Scorcha! Skins, Suedes and Style From The Streets 1967-1973by Paul ‘Smiler’ Anderson and Mark Baxter (Omnibus Press, 2021)
With words and images, Scorcha! sets out to document one strand of UK working class youth culture in the pre-punk era. The pictures provide a far more accurate depiction of late-sixties and early-seventies street style than slick fashion photos using models, stylists, make-up artists and professional photographers ever could. There are a slew of previously unpublished photos of ordinary kids all pilled up and with only a handful of places to go. Some of those in the pictures have also been interviewed – alongside a few pop personalities ranging from former BBC Radio One DJ Emperor Rosko to mod revivalist Paul Weller. Alongside this, there is record art and other promotional schlock I’ve seen before, but it provides needed context.
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.
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.
As 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 →
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 →
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. StevoContinue reading →
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 →
First things first: Stevo originally did this interview in 2010 for another website, but he figured there’s no harm in reprinting it (with permission) here, as the book and author haven’t really been heard of since.
Children of the Sun was the debut novel of Max Schaefer, acclaimed when it was published in 2010 for its methodically well-researched tackling of 80s South London nazi skins, Nicky Crane, and the bizarre dabblings of the more well-heeled members of the far right. Continue reading →
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 →