Scooter tales: Mally Lamb, the ‘60s mod
Mally Lamb was first seduced by the style – the sharp, tailor-made fits, shirt and tie, desert boots, and US military parkas.
Then there was the music of the Small Faces and The Kinks and, in fact, the Italian Lambrettas and Vespas that outlined the very British mod subculture that started within the late Nineteen Fifties however took maintain within the ‘60s.
He purchased his first Lambretta, an Li150, in 1965 on the not strictly authorized age of 15, and threw himself right into a motion that prioritised fashion and sartorial magnificence over the grease and horsepower of their motorcycle-riding nemesis, the rockers.
“I’d all the time preferred garments – that was the principle factor to begin with,” he says, chatting in his self-built residence on the sting of Norwich. “It began in London, and grew across the fashions in Carnaby Avenue, and it filtered out to the remainder of the nation. I keep in mind a gaggle of us going to Burtons to get measured up for our first fits on a Saturday morning.
“It price us £5 for a three-piece swimsuit. It was some huge cash for younger lads then, and we needed to pay for it weekly, nevertheless it was beautiful.
‘We regarded sharp’
“The rockers simply had a greasy leather-based jacket, and the mods might pull the women higher as a result of we regarded sharp with good fits, and even bowler hats.
“You didn’t should go to a nightclub, you’d simply wait exterior on the scooter, and if any ladies got here out they’d simply hop on the again and away you go, no crash hat, which was harmful, actually.
“One in all my mates, Tony Dye, regarded precisely like Steve Marriott (Small Faces lead singer) – it was unbelievable – and naturally all the women had been after him.”
To maintain the rain off, preserve them heat, and defend their costly garments from their oily scooters, the mods wore loose-fitting US army parkas sourced cheaply from military surplus shops.
“I had an M-1951, however a mate of mine had an earlier M-1948, which might be price some huge cash now,” says Mally. “The 48 had totally different toggles and on the left sleeve there was slightly pocket for the American army to place their cigarettes.”
The pockets had been extra seemingly for use by the mods for storing ‘blues’ and ‘black bombers’, part-amphetamines usually prescribed as slimming capsules and known as uppers that allowed them to maintain partying over a protracted Financial institution Vacation weekend.
“No-one ever smoked any dope, it was all the time tablets,” says Mally. “Individuals used to place a tablet in a Coca Cola, it will sizzle up and also you’d down it. They had been fairly arduous to pay money for spherical right here although.”
Whether or not or not they performed an element within the clashes between mods and rockers in Brighton over the infamous Whitsun weekend of June 1964, a legislation was shortly handed banning possession and not using a prescription.
Skirmishes with rockers
Away from London and the south coast, Mally and his mates had their very own skirmishes with rockers, the 2 tribes gathering exterior their very own cafes, bars and ballrooms in Norwich.
“We had Bedfords bar, however we weren’t sufficiently old to go in, and there have been the Purdy’s cafe boys, who had been so much older than us, and a gaggle who would hang around on the Gala ballroom,” he remembers. “The rockers had been on the Three Cs, they had been the grebos, as I known as them; Quantity Ten reverse the practice station; and the Buttery – they had been the ton-up boys.
“In ‘67 I believed ‘proper, we’ll all go all the way down to the Three Cs’. We received in there first, us mods, a number of of us. I’ve by no means seen so many motorbikes flip up – they kicked us out ultimately however they didn’t give us a hiding. We by no means went down there once more although!”
By then, Mally had purchased a Lambretta Li150 Silver Particular, on which he handed his bike take a look at and owned by to 1969, the final knockings of the mod tradition.
He would often fall foul of lurking rockers whereas using across the metropolis, although he admits he wasn’t fully innocent.
“I keep in mind selecting a lady up one night time and, going residence, the rockers had been exterior a restaurant. I gave them the chicken as I rode previous, didn’t I?” he smiles. “I received to the highest of the hill, and that was it, they had been on me. I stated ‘give me a hiding if you would like, however depart the woman alone’. They kicked the scooter over, gave me kicking and I ended up in hospital.
