|The skinhead cult is a very different animal to that portrayed in newspaper headlines. Skinhead Nation takes you on a journey through the back streets of Britain, America and Europe to hear the skinheads' own story.|
|Violence In Our Minds|
The Big Apple Bites back
Among The Mugs
Bring Back The Skins
No Mean City
Here Comes Johnny Reggae
Violence In Our Minds
Neither Red Or Racist
One Law For Them
Tougher Than Tough
No One Likes Us
Us And Them
The book version of Skinhead Nation is not currently available, but you can buy other skinhead and youth cult books online and by post from www.stpublishing.com
ever find yourself heading south on the A13, chances are you are either lost or
on your way to Tilbury in Essex. It is very much a town at the end of the line,
as the End Of The World pub down by the docks testifies, and definitely not the
sort of place you want to end up on your ownsome come nightfall.
For the merchant seamen who used the towns docks it offered the chance to go ashore and spend some money on wine, women and song. Like all ports, Tilbury had its pubs that quenched the seamens thirst for all three, and one such establishment was the now abandoned Ship Hotel. The Sun actually voted it Britains worst pub thanks to its reputation for prostitution, violence and the fact that landlords lasted about as long as a packet of Durex did.
A lot of the Ships reputation for the place to be on a Saturday night if you fancied a good kicking was down to the Tilbury Trojan Skins who made it a second home between 1977 and 1984. To them it was their territory, and anyone they didnt want to drink there didnt. Not for long anyway. And the seamen often got more than they bargained for too, returning to their ships after being beaten up and robbed of their hard earned cash, watches and anything else of value.
Naturally enough, there have always been skinheads in a dock town like Tilbury, and one who has been around longer than most is Mick White. He was a young skin back in 69, and was joined by two younger brothers, Doghead and Little Doghead (so called because they would go with any old dog of a girl), as the skinhead cult returned in force in 77 and the early Eighties.
Back in 1977, Tilbury Docks was a rough area and it was there that skinheads took off in a big way. Id say we were 60 strong. Ask any self-respecting skinhead from anywhere south of the Watford Gap who were the most feared mob, and Tilbury would be mentioned on more than one or two lips.
Thanks to its partial isolation, The Tilbury Trojan Skins, and later the Tilbury Young Firm, were able to build up the sort of comradeship more often found in hardcore football firms. As it was, most of the Tilbury skins followed London teams, especially West Ham, but if things had been different and Tilbury had been home to a professional football club, theres little doubt that they would have been up there with the ICF, the Leeds Service Crew, Chelseas Headhunters and Portsmouths 6:57 crew.
As luck would have it, Tilbury boasted no such team, leaving the skinheads (who also came from nearby towns like Grays and West Thurrock) free to ruck with whoever got in their way. Football supporters, foreign seamen, teddy boys, punks, mods, glue sniffers, students, queers, mobs from other towns - the list is as long as the collective charge sheet they amassed over the years. As one of the boys, Irish, put it, We did what we wanted to do and we didnt give a monkeys about anyone else. We enjoyed ourselves, we did what we wanted. And bollocks to everyone else.
The Tilbury Skins used to follow Sham 69, and then went on to follow the likes of The Angelic Upstarts. A large slice of the London gig action at the time took place in colleges and universities - City Of London Poly, UMIST, Central London Poly and so on - and they were as good a place as any for the Tilbury boys to see their heroes in action, not least because they could kill two birds with one stone and bash some students at the same time. These gigs were nearly always full of students who we all know are almost always commies, socialists, lefties or whatever you want to call them, recalls Mick White. Nearly every single week we used to smash the fuckers as they really got on our nerves.
Other skinheads were also well aware of Tilburys reputation for aggro, and their name was well known down at The Last Resort skinhead emporium that was situated just off Petticoat Lane in East London. Saturday and Sunday were the busiest days, and all the skinheads would meet in various pubs around the shop. What pub usually depended on which ones would still serve skinheads thanks to the trouble that usually accompanied them. And more often that not, the trouble came in the shape of Tilburys finest. In the end we ran out of pubs and all the skins were really getting fed up with us, but nobody had the bottle to take us on. One day in the shop a group of skinheads told us to stop getting us all barred from everywhere for fighting, and my brother, Doghead, snapped back, thats what being a skinheads all about you dickheads and if you dont like fighting then you shouldnt fucking be one. That shut them up because my brother was very well known and many people feared him in the shop.
