Cropheads Between the Covers Special

She’s My Witch, Stewart Home, 2020 (London Books)

9780995721746As with Defiant Pose (1991), Red London (1994) and Tainted Love (2005) before it, Stewart Home raided his record collection for this novel’s title, epitomised by mean and moody rocker Kip Tyler’s smouldering classic single. ‘She’s My Witch’ has been covered by several artists since its 1959 release, most notably in a Cramps style by the Panther Burns (1987), woozy garage rockers the Fuzztones (1992) and most recently psychobillies The Radiacs (2010). I mention these only as Home’s own musical tastes and live forays, particularly to Dalston’s Garageland, get frequent mentions and largely fuel the online relationship which unfolds between the novel’s two protagonists, Vespa-riding personal trainer (and former skinhead) Martin Cooper and video editor Maria Remedios, a former dominatrix more likely to be found in bars with Hells Angels and skinheads than behind an editing suite in her native Spain (in one Facebook message she rues how the latter are now all “just fat middle-aged men”). This in itself opens up the time and place of the novel, East London in the post-financial crisis, pre-Brexit era (understandably as this is published on John King’s London Books imprint, the jacket text goes in heavy on this) where personal wellness and the creative industries meet, mutually reinforcing. As London riots then prepares to stage a few weeks of global sport, Martin and Maria get further acquainted on social media and commence the exchange of favoured YouTube clips of garage rock and proto-punk and the odd cult film trailer. Continue reading

Made in England: John King talks to Lee Wilson of Infa-Riot

When forming in 1980 in Wood Green, north London, Infa-Riot instantly became the borough’s greatest Oi band by default. Appearing on compilations such as the notorious Strength Thru Oi!, their 1980s career culminated in two albums, Still Out of Order and the somewhat ignored (though probably worth reevaluating) post punk follow-up Sound & Fury. In their prime, Infa-Riot were known as a band that didn’t shy away from playing Rock Against Racism gigs. On one occasion, this stance apparently earned them beatings from Skrewdriver and their enrourage in their dressing room.

Following a hiatus of no less than 26 years, Infa-Riot reemerged in the last decade to record Old and Angry and perform slots at events such as the annual ‘Boot Boys Christmas Knees Up’ at the 100 Club. Here’s Infa-Riot lead vocalist Lee Wilson interviewed by Football Factory author John King, who hardly needs an introduction. Topics discussed included being British, the superior mentality of the British, and how everyone still looks up to the British. Ahem. Continue reading

Where Are They Now: London’s Lost Music Venues

God knows how many London music venues have shut down in the past decade. Just off the top of my head, there’s the Astoria, 12 Bar, the new 12 Bar, Buffalo Bar, T Chances, Intrepid Fox, Big Red, Archway Tavern, Metro, Hackney Trash Bar, Silver Bullet, Gossips, and probably many more I can’t remember. While it’s normal that city landscapes change, these places haven’t been replaced by new venues. The music side of London just seems to wither, leaving behind a cultural wasteland populated by yuppies.

Paul Talling probably smelled the coffee a bit earlier than others, for he began taking picures of venues that would soon vanish as early as 2003. His book London’s Lost Music Venues is out today on Damaged Goods Books. Andrew Stevens talked to him – and of course, he was especially curious about the croptop aspects of London’s lost venue history. Continue reading

Genoa skingirl: an interview with Guendalina Buonavita

How do skinhead girls get involved in the scene? Is it the music, the look, or the culture that grabs their attention first? Surely, the reasons differ – it’s safe to say, though, that football doesn’t tend to be the initial spark. Except when you’re from Genoa and your name is Guendalina Buonavita. Our correspondent Francesca Chiari spoke with the long-standing face of the Italian skinhead scene about her football and music recollections from the 1980s-90s.
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The Oi! wave that could have been

The sun is setting and the day is late, as they walk over this wasteland of hate. Their music is grimy and raw, just like their natural habitat. But sometimes, they feel the lure of a rather different sound – one that is cool and rational, if somewhat bleak; maybe a bit like the layout of their housing estate. Our guest writer Andrea Napoli, who runs the coldwave label Avant! Records, investigates the missing links between skinhead and post-punk.

