1980s scooter nostalgia & entertainment | FEATURE
It struck me recently how different rally entertainment was in the 80s and how some of it would shock the current generation so I hunted down some old flyers and tickets to help my flagging memory and set off for a trip down memory lane.
For the first couple of years that I went on rallies we didn’t even go to a do. This was mainly due to the fact that we weren’t old enough to drink legally and were only earning around £40 a week so couldn’t afford much more than a bottle of Woodpecker, a patch and a Northern Soul record.
The first do I can remember was at Newark 1984, which was held at the county showground and featured a large building on the site where they put on bands and DJs. My main memory is the male streaker (who was rumoured to be Welsh) and the wet t-shirt competition. In these post-Harvey-Weinstein times, it’s actually quite shocking that girls were enlisted to stand on stage and have water thrown at them for men to ogle and they would usually end up topless! It’s even more shocking that they did it willingly, to try and win twenty quid! It was definitely different times…
Lunchtime do – quids in
Although bands sometimes performed on campsites, in most seaside towns there would be a venue which, because of the licensing hours, would host a ‘lunchtime do’ and an evening do. I loved the lunchtime dos! They cost 50p or £1 to get in and were open from midday until 3 or 4 pm, when you were chucked out onto the street to amuse yourself until the evening when the pubs would reopen again. I remember these happening at Great Yarmouth, Margate, Morecambe and Redcar, to name just a few.
Stuck in a Groove
There were record dealers at the do too, I remember on one occasion trying to sing a Northern Soul track to Pete (Groove Records), the main dealer who was always at the rallies. He sold me a series of 7” singles and each time I’d get home I would stick it on the record player and find that it wasn’t the one I actually wanted. So I had to sing it again to him at the next rally to try and get this elusive track. It was great business for him, but didn’t say much for my vocal talents!
DISC ’85-86 – a stab in the dark
The DISC rallies in 1985 and 1986 had a great music line-up, including the Meteors (the only time I saw them in the 80s) and Bad Manners (who I’ve seen countless times but they never fail to put on a brilliant show). The entertainment was interrupted by the stabbing incident in ‘85 which was during a period of unrest amongst scooterists and other hangers-on who had little interest in scooters but just came to see the bands.
I remember the DJ playing Picture Me Gone for the poor guy involved, who had requested it as he was being whisked away in the ambulance.
There’s a man after my own heart – not letting a seriously violent incident get in the way of a record request!
Gassing down south
The one night I’d love to relive is Margate in (I think) 1986. It was the year that we got CS gassed in a pub on the seafront (ed, that narrows it down, every year Margate got gassed), and what’s spooky is that my now-husband was in that pub too, so I’d love to be hypnotised to see if I could recall seeing him there, if that’s even possible.
We were all evacuated, choking, and it was a horrible experience. But that night was memorable too because it’s probably the only time that a band I saw only once made such an impression on me. Colonel Kilgore’s Vietnamese Formation Surf Team were from the Bristol area and they all dressed in US Army style uniforms, had fireworks, female backing singers and put on an amazing show.
It was a mixture of surf/punk/psychobilly and I loved them so much I literally bought the t-shirt. And the album! It’s nowhere to be found these days, although I did manage to digitise it from a crackly record player so I do have the songs on MP3 somewhere. Such a brilliant night… To get some idea of what they were like I found this video on YouTube but, like most things from the mid-80s, it doesn’t quite capture the atmosphere – you had to be there really!
The VFM alternative
In the mid-80s our lot used to go to the smaller VFM dos more than the official NRC ones. I remember Exmouth particularly, badgering Lowie to play some Cramps or whatever. We also went to a Nick Jolly do at the Ponda Rosa at the Isle of Wight, which was quite close to Smallbrook, although seemed a long way when you were stumbling down a dark country lane, drunk, on the way back! Maybe that was a VFM one too, I’m not too sure.
The late, great Edwin Starr
The Isle of Wight campsite entertainment was legendary. Who can forget Edwin Starr? His iconic status amongst scooterists started then, and he was a firm rally favourite into the 2000s.
We missed King Kurt in 1985 as there had been torrential rain overnight on the Friday. Our tent was flooded and we spent all night standing up in the ladies toilets. On the Saturday morning, we packed up and went home, too depressed to stay in our soaked clothes. The irony is that as soon as our ferry docked in Portsmouth the sun came out and it ended up being a glorious bank holiday weekend! I consoled myself with watching Pompey beat Carlisle 4-0 and vowed to get a better tent for the next rally.
When the trouble got really bad and NSRA (National Scooter Rider’s Association) membership cards were introduced we couldn’t get into dos without one. The 80s ended with us having to get NSRA ID cards every year, they had to be shown just to get in a do.
The rallies were kept secret as well and you’d only find out where they were by getting a newsletter a couple of weeks before the rally, there was no booking up every B&B in town a year in advance back then. Have a look at the flyers in the gallery at the end from Margate 1990 and Exmouth.
Time of our lives?
They were great days though. Life was simple back then, there were no mobile phones to keep in touch with people. No social media to obsess over, no 24-hour TV, no Google to tell us the answer to everything, no shops open on a Sunday and no reality TV! It wasn’t all perfect though – we could all smoke just about anywhere, which we did, and really stunk of fag smoke as a result. The best thing about modern life is going to the pub and not needing to wash all your clothes afterwards…
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