Tag Archives: Hard As Nails

Packing A Punch

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 toasttu@aol.com


80s Skinheads

Backs Against the Wall zine, number 5, 1989 looks back at skinhead through the turbulent 80s. The zine’s editor, Dudley, was at the forefront of ‘sussed’ skinhead.

In the last four – five years in Britain there has been a fundamental shift in the evolution of the Skinhead phenomenon. There have always been skinheads, since the revival in 1977, that have been predominantly interested in dressing to much the original way of ’69 – ’72, and listening to a lot more to 1968 – ’73 reggae (tagged together to be known as skinhead reggae) than punk/oi.
In the early 80s these skinheads were, let’s say, ‘content’ to live their own lives while the racist punks who call themselves skinheads fooled the media, and therefore the public, that a stiff right arm was essential to being a skinhead, of course to people in the know this was more of a fairy-tale than someone suggesting that Engand had a good football team.
The main focus of the inevitable split that was coming was Hard As Nails zine and Skrewdriver. Skrewdriver were and are the big motivators of the underground (very underground) nazi movement that the racist punk ‘skinheads’ flocked to, more interested in racist politics, banal music and paramilitary uniforms than the years old natural idea of skinhead as lovers of slick dress, football and melodic beat music as in early ska, reggae, two tone, soul, and some punk and oi.
Hard As Nails took the views that a large number of skinheads held, and became the vocal point for the premise of 1969 style and music updated to the 80s through the then emerging new ska bands. As it was the first zine inside the skinhead scene that openly questioned the nazis right to use the name of skinhead when it was plainly obvious that they were not skinheads, HaN came in for the expected moronic criticisms that they were splitting the skinhead scene and were commies anyway. The logic being that anyone who is not a nazi must be a commie, it takes more than one brain cell to see through this pathetic attitude, unfortunately nazis brain cells do not often exceed the singular. As for splitting the scene, it is repulsive to most normal thinking people (and skins) to associate in any way with nazis.
Since then Skrewdriver have continued to sink lower and lower into out and out stormtroopers and even further away from an accepted skinhead way. While Hard As Nails is long gone, other zines have taken up its message, Spy Kids, Backs Against The wall, Street Feeling, Rough & Tough, Traditional Lemonheads and perhaps the best Zoot. Ska bands have sprung up in abundance and most encouragingly from all corners of the world, Britain, USA, Germany, Italy etc. Ska gigs have in the last six months become the norm rather than the exception, including the highly successful series of ska festivals held in London, which look set to continue, for the rest of the year at least.
There are regular do’s and events up and down Britain playing non-stop 6Ts ska, soul and skinhead reggae. The talk of who’s got the best gear, Bens/Brutus/crombie etc is as of much interest as the latest record release or how your football team did on saturday.
The numbers of these true skinheads in Britain is growing every day, enough to make the optimistic feel that 1989 is gonna be our year again, first 1969, then 1979, it’s gotta be ain’t it.
From California to Paris, London to Munich, Cardiff to Savona, Glasgow to Dublin, Manchester to Tokyo, it’s the sound of NOW, fuck the goose-step, DO THE MOONSTOMP.

