I thought it was about time I featured a scootergirl in the My First Rally series, and what better person to start with than one of my very best friends and someone I’ve known for well over 30 years, Jo Jackson. I can remember meeting Jo when she started going out with a friend of mine, and she was a like-minded girl from ‘up north’ in deepest Surrey. Luckily our friendship lasted longer than her relationship with my mate, and we hung out on many rallies and dos. We shared hair dye tips when I went through my ultra violet phase, and messed about with flour at King Kurt gigs. She started Alcoholic Rats SC, of which I was an honourary member which meant a lot as there weren’t many all-girl clubs.
Jo went on to marry Duaine from Midhurst Detours SC and they have two boys who are now all grown up. Although she’s less of a rally regular these days, Jo is a stalwart of the psychobilly scene, organising the gig guide and enjoying the music and friendships in that world. There’s a lot of crossover though, and I’m sure many of my readers will recognise her, whether from the early days in the 1980s or at a more recent Guana Batz gig!
Now it’s time for Jo to cast her mind back to the early 80s, to her early scootering life and first rally!
Jo Jackson – My First Rally
How did you first get into scooters?
Mod was pretty big back in the last couple of years at school. Discovering chart mod bands led us all to delve deeper and find the original mod music of the 60s – bands like The Kinks, Small Faces, and a whole wealth of soul and Motown. We went to lots of discos that were playing this type of music and got to become friends with other mods locally.
Aside from the music, I loved the fashion too and would scour jumble sales and charity shops for outsize dresses to make my own clothes and go up to Carnaby Street and Kensington Market to buy original 60s clothes and the obligatory parka – a must for any school-age mod! As was watching Quadrophenia over and over again! Like the stars of the film, there were lots of mods a year or two older than us who rode scooters, and you would see them everywhere and it became a dream to own one too.
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As our year group approached 16, the lucky few started to ride themselves. I’d become good friends with a group of lads from Cove, near where I lived in Camberley, and one by one we all got our first 50cc scooters. I worked many part-time jobs doing cleaning, shop work and even a couple of paper rounds to be able to afford to buy mine. I think it cost around £500. Getting a scooter was the natural progression into something that would become “a way of life”.
What was your first scooter rally?
My first rally was the Brighton mod rally in 1984. I think it was on the May bank holiday. I would rather have gone to Newark as The Truth were playing there but I was doing my rider course as part of my motorcycle test training and had to be home early on the Sunday morning. Brighton, being closer to home, was the only option.
What did you ride?
I had a PK 80 which seemed such a waste of time once I’d bought it. I crashed my previous 50cc scooter a few times and I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to handle anything more powerful. Yes I know it seems quite laughable now, and it was an expensive mistake.
I rode there with Paul and Tony from the Switchbax and Danny from the A30 Deserters. It was around 70 miles from home.
What job were you doing at the time?
I was at college training to be a hairdresser so didn’t have masses of money. As I had worked so hard previously to save up for my scooter my parents helped me out by giving me my child allowance as they still received it due to me being in full-time education. I was starting to do friends’ hair too so earned a few quid from that.
How much did you spend at the rally?
It would certainly have been under £25. My first full time wage was only £33! You didn’t need much money back then though. Beer was 80p a pint, you could fill your tank up for £2 and dos and gigs only cost a couple of quid, and only 50p for a lunchtime do!
Where did you stay when you were there?
I don’t remember sleeping, but I’m sure someone had a tent though! Everything was in one place on the seafront site.
Were you in a club at the time?
I was kinda in between A30 Deserters and Switchbax before setting up our own all-girl scooter club – the Alcoholic Rats. We all rode and hung out together. My Cove friends had joined Farnborough club The Vigilantes.
Maggot, from King Kurt designed the Alcoholic Rats patch after I met them at Junction 13 member Emmett Borcik’s 18th birthday party. I did a sketch of a stick man and Maggot transformed it into a fantastic, original design for our club t-shirts.
Do you have any memories of the rally itself?
I can’t remember much about the rally at all or whether we were even there for one day or two. My memories are only of the journey home. As we left the site in the very early hours of Sunday morning, we were chased by gangs of skinheads wielding baseball bats. It was scary as hell and like I say I only had 80cc of power. I managed to get away from them but also got split up from my fellow riders, and back then there were no mobile phones. I must’ve hidden out for a bit then after a while I decided the safest thing to do was to go back to the seafront campsite.
I met up with some of the Reading Rabble who took me under their wing and said I could ride back with them in the morning. I don’t think I made it to my rider course after all! I do remember having to ring my mum from the phone box to say I wasn’t coming home after all, and I omitted the bit about being chased by skinheads til I got home though!
Do you remember what your favourite rally anthem of that period was? What type of music were you into?
My musical tastes progressed as I went to more gigs and events and found that the scooter scene offered such a diverse range of music genres. I still liked mod and northern, had a fondness for two-tone and ska but was starting to get into garage and psychobilly.
Doing a Top 5 would be easier but if I have to chose just one I will go for Last Night by The Mar-Keys as that’s been there as a favourite of mine no matter what era of scootering I think of.
Here are the Mar-Keys playing the track live in 1967, and I love the footage as it’s like many rally classics where you have never seen the original artists playing it. I’m curious what others shout out in the middle, as I know a few scooterboys who sing ‘glory hallelujah to the (insert club name)’ in the brief break!
What was your favourite custom scooter of that era?
The main ones were Revenge and Mytho Poeikon. I also liked Exile and Little Rascal too.
Do you still have a scooter now?
Not any more. I met my husband at a rally in the 80s and, after a while, we concentrated more on live music rather than rallies. We met back up with our fellow Midhurst Detours quite by chance at a ska gig in Pompey in the early 2000s and after getting such a buzz riding Stacey’s scooter at Camber, I bought another one three days later. It was a PX200 and we did a few rallies on it over a couple of years, but our lives had changed considerably since the 80s.
The biggest issue was that I couldn’t fit my two kids, a dog and a full shop from Asda on it! As a mum, I also became concerned about the safety of two wheels. I was no longer that invincible teenager who would happily ride hundreds of miles without a care in the world. It wasn’t the “way of life” that it had been in the 1980s. Plus, as we had young children and limited babysitting opportunities, we couldn’t go to rallies AND gigs so made the choice to get rid of it and just stick with gigging.
What do scooters mean to you now?
To be honest they just represent a link to my past now. I still follow what goes on and have lots of scooter friends and it still interests me, but my scooter riding days are long gone. Scootering has given me some great times, memories, friends and a husband. I will always be grateful to the scene.
Music is, and always has been, my biggest passion. I run the UK Psychobilly Gig Guide and band pages for King Kurt, Guana Batz, Epileptic Hillbillys and a Stomping at the Klub Foot tribute page.
I also run a lifestyle website that covers travel, recipes, reviews, upcycling, interviews and more music related features. You can join me for that at Tea And Cake For The Soul.
Thank you Jo, for sharing these great stories, and the fantastic photos from that era.
If you’d like to read more from my First Rally series, here are the other scooterists I’ve featured
With Christmas fast approaching, here are some ideas for the scooter lover in your life!
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