When I was 16 or 17, I went through a skinhead phase back in my hometown of Como, a small Northern city in Italy mostly famous for its beautiful lake. However, if you’re into Oi – and I assume you are if you’re reading this – you may also know Como for local bands such as Asociale and Erode.

BLITZ_NEW+AGE-658598cI don’t remember how exactly I got into it, all I know is that I loved all the proper bands and the outfit was there too: cropped hair, Fred Perry polos, Gazelle trainers, oxblood Harrington jacket.

It only lasted one year, this whole full-package thing. I’ve always been kind of reluctant to buy into a full-on look or uniform, mostly because I felt like it didn’t allow for other sides of my personality to come out. How can one be a skinhead and listen to, say, the Gun Club or Pussy Galore, I wondered? Or Joy Division? Continue reading

A one-off statement

We’ve noticed that we have a few racists, nazis, white nationalists, or whatever they call themselves now following our page and leaving comments. Partly that’s a just fact of life: anything skinhead-related will attract these lowlifes. We’re also aware that the history of this subculture has always been complicated, and in fact, we think we’re doing a decent job accounting for this. We have no intention of spinning fairytales about some harmonious ‘spirit of 69’ past that was suddenly upset when Ian Stuart started singing for the National Front. This past never existed: whether in 1968, 1977 or 1982, there were always skinheads who were bigots, and there were always skinheads who weren’t. Continue reading

Skinkorps story: an interview with Philippe Nicolas

Skinkorps – what’s your take on them? Asking Creases Like Knives contributors and friends, I get a broad range of views. “They had a bad reputation”, says one of them, “and some provocative attitudes too, but probably no interest in politics”. – “Ultimately, they were just a regular Oi band, no different to The Last Resort or 4-Skins”, argues another. – “They were one of the dodgier French 80s bands”, counters a friend. And a French acquaintance adds, “We pretty much take for granted that Skinkorps was a right-wing band”.

24b4c26c16a14c93899bb438e87fec42Whatever truth – or untruth – to each of these statements, it’s beyond dispute that Skinkorps from Rouen played some of the most bone-crushing Oi of the 80s. A typical Skinkorps song was mid-tempo to sluggish, featured a loud bassline that carried the tune along and a rough vocal with that arrogant, domineering intonation so characteristic of French bands from the period. The lyrics were often humorous, sarcastic, even cynical – too ambiguously so for some tastes. Continue reading

Roman skingirl: an interview with Lorena Plescia of Fun

How many skingirl vocalists can you think of? There were certainly not very many in the 1980s. But in Italy, Lorena Plescia was singing for the original Roman Oi band FUN as early as in 1982. Our new correspondent Francesca Chiari spoke to her about the early Roman skinhead scene.

This is the first of several articles dedicated to women who have left a mark on the skinhead scene of Italy.

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Street music and football scuffles: a chat with Crown Court’s Trevor Taylor

Do you remember the days of 2014? The international ‘Oi’ music landscape was awash with overproduced pop/rock garbage, but then Crown Court came along with their aptly titled Trouble From London demo, delivering a sudden, well-aimed kick in the nuts. Tunes like ‘Hammer A Nail’ and ‘B.T.P’ delivered Oi music as it should be: raw, gritty, and oozing the grime of inner-city streets.

Subsequent releases easily lived up to the promise. What’s more, they contained beautiful references to Haringey/Tottenham, north London home to both Crown Court’s vocalist Trevor Taylor and Creases Like Knives. There’s ‘No Paradise’ off the English Disease EP, for instance – an ode to Trevor’s stomping ground near Manor House tube station. Or ‘Sammy Skyves’ off the Capital Offence debut album – a worthy monument to the legendary black lad who was a leading Tottenham Hotspurs bootboy in the 60s. Continue reading

The cropped rats of Tilbury: ‘Farming’ revives skinhead movie cliches

Farming is the latest skinhead movie, even if it feels more like one from the 80s or 90s. Based on writer-director Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s youth – very loosely, I should imagine – it tells the tale of a Nigerian boy named Enitan, who is raised by British white working-class foster parents in Tilbury. The friendless Enitan is brutalised by a gang of racist local skinheads. Since he can’t beat them, he joins them. But his ordeal has only just begun, as he becomes both victim and victimiser. While continuously receiving racist abuse, he doles out beatings to other non-whites in a bid to gain acceptance from his ‘friends’. Continue reading