Do You Remember The Days of 79?

No Jeans! No Greens! No Casuals! London Scooter Clubs 1979-1985
Roger Allen, Old Dog Publishing 2020

Driving a scooter through London wearing a parka in 1980/81 was seen by other youth cults as a provocative gesture. It was seen as an invitation to violence by skinheads, casuals and bikers that roamed the same streets. Soon these scooter-riding mods banded together in clubs united by a shared interest in scooters, as well as fashion and music, to present a united front against their enemies.

After visits up North, on scooter runs to Scarborough, a lot of these clubs started to drop the mod fashion and picked up on the scooter boy look of the Northern clubs. Many London mods didn’t get it and banned scooter boys from their venues with signs proclaiming ‘No Jeans!, No Greens!, No Casuals!’ in other words no scooter boys.

Roger Allen spent two years interviewing over 60 members of the clubs that existed within the London area between 1979 and 1985. The A23 Crusaders and The Paddington, The Wasps and The Viceroys, The Nomads and the Virgin Soldiers and all the 80 scooter clubs that made up this scene. Andrew Stevens spoke to him about the 337-pages strong result.

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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

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

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

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

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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

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.
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Couldn’t give a fuck, where’s me beer? An Interview with Steve Smith of Red Alert

redalertThe punk rock firmament glowed brighter on Wearside than most other English conurbations during the 1980s, with Red Alert, Red London and the Toy Dolls all sharing beers, band members and basslines on Oi compilations during its heyday. Sharpened by the experience of growing up amid the closure (or “managed decline”) of its shipyards during the Thatcher era, Red Alert saw themselves as Sunderland’s answer to the deserted Docklands’ Cockney Rejects and released a steady stream of EPs on No Future Records, calling it quits after their standout 1983 album We’ve Got The Power. By 1989 the band had reunited, though line-up changes inevitably followed over the years (bringing in the likes of Lainey from Sunderland punks Leatherface), as did a split LP with The Templars following a New York tour.
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