The second half of 1985 was a watershed moment for German skinheads. Not only had neo-Nazi hooligan firms such as Dortmund’s Borussenfront adopted a ‘skinhead’ image, media portrayals of skins as violent Nazis attracted a new generation of kids. Unlike the old guard, which largely consisted of ex-punks, most of these youngsters knew just as little about punk as they did about skinhead. For many older skins, rightwing posturing served to assert an aggressive identity distinct from ‘hippie punks’, yet the vast majority frowned upon politics proper. Exceptions aside, attempts at recruiting skins had failed. In 1983, a meeting of the Action Front of National-Socialists (ANS) in West Berlin, for instance, was smashed up by a cordially invited skinhead mob. ANS leader Michael Kühnen concluded, “Skinheads are crazy and stupid. They don’t use their brains to think, they only follow their instincts. They may be good fighters, but useful human beings they are not”.
For the new generation, however, membership in crusty Nazi groups such as the National-Democratic Party (NPD) and Free Workers’ Party (FAP) became increasingly common. To some degree, the image constructed by the media became a self-fulfilling prophecy. On Christmas Eve 1985, a bunch of underage Hamburg ‘skinheads’ drunkenly set upon three young Turks and brutalised them. One of them, Ramazan Avci, died in hospital before the end of the year. He was the second Turk killed by Hamburg ‘skinheads’ in 1985, and the media campaign that ensued in early 1986 was reason enough for many older skins to hang up the boots. They didn’t want to be confused nor have anything to do with the neo-Nazi fashion skins now growing in their numbers.
Others, like Pedder, stubbornly continued. In hindsight, he probably didn’t do himself any favours with his second interview for Force of Hate skinzine in 1986. When asked how he felt about bands that acted as mouthpieces for political groups, he replied, “Musically, I like both Redskins and Skrewdriver. However, I don’t like when bands put themselves at the service of any particular party since that restricts them in what they can say. Even so, I feel a great deal closer to Skrewdriver. Some of the stuff that the Redskins come out with borders on idiocy. I do like that they supported the miners’ strike, though”.
On German reunification, Pedder had this to say:
“Germany’s division is unnatural and unlawful. It has to be said that the Americans bear part of the blame for the fact that the Berlin wall still stands. I think it’s very narrow-minded, even idiotic, when certain people denounce any thought of reunification, as well as the German people’s right to self-determination as ‘imperialist’ or ‘fascist’, especially when the same people take to the streets to support other peoples’ right to self-determination”. (FoH #6, 1986).
It’s tempting to paint Pedder, who felt “a great deal closer to Skrewdriver than to the Redskins” while spouting a muddle of nationalist and traditionally leftwing positions, as some sort of Strasserite. And yet, his statements were consistent with the ‘anarchism’ of Daily Terror’s first album, where he was heard shouting, “Yanks go home, Ruskies piss off”. What’s more, Pedder had ‘common sense’ on his side: who could possibly conceive of military occupation by two hostile blocs, or a wall that separated friends and families, as a desirable state of affairs?
The first full-length album the new Daily Terror line-up dropped in October 1986, Durchbruch (Breakthrough), was cut from similar cloth. The grim ‘99 Stunden‘ (99 Hours) chastised the entire political establishment for ignoring the nuclear threat in the wake of the Harrisburg and Chernobyl disasters. According to Pedder’s song at least, the parties of the left and right smugly agreed that no such thing could happen in Germany.
‘Stony‘ was dedicated to a friend from East Berlin doing time in a “Russian jail” for an unspecified crime committed on “a drunken night out”. Skinheads had appeared in the German Democratic Republic a couple of years prior. While not yet political, they were treated far from leniently by the authorities, not least because they were seen as a hostile ‘western export’ and indeed cultivated contacts with their West German counterparts. The song kicked off with a sample from a 15th June 1961 speech by Walter Ulbricht, then general secretary of the GDR, promising that “nobody has any intention of building a wall”…
Finally, there was ‘Europa’:
We are born to be free
We are a few of millions, we are not alone
Never deny where you’re from, be proud of your country
And make the best of it, it’s all in your hands
The lyrics consisted of these four lines only, joyfully repeated over and over. The first two lines were a direct quotation from ‘Wir müssen hier raus’ (We’ve got to get out of here) by Ton Steine Scherben, an early 1970s anarchist rock band from West Berlin that had greatly influenced German punk. The latter two lines were Pedder’s own. In addition, the song featured Marc Antoine Charpentier’s ‘Te Deum’, otherwise known as the European Broadcasting Union theme tune, chanted by a secondary school girl choir.
