THE BRIGHTON 64 RIOTS
DAVE MIDDLETON'S TRUE LIFE ACCOUNT PART 1.
When writer David Dry approached us with a story about his old pal Dave Middleton who had documented his life as an early mod we were keen to hear more, Dave had basically written 1000's upon 1000's of words on scrap pieces of paper and diaries full of adventures he had with his mates during those hedonistic days of the 60's mod phenomenon before handing them over to David to decipher into something the reader would appreciate. Dave unfortunately passed away recently leaving David the dutiful task of finding people happy to share Dave's accounts and in we stepped happy to take on the baton. Below is a small excerpt of Dave's words edited by Mr Dry for our own enjoyment (David has edited it into a story format). We have had to split the story into two as there is so much of it and we hope you enjoy this part. We can't thank David enough for allowing us to share his friends social history so kick back with a cup of tea and let Dave and David take you back to.....
THE BRIGHTON BANK HOLIDAY RIOTS
On the Mayday Friday afternoon three scooter riding Mods, Dave Doughnut and Horse, set out from Battersea in South London, making their way out to the coast on the Brighton Road, the A23. Middy and Cocker, the two missing from their gang, could not get away from work, so the plan was that they were to come down later on in the day and meet up with the others.
After a good run down they arrived in Brighton just after four o’clock in the afternoon and, even on the Friday, they were passing little groups of Mods parked up on the front, by the side of the road and in lay-bys. There were some waves and a few smiles from those who had arrived earlier, gestures that signalled they were all one.
That Friday that notably quiet to make Horse comment, “There’s not that many Mods about. Perhaps, they’re are not as mad as us lot turning up so soon, but it’s early days yet and we are bound to see morel turning up over the weekend?”
After having a bite to eat, the three of them went for a walk along the promenade, just taking it all in before finally sitting down on the pebble beach. They had been lucky, as they had picked up a bit of good ‘gear’ off one of the Mods they knew on the front.
Now with a pocket full of pills, Horse did not like wandering about in case he got a ‘pull’ by the Old Bill, so he turned back to where they had parked up to hide them on his scooter. From then onwards they killed time playing about on the pier, until it was close to the New Barn Club opening time.
Middy and Cocker had finally rolled up, so all the five scooters and their riders made their way round to Old Tom’s garage, he knew they were coming and that they would be arriving late. They were, in fact, so late that they had to dig him out of his local pub before he could open up to let them ‘get shot’ of their scooters.
Tom’s lock-up was a familiar and safe place to store their scooters, one that would be open over the entire Bank Holiday – handy, as you could retrieve them any time you wanted, as long as it was before eight when the garage would be finally secured for the night.
They had done their small bit of ‘gear’ and were off to the New Barn Club. Dave and Cocker had already ‘pulled’ two birds from Harlow who would be accompanying them and their usual three mates for most of that night and morning until four. The plan was they, on leaving the club, they would head off to a coffee bar, then finishing the remainder of the night sitting on the beach to take in the sun rise. Dave was not the least bothered and in another world with the pills - he was as high as a kite.
The two Harlow girls had been staying in a bed and breakfast in Brighton all the previous week. The girl that Dave was with did have a boyfriend, but as he found her to be OK that did not matter, they got on well, dancing together all night. Dave even gave her his phone number, saying, “You never know just in case?” The girls would be returning home to Harlow on the Saturday, so after a quick goodbye kiss the four of them said their goodbyes. The girls were off to pack their cases before the ten o’clock dead line to vacate their room and to make tracks back to Essex.
While Dave and Cocker were off with the two Harlow girls, Horse was making plans to pick up some more ‘gear’ for the weekend. He had met up with some geezer in the club that was well ‘high’, he was a bit on the chatty side and it seemed that he wanted to tag along with the gang. It was from him that Horse found out where he could be put on to some ‘gear’ to cover the weekend. He had mentioned that his mate had Blues and Bombers, but was the first to admit, this mate was a bit on the ‘funny side’. In fact he was so ‘funny’ that he would not visit the club in case the Old Bill was about. Horse tried to get the geezer from the club to go round to this ‘funny’ mate’s house and pick some up, even offering him the taxi fare there and back, but he refused, point blank.
