Story of a picture: Ulla Street Boys

‘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

Story of a picture: Police chase skinhead in Wood Green, 1981

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

Two-stroke in your veins and two fingers up at the law – Martin ‘Sticky’ Round

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

Everybody’s an Actor, Shakespeare Said: ‘pre-suedeheads’ in 1968

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.

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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

North East End’s All Around – The Scotswood Aggro Boys

“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.”

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Cherry red DMs with red socks: Scotswood Aggro Boys

Continue reading

A Sense of Style: Modzines

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

Crophead record roundup #6

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

Cropheads Between the Covers – Festive Roundup

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.

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Uneven diatribe with decent visuals

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

In memory of Sigaro (1956-2018)

An obituary by Flavio Frezza, author of Italia Skins and editor of Crombie Media

Angelo “Sigaro” Conti was born in Rome in 1956 and became a skinhead in the early 80s. In the mid 80s, after the Italian skinhead scene had split into a far-right and a non-racist wing, he embraced the redskin tendency. Continue reading

Anti-skinhead lyrics #1

Inferno hailed from Augsburg, a medium sized city in ultra-conservative Bavaria. Although ‘punk’ in disposition, they were arguably one of the earliest full-on hardcore bands on the European continent, leaving the likes of Discharge in a trail of smoke. Continue reading