With London on their doorstep, skinhead gigs were aplenty come the late Seventies and early Eighties. The Specials, Madness and UB40 were playing as were the Oi! bands, and they also used to go and see the likes of Siouxsie & The Banshees and The Damned. Youd go down the youth club and the Ship, explained Panic, who organised coaches for some gigs, and say where you were going on a Saturday night and to be on the seven oclock train, and youd have the mob from Tilbury get on that, get to Grays about ten past, and so it would go on, until there was maybe 100-150 skins on the train - all by word of mouth really.
Further notoriety came Tilburys way in the shapely form of Oi! band Angela Rippons Bum. In the early Eighties, the Tilbury lot were never far away if the likes of The Cockney Rejects or The 4 Skins were gigging, and it was only a matter of time before someone suggested forming a local band that everyone could follow and call their own. At the time, the Riverside Youth Centre was a popular haunt with local skins - Mick used to hold reggae discos there from time to time - and the warden said that they could have one of the rooms upstairs to practise in. It was Dave Sticko Strickson, the lead guitarist and only real talent, who came up with the name for no better reason than he liked the look of our Angelas arse.
Like everyone else and his dog, Mick White had auditioned for a place in the band without any initial luck, but after six months of watching from the sidelines, he was asked to manage the band. Like all good managers, a publicity campaign was number one on his list of how to get the band better known. Fly posters and graffiti did the job. Felt tip marker pens and spray cans were given out, and wherever they went, the Tilbury Skins would leave an Oi! Angela Rippons Bum on a wall somewhere. I actually got caught and arrested myself for writing Angela Rippons Bum on a wall. I was questioned as to why Id write that and I explained it was the name of a band - they thought I was some sort of pervert or something.
Soon afterwards, the band went into the studio and recorded half a dozen songs, including the live favourites Skinheads Run Beserk and Bank Holidays, which found their way on to a demo cassette. It was sold to the Tilbury faithful and anyone else whose curiosity had been aroused by the bands name. It was also used to get gigs in and around London and soon the band were regularly gigging with the likes of The Business, Dagenhams The Ejected (whose Riot City single, Have You Got 10p, is their main claim to fame) and The Accused, a skinhead band from South Ockendon, about six miles from Tilbury. Garry Bushell reviewed one of their gigs at The Deuragon Arms, Hackney, for Sounds and described the Bum as one of the very best skin - herbert bands doing the rounds.
Mick then came up with the classic idea of playing the tabloids at their own game. He phoned up The Sun and The Daily Mirror, pretending to be a middle aged family man who admired Angela Rippon for her professionalism, and said he thought it was absolutely disgraceful that a pop group were allowed to name themselves after the backside of a very respectable citizen. Mister Angry wanted Angela to be informed so that she could put a stop to these layabouts. Just as sure as day follows night, a reporter from The Sun was snooping about Tilbury within a few days, trying to track down the band. It wasnt difficult finding them either because two local skinhead girls, Big Jackie and Sandra, had more or less given their flat over to the Tilbury crew for parties, shagging and the like, and it had been renamed Oi! The House. Any kid could have pointed the reporter in the right direction.
The band were interviewed, and a week later the story had made The Sun and The Sunday People, and was also mentioned on national radio. On the back of all the publicity, and a few white lies to encourage clubs to book them, Angela Rippons Bum were picking up gigs all over the place. A lot of gigs inevitably ended in punch ups thanks to their following of mainly skinheads who werent slow at coming forward if their was any chance of aggro, and two ended as virtual riots. The first was at the Red Lion in Gravesend, Kent, which is just across the Thames from Tilbury. The Bum had already played there a couple of times with The Business, but this time they were booked to play with The Ovaltinies from South London. We had never heard of them as the pub had arranged it, but they turned up with a following of real right wing British Movement skins and so it ended up in a real big fight and the place was smashed to bits. Good fun that one, but Angela Rippons Bum were banned from playing there again though.
