This month I can present to you dear Readers something I believe I can say is unique. The culture of the British Teddy Boy is not one that is associated with works of art. But in Moscow another first has been achieved.
Ever since the 1950s, when many working class teenagers in the UK became Teddy Boys and thus helped to invent the first ever culture devoted to Youth, the cult of the Teddy Boy has been associated generally with loud clothes, loud music, and rebellious behaviour. In the 1950s in particular Teds were branded in the media as public enemy number one, responsible (it was claimed) for gang fights, violence and anti-social behaviour generally. In the 1970s, during the Teddy Boy Revival, they were known in addition for their rivalry and antipathy to Punks and the punk movement. Aah, takes me back to my Ted days in the 70s and two anecdotes circulating at that time that I still remember: “What’s the difference between a punk and the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz ? The scarecrow is better dressed.” “The great thing about a punk festival is that after a nuclear attack it looks exactly the same as before.”
As a lifelong Ted myself, I can testify the above stereotype does not quite do justice to the Ted culture. For one thing, Teds have always had their codes of honour, even when it came to physical aggression. And for sheer style you cannot beat that Ted look: long Edwardian style colourful drape jackets, drainpipe trousers, bolo ties, brothel creeper shoes – the business ! Which leads into what is happening right now in Moscow:
The Russian artist Alexander Chalovsky became fascinated with the British Teddy Boy culture after we met for the first time several years ago in Moscow. Since then he has produced works of art depicting the Ted as a latter day Knight of old, with his fighting codes of honour and colourful dress code. Rather than put on these exhibitions at art galleries, he has chosen to exhibit his Teddy Boy works at rock’n’roll concerts in Moscow. He feels this gives his works a more authentic appeal, instead of in the more sedate confines of an art studio.
This is not only a first for Moscow, but a world first. Never before has an art exhibition been devoted solely to Teds and their culture. In addition, Alexander is very much a modern artist. He is the foremost exponent of the “new romantic” style. Rather than re-create just what he sees, his works are very much an interpretation of what he sees and observes, enlarging and emphasizing the things he considers most important. Have a look at the photos and you’ll see what I mean.
And it’s refreshing to see a well known and renowned artist focus on an aspect of working class culture, as opposed to the so-called “high brow” middle and upper-class ones. Alexander is no stranger to controversy. Over the years he has ruffled some features in the artistic world – in particular with his female nudes and even stronger erotic works !
Back in December 2010, the World’s current number one Teddy Boy band, Furious (from Liverpool, UK) came to Moscow to perform. I was the concert promoter and organiser of the event and am proud that I was able to bring the band to Russia, for the Russian Muscovite audience to see for the first time. Alexander was there to exhibit his works and talk to the band. It was a big moment for both the members of the group and for him to meet each other and exchange information on the Ted culture. One of the photos you can see shows Alex presenting Mark Halligan, lead singer with Furious, with a present (one of his works of art, of course !) at the concert. The other photos you can see are samples of Alexander’s Teddy Boy works of Art.
So, Thankyou to Alex for giving us Teds what we’ve deserved all along – recognition that we’re not just a bunch of juvenile delinquents (or in the case of some of us, aging delinquents !). And hail the Teds – along with other 1950s trailblazers, we were the first real youth culture in history. Dear Mods, Rockers, Punks, Glam Rockers, Skinheads, Heavy Metal freaks, Rappers, Hip Hoppers, etc., if it wasn’t for us you’d never have happened !