Horse had been sussing this geezer out, trying to make sure he was not the Old Bill. When Horse was finally happy that he wasn’t, he asked, “Well, what if we meet up with your mate out of town?” to this the chatty man showed a bit more interest, “How much gear do you want?” Horse plucked a figure out of the air, “Ten pounds worth, if he can mate?”
With that the chatty geezer went missing for ten minutes. He returned to speak to Horse, “I’ve given my mate a bell and he can only do Bombers for ten pounds.” Horse was ‘made up’, “Well done mate.” slipping him five bob and thinking this looks good for a bit of ‘gear’.
The chatty geezer then laid out the plan – it was a bit complex. On hearing the full story, Horse thought, “Fucking hell, this is like being in MI5 and, maybe I should wear a red flower in me button hole, or be carrying a violin case?” The plant went like this: Horse was to stand on the pavement outside the entrance to the West Pier at a given time on the Saturday night. When Saturday finally came, Horse was standing at the arranged place at seven. He was on time, but the geezer was ten minutes late, as he was waiting for a car to stop for him to do the business. Horse had ‘clocked’ a blue Mini Cooper with a white top going by on the other side of the road and had noticed the driver looking over at him. Then the Mini slowed down, pulled in and stopped. Then the Mini drove off, going all the way down to the roundabout to come back on itself. As it got near to Horse the Mini pulled in and stopped, the window was wound down and the bloke in the front passenger seat said, “Are you Horse?” Horse confirmed his name. The passenger said one word, “Money”. Horse gave him ten pound notes and, in return, he was given a small bag of Bombers. The passenger said, “All right, mate.” to the driver, who slammed the Mini into first gear and pulled away fast, turning up a side street with a screech and was gone. Horse walked back to find the rest of his gang, they were all together sunning themselves on the beach. Horse divvied out the gear, taking two quid off of each of them. He hid the remainder of the gear under the pebbles of the beach.
Doughnut was still a bit ‘up’ from the night before so, as usual for him, he went down to play in the penny arcades to pass the time. Such was his enthusiasm, he was the first person through the door when the arcade opened. He loved playing on any machine, his luck was always poor and he never seemed to win anything. On a previous occasion, Horse and Middy were stood outside the arcade looking in at Doughnut. For some reason he was standing there playing the Laughing Policeman, putting in a sixpence every time it stopped laughing. Doughnut was laughing along with the machine and, at one point, the Laughing Policeman had stopped for some minutes, but Doughnut was still laughing uncontrollably to himself. The man in charge of the arcade later said to Horse, “Your mate’s good. I could put a box over his head and get a shilling a time for him, if he kept laughing like that,” Horse, Middy, dragged Doughnut away from his arcade obsession, went back up to the promenade to look at the scooters. Doughnut was soon bored with this and leaving Dave and Cocker to talk to some other Mods he went down to the beach, lay down on the pebbles just seemed to fall to sleep in a matter of a minute.
Sometime later Cocker and Dave had caught up with their slumbering mate. Cocker started picking up some small stones to flick at Doughnut, this started to make Dave laugh, as Doughnut still in dreamland, was putting his hands over his face as the stones hit him, mumbling on about something that his mates couldn’t understand. This went on for over a minute, Doughnut finally opened his eyes, looking up and complaining, “The fucking birds are dropping stones on me - tell them to fuck off.” Cocker, always the helpful one, said, “It’s all right we will have a go at them birds for yer.” Doughnut mumbled, “Yeah, tell them off for me, Cocker.” then he fell back and went off back to sleep.