The second riot took place when the band were due to support The Last Resort (at what turned out to be the Resorts final gig) and ABH at Kings Lynn in Norfolk. We took a 50 seater coach full of followers with us plus some went in their own cars. Before the gig we went into a local pub which was pretty packed with local herberts and it wasnt long before there was a really big row which spilled out onto the street. Nearby, we found a dairy with hundreds of crates full of empty bottles, and as the locals were coming out of the pub we just continuously bombarded them. It went on for ages, the pub had no windows left, and there was just so much glass everywhere it was unbelievable. When the police finally arrived to spoil everything, they took the whole coachload in and held us over night because they had reason to believe one of our mob had stabbed a local who was now on the critical list. But next morning, when his condition became more stable and the police could not find out who stabbed him, they let us go.
The band were also regular performers at Skunx at the Blue Coat Boy in Islington, a club opened in 1982 for punks and skins by Dave Long (later of Syndicate Records and other dodgy capers). It was there that they noticed quite a few skins and nearly all the punks were sniffing glue. Bass player, Kevin Earland, wrote a song called Glue Sniffing Kids which warned of the dangers of solvent abuse, and the band made it very clear that no glue sniffers were welcome at Angela Rippons Bum gigs. Indeed, one of the dangers of doing glue was a good chance of getting a punch in the face from a Tilbury skin, but what they were saying was true. No true skinhead ever sniffed glue, and if you couldnt live without a glue bag then youre not a skin, youre a sad excuse for a punk.
A lot of skinheads in 1981 started to sniff glue for some reason, and any skinheads that we ever saw sniffing glue, we used to bash. There were a lot of skinheads hanging around Soho and Leicester Square at the time, and they used to go sniffing glue in the alleys. Saturday nights, we used to go and wander around the West End, just bashing all the skinheads that used to sniff glue. While we were there, we would go up around Euston and Kings Cross, where you get all the football supporters - Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds or whoever came down from up north to watch the London teams. We would walk up and down the Euston Road, fighting all the northern football supporters, and that was another little pastime.
The Tilbury took a lot of pride in themselves, not just as a firm, but as skinheads too. They always looked smart - tonic suits, ironed Ben Shermans, white sta-press, polished boots - and were generally anti-drugs. In fact, quite a few of them were amateur boxers and so didnt even drink alcohol. Their buzz came from the natural high of being in a gang that always stood its ground and had the time of their lives. Mickey French, the owner of The Last Resort, did ask the band to appear on one of his compilation albums, but they turned him down and ended up signing to Secret Records, appearing on the Back On The Streets EP with Fight For Your Lives alongside four other bands. The band soldiered on until 1983, but following a fight between singer Tony Barker and a local skinhead, and with two of the band now fully fledged casuals, the decision was taken to call it a day. Angela Rippons Bum might not have been the greatest band ever, but at least they put Tilbury on Oi! The Map and gave the local skins a band of their own to champion.
The reputation of the Tilbury lot brought them to the attention of the film industry, and as well as appearing in a couple of TV commercials, they ended up in Pink Floyds The Wall, the film about the S.A.S., Who Dares Wins, and also Madness very own classic, Take It Or Leave It - as Chrissy Boy Foreman from the band remembers all too well. When we were filming what was supposed to be the gig at Acklam Hall, there was meant to be some trouble in the toilets, but instead of acting, you got the feeling they thought it was for real!
Wed like to be remembered as the most violent firm of skinheads there was, says Doghead, who has been stabbed a dozen times in fights and has the scars to prove it too. Pakis, blacks, Nazis, whoever got in our way, wed bash. In them days we used to go out and have a fight or whatever, but now a few of us have got educated and now we work as nightclub bouncers and get paid for it. We still love violence.
Pakis and Asians in general were generally hated by the Tilbury mob. As far as they are concerned, they shouldnt be in the country. Its as simple as that. It was the in thing to do, recalls Bomber. Have your hair cropped, get a pair of boots and go and bash pakis.
While a lot of other skinheads were sporting NF or BM badges, the Tilbury came up with their own variation on the racist theme - The Anti-Paki League. They regularly went paki-bashing in the East End of London and were mainly responsible for the 1977 Brick Lane riots that made the headlines as skinheads ran amok, attacking Asians. I love Fifties rock n roll, explains Mick White, but the reason I didnt become a teddy boy was because everyone knew skinheads didnt like pakis and I thought thats the one for me.
