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

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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.
Stevo Continue reading

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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Skinhead Farewell – an interview with Mark Sargeant

In all possibility, you may think that when it comes to Richard Allen and the New English Library Skinhead titles there’s little more to be said, almost 50 years on. And like the steel-toed kick in the balls you’d clearly deserve, you’d be wrong, very wrong. Mark Sargeant (Sarge) has written for Scootering since the 80s – many post-decimal currency readers wouldn’t even know the name Richard Allen without the contribution of his spadework in bringing Skinhead to a new audience during that period.  Continue reading

Hardcore Hegelian: an interview with Stewart Home

The likes of the Cockney Rejects and East End Badoes have penned entire albums recently on the subject of East End gentrification, but for Stewart Home it’s a cause to fight. A one-time Neoist but always a novelist, a quick scan of his books since 1988 reveals a range of titles from The Assault on Culture to The Nine Lives of Ray the Cat Jones, via Blow Job and Cunt, naturally. Stevo met the crophead chronicler of pulp and punk at the foot of the Barbican and repaired to a nearby Spoons to talk Marx and mods. Continue reading

Cropheads Between the Covers – Books Roundup #1

9781138202115Skinhead History, Identity and Culture
Kevin Borgeson and Robin Valeri, 2017 (Routledge)

Skinhead History, Identity and Culture is published by academic imprint Routledge in their Crime and Society series and at £110 a pop you may be tempted towards criminal enterprise just to afford a copy. Continue reading

Another Rebel Thread: an interview with Roger K. Burton

Having dressed film stars (Quadrophenia, Absolute Beginners, Young Soul Rebels) and countless music videos, it’s unsurprising that Roger Burton sought to not only document his time in the business but also the vast attire he’s amassed along the way. Rebel Threads (Laurence King Publishing) is that book, spanning the range of British youth subcultures from the war onwards and delving into the fashions which gave them their name. Continue reading