A RIGHT KICKING OFF
Over the weekend it seemed that all the main boys were there in Brighton for the holiday weekend ‘Mile End’, Old Kent Road, Hackney, Highbury, West Ham, Romford and the Junction.
On the Sunday morning the gang had spent time having a quick wash in the toilets under the arches on the front, getting something to eat and then up to Madeira Drive, trying to walk the food off and, once more, looking at the scooters. That morning there were many more arrivals coming in to Brighton from London and joining the others, parking up along the front. The gang would stop now and then, chatting to the incoming Mods, asking what part of London they came from and then moving off again.
Later on all the gang went back to sitting on the beach by the side of Palace Pier. It was not too sunny but at least it was dry, although a bit windy. It was coming up to one o’clock in the afternoon. All was quiet, but for some reason, there were lots of Old Bill about. Sitting on the beach was nice just chatting away to your mates all in little groups talking and doing what Mods do like ‘clocking the birds’ walking along the front, looking them up and down, making cheeky comments to the girls just to see if they were worth a ‘pull’
As the girls walked by Horse would say “Quick, see those two, Doughnut, say to them, ‘I would love to give you a stick of rock at the seaside.’ As two likely girls got near Doughnut, he jumped up, catching the girls’ eyes before repeating Horse’s words. One of the girls looked down at Doughnut, laughed and said, “My boyfriend gave me his stick of rock last night, thank you very much.” At this cheeky comment, all the gang rolled up, as the two cheeky girls walked away still laughing at Doughnut. “Well that tells us we ain't pulling them two, then?” confirmed Horse to Doughnut. Dave was in fits of laughter at Horse and Doughnut’s antics.
Dave looked around, it seemed that there were hundreds of Mods sitting in groups on the beach. Dave thought that was well nice. He was also looking forward to the club that night and getting some more pills down his neck.
As the afternoon rolled on, Horse was taking a note of events unfolding on the front and informed his mates, “I think it’s going to kick off? Look at all the Old Bill - there’ s lots of them about, all over the fucking show, and they are walking about in two’s and three’s.”
More to the point, and Horse had already noticed this, there also seemed to be crowds of Rockers all milling about by the promenade railings and looking down over the beach towards the Mods. The Rockers were not interfering with the Mods, but a few of the Mods were giving them some ‘stick’, shouting abuse up at them with both sides exchanging the ‘wanker sign’ between them.
Dave had to admit he had never seen that many Rockers it also seemed to him that their numbers were growing by the minute. Dave mused that there were more of them than you might be lucky to see at a Brands Hatch motorcycle meeting.
Horse, in the meantime, was keeping Doughnut on his toes by making him look up at the promenade, “See that big Rocker up there, the one with the old peaked cap. He keeps saying, “Tell yer mate,” and pointing to you, “me and him under the pier for a fight” Doughnut looked up, “Bleeding hell, Horse. He would fucking kill me stone dead!” with that Doughnut tried his hardest not look up at the railings, just in case the big rocker was still ‘clocking’ down at him. That was when the boys also started teasing Doughnut, telling him, “You must have upset the entire gang of them Doughnut, as now all of his mates want to have a pop at yer. All the Rockers are pointing down here to yer.” At this Doughnut was pleading with his mates, “Look, don't keep on. I don't want to know what’s going on.” He was still refusing to look up to the railings. More seriously, the large crowd of Rockers began to move slowly along the railings to the top of the concrete slope to the beach. As they made this threatening move the two groups, there were still insults being thrown between the rival groups.
Some of the Mods were savvy enough to work out that trouble was brewing with the Rockers. Those Mods had returned to their scooters that had been parked up on the prom, just to make sure that they were all right. The entire place seemed to buzz with a strange, malevolent atmosphere.