It’s conceivable that the idea of a ‘patriotic European socialism’, as espoused by the Strasser brothers, held a certain attraction for Pedder – and no doubt, some of his friends knew a thing or two about it. However, in light of Germany’s historical legacy and geopolitical situation, which entailed a peculiar set of collective neuroses, perhaps he was just looking for a less self-loathing leftism. At a time when anti-immigrant attitudes against Turks in particular were widespread among German skins – and, to some degree, punks – Pedder never expressed any racist views or hostility to foreigners. Nor did he agitate against ‘the reds’ or ‘ZOG’. To the extent his patriotism was political, he seemed concerned with the idea of ‘national liberation‘ only.
Musically, Durchbruch was another leap forward for Daily Terror. For the most part a peculiarly ‘German’ sounding album, it contained its fair share of drinking songs and even tunes resembling Weimar cabaret. In its strongest moments, it single-handedly coined its own distinct style of skinhead rock. Imagine an alternative history scenario where Oi takes less from Sham 69 and more from The Ruts, maybe adds a touch of Two Tone, yet delivers all the fury and menace of the 4-Skins. Had things evolved in this direction, the rightful skinhead music of the 80s may have sounded a lot like 99 Stunden or Tanz der Teufel (Dance of the Devils). The latter, in my humble view, is skinheadism incarnate. With its raw vocals, sense of alertness, and percussion merely hinting at a reggae off-beat, I can’t think of many songs that distil the feel of skinhead so well.
You’ve been waiting long enough
Your patience was running low
But the time is ripe
And it’s all kicking off
The dance of the devils
Doesn’t spare anyone
It pulls you in
The sound of violence
Put on your Dr Martens
Slap on your braces
Watch people leap aside
It just seems like one big chaos
But you too get carried away
The dance of the devils…
There‘s no turning back
Only a forward thrust
This is the sound
You were born to live for
Due to Pedder’s escalating alcoholism, he rarely sounded as sharp and grounded on stage as he did on the album, to which an underwhelming bootleg tape, recorded live in Dijon and Toulouse in 1985 and 1987 respectively, testifies. More notorious was Live in Schöppenstedt, a live tape recorded not far from Pedder’s hometown of Braunschweig on 5th December 1987 and distributed by Clockwork Orange skinzine. Pedder sounds rat-arsed, bawling lyrics he only partly remembers, and his equally blitzed band members barely manage to keep it together.
More interesting than the woeful musical performance are the exchanges between the band and audience, allowing us a glimpse of where the German Oi and skinhead scene was at. Pedder reports of anonymous threats and potential “disruptive actions” against the concert. “We aren’t looking for trouble, but if they attack us we will defend ourselves, of course”, he announces. Alas, the only trouble takes place in the audience that night. The band is forced to cut songs short as Pedder struggles to stop rival factions from turning on each other. “Skin-head! Skin-head!”, goes the crowd. To which the guitarist responds, “Listen, we really enjoy playing for you guys, but don’t do that” – “Do what?” – “You shouted ‘sieg heil’, I’m an anti-fascist, so don’t do that” – “No, we shouted skinhead” – “No, you shouted sieg heil”…. and so on.
A chant emerges from a section of the audience: “Wir sind deutsch, wir sind deutsch, wir sind deutsch” (We are German). Pedder drunkenly joins in. A few songs and beers later, he is heard mocking the same chant by bleating it out. “Yeah, that’s what real Germans are: a bunch of sheep”, he sneers, plainly forgetting he’s supposed to be a ‘patriot’ rather than his earlier punk self. Awkward silence from the audience.
During this period, Daily Terror began to announce their entrance on stage by playing a recording of the title theme from Das Boot. Maybe Pedder felt a bit like the submarine captain in that movie: a weathered warhorse on a forlorn mission, uncertain about its goals and cynical of some of the elements he finds himself stuck with, but persevering for better or worse.
Oh, and a well dodgy t-shirt he wore at that gig…
The Schöppenstedt extravaganza was attended by a mixed crowd and got a review in the first issue of Skintonic, a left-leaning skinzine from Berlin. We’d be extremely grateful if someone sent us a scan of that review.
Coming soon: Daily Terror part 5 – A turning point