mod influences over the years. Again including an amazing collective of people involved alongside new untouched relative subject matters such as Mod on Film, Mod Literature, the DJ’s influence, Politics within Mod, the 80’s Soul acts, European Mods, new voices from the sixties and beyond and much more. There is also a couple of large sections on Mod girls, lots more sixties voices (including the return of the lovely Gill Evans who speaks about her early influences etc.) plus a follow-up to the Mod Girls section in ‘Sawdust Caesars’ which captures a superb selection of 1980’s individuals. Again it’s going to be a large sized hard back book.

Coming soon 

How do you see today's Mod culture?

There are some amazing people on the present day Mod scene, so many I have great respect for and of whom some are good friends. I consider it to be healthy as a whole, especially the younger generation who bring an whole new air of cool to the equation, much in the spirit of Mod as a youth culture. All of these, and others, have their own relevant place in helping keep the spirit of Mod alive and sometimes inadvertently pushing it along into pastures anew. Again, no matter what the preferences and choices are, it’s all about good taste and a passion for the subject.

Dig the new Breed. 

There is presently an HALF PRICE SPECIAL OFFER for signed copies of ‘Sawdust Caesars: original Mod Voices’ at the webstore/author-signed books

which is the official website where all of my in-print books can be purchased signed by myself.

Pre-orders for ‘Mojo Talkin’ – Under the Influence of Mod’ will soon be available.

The books are also available at and can be ordered from most good book shops.

Sharp as!

Words by Richie Kyle