The Power of Hawkins Astronauts

The lad who runs the Head’s Threads & Heavy Treads FB page – which I recommend – recently mentioned that someone was planning to compile a kind of database of all the different classic boot styles, brands and interactions. This, he says, would hopefully make it easier to trace back different boot models to the time periods when they were made.

I think that’s an excellent idea. To make a start, I thought I’d post some pics of various Hawkins Astronauts boots and shoes I’ve saved over the years. Most of them were listed on eBay or similar sites. You see, I have a bit of an obsession with Astronaut boots – I really appreciate their awkward, ugly beauty. But I find it impossible to establish what time period any particular pair dates back to, because there’s almost no info on Hawkins boots on the web. I can only vaguely guess the decade. Virtually the only thing I’ve ever seen written on Astros was an article on the old Skinhead Heaven website, which only mentioned in passing that Astronauts were considered the ‘skinhead apex’ back in 1969–70.

Hodges wearing Astronaut boots, 1980

Another big question is: who were Hawkins Astronaut 11-eye boots marketed at, apart from skinheads? They have a very distinct look that is definitely not ‘for everyone’ in the same way as the more universal Air Wair DMs are.

Whoever is planning to compile that database, feel free to use anything you see here, add it to your document, and build on the sparse information I’ve got. Good luck with your project!

If anyone knows more about the history of Hawkins Astronaut boots, can identify a style, or knows what year a pair might date back to, do tell us in the comments section.

Oh, one last thing: Astronauts were manufactured by G.T. Hawkins in Northampton (where Air Wair once was and Solovair is today), but came with a Dr Marten’s sole. There are more intricacies to the whole business structure, but I’d need a diagram to fully understand it, and I’m not sure I want to.
Matt Crombieboy

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What is Möh? A historical debate

Arguably, some chapters of skinhead history are best left forgotten but, conscientious historians that we are, we talk about them anyway. Today we want to find out: what is ‘möh’? The expression was often seen in German skinzines from the 80s, usually accompanied by drawings of bulldogs or super-skins.

If you listen to live recordings of German skinhead bands from about ‘84 or ‘85 onward, you’ll often come across this crowd chant:

That’s Daily Terror live in Schöppenstedt ’87, an event we have described at length elsewhere – and the chant you hear is spelled “möh, möh, möh” [phonetically: mø: mø: mø:]. It follows this simple melody:

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CROPHEAD RECORD ROUNDUP #8

Various: Zombie Rock – A Worldwide Tribute to Nabat LP
(Timebomb)

This slab of wax came out in the middle of the lockdown. Things weren’t looking good for Vecchio Son, the rehearsal space and music venue in Bologna run by none less than Steno, the Italian granddaddy of Oi who’s been singing in Nabat since 1979. It seemed that the rent could no longer be paid and Steno & Co. would be forced out. But Steno isn’t one to die on his knees, so he organised all kinds of fundraising campaigns to keep this important venue open. I’m not actually sure right now if part of the proceeds of this compilation were going to said cause, but I seem to remember so.

In any case, it’s only appropriate that this is an international tribute. Nabat are not just a local band, after all – their incredibly powerful Oi and borderline-hardcore punk was internationally influential and continues to be so today: in the 80s, you were as likely to see their name printed in British skinzines (which were notoriously insular) as on homemade patches worn by skins in Poland. Behold, for example, this picture sent to me by an old skinhead from the southern Polish industrial town of Sosnowiec. “A friend made this patch for me”, he tells me, “and I wore it on my camouflage army jacket. That was before I started wearing a denim jacket, so definitely before 1987”.

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Review: ‘Packing a Punch – Brief History of Skinhead Zines’

Packing a Punch is that rare thing: a documentation of 80s British skinzines completely without celtic crosses or crude drawings of glue-addled ‘super skins’. And it isn’t a coffee-table book either. Instead, it’s brogues, Jaytex and razor partings all over – the focus is on what the author considered the rightful heir of the original skinhead, namely the ‘sussed skin’ of the 1980s. This scene, from which George Marshall also emerged, was based around zines such as Spy Kids, The Bovver Boot, Tighten Up and The Suedehead Times. And the little book at hand that guides us through their evolution is a kind of zine too, written by someone who was part of it all. He’s still around today and as committed as ever.

The history kicks off with Skins, the original croptop zine edited by a Chelsea FC and Sham Army skin named John Smith from late ‘79 or early ‘80 – the exact date is hard to establish – and printed by the Last Resort shop in the East End. While reporting on contemporary stuff such as the Southall ‘81 riot, Skins also had an acute sense of tradition: there was always room for Motown, reggae and original skinhead history in its pages. Skins ran for five issues, the contents of which are all listed individually – a treatment awarded to all zines discussed in Packing a Punch.