Although the Tilbury Trojan Skins have never made any bones about their hatred for Asians, that doesnt make them Nazis - the label no doubt any trendy lefty reading this is mentally pinning on the Tilbury skinheads this very moment. If youre a skinhead and you say you dont like someone, whether its pakis or not, youre classed as a Nazi, reckons Panic. You cant even wear your flag with pride now because as soon as you put a Union Jack on or a St. Georges cross, you have people saying youre a Nazi. But in other countries, like America, they have their flag outside their house. Theyre proud of their country. Do it in this country - youre labelled a Nazi.
Mick naturally agrees. Theres no way were Nazis. My father fought Nazis in the war. All our Dads did. The APL was different. Just because I hate pakis, doesnt make me a Nazi.
The fact was, the Tilbury skins werent the least bit interested in politics. Hating pakis was no different to hating glue sniffers or hating students. Whats more, they hated Nazis too, and took equal pleasure in thumping them, as the trouble at the gig with The Olvaltinies described earlier testifies. Another time, at the Electric Ballroom in Camden Town, we all went to see Bad Manners and all the British Movement were there. Although we hated pakis and sikhs and that, we also didnt like Nazis as our parents fought them in the war. We couldnt understand why skins should be connected to them as our idea of skinhead is to be British and proud of it, and all other cunts are the enemy, including Germans. Anyway, we hated the British Movement and had had trouble with them before at the famous Bridge House in Canning Town, and again the Tilbury Skins showed their might at the Ballroom and showed them who the real bosses were.
Most of the Tilbury Trojan Skins are in their thirties now and have settled down with wives, kids, what have you. But the passion for the cult is still there. Some are still skinheads and others are not, but as any half decent ex-skin will tell you, you might grow your hair, but it doesnt change your heart. What made us special was we stuck together, Mick explained. We were a hundred strong and we all stuck together. Even today, you could make a few phone calls and if you are in trouble - boomp - theres 30 or 40 of us there.
Some of the Tilbury, like Mick, Brian Archer, Steve Worldly and a few others have been skinheads since the late Sixties and early Seventies. Others have stayed true to the cult since joining in the late Seventies and early Eighties. Skinheads come and go in most areas, but for one reason or another, there has always been skinheads in Tilbury. It must be something in the water, but whatever it is, it should be available on tap in every pub in the country if it is going to keep the cult alive and kicking.
About every two months, a reggae dance is held in a working mens club in Tilbury and its a chance for the old crew to meet up for a drink and a dance. Its run by Steve Wordly who plays nothing but reggae and ska all night. At a recent dance, someone asked him to play a chart hit and he put an announcement out saying, Just to let you know this is a reggae night and thats all were going to play, mostly old ska for all the skinheads that are here. And if you dont like it, dont bother coming in.
The Tilbury crew were a lot more typical of skinheads in the late Seventies and early Eighties than most people would care to remember, and thats particularly true of skinheads in and around London. They would have been well at home in the late Sixties too when paki-bashing first hit the headlines, but the important distinction is that they have nothing in common with the further shift towards extremism that started in the early Eighties and came to fruition later that decade with organisations like the neo-Nazi Blood And Honour.
Nearly all skinheads are proud of their country, and some (but certainly not all) are also racist. Far fewer though believe that Adolf Hitler was right and thats particularly true in Britain. That point is borne out by the fact that skinhead numbers have fallen with every shift towards the extreme right. Blood And Honour has far less support than the Young National Front used to carry, and the numbers the YNF and British Movement could muster were far fewer than the number of skinheads who turned up on a Saturday afternoon to watch a Second Division football match in 1970, when politics and skinheads led separate lives.
Paki-bashing during the late Sixties was very much of its time, when British society was still very insular in its views, still very much an island, still very proud of its once mighty Empire and successes in two World Wars and one World Cup (well, south of the border anyway). Thousands had given their lives to defeat Nazi Germany, but it was a war fought to defend British interests and sovereignty and not to defeat national socialism (just as the Gulf War was about oil, not Iraqi tyranny).
