East End bands from Aftermath zine, number 7, 1981.
It’s forgotten these days how mod East Londons original Oi bands and fans were, several of them are mentioned in this gig review from Sounds, 11 August, 1979. many Glory Boys went from following Secret Affair to the Cockney Rejects.
Six More Prophets/Barney And His Rubbles
Every week the music press subjects us to this or that pretentious fart spouting some tedious, unintelligible guff about ‘challenging rock ‘n’ roll practices’ and ‘redefining the limits’. Generally all these achieve are huge black print marks on the pinkies of those follish enough to dig out a dictionary and wade through ’em.
What these people are oblivious to to is that the real ‘redefining’ goes on in places they’d never dream of going to. Like the Wellington last week, where Barney Rubble led a makeshift group recruited on the spot on to the stage: a right rowdy mob clutching drum sticks and recorders. It certainly seemed like a real racket was painfully imminenet.
But they’d managed to blag some gear and, with Hoxton Tom on bass, John on guitar, Rory on drums, Kev on harmonica, Shaun on recorder and Tone on tambourine, a semblance of otder was introduced into the chaos.
In fact, it sounded pretty good when the band – looking like the Fred Perry Five – struck up the likes of ‘Al Capone’ and various reggae/souly backing tracks for some indecipherable taoasting from Mr Rubble on the alleged superiority of West Ham United FC; like ‘Look out listen can you hear it/Panic in the CBL/Look out listen can you hear it/Millwall up against the wall…’
The Postmen are similar. They work by word of mouth. An audience is assembled in minutes. Teenage gangs ‘doing their own thing’. They choose a stage, empty houses, back gardens, parks and with makeshift instruments run a gauntlet of strangely unmusical songs held together by raucous singing and enthusiasm.
They’ve got no frameworks as such, they do it for a laugh and it is a real crack too. Democracy run wild. Pogo and screw the pre-defined concepts of how groups work!
Back in the Wellington, Barney has led his mob off-stage and five minutes later Six More Prophets are on. An Oxford six-piece making a rare London appearance. And, well it has to be said, the earth did not catch fire.
For the first few numbers I was particularly disappointed as the sound, though nicely driving and poppy, all seemed a bit gutless and identikit. There was something missing. In truth, the most interesting thing about the visual presentation was trying to figure out the point of having three guitarists. The band explained it as “None of us are powerful guitarists – we don’t use power chords for example – but together the effect is powerful”. True, but all the visual/musical mismatch lead to is another Daily Mirror overmanning scandal in the near future.
Until, that is, the fourth and fifth numbers, ‘Not That Young’ and ‘crime’ when suddenly a rather ordinary band were transformed into a forceful punchy pop outfit with some fine guitar interplay. Now if all their set was like this…
sadly it ain’t. Their version of ‘Ain’t Too Proud To Beg’ was appaling while the slower ‘Now I Know’ was positively drippy. They didn’t get an encore.
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).
The 4 Skins, with Roi Pearce singing, live in Sounds, 7 May, 1983.
After over a year in the wilderness with Panther at the helm (nice bloke, shame about the larynx), the new 4-Skins are again poised to become a major punk force. Ex-Resort man Roi has the kind of raw vocals needed to properly spruce up the band’s spirited shout-songs built on Hoxton’s thick propelling bass lines and the unsubtle but powerful punch of their new young guitarist and drummer.
Tonight, they gambled by playing a set of mostly new numbers but it was just what was needed from a brave new band. The chance paid off with familiar scorchers like ‘Wonderful World’ and ‘Low Life’ in good company with the likes of the heavy, crashing ‘On File’, the early Skids-type ‘Forgotten hero’, or the fast, basic mob-handed ‘On The Streets’.
My favourite new number was definitely ‘Waiting For A Friend’, a slower but very well constructed tune with a running bass line and tasty guitar licks, about being trapped in a vicious circle – geezer comes out of nick, no job, no future, falls back to his old business etc. Almost as good is ‘Johnny Go Home’ with tough verses and catchy chorus putting over a powerful warning to kids who flock to the big city bight lights expecting a new life.
Not suprisingly, there wasn’t one hint of the racism or dodgy politics the old band were once hysterically and unfairly accused of by a scandal-mongering Fleet Street. Now the familiar themes of police harassment and encroaching bureaucracy are joined by powerful lyrics about prison, loss of personal freedom and the way old soldiers who’ve given legs or eyes to their country are thrown on the scrapheap.
It’s all delivered in a frightening roar by Roi (who is beyond any criticism I’d dare make) and my conclusion was that, with a bit more tightening up, the 4-Skins will soon be back on top form again.
The first Oi! album reviewed in Sounds, 1 November, 1980. This issue also had the New Breed feature of the up and coming Oi bands.