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, after all, 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 class over the grease and horsepower of their motorcycle-riding nemesis, the rockers.
“I’d at all times favored garments – that was the primary factor to start out with,” he says, chatting in his self-built dwelling on the sting of Norwich. “It began in London, and grew across the fashions in Carnaby Road, and it filtered out to the remainder of the nation. I bear in mind a bunch 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, but it surely was pretty.
‘We appeared sharp’
“The rockers simply had a greasy leather-based jacket, and the mods might pull the ladies higher as a result of we appeared sharp with good fits, and even bowler hats.
“You didn’t should go to a nightclub, you’d simply wait outdoors on the scooter, and if any women got here out they’d simply hop on the again and away you go, no crash hat, which was harmful, actually.
“One among my mates, Tony Dye, appeared precisely like Steve Marriott (Small Faces lead singer) – it was unbelievable – and naturally all the ladies have been after him.”
To maintain the rain off, hold them heat, and defend their costly garments from their oily scooters, the mods wore loose-fitting US navy 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 completely different toggles and on the left sleeve there was a bit pocket for the American navy to place their cigarettes.”
The pockets have been extra doubtless for use by the mods for storing ‘blues’ and ‘black bombers’, part-amphetamines usually prescribed as weight loss supplements 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 at all times drugs,” says Mally. “Folks used to place a capsule in a Coca Cola, it might sizzle up and also you’d down it. They have 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 regulation was rapidly handed banning possession with no 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 outdoors 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 have been rather a lot older than us, and a bunch who would hang around on the Gala ballroom,” he remembers. “The rockers have been on the Three Cs, they have been the grebos, as I known as them; Quantity Ten reverse the prepare station; and the Buttery – they have been the ton-up boys.
“In ‘67 I assumed ‘proper, we’ll all go all the way down to the Three Cs’. We bought 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 check 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 completely innocent.
“I bear in mind selecting a woman up one evening and, going dwelling, the rockers have been outdoors a restaurant. I gave them the fowl as I rode previous, didn’t I?” he smiles. “I bought to the highest of the hill, and that was it, they have been on me. I mentioned ‘give me a hiding in order for you, however depart the lady alone’. They kicked the scooter over, gave me kicking and I ended up in hospital.
“It was a Friday evening, 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 have been parked up and a bunch of rockers on this huge outdated Vauxhall got here not far away. That they had a scaffold pole out of the window attempting to knock the scooters over.”
Regardless that the Vespas and Lambrettas have been considerably slower than the rockers’ BSAs, Triumphs and Nortons, typically they bought away.
“They used to hold about outdoors the fish store on the ring street, and watch for us as we went previous,” he says. “One time, we gave them the fowl 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
Identical 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 have been down the fairground finish and we have 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 bought on the massive wheel, and so they wouldn’t get off as a result of we have been there ready for them. Finally, the outdated invoice bought us and moved us on.
“You’d simply have operating battles, all a load of garbage actually, trying again. We have been simply completely different tribes, that was all. I bear in mind a load of us going to Yarmouth one afternoon on a Sunday, and this biker had some kind of stick and was attempting to push us off as we rode alongside, and we have been attempting 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 bought collectively, which is good. It gave us a way of belonging, identical to with Jimmy in Quadrophenia. You felt you have 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 have been there, parking their scooters outdoors and revelling in seeing their heroes up shut.
However identical to not all motorcyclists have been rockers, not all who rode scooters have been mods – there have been scooter golf equipment devoted to operating so-called gymkhanas, including 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 have 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, bought married and had kids.
“I did have an SX200 for some time after I bought the Mini, however we have 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, but it surely 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 extra 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 have 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 gown the identical method – they didn’t put on fits, they have been extra informal, and quite a lot of them have been scooter boys reasonably than mods,” he says. “I by no means wore a pair of denims, no less than 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, while you die I’m going to place you in a pair of denims.’ I mentioned ‘no you gained’t!’”
Though Mally cherished the music of Blur and Oasis within the mid ‘90s, the following 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 on the lookout for one other Lambretta, aided and abetted by his daughter Sarah, who advised him “why don’t you get one? You need 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’ll by no means have gotten a GP modded up again within the day,” he says. “I by no means felt snug with it, being a mod. Scooterists journey GPs.”
An electrical begin NSU Prima 150 (“nicely constructed, however too gradual”), 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 frequently at this time, 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 unit including a welded ridge down either side of the body tube, which was later dropped once they discovered a extra everlasting resolution.
“It was in good nick other than the underside of the aspect panels, which had rusted, so I had that executed and I’ve added lots to it since – you wouldn’t consider what it’s price me.”
Mally’s additions embody unique Jag and Miller lights, the Lambretta “executed out like it might have been within the ‘60s”.
Now 72, he stays an lively a part of the scooter scene, becoming a member of up with youthful (although principally not that younger) devotees on runs to the coast identical 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 nowadays,” he says, “and a bunch 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. Once they have been prepared to go away, 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 will help me. I mentioned ‘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 while you’re 72?’. A few of them gained’t be alive how they journey!”
Nonetheless a mod – however completely different
Mally might now not put on the uniform of a 60s mod – gone are the slim-fit fits and parka – however he stays impeccably turned out, at this time sporting the garb of an eccentric English gentleman.
There’s the second world war-style ‘pinks’ trousers, shiny crimson 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 from time to time.
“That is what a mod seems like in 2023,” he smiles. “I get a good quantity of feedback, however I’m simply completely different, and I feel that’s how mods have been once they first appeared – completely different.”
On the centre of all of it have been the scooters, low cost to purchase (on the time), simple to customize with mirrors, lights and paintwork, and as trendy because the mods’ clothes and haircuts.
To Mally and tens of 1000’s like him, they represented freedom, riot, and a brand new lifestyle.
Pictures by Simon Finlay.
Scooter tales is a sequence of articles exploring the lives and experiences of various kinds of scooter riders and collectors. Extra tales shall be added within the coming months. Click on on the class hyperlink beneath to learn extra.