“It was a Friday night time, and I used to be meant to work Saturday, however I couldn’t as a result of I had two cracked ribs.
“One other time, our scooters had been parked up and a bunch of rockers on this huge outdated Vauxhall got here not far away. They’d a scaffold pole out of the window making an attempt to knock the scooters over.”
Although the Vespas and Lambrettas had been considerably slower than the rockers’ BSAs, Triumphs and Nortons, typically they received away.
“They used to hold about exterior the fish store on the ring highway, and look ahead to us as we went previous,” he says. “One time, we gave them the chicken however they by no means caught us as a result of we used the quick cuts and gave them the slip.”
Scooters on the seaside
Similar to within the metropolis, the 2 teams had their very own areas both finish of Nice Yarmouth seafront when all roads result in the east coast on summer time weekends.
“They had been down the fairground finish and we had been up close to the Tower ballroom,” he says. “As soon as, we went all the way down to them, there have been extra of us, and these two rockers received on the massive wheel, and so they wouldn’t get off as a result of we had been there ready for them. Finally, the outdated invoice received us and moved us on.
“You’d simply have operating battles, all a load of garbage actually, trying again. We had been simply totally different tribes, that was all. I keep in mind a load of us going to Yarmouth one afternoon on a Sunday, and this biker had some type of stick and was making an attempt to push us off as we rode alongside, and we had been making an attempt to kick him off.”
There have been additionally journeys to Clacton, Cromer, and Hemsby – not organised rallies, simply impromptu runs to the coast.
“We’d meet at Metropolis Corridor at 10am and set off someplace,” he says. “Once we went to Clacton, across the time of the World Cup in June 1966, we met some boys on the roundabout close to Colchester and rode on.
“We didn’t know one another, however we simply received collectively, which is sweet. It gave us a way of belonging, similar to with Jimmy in Quadrophenia. You felt you had been a part of one thing.”
Within the house of 12 months from June 1966 to 1967, the Small Faces and The Kinks each performed at Earlham Park in Norwich, and Mally and his mates had been there, parking their scooters exterior and revelling in seeing their heroes up shut.
However similar to not all motorcyclists had been rockers, not all who rode scooters had been mods – there have been scooter golf equipment devoted to operating so-called gymkhanas, together with time trials, navigation rallies, treasure hunts, and even scooter jousting.
“The one jousting we did was with the rockers,” laughs Mally. “From about 1969, skinheads had been using scooters too, like my older brother, after which scooter girls and boys.”
By 1969, the mod tradition because it had developed all through the last decade was all however over, and Mally swapped his scooter for a Mini, received married and had kids.
“I did have an SX200 for some time after I received the Mini, however we had been all getting older and it died out with everybody getting girlfriends and getting married,” he says. “I nonetheless had the good garments and the parka, nevertheless it was throughout actually.”
A builder by commerce, Mally spent a lot of the mod revival interval of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s working in Germany and Belgium, as tradesmen fled recession-hit Britain to earn good cash overseas.
Fuelled by Quadrophenia and Paul Weller’s The Jam, the mod revival was an additional evolution of the unique mod scene, the music a fusion of ‘60s R&B and mod bands with the vitality and verve of punk.
Parkas had been nonetheless seen on the scooter rallies of the ‘80s, however there was an equal variety of US air force-style inexperienced bomber jackets, with pale denims or Sta-Prest trousers and Fred Perry polo shirts taking up from Italian-style fits and shirt and tie, with a liberal sprinkling of Doc Martens changing desert boots.
“They didn’t costume the identical method – they didn’t put on fits, they had been extra informal, and quite a lot of them had been scooter boys fairly than mods,” he says. “I by no means wore a pair of denims, at the least not after I used to be 10 or 11 possibly, by no means wore trainers, and by no means wore a t-shirt.
“My youngest boy says to me ‘dad, if you die I’m going to place you in a pair of denims.’ I stated ‘no you gained’t!’”