Racism was alive and well before, during and after Adolf Hitler, and that was as true in Great Britain as it was anywhere else in the world. There was a general feeling that politician Enoch Powell had got it right with his Rivers Of Blood speech of 1968 which predicted racial violence as competition for jobs and houses intensified, and this was particularly true in the working class areas where Asian immigrants first settled and where skinheads first appeared.
Paki-bashing was as much a cultural issue as it was a race one, if not more so. The first generation of Asian immigrants were different - they didnt try to integrate, they kept themselves to themselves, some couldnt even speak the language, and of course, they were easy targets because they didnt fight back. It was a culture clash that led to them being singled out as easy targets, and it wasnt just skinheads or even born and bred British white working class kids doing the bashing. Black kids were at it too as were the Greeks and other minorities who had done more to adapt to the British way of life. Even more to the point, some of the blacks involved in paki-bashing were fully fledged skinheads themselves.
The first skinheads I remember were called peanuts, recalls Arthur Kay, famous in skinhead circles as the founder of cult ska band Arthur Kay & The Originals and as the bass player with the Oi!some The Last Resort. There was hundreds of them in Streatham and the area. Every youth club was playing ska and reggae and every skinhead firm had a few caribs, a few Jamaican guys. You all used to go to the same clubs and there was never a problem.
It wasnt just white kids bashing Asians, adds Chris Prete, it was everybody bashing everybody to be top dog in the street, and unfortunately it was the Asians who came out worse. The media picked up on that and gave it a lot of publicity.
Lots of skinheads lived in areas where there were no Asians anyway, so tabloid headlines were as close to beating up immigrants as those skins ever got. We never went paki-bashing because there werent any up here, recalls Graham from Bridlington. Too cold for them! We used to go Wessy bashing - bashing day-trippers and holidaymakers from West Riding.
And then of course, there were plenty of skinheads who didnt agree with paki-bashing anyway. I had some skinhead friends come up to visit where Id just moved to, recalls Gaz Mayall, and one of them, a guy called John Marsh, went up to a kid by a sandpit in the park, a little Asian boy. He walked up to him, attracted his attention, the kid turned around, and John just head butted him, knocking him out there and then on the spot. And I felt outraged and I cut myself off from John Marsh there and then. I dont think Ive ever seen him since.
Media coverage of paki-bashing no doubt increased the number of attacks, but it was never politically orchestrated or organised. The booklet that accompanied Channel 4s Walk On The Wild Side series states that in February 1967, Three of Britains neo-fascist groups merge to form the National Front. The national media quickly identify the party as the home of the newly evolved skinhead movement. That is absolute bollocks. For a good few years after its birth, the National Front was so far removed from mainstream life, it might as well have been on the moon. Nobody had ever heard of them, let alone supported them, during the days of the original skinhead. Voicing support for Mr. Powell was about as political as they got.
People harp on about the old days and in the Sixties and stuff like that with the reggae music, says Paul Burnley. Even back then there were racist skinheads, but not so much affiliated to political parties. In the late Seventies and Eighties, and as of now, the connection is definitely there.
It wasnt until the National Front began to achieve any level of success that the skinhead cult was dragged into politics for the first time. In the 1977 local elections, the National Front received over 250,000 votes, and over a third of that total was counted in London polling stations. Most skinheads werent even old enough to vote and so represented a very small proportion of those voters. More old grannies probably voted NF than skinheads, but from that moment on the cult was to be associated with racism in the tiny minds of those who are very good at pointing the finger in our direction while the far more complex issues of racism go largely unchallenged.
Although you had the Anti-Nazi League branding all NF members and supporters as fascists and Nazis, in reality very few were. It was a vote for Great Britain, the Union Jack, and a protest vote against the Conservative and Labour parties who had done little in real terms for the British working classes who were now facing longer dole queues, shit housing and a country going to the dogs. Teenagers wouldnt be teenagers if they werent hitting out at authority, and a lot of National Front support at the time came from kids looking to play the hard man, wanting to hit out at society. Lifes a bastard, and kids will always cover up their own insecurities by hitting out at soft targets, whether thats a fat boy, the school smellies, the new girl, or the kid in the corner with a turban on his head. Chants of National Front! echoed around playgrounds because it gave you a sense of belonging, a sense of power, a sense of defiance, and not because you had read the NFs manifesto and agreed with every word.