Then it started for real, the Rockers as a unit moved fast, running down the slope, some with their helmets in their hands that they were using as a weapons, swinging them about and hitting out at the Mods as they arrived down at the beach, before charging onto the pebbles. There were a good lot of them and any Mod witnessing this would have to admit that they did have some front. If it did come to violence, one point in the Rocker’s favour was that they were only wearing their usual shit clothes - the type that was meant more for working on building sites, rather than for a pleasant day at the sea side. The Mods, on the other hand were in their usual, stylish, not to mention expensive, leisure wear. Most of the Rockers were bigger built and older than the Mods, around 20 to 30 years old. All of the Mods lot were skinny kids compared to them - 15 to 19 years old.
Most of the Mods just sat stunned, looking at this invading swarm of leather boys, not fully realising what was going on. Not realising, that is, until the horde of Rockers had run onto the beach and started laying into them with boots and fists – not to mention swinging their crash helmets around like makeshift clubs.
One of the Rockers who looked like he was the leader of the pack, was just running about and laying into anyone and everyone. Some Mod, braver than the rest, was on him and gave him a hard punch, a right hook, but the punch probably hurt the Mod’s hand more than it hurt the Rocker, as all he succeeded in doing was skinning his knuckles on the studs of the Rocker’s leather jacket as his fist made contact. The Rocker’s black leather jacket had studs spelling out: ‘Long live rock and roll’, some were now smeared with blood from his assailant’s futile attack.
As the Battersea lads were seated near the slope, Horse was able to see from the start when the attack wave of Rockers first went underway, he sprung up like a jack in a box, running towards the front of the charging Rockers and was going at it with both fists. In spite of his size he could move fast, getting some great punches in. Horse had knocked one down, then he was on to another, as he advanced into the mass bundle.
The two tribes regrouped, pulling away from each other, then it started in earnest when the stones rained down. They fell from the promenade like rain drops very heavy and over large raindrops - the air seemed suddenly to be full of stones. At this precise point, Dave had just jumped up to move in the direction of the slope and towards the fighting, as a stone hit him square on his forehead. He immediately saw stars and instinctively covered his head with his hands. In a few seconds of agony a huge bump had come up under his hands. It felt almost like he had grown another head.
On the beach and to the sides of the fighting, there had been many groups of families sitting on deck chairs, enjoying day out with the kids. Some of the Mods, seeing the danger these people were in, were helping them to move away, picking up their belongings, so they could make a fast retreat along the beach.
Dave, despite his intense pain, looked up from the pebble beach to the two groups locked in combat - it was now more like a battlefield than a beach. Dave looked around, spotting Doughnut running off the beach, he seemed to come out of nowhere, as he dropped kicked one of the Rockers in the back, but as Doughnut feel to the ground, the boot went in on him from another of the oposing combatants.
Then it was back to the aerial bombardment from the stones flying in mid-air and landing heavily on the beach. Some of the Mods sheltered themselves, somewhat ineffectually, under their parkas for protection, others were trying to jump out of the way as the rain of stones came over. Other Mods, seeking out a different approach, had picked up deck chairs holding them up as shields. These deck chairs soon became impromptu weapons, as they were being torn to bits by putting one foot on them and then pulling them apart into lengths of wood, so as to use the broken sections as impromptu weapons.
To add to the frenzy, six white helmeted Old Bill came running down the slope from the promenade down towards the beach to join in the fray, followed by two other Old Bill on horseback, galloping down the slope after them. The mounted policemen, having drawn their batons were viciously hitting out at anyone who got in their way. As they battered their way to the bottom of the slope, the two riders pulled their mounts to a halt.
Then, from somewhere on the beach, someone shouted, “Run, run, run, get out of here!”
This was the signal to all the Mods to start moving hastily off the beach. They moved in a disorganised column, almost like a lot of lemmings, while the six Old Bill were desperately, and with very little luck, attempting to calm things down. They ineffectively just standing there shouting out words that were lost in the noise of what had now become a full scale riot.
A splinter group of Rockers ran towards the West Pier with a posse of Mods on their heels. They attempted to find an escape route by running up the steps to the front and then dashing over the road into some snobby, flash hotel that overlooked the sea front. Luckily for the Rockers, help was on hand in the form of the Old Bill who managed to prevent the Mods pursuing their prey into the hotel foyer.
