Well-known author and our good friend Pete Wilky introduces his new book written by himself and John Hellier, ‘I’m The Face – The Official Peter Meaden Story’.
On the 29th of July 1978, at the age of 37, Peter Meaden died in his bedroom at his parent’s house in Edmonton … this was only 40 days before the legendary drummer Keith Moon died, whilst Moon was the Face of Mod, Meaden was one of the original architects of the whole British Mod scene, along with his cohorts Guy Stevens and Andrew Loog Oldham they almost single-handedly changed the face of British fashion and music forever.
Meaden was a well-known Face around Soho, especially at The Scene club in Ham Yard and also in Carnaby Street as it was fast becoming the Mecca for all things Mod back in the early 1960’s. After John Stephen opened ‘His’ clothing boutique there in 1958 other boutiques like I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet, Lord John, Merc, Mary Quant and numerous other boutiques opened which became hugely popular with the young hip and trendy young bands like The Who, Small Faces and the Rolling Stones. Carnaby Street was the most famous street in the world and Meaden had seen its growth from almost day one.
After spotting a young band calling themselves The Who playing at The Railway Hotel, owned and ran by Richard Barnes, Meaden became friends with Pete Townshend and took control of the band as an assistant manager/publicist, he set about reinventing their image and their name, so at his suggestion they became The High Numbers (albeit very briefly) … the band were incredibly talented, tight and troublesome and that appealed to Meaden, he was a bit of a rebel himself and like most Mods back then was dabbling with the prescription drug Drynamil, more commonly known as Purple Hearts, which was an amphetamine-based drug which kept people awake and full of energy, just what was needed to dance the early-hours away in some underground basement-club … young sweaty, though impeccably dressed, hedonistic hipsters would be getting their groove on to all the previously unheard Rhythm and Blues, Soul, Motown, Blue Beat, Modern Jazz and Ska tunes which were being imported from the States. Americana had taken a tight grip on Britain following their inclusion in the Second World War. Kids were sipping Pepsi through a straw, smoking cigarettes at jaunty angles in the mouth, turning their collars up and combing their hair back like Jimmy Dean or Buddy Holly and Elvis during the 1950’s but during the early 1960’s the Ivy League look from North-Eastern America was all the rage in the UK thanks to movie-stars such as Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and James Dean. The look was smart, sharp and a huge fashion statement … it was a transformation of British style that Meaden would later refer to as ‘clean living under difficult circumstances’ which was reference to the working-class kids going to work in their usual threadbare, ragged clothing but at weekends they would look and feel ‘a million dollars’ in their smart Mod threads.
Something else that was key to the Mod’s fashion ideology back in the sixties was iconography in the form of British Pop Art and especially that of Peter Blake, so lots of five-pointed stars, arrows, circles and of course the adoption of the RAF roundel ‘target’, which was first popularised by a sweater that Keith Moon was photographed in soon after Meaden took control of the band.
Meaden knew his music, he knew his clothing and he knew his intentions for the, until then, rather fragmented ‘scene’ so he set about creating something which would encompass everything related to the burgeoning phenomenon which was sweeping the whole country by 1963. This is what he tried to do in his presentation of The High Numbers but he was soon ousted from his managers job by two wealthier, more ambitious guys called Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp … down maybe but certainly not out Meaden soon took control of another band who had come over from the States, Jimmy James and the Vagabonds and he enjoyed more commercial success with them than he had with The High Numbers. Meaden later went on to manage acts such as Arrows, The Steve Gibbons Band and others. Meaden was an advisor during the filming of the cult-classic movie Quadrophenia thanks to Pete Townshend’s and Bill Curbishley’s belief and support of Meaden.
So … that’s the background on Peter Meaden but his whole story is incredibly interesting and entertaining, though sadly until myself and John Hellier (at John’s request I hasten to add) decided to write this book had been untold and almost forgotten.
We were very fortunate to get some very high-profile people involved as well as some of Peter’s closest friends … the book opens with two forewords, the first is from Pete Townshend who saw Meaden as an early mentor, and the second is from Andrew Loog Oldham, the original manager of The Rolling Stones and business-partner of Meaden’s at their publicity company Image. We have further contributions from Richard Barnes, ‘Dougal’ Butler (Keith Moon’s assistant), the legendary Mod Irish Jack (whom the character of Jimmy Cooper in Quadrophenia is loosely-based around), Jimmy James, Iain Sinclair, Mickey Tenner, Alan Merrill, Bill Curbishley, John Emery and Peter’s brother Gerald Meaden. The memories, views and accounts of all these noteable people really add to this books appeal and we would suggest all serious followers of the Mod movement get themselves a copy because this is the very origins of their ‘way of life’ [which incidentally was a line Meaden used in a very early 1960’s magazine/press interview] … almost 300 pages of pure Mod magic and a story that every Mod should know. The book is receiving some great plaudits from some very credible people … which is a very befitting tribute to a very special guy.
Thanks for reading,
The book can be bought from the following links:
The book is also available for download from the following links: