Without a doubt, New York’s Templars were the greatest Oi band of the 90s, reinjecting grit, bite and danger into a genre that had been threatening to turn into laid-back ‘street rock’. What the Crypt style lo-fi explosion was to 90s punk rock, the Templars were to Oi. Omne Datum Optimum, although more rock ‘n’ roll and less ‘brickwall’ than their previous efforts, is this editor’s favourite 90s skinhead album.
While remaining close to the street, the Templars have forged their own sound and imagery without flogging too many cliches. Although a self-defined ‘anti-political’ band, their lyrics are often ripe with anger, even despair, at forces beyond our control fucking up our lives: just check out songs such as ‘Situation Critical’ or ‘Waiting For the Blood to Flow’. Ultimately, though, the skinhead ethos of fighting instead of claiming victimhood prevails: ‘Victim’ is probably the single most on-point tune about not wanting to be one.
Enough introductory talk, you all know the Templars anyway. I’m passing the mic to Girth, who had a chat with Sir Phil Templar.
Ever wonder what happened to MC Hammer, the famous hip-hop artist ranked #15 ‘Best Rapper Ever’ by Vibe? Well, after a spell as a preacher in a Christian ministry programme, he suffered a serious spiritual crisis. In the end, he thought ‘fuck that’ and went on a crazy drinking binge. It was in an Irish pub in Boston, Massachusetts, that he met a bar-room folk combo named The Nails (actually called The Snails at the time, but the lads were too drunk to pronounce that). They discovered a shared love of Guinness and traditional British Oi music. Many pints later, Hammer and the Nails were formed, and the rest is history…
We sent Girth to interview Matt, drummer and backing vocalist for Hammer and the Nails. Continue reading
‘Ulla Street Boys’ by Robin Dale was conceived as part of an ethnographic study of a post-industrial Teesside already in decline by the early 1970s. Sometimes referred to alongside his ‘A Spot of Bother’ taken during a match at Middlesbrough’s Ayresome Park ground, it has since come to define a profoundly regional take on suedehead. The boys, found on a terraced street corner in central Middlesbrough (the street still largely exists, save for the odd demolished part here and there), examine the camera as intently as it surveys them. An all too rare perhaps depiction of skinheadism in one of its more multiethnic settings, Andrew Stevens spoke to the Billingham-based photographer. Continue reading
In 1981, a series of youth riots broke out across Britain, starting in Brixton in April and spreading across the UK in July. Unlike in Southall, which saw the now famous standoff between Asian youths and skinheads, groups of mostly white skins joined the riots in Halifax and Bolton, or – as occurred in Hull and Sheffield – they started their own.
Ditto in the north London district of Wood Green, where according to local Labour MP Reg Race “crowds of 400 to 500 youths – black, white and of Mediterranean origin – roamed around Wood Green High Road”. Fights with the police and looting ensued, resulting in 50 arrests and – according to press reports at least – 26 injured cops.
The picture seen here was shot by photographer David Hoffman on Tuesday, 7th July 1981, when the riots reached both Wood Green and Manchester. The skinhead is being chased down the corner of Alfoxton Avenue and West Green Road in Harringay, which is close to Turnpike Lane tube station. Matt Crombieboy spoke to the photographer. Continue reading
Dubbing yourself a “terrorist” of any sort may not strike many as particularly wise in the current climate, but for the ‘two-stroke terrorists’ of the 80s scooterboy movement, recognition of any kind would be welcome. Former Scootering magazine editor Martin ‘Sticky’ Round has made a living for himself documenting the scooter scene globally since those days. In his book Scooterboys: The Lost Tribe (Carpet Bombing Culture), he has set out to capture the hallmarks of one of Britain’s last truly working class subcultures which defies pigeon-holing on any other level.
Andrew Stevens (Vespa PX125) sat down with Sticky to discuss police harassment, flight jackets and the suedehead roots of 80s cut-down scooters. Continue reading
Flavio Frezza, author of Italia Skins and translator of George Marshall’s Spirit of 69 into Italian, introduces us to a rarely seen British gem. Originally published in Italian on Crombie Media.