Skinhead Culture

From Sounds, November 10th, 1984

The recent Desmond Dekker show at Dingwalls was something of a revelation. Down the front were a score or more skanking skinheads, not yer usual clods in combats with a tube of Airfix stuck in their back pockets and ‘cut here’ temptingly tattooed across their Adam’s Apple.
No, these sharp-dressed droogs were sporting whistles and brogues.
“The blokes were in Dogtooth, Prince Of Wales check or Tonik suits,” wiry Hard As Nails fanzine co-editor ‘tattoo’ Paul grins in delight at the memory, “and the birds were in Trevira, proper penny loafers and lacey tights. They looked the business.”
Just one of the many signs of a skinhead renewal taking place in our green and pleasant. Not so much a case of ‘Skins are back’, more a re-emergence of original skinhead ideals.
The degeneration of skinhead as a style over the last two years can be traced directly to the dissipation of 2-Tone and the failure of Oi! to rebuild after the Southall disaster, in particular with the demise of the original 4-Skins, the original Business, Blitz and the Violators.
As the skinhead scene turned sour, the cream of the last generation either went casual or straight, while the gumbies stayed as dumb as ever.
The new emerging skinhead scene is too sussed to dabble in dodgy political extremes, just as its exponents are too smart to settle for the scarecrow look when there’s still decent Ben Shermans and ox-blood Royals to be had. Best of all, it’s not just a London thing.
The main bands are Burial from the Scarborough area, and Red London from the North east (who are much better live than their wishy washy Razor vinyl outings would have you believe).
There’s also the Oppressed from South Wales (who are spirited but too derivative and stuck in 1980 for their own good) and most intriguing of the lot the Marylebone Martyrs, a South London soul/ska suedehead band kept out of this round up only by their lamentable lack of a guitarist.
Mobs to be proud of include the legendary South End Clockwork Patrol, the Britannia Scooter Club, and the Cardiff skins who populate the Lexington where the juke box jumps to the sounds of Trojan, Sham and the Cockney Rejects, the new skin scene remembering its roots enough to think as much, if not more, of ‘Tighten Up’ and 2-Tone as the sharper Oi! bands.
In London, sussed skins have congregated over the Autumn for the Wednesday night Revival Express at Gossips, featuring selections from the Trojan, Sue, Studio One, Coxsone, Stax and Motown catalogues, not to mention new cropped personalities like French Cyrille and Millwall Trev. having recently parted company with Gossips, the Revival Express will be re-opening at another central London location shortly.
Peaceful co-existance with Mods is another healthy development (doubtless fuelled by the on-going phenomenon of scooter skins), and the movement’s equivalent of Sniffing Glue (or Maximum Speed) is Hard As Nails produced by a couple of rogues from Canvey Island called Paul and Ian.

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The front of the next issue is headlined ‘Sussed skins against the scum’ and features a smart skin with a neat Ben Sherman and a Trojan Reggae tattoo having ‘words’ with a typical ’84 scruff.
“I genuinely hope sussed people can take skinhead back from the scruffs,” says Ian over a pint of ben Top.
“Most so-called skinheads today are just bald punks. Skins had nothing to do wit bald heads, sniffing glue and birds in 18 hole docs.”
Both Ian and Paul are British Telecom workers in their early 20s and they insist that HaN is a style mag. They first started their ‘zine in August 1983, inspired by the Phoenix List, the weekly Mod news sheet/event guide.
“We wanted to create a focal point for sussed skins,” says Paul.
“In many ways it was a reaction against the skin scene, ” adds Ian, “which was dominated by the Last Resort or the Sun idea of skins rather than the real ’69 skin-ideals.”
“Even the TV reflected the glueheads, the bald punks rather than real skins,” says Paul.
Why do you think the skinhead movement went wrong?
Ian: “Because of punk. In some ways it was positive, it brought about the revival but too many people followed the wrong line.”
Paul: “Skinheads became just an extension of the punk shock thing with the bald heads and the tattoos on the forehead – it doesn’t make you look hard, it makes you a laughing stock.”
Ian: “Real skins have got more in common with Mod than with punk. The bald punks, the Last Resort skins, picked up a real moron element, people who think it’s hard to be ignorant.”
Paul: “Being working class doesn’t mean being a thick gumbie, that’s what’s been wrong with skin ‘zines before.”
Ian: “They’ve been patronizing, they’ve talked down to people. Y’know, pages with one big pic and twelve words. Or that Chris Ryan book with print like a Janet And John book.”
What about the positive side of skins?
Paul: “My great hopes for the future are Burial, the Redskins, and the Oppressed, even though their lyrics are a bit caricature.”
Ian: “Whether you like their politics or not, the Redskins are the only band with real chart potential at present, the only ones who can appeal to a wider audience like the Specials did. Sussed skins like the Redskins more for their music than their politics.”
Paul: “The Specials AKA are the only relevant 2-Tone band left – there’s always got to be room for reggae and ska in any skin movement.”
And the future?
Ian: “There’s a small healthy revival, or should I say continuation of skinhead ideas. There are pockets of people all over the country, but I hope it never becomes a mass thing again because then it’d become commercialised. Hard As Nails is about skinhead style first and foremost. We’re the Face of Oi! and the voice of ’69.”
Hard As Nails has appeared three times, firstly as a limited experimental run of just 75. The second issue sold 250 copies and the last one has sold 300 and will probably run to another print (send large SAE and 30p to PO Box 11, Canvey Island, Essex SS8 9RY for a sample). The next issue, the Xmas edition, comes out soon and pride of place inside it will be an interview with Burial.