Part of the National Fronts attraction was the very fact that teachers, parents and other authority figures told you not to do it. Just like they told you not to smoke, drink bottles of cider over the park, nick sweets from the corner shop, go looking for trouble at the football. For their part, the Front did the exact opposite, hailing skinheads and football hooligans as the cream of British youth, ready to take on Johnny Foreigner in the football stadiums of Europe and in the back streets of Britain. Its human nature to gravitate towards those who accept you and to back away from those who condemn you.
Politicians will go for the skinhead cult because of the passion involved, reckons Symond, so its easy for an extreme party to grab hold of passionate kids - whether its the Nazis, the lefties, the Ban The Bomb lot. People like skinheads were very angry, and so for the extremists they were easy targets, easy to pick up, and theyd say, believe what we say, and youll be with us and fight or us - and you would have done.
It is also true that white working class kids are becoming increasingly alienated in todays society. There are housing estates in Britain today where youve more chance of winning the national lottery than you do of finding a job. Increased support for the extreme right is definitely connected with this sense of alienation, but rather than deal with the root causes - ignorance, unemployment, poor housing, poverty and discrimination - the powers that be seek to alienate them further. White kids are just as hard done by, just as disadvantaged as black kids. Do-gooders can whinge all they want to, but the fact is that the vast majority of people living below the poverty line in Britain today are white. There is no positive discrimination for poor whites though. In Newcastle, theres a place called the Newcastle Young Black Persons Association, says Graham, a non-racist skin from the city, but there is no Newcastle Young White Persons Association. Now, if everybodys going to be equal, there should be a Newcastle Young White Persons Association.
If youre white, on the dole, living in a damp flat, and you get told someone else has got the job you wanted for no other reason than he is black, it can only be seen as racism in reverse. Young white kids have got nothing, says Paul Burnley. Nobody is standing up for them. Nobody is saying they should have this and they should have that, but they are for blacks, Asians, queers and God knows what else.
Bulldog, the paper of the Young National Front, must have sold thousands of copies every issue, mainly at football matches and at gigs, and especially in London and other big cities. Edited by Joe Pearce, who was jailed twice for inciting racial hatred through its pages, and then by the mysterious Captain Truth, each issue rarely stretched beyond six pages, but as a vehicle for the YNF, it was perfect. Its political content was blunt, basic and crude, but at the same time incredibly effective. By focusing on stories about black terror gangs, positive discrimination towards immigrants for jobs and houses, and Asians coming here and living on the dole, they portrayed a version of events that, while not truly representative or indeed the complete picture, certainly rang a few bells with a lot of white working class kids. After all, they were being treated like shit by the powers that be, and it was only the Young National Front and the British Movement who seemed to be talking to them and for them.
I had some mates in Birmingham, says Brian Kelson of the era, and they dressed smart, but were National Front. I used to explain to them why I wasnt National Front, because of the Nazis and that, but they said they wanted to make a point. Its all right for you, theyd say, living out in suburbia in a white community, but we live in the middle of Birmingham in a mixed race society. We didnt invite them here, the government invited them here, not us, and we dont want them here. Theyre taking our jobs and everything, and this is the only way we can make our voices heard. Perhaps they had a point. Perhaps if Id lived there and itd affected me, I might be more like them. I know if I lose my job, I become more racist. Not in the sense of thinking our race is better than them and they deserve to be obliterated or anything, but you get to thinking three million foreigners in the country and three million unemployed, it makes sense. You do get a bit bitter when youre unemployed. Unemployment brings out the worst in everybody, and a lot of skinheads are from inner city areas and are unemployed. So I can see their point of view, but I still wish theyd get their own cult to voice it rather than taking our cult and using it!
It wasnt just skinheads either who gave their support to the YNF - mods, casuals, herberts, punks and others did too, as a letter in a 1982 issue from the Spurs NF clearly showed, as do any photos of NF marches from the era. Again, its a media myth that every Front march was dominated by skinheads.
