Recently the scooter scene and - more specifically - the skinhead and mod scene has been brilliantly documented in the film ‘This is England’ and it’s subsequent TV series. This scene is now widely thought of as being a historic aspect of British youth culture, but it’s still very much progressive and active. Thousands attend many Scooter rallies round the country all year round. There’s incredible fun to be had at these events, along with a tangible air of trust and camaraderie. Above all there’s passion and loyalty. I can remember it all spilling over one summer…
I was playing in a band. I’d first turned up to meet the lads, (after they’d contacted me via an ad I’d placed in a local record shop) on my immaculate Red Lambretta GP200 with my Guitar strapped to my back. Turned out they all had Scooters too. So I got the job before playing a note. After a few days playing together we were dynamite. Songs, talent, skill, confidence, and a charismatic singer that turned the girls to jelly. Two guitars, bass and drums were all the tools we needed. We were a gang, in the way the best British bands often are (think The Specials, The Clash, The Stone Roses). We would rehearse thrice a week in the back room of a run-down pub. The landlord was a mate; he gave us the room for free (most of us were on the dole) providing we played there every Sunday night and let him get up and sing ‘Brown Sugar’ now and then.
We had a manager, in as much that he was our biggest fan and was keen to help, and he told everyone he knew. Known as ‘Foggy’ he was an ex-marine six-foot-four brick-sh*thouse kick boxer who traded scooters and organised scooter rallies. He’d lend us his van to get ourselves and our gear around and line us up with well paid, well attended gigs at his events. Our only brief was to ‘Keep ‘em dancing’ so we learned up few classics, old and modern, to play in between our own stuff. These rallies were a blast, made up of scooterists from different nodes in the timeline.
There were the original Mods: they’d pledged allegiance to Steve Marriot in the 60s and were not letting it go. As they got more portly, they had bigger suits tailored. Then there were the younger Mods: inducted in the 80s, they would be in their Fred Perry’s and ‘In-the-City-era-Weller’ black and white winklepickers. The Original ‘69’ Skins: these were the Trojan Records-worshiping Skinheads, aspiring to the rudeboys of Jamaica, their uniform being Docs, Levi’s and bomber jackets. Then there was the latest wave of mods: Gallagher-esque hair, jackets and swaggers, new but retro Adidas trainers.
Unfortunately, as with many gatherings it seems, there was the nasty minority faction, in this scene it was the Nazi-Skins, the ones who had high-jacked the ‘69’ Skinhead look wholesale and manipulated it into something intimidating (This is why, to this day, the original Skins describe themselves employing the ‘69’ prefix, the simple way to differentiate their pure unifying spirit from the Bully-boys.) These were the only ones unwelcome, but for obvious reasons, managed to slip through.
When the few spoilers got sussed, normally due to someone spotting a tell-tale tattoo or overhearing less than acceptable opinions, they would be shown the door. At that year’s Easter weekend rally, this action produced devastating consequences. Four meatheads were calmly seen out of a ‘do’ in Scarborough. Angry and pissed, they took it out on someone. They chose a lad called ‘Icky’ (Iqbal), a lovely lad, an 80s Mod of Asian decent, and an old school friend of our manager Foggy. They knew that their violence would make their point, especially to the ones who’d twigged them, and soon word of their actions would get back and disrupt the good vibe of the weekend. They succeeded; these ar**holes gave Icky a proper shoeing as he walked his Modette down to the venue in his Tonic suit. After that the poor lad refused to attend any more events. Scared and heartbroken.
The following August Bank Holiday we were booked to play a rally in a small beach town in Wales. Foggy reserved all of the bedrooms and the function room in the largest hotel and advertised the gathering in magazines. We were the headline act, having been given the collective ‘Mod-Nod’ since our Easter performance. The Wales weekend was bedlam. The whole town was taken over by scooterists with every chalet and B&B full. Locals weaved in amongst the revellers, welcomed in appreciation for their hospitality. There was a great buzz. Cheers went up every time another scooter club rumbled into the hotel car park after their journey, the biggest noise being made for the ones furthest travelled.
On the Saturday night the ballroom of the hotel was rammed full of giddy scooter boys and girls wizzing round in their sharp threads, the now not-so-small Faces passing the baton to the younger Glory Boys. Our band was revved and ready to go as we took the stage at about ten. It was all arms and legs as soon as we hit the opening chords of ‘Substitute’ and for the next hour it was manic. I played most of the set with a bloody nose - ruining my favourite shirt - after bashing it with my guitar during a death defying leap from the drum riser. After an hour we’d played everything we knew. But they weren’t finished dancing yet, so we just played them all again. Faster. Louder.
When we finally got off the stage we burst out of the emergency exit, into the alley at the side of the venue to cool down. Between the crates of empty bottles were three dazed and bloody Skinheads and Foggy calmly panning a fourth. Turned out these were the ‘orribles who’d done Acky over. Someone recognised them and had let Foggy know. As we had been playing Foggy had been clocking them, every time one went to the gents he’d single-handedly led them outside, where he’d expressed his loyalty for his mate. Merciless revenge, executed in a (slightly) less brutal fashion than Richard from the excellent British film ‘Dead Man’s Shoes.’
We left him to it and went back inside, put on fresh shirts, and went into the ballroom to enjoy the rest of the night.
I went to get a round in. “Babysham or pork scratchings is all we’ve got left until my mate arrives with a van-full of booze in about half an hour Butty” laughed the bar keeper, in his beautiful Welsh brogue. The bar had been drank dry. The van did arrive after a couple of Babyshams and the party continued until the sun came up.
Icky made his return at the next ‘do’. The Fascist Four didn’t.