Impressed by the merry Madness/early Specials style ska of ‘Old man’s Poison’ balanced by the bite of the more Oi-some ode ‘Friday Night’, I recently journeyed to Scarborough’s Elvanhome Club to catch Burial’s live act, which showcased a similarly spiffing split personality.
Variously consisting of nifty bluebeat beauts and beefy Oi! excursions, the highlight of the set came with the crazed calypso of ‘Sheila’, a number already described by one expert as sounding ‘like a head-on collision between a sulphate-charged Kid Creole and Bad Manners on a beano’.
Earlier we congregated for a conflab in guitarist Barney’s bedsit, attractively decorated with old Sounds skin features. As well as barney and Chris, there’s vocalist Mick, bassist Ashley and drummer Charlie. Also contributing live is moonstomping man-mountain Nick, a cross between Chas Smash and H from the Rejects days. He’s 22 and a shop steward, four years older than the others who are variously dole boys, industrial butchers, and in Chris’s case, ‘part time God’.
Inspired by 2-Tone and early Oi!, Burial hailed from neighbouring Malton and first gigged in 1981 as a four-piece, with Upstarts fan Barney (from Lefthouse near Middlesborough) completing the line-up in ’83 after leaving his first band England Today.
“The skinhead scene was a great laugh back in 1980,” says Ashley, “I don’t think it’ll ever be the same again.”
“It was dance music, ” says Mick, “and that’s what Burial are trying to bring back. I like everything from Rod Stewart to Motown. The 4-Tops and Diana Ross made the best music of all time – apart from Sham. That’s why our set consists of punk, ska and calypso. We’ll play anything that appeals to us, and our songs are all about everyday life.”
What about thrash?
Chris: “We’d never play that, it’s too boring.”
Barney: “Some of the message is good, but I don’t like the medium they use.”
Mick: “We did used to write songs about the bomb and that, but it got too bleeding miserable. My attitude is while we’re here, let’s have a laugh. Only about a hundred people have got any say about dropping the bomb anyway. I’m no coward but if I ever saw a mushroom cloud, well, I’m a butcher, I’ve got a knife on me all the time, and I’d cut me throat straight away.”
Their chief concern is the decline of skinhead music.
“The music declined because the bands got bloody bad, ” says Chris, “and so much crap was coming out. Too many bands were copying GBH and couldn’t play a note. There’s not one band left from ’81.”

Currently the band are trying to link with Weller’s Respond label and/or the Madness Zarjazz adventure – the nutty ones apparently being on the look out for a ‘really good’ skinhead band.
“We don’t want to sign with some two bob outfit,” says Barney, “just as we don’t wanna be confined to one sort of music. We won’t be categorised.”
Charlie: “We ain’t aiming to be pop stars, but we don’t wanna get stuck in a rut either. We wanna get across to people.”
And that means all people – no spurious North/South, black/white divides with these boys, who, like the HaN herberts, happily co-exist with Mods and admit to hankering after scooters when spondulicks permit.
“A lot of misleading crap has been written about skinheads,” says Barney, “due to an ignorant minority, and we’ve all got tarred with the same brush.”
Mick: “At our Stockton gig the other night I talked to a lot of skinheads and during the gig I made this speech.”
Barney: “What was said, right, was ‘You read in the papers that all skinheads are thick fascist thugs. I’m not a thick fascist thug. Are there any thick fascist thugs in here?’ There wasn’t one response. And Mick said ‘The way to do it is not fighting among ourselves, it’s unity.’ All the skinheads were chanting: ‘UNITED! UNITED! UNITED!'”
Music to the ears and the only way, repeat ONLY way, the new skinhead scene will survive and thrive.