Usually a couple of pages of every issue of Bulldog were devoted to music. Naturally enough, skinhead music took top billing, and Oi! was regularly featured, helping to lay the foundations for the often repeated media myth that Oi! is by definition racist rock. The truth was Bulldog would feature any band that had a skinhead following and that even included bands like Bad Manners who had a black and two Jews in their line up. At the time, 2 Tone and related bands like Madness and Manners were playing a hybrid of black music, and doing more to promote racial harmony just by playing than the ANL has ever achieved - just as today, the likes of Ferdinand, Cole, Fortune-West, Collymore, Wright, blah, blah, blah, make it difficult for the extreme right to make much headway on the football terraces (despite what the media tells you about all football hooligans being Nazis).
That said, part of the ska bands' following came from Young National Front supporters, and this was particularly true of gigs in and around London - less so the further north you moved. I remember coming out of a Bad Manners gig at the Rainbow in North London and about 500 skinheads came out and walked under this archway, sieg heiling and stuff, and a few blacks got beaten up. There was always a high presence of right wing, and never any suggestion of left wing, even although the 2 Tone thing could probably be traced back to the black and white thing.
It was very difficult to do anything to promote racial harmony, Madness Chrissy Boy remembers. We used to get a lot of stick for not really coming out with some sort of political agenda, but we used to try and talk to some of these people (who followed the NF) and find out why they thought like that.
Whats more, other bands with not even the remotest connection with the National Front would regular appear in its pages because of some obscure connection. Spandau Ballet were hailed as a great new band for white youth for no other reason that Spandau prison in Germany housed the leading Nazi, Rudolf Hess, at the time. Others like The Clash (because of White Riot), and The Dentists (Master Race) regularly appeared in Rock Against Communism charts - as did Bing Crosby for, you guessed it, White Christmas!
In fact it wasnt until May 83 - long after the heyday of both 2 Tone and Oi! - that Bulldog could say, at last a band have come along with the courage of their convictions . . . Skrewdriver. They had in fact missed the first ever Rock Against Communism gig because of record company pressure (they were signed to Manchester indie label, TJM, at the time), but by now they were headlining gigs with like-minded bands like The Ovaltinies and Peter & The Wolves.
Seeing the potential of music as both a crowd puller and a fund raiser at a time when National Front support generally had totally collapsed, the NF quickly launched the White Noise label with a Skrewdriver EP called White Power. A fanzine, Rocking The Reds, was also started, but it was a very poor alternative to the mainstream media that had virtually blacked all news about NF bands (that said, NME did review White Power, although hardly favourably) and was quickly absorbed into the pages of Bulldog. Bulldog survived until 1985, when internal power struggles saw it disappear and then be replaced by the revolutionary voice of British youth, New Dawn. Somehow, it lacked the edge that Bulldog had possessed - the regular coverage of football violence had gone for a start - and it never really took off in the same way.
By then, the YNF was dead on its feet anyway and White Noise Records had been reduced to joint ventures with the German Rock-O-Rama Records. Whats more, falling support in Britain saw the WNC reach out to whites overseas for additional support. 10 bands and six hundred people did turn up for a Rock Against Communism festival in Suffolk later that year, but the jailing of Skrewdrivers Ian Stuart and the later discovery that the White Noise Club had been ripping off both bands and fans finally called time on the Young National Front.
By the summer of 87, leading bands on the white power scene had broken away to form Blood And Honour, an organisation that produced a magazine of the same name. Issue one was for all nationalist music fans, but as early as issue two Blood And Honour was describing itself as the National Socialist music paper. In September, a gig in London saw Skrewdriver, Brutal Attack, No Remorse and Sudden Impact formerly launch the new organisation which, at least until the death of Ian Stuart in a car crash in 1993, dominated the white power music world.
The death of Ian Stuart was a big blow and itll still be a few years before the patriotic music scene recovers, reckons Paul Burnley. Its back to square one, building again. Theres a lot of good music about and the scenes concentrating on a more world-wide scale. Were looking outside of the UK to see an upsurge of right-wing music and there will be a major breakthrough in coming years.
That remains to be seen, but as Paul says, that breakthrough isnt likely to come in the UK. And its certainly not likely to come in towns like Tilbury. The Tilbury Skins dont see anything patriotic about Nazi rock music. They might hate pakis and they might be racists, but like the vast majority of Britons, they will never dance to the tune of Adolf Hitler.
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