Other retreating Rockers went running under the Palace Pier, then up the steps to the prom, before attempting to run over the road, but their silly big boots meant for digging holes and riding motor bikes made it very difficult to sprint away from trouble. After a short chase, the inevitable occurred, and the more fleet footed Mods caught up with them - and this is where the Rockers got ‘jumped’. The Mods, now intent on revenge, were throwing fists, then deck chairs at them, until two of them unable to find other means of escape, jumped over the high wall to the beach, dropping down to relative safety on the other side, leaving their mates to take their punishment, falling to the deck with the help of kicks raining in on them. Finally, job done, the Mod boys walked away, but - despite the all to obvious animosity between the two groups - a sympathetic and caring Mod girl went over to the aid of one prone and injured Rocker who had blood streaming from an injury to his head, just to see if he was all right.
Most of the remaining Mods from the beach ran up the slope trying to keep out of the way of the two coppers on horses who were still at the bottom of the slope contentedly hitting out left and right with their long, wicked batons. As the Mods ran past the mounted police, the six Old Bill on foot stationed higher up the slope were being pushed to one side as the unstoppable pack of Mods ran onwards and upwards. Lacking any form of leadership, the Mods in the lead group, on reaching the top of the slope to the promenade, just stopped dead, not knowing what to do next. As they looked over the road they were greeted by the all too threatening sight of massed police cars, meat wagons and yet more Old Bill on horseback - not forgetting reinforcements of more police on foot either side of them.
The Mods at the top of the slope seemed unable to move, trapped in a trance of indecision, but the Mods behind were not stopping. They were also trying to get to the top of the slope. Then the stationary Mods in the vanguard at the top of the slope were compelled to spread outwards to their left and right due to the force of the many still pushing from behind, an action that inevitably drove the lead group into the busy road.
Then, in a flash, all hell was let loose. The Mods at the front burst across the road at the run, as fast as they could go and towards the police cars and meat wagons. The road traffic coming from the left and right was obliged to skid to a stop by the hordes of invading Mods. All this to the accompanying angry sounding of car horns and shaking of fists, as the Mods in their seeming thousands ran past. In their haste, they ran out in front of, behind and, sometimes, over the top of the grid-locked vehicles.
The Old Bill, now facing overwhelming numbers, did not have a chance in hell of holding the charging swarm of Mods back, despite trying to form a line to stop them. The Mods were just far too quick and had the sheer force of numbers on their side. All the police were able to do was to try to snatch hold of one Mod each, but even these captured Mods proved slippery customers and most still managed to escape from the long arm of the law as they ran past.
DAVE RAN OVER THE ROAD WITH 100'S OF MODS.
There was no stopping them, he did not have time to think as he picked his spot to get past the line of Old Bill, so he just went for it, running between two meat wagons. When he was past the Old Bills’ line of defence, he ran into to a side street still sprinting like mad. There were police on horseback backed up by meat wagons trying to stop them, but the Mods proved elusive and just kept on running up the many side streets, this way and that way - it was madness! All the holiday makers and shoppers just stood in shop doorways, curiously watching the mayhem with not a clue what was going on.
To Dave the police seemed to be everywhere, picking out anyone for what he saw as ‘fuck all’, then chucking them unceremoniously in the back of the meat wagons. By now, Dave had totally lost track of his mates and was now running with a mixed bunch of stranger Mods, The Old Bill had now been left behind and they no longer needed to run, so they slowed up and then finally stopped, looking at each other and laughing. Some were now bent over double, coughing their hearts out, trying to get their breath back. Most of them were too fucked to even speak. After a brief rest, they started to walk about in a group from one anonymous side street to another, walking and, on occasion, running away from the action.........
To be continued........
With thanks to David Dry.
PART TWO CAN BE FOUND HERE