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Warsaw Uprising: Kortatu’s incendiary visit to 1980s Poland

Western punk bands didn’t get to play the People’s Republic of Poland too often back in the 80s, not to mention bands linked to skinhead culture. In August 1987, however, Kortatu from Basque Country were invited to play at Róbrege, a 3-day festival in Warsaw largely featuring native punk, reggae and new wave acts. Although a Basque independentist band with radical left-wing leanings, Kortatu thus appeared at a festival that was generally perceived as a kind of cultural opposition against the socialist government. And even though Kortatu were something of a skinhead group – cropped hair, Harringtons and DMs visually accompanied their punk, ska, and reggae hybrid – many say that the Polish skinheads who came to Róbrege were more interested in disrupting the festival than they were in dancing. Some even go as far as to imply that the skins were operating in cahoots with the state security services…

These are just some of the contradictions that made it seem like an interesting event to explore. Although this article should be seen as no more than an attempt to reconstruct what happened, based on a mere handful of sources, I still hope it’s an engaging account that doesn’t draw on too many ‘when punk brough freedom behind the Iron Curtain’ cliches… 

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Classic albums: ‘We’ve Got the Power’ by Red Alert (1983)

If you were assembling a track by track feature on classic Oi/punk albums, then Red Alert’s We’ve Got The Power (No Future) would be high on anyone’s shortlist.  A literal document of life in the North East in the early 80s, living up to their label’s name for sure, the LP packs an urgent vocal delivery and wall of sound production feats.  

The dole, Soviet missiles, police brutality, even the influence of hairy rockers UFO, it’s all on there as lyrical content. Still belting them out live after the band’s 40th anniversary in 2019, vocalist Steve ‘Cast Iron’ Smith was on hand to dust off his slab of vinyl and talk us through each of the tracks.

Andrew Stevens

You were something of a singles band after you signed to No Future, how long did it take to write the album?

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‘Skinheads’ by Davide Skin from Genoa, 1988

This is a short article by Davide ‘Skin’ that originally appeared in Italian Gradinata Nord, a zine providing “culture and free information for the Fossa dei Grifoni”, the ultras of Genoa CFC, in 1988. We would like to thank Guendalina Buonavita for sending us this little gem.

Photo by Fabrizio Barile
Translation by Francesca Chiari

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Skinheads of Chicago (SHOC): an interview with Corky ‘Boxcutter’

There are some varieties of skinhead that we prefer to others – but overall, we enjoy the culture’s different facets. We like that aspects of skinhead change over time and vary from country to country, reflecting their environment while still retaining that basic essence that is hard to pin down. We like the fact that such a broad range of different music styles has somehow become associated with skinhead over the years.

And we like that the skinhead world can be as surprising and contradictory as life itself. You wouldn’t expect a bunch of skins, for instance, to head to the Nation of Islam headquarters to watch Public Enemy (the hip-hop one) – especially if some of them were white and Jewish. But that’s just one of the things that Corky’s mates got up to back in the 80s.

Corky is bit of a legendary character from the Chicago scene. Back in the day, he ran with SHOC (Skinheads of Chicago), a multi-ethnic crew that stood on the opposite side of Christian Picciolini’s nazi skins, CASH (Chicago Area Skinheads – we interviewed Christian about them here)
. Our own Girth first came across Corky on Instagram under @BoxcutterBrigade, where he documents his memories of characters with photos and interesting stories – and he decided to interview the bloke.

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Cosenza in our hearts: an interview with Lumpen

South Italy is a beautiful place, even if living there can be difficult for many who leave in search of a better life. But there are those who decide to stay to create something different, which then becomes a source of pride, and they decide to export it to other places – for example, by recording a new album. Just like Lumpen, an Oi band from Calabria that has been active in the skinhead scene for more than 20 years. Francesca Chiari spoke to Silverio Tucci, the band’s original guitarist from Cosenza.

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Classic albums: ‘Voice of a Generation’ by Blitz

It’s my great pleasure to discuss Voice of a Generation with Neil ‘Mackie’ McLennan, the man who played the bass on one of history’s most legendary Oi/punk albums – perhaps the most legendary one, and a strong influence on everyone from Templars and Criminal Damage to the more recent Mess.

When I was 17-18, I played a cassette tape of Voice of a Generation every day until it died (from memory, From Chaos to 1984 by the 4-Skins was on the other side – my two new favourite albums after years of G.B.H, Discharge and Daily Terror). But that’s just on a personal sidenote… Over to Neil ‘Mackie’ Mc Lennan!

Matt Crombieboy

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