Though Mally beloved the music of Blur and Oasis within the mid ‘90s, the subsequent mini mod revival – with Weller once more a figurehead – didn’t transfer him to purchase one other scooter.
It wasn’t till the web was gathering steam that he began searching for one other Lambretta, aided and abetted by his daughter Sarah, who informed him “why don’t you get one? It’s best to get one”.
He purchased a GP, on which he by no means felt fairly proper.
“I didn’t actually swimsuit it as a result of mods by no means had GPs as a result of it didn’t come till ‘68 or ‘69, so you’d by no means have gotten a GP modded up again within the day,” he says. “I by no means felt comfy with it, being a mod. Scooterists journey GPs.”
An electrical begin NSU Prima 150 (“nicely constructed, however too sluggish”), was joined by a 1979 GP200 TS1, each of which sit simply inside Mally’s entrance door on a specially-made tiled space – with stills from Quadrophenia, together with one signed by Phil Daniels (Jimmy) and Leslie Ash (Steph), lining the steps wall.
Uncommon Lambretta ridgeback
The scooter he rides repeatedly right now, and featured in our images, is an early and uncommon 1959 Lambretta TV175 ridgeback purchased about 10 years in the past and beforehand owned by famend scooter guru Disco Dez.
“It’s one of many rarest scooters, as a result of once they upgraded the TV from the 150 to the 175 they came upon the body wasn’t robust sufficient, so that they needed to ship it again to Innocenti in Italy to be strengthened,” he says, the manufacturing facility including a welded ridge down either side of the body tube, which was later dropped once they discovered a extra everlasting answer.
“It was in good nick aside from the underside of the facet panels, which had rusted, so I had that performed and I’ve added a lot to it since – you wouldn’t consider what it’s price me.”
Mally’s additions embrace unique Jag and Miller lights, the Lambretta “performed out like it will have been within the ‘60s”.
Now 72, he stays an energetic a part of the scooter scene, becoming a member of up with youthful (although largely not that younger) devotees on runs to the coast similar to he did all these years in the past, and attending scooter and bike meets at Whitwell Station in north Norfolk and Two Wheel Tuesdays on the Ox & Plough in Outdated Buckenham.
“It’s all organized over Fb lately,” he says, “and a gaggle of us simply go for rides out. The difficulty is, all of them need to journey quicker than me.
“We went to Hemsby, and I couldn’t sustain with them. After they had been prepared to depart, I needed to depart 1 / 4 of an hour earlier than them, however they nonetheless caught me up.
“I solely do about 40-45mph, however they need me to go in entrance in case I break down and so they may help me. I stated ‘if I break down it doesn’t matter, I’m within the AA’, however no, they persist in following me, after which they moan at me.
“I say ‘will you be doing that if you’re 72?’. A few of them gained’t be alive how they journey!”
Nonetheless a mod – however totally different
Mally might not put on the uniform of a 60s mod – gone are the slim-fit fits and parka – however he stays impeccably turned out, right now sporting the garb of an eccentric English gentleman.
There’s the second world war-style ‘pinks’ trousers, brilliant pink waistcoat, bow tie, and bowler hat, multi-coloured Oxford brogues, and an Inverness woollen cape.
To cap it off, there’s an identical deer-stalker fashion Everoak cork helmet, which is authorized regardless of attracting the eye of police every now and then.
“That is what a mod appears to be like like in 2023,” he smiles. “I get a good quantity of feedback, however I’m simply totally different, and I believe that’s how mods had been once they first appeared – totally different.”
On the centre of all of it had been the scooters, low cost to purchase (on the time), straightforward to customize with mirrors, lights and paintwork, and as fashionable because the mods’ clothes and haircuts.
To Mally and tens of 1000’s like him, they represented freedom, insurrection, and a brand new lifestyle.
Pictures by Simon Finlay.
Scooter tales is a collection of articles exploring the lives and experiences of several types of scooter riders and collectors. Extra tales will likely be added within the coming months. Click on on the class hyperlink under to learn extra.