James Brown in the NME, 21 April, 1984.
If you’re a short haired type of person who likes dressing well, reggae, and zines you could do a lot worse than get yourself Packing A Punch, a Brief History of UK Skinhead Zines.
Kicking off with Skins, put out by the Last Resort shop in 1979, and running through to Spirit of 69, which started in 2014, the zines that are covered are the sussed ones, but there’s a real look at what was going on with skinhead from the late 70s up to today.
Zines are given a write up and as much as an issue by issue breakdown as can be found. Many of these zines disappeared beneath beds or were thrown out by mums years ago.
The author has been a skinhead a looong time and has been deeply involved with zines. As was I, and the lad knows what he’s talking about.
Of particular interest is the look at Hard As Nails, the 1983 zine that ‘sussed‘ skinheads coalesced around. This zine was the focal point for stylish dressing, reggae and soul, and a rejection of the travesty the gumbys had made of skinhead.
Also important were zines like Bovver Boot, Suedehead Times, and Spy Kids. It was great to catch up with 1993’s , Skinheads Don’t Fear, a top drawer zine that brought a sense of humour that so many other zines lacked.
Most of the zines ran for half a dozen issues or so, some a lot more, some less. It’s an insular world, but if it’s one you’re interested in this informative tome one you’ll find essential. It’s 120 pages and comes in at a tenner pls p&p.
Grab a copy from firstname.lastname@example.org
I wish everyone a happy 2021. It’s been a tough 2020. In poetry terms there’ve been hardly any gigs whilst technology has proved friendly and facilitated a plethora of bedroom gigs. Some better, some worse, than those we’ve had on the drunken morning after.
Small presses are still producing new work, and that’s been heartening. Whilst the big presses stress the little guys can move in. A new leaf for the year and for readers.
The blog primarily looks back at the history of working class poetry and spoken word. Primarily from the ranting poets of the early 80s. There’s also a lot of music and politics to give context.
This year the blog will be 7. I’ll be continuing to trawl through zines, music papers and the like for insights and poetry. There’s more interest in the history of spoken work in Britain now. As with the Brexit view of Britain this spoken word historicising frequently comes with a dollop of mythology sauce and a squeezing of todays politics into yesterdays bottles. Class politics and identity politics are often antagonistic. Personally I’m for the the antagony.
Much of the poetry posted here isn’t particularly good as poetry. What is of interest is what people felt was important in their lives to strike as poetry. I’ve heard the blog called ‘a record of outside voices’, and to some extent that’s true but the inside of academia and the safety of arts nepotism is outside most of our experience.
Poetry is more diverse now, definitely a good thing and certainly something we fought for when we were ranters. It’s also noticeable that as it becomes more and more visible it’s becoming increasingly written by ‘the perfumed pen in the velvet glove’, as Seething Wells had it.
When publishers trumpet their new found commitment to diversity it’s for their benefit, not ours. When arts organisations herald their involvement with ‘new voices’ it’s them that gets the funding. There are publishers and arts organisations that do excellent work, and more power to them, but it’s always puzzled me why poets crave acceptance from the very people that have ignored, belittled, and hobbled us for years. We can build our own work, audience, and media. We do it well. So well, every time we’re successful the posh kids take it from us and tell us it’s for our own benefit.
There have been some excellent zines seeing me through lockdown: Hellebore, Rituals & Declarations. both bringing the ‘orror, the always sharply turned out Subbaculture for the yoof cultures, but not much on the poetry. Zines and gigs go hand in hand so hopefully that’ll get sorted once we’re all vaccinated and scaring people in pubs again.
Anyway: the future. 2021 is gonna be hard. The conversation with an audience that makes so much of a live gig for me probably won’t be seen. All that poetry about middle class concerns and worries (and all that stuff I like about reggae, bar fights, and insults) just won’t seem important any more. The new poems will likely be quieter and more internal. I for one look forward to the awfulness of the next Edinburgh Festival (whenever that may be) and the extensive bill of ‘My Lockdown’ shows. The quietness encompasses reflection, and looking back to where our poetry has come from, really come from – where it speaks for itself in our own ‘orrible accents and not the plums Oxbridge has in the icebox and saves for breakfast – is as valuable as writing the poetry that says we’re alive. We’re alive because we’re fighting and writing.
The lockdowns have left us with plenty of time on our hands (erm). One good thing to come out of them is some decent zines to read and get excited about.
Punk Girl Diaries have been putting some excellent zines out. They’re informative, fun, and well produced. Not only that there’re a couple of my fave bands therein: Mo-Dettes, and Young Marble Giants. Always good to see the mighty Miki Berenyi too. She’s excellent at putting a decent zine together herself.
You can get the zine here. They’re great fun on the Twitters too: @punkgirldiaries
Subbaculture is more hung properly in the wardrobe than tossed over the back of a chair. It’s big on the Clash/Jam playlist and as you’d expect from those bands it’s well read, erudite, and stylish. They’ve so got it going on even my books get good review. It’s got one of the best words per square inch ratios of zines today and none are wasted.
The first 4 issues are soon coming out as a book.
Move your feet here.
I’ve not just been dancing to the Dansette during lockdown. I’ve been reading a lot, and much has been horror stories. Hellebore is a hefty handbook of horror. It’s less platter and more creep, but well written, beautifully produced and well worth reading through the dark winter nights. It’s well researched and definitely more single malt than Stella.
Surrender to darkness here.
Also well worth a peruse are skinhead zine Spirit of 69, and glam rocker Wired Up!
Legendary Liverpool zine The End on BBC’s Oxford Road Show, 1983. John Peel also gives a look at contemporary zines.
Sham 69, Sniffin’ Glue and Zig Zag in a discussion about punk made by the Inner London Education Authority in 1977.
George Marshall’s history of 2 Tone in the NME, 16 June, 1990.
The 2-Tone Story
George Marshall (Zoot £5.95)
The post-punk ska and mod revivals were not just transient trends to George Marshall, they were “a way of life … thurning the world of bubble gum pop upside down and giving it a good kick up the arse”. It’s tempting to dismiss the editor of Zoot! magazine and Skinhead Times as yet another living museum trapped by the blinkered tastes of his youth, but this volume is too well written and researched to qualify as fanzine froth.
Taking his cue from the music he adores, Marshall attempts a straightforward, black-and-white (ho ho) dissection of the 2-Tone label’s chequered (hee hee) history. Which means Jerry Dammers and The Specials story, right from their days supporting The Damned, fruitless flirtation with Clash manager Bernie Rhodes (about whom they penned ‘Gangsters’) to their eventual co-opting by Chrysalis.
Famous names punctuate their travels – Madness, Dexy’s, a recurring Costello connection – and despite his hardcore attitude, Marshall enthuses about changes in direction like ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ and the polished ‘In The Studio’ album. Underneath his just-the-facts style lies a deadpan wit, mocking pundits who read too much into the movement and the tabloids’ racism smears.
Not that he glosses over the NF and BM links – “The Specials on Top Of The Pops did more to promote racial harmony than a thousamd RAR badges” – even though the 4 Skins-inspired Southall riot is described fairly ambiguously.
But the overall message is a celebration of good-time music and the power of political pop, despite Dammers’ assertion that “it’s all capitalism.” Marshall writes with authority and enthusiasm while never getting ideas above his station: “If the only thing this book achieves is the correct spelling of The Selecter, I’ll die a happy man.”
(Zoot Publishing Ltd. PO Box 202, Glasgow G12 8EQ).
Quality Scouse ‘zine The End gets some love, and rightly so, in the NME, 6 June, 1987.