Anyone into skinhead, mod, and related youth styles knows Bronco Bullfrog (1969), which was largely shot round Stratford E15 by Barney Platts-Mills. As is commonly claimed, the movie documents the transition from skinhead to suedehead, which was completed at the beginning of the following decade. Continue reading
“If we could persuade the youngsters concerned that they’re doing themselves an injury, in the sense that if they have convictions like this as they grow older, they’re to be ostracised by society. Because whether they like it or not, society is as it is and whether they change it, it will still remain that somebody has got to walk about the streets safely.”
Modzines: Fanzine Culture From The Mod Revival, Eddie Piller and Steve Rowland, 2019 (Omnibus)
“The US Army parka, the trilby hat, the Harrington jacket, desert or monkey boots and a Fred Perry t-shirt made up the basic look. Small pockets of adherents sprung up in certain areas, like East London, Paddington and Waterloo, as they grew in number, these new mods began to coalesce into a scene.”
It may read like a casting for Call The Midwife extras, but in 1979 it was a chance meeting of some West Essex schoolkids in the queue for Who documentary The Kids Are Alright outside South Woodford’s ABC cinema which sparked a resurgence in the gospel of scooters, amphetamines, frenetic guitars and the written word, at least on the part of Modzines author Eddie Piller. Continue reading
Reconquesta: Valors Perduts LP
The eagle has landed. About time too, we’ve been waiting for months on end. Ladies and gentlemen, the second Reconquesta album is here.
“Judges of Oi always bore me”, sneers frontman Romani in ‘Real, dirty and raw’, the album’s sole English-language song. Yet here I am clothed in my righteous robe, a judge of Oi passing verdict. To be honest, ‘Real Dirty and Raw’ had to grow on me when an early version went up on YouTube last June. I get the lyrical sentiment: the band doesn’t like inoffensive pop Oi. But I wasn’t sure the alternative had to sound like early 90s Böhse Onkelz covering ‘High Voltage’ by AC/DC. To my taste, this felt too much like muscle-flexing and not enough like punching.
Reconquesta had the balance between punk, rock ‘n’ roll and romanticism just right on their split EP with Codi de Silenci a few months earlier, and I was hoping the album would not collapse under metal overkill. It’s not that I hate metal, it’s just that nine times out of ten, it pans out very badly when punk or Oi bands try playing it. Continue reading
Skins: A Way of Life, Patrick Potter, 2018 (Carpet Bombing Culture)
Indefatigable is not a word to be thrown around lightly, unless perhaps you’re George Galloway bending a knee to the nearest tyrant. But is there any other for the sheer number of chroniclers of skinhead? It’s a rich and varied genre of texts, more often than not inches of girth in photography rather than analysis, as we’ve considered before, with its own standard-bearers and flops.
Where then does Skins: A Way of Life sit? Is it a Nick Knight, a George Marshall or a just a dud? I’m happy to report it’s none of the above, though it’s not going to win any prizes for analysis, that’s for sure. And why should it? Even before its release on Carpet Bombing Culture (who’ve already put out the likes of Derek Ridgers’ subcultural portraits), it managed to elicit its fair share of favourable coverage, though doubtless the upcoming Spirit of 69 anniversary played a part.
Much of the text forms a single-handed diatribe rather than an overview or potted history of skinhead since the days of 1969, not to mention being uneven in parts (plus don’t even get me started on the Adam and the Ants comment). Another coffee-table book perhaps, but as sure as Sweden gave us IKEA it also gave us Perkele. And like a copper’s knock on society’s windscreen when we shouldn’t be behind the wheel, Potter is one author reminding the publishing world that skinhead remains as worth talking about in print as well as ‘well-received’ BBC4 documentaries and the occasional Viceland feature.
As much as his last book Mods: A Way of Life documented that subculture as experienced on a thousand council estates, there are photos here you will have seen a million times and a satisfying number you may not have. Next year also sees the imprint put out former Scootering editor Martin ‘Sticky’ Round’s Scooter Boys, which should act as something of a triple-decker or proof of how the subcultures doubled up in the 1980s.
Stevo Continue reading