Provisional Southend Poetry Group, the Boys of the Old Brigade

I’ve enjoyed reading Stand Up and Spit and what a voyage of discovery and re-discovery it’s been; a lucky dip into a veritable jamboree bag of happy reminders of half-remembered happenings, faces and places from my youth, and not least of all finding the odd slice of my own life in there, with mentions of the skinhead fanzine ‘Hard as Nails’, ‘The Provisional Southend Poetry Group’ and the wider wonders of ranting poetry in general – although nothing makes you feel your age quite like discovering that bits of your past have been officially designated as ‘heritage’!

skinheadpassport

If you’d asked me back in the ‘80s, I’d have said there was nothing remotely cultural or heritage about it all, and I’m not entirely sure that I’d have even described my rather slim notebook of shouting rhymes as poetry at all. Poetry was something you’d done at school because you had to, and enjoying any part of it wasn’t something you readily admitted at my Essex comprehensive at the fag-end of the ‘70s, unless you fancied being treated with the same scorn as the lads in ‘Scum’ might have shown to any ponce, nonce, grass, or other similarly contemptible life form. Nobody really had a sensitive, whimsical side back then. That said, the dramatic prose of Lord Tennyson’s ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ had managed to fire my schoolboy imagination, as had the punchy rhythm of ‘A Row in The Town’, a rebel song enthusiastically recited to us by a hard-left corduroy-clad English teacher, oh so typical of the time. Other early influences were really pretty diverse, and ranged from a book of Bob Dylan lyrics I’d purloined from my sister, the nonsense verse of Spike Milligan (one brilliantly signed off “by a young dog, age 3”)’, to the wonderful whiskey and Woodbines matured tones of Richard Burton reading ‘Under Milk Wood’ or the epilogue from ‘Zulu’ (well, with that voice, old Dickie could’ve read the back of a cornflakes packet and made it sound magnificent!).

My own ranting ‘recitals’ that were to come along a few years later, delivered in purest , nasal-whining Estuary English, were never going to have the gravitas of Burton reading Thomas, and so it was the lyrics of Strummer and Weller, the spoken words of John Cooper Clarke and Linton Kwesi Johnson, and the more boisterous talents of the emerging ranting scene, that showed me how poetry could have a life and a relevance outside academia, out in the real world, irrespective of accent or background.

The Provisional Southend Poetry Group came from an accidental, occasional, and not entirely serious collaboration between me and Paul Barrett back in the early 80s. Paul had previously been the voice of local red/anarcho-heavyweights The Sinyx, and I’d been doing a bit of stand-up poetry, jumping up before or between bands – a bit like those birds, Egyptian Plovers I think, who nip in and out between crocodiles’ teeth – variously under my own name or as ‘Skinner Malive’, ‘Ian of Nazareth’, or just ‘that bloody poetry bloke again’.

Paul and I were producing the skinhead fanzine ‘Hard As Nails’ around the same time, so cultural historians looking for tidy linear connections might be tempted to see the move from the written pages of ‘HaN’ to our spoken word performances with the ‘SPG’ as the next logical step in some kind of multi-media youth culture project, but it would only be so much transparently self-mythologizing, revisionist old bollocks if I even tried to pretend that was the case!

HAN

In reality, it was more in the spirit of what a certain Garry – Bushell or Johnson, I can’t remember which – once expressed as “having a laugh and a say” that we created ‘The Southend Poetry Group’. We thought a double act might be a bit more entertaining (to stretch the term to its limit) if we mixed up the tone and tempo, taking turns on the mic’, bouncing the poems off each other. Well, two shouty, sweary skinheads combining literary and Situationist pretentions with frustrated toasting deejay aspirations has got to be twice as good, hasn’t it? Or just twice as bad.

Even the name is so of its era, being an obvious and easy play on ‘SPG’, the police heavy mob of the day, but we were obliged to add the “provisional” prefix after the more serious and literary-minded “real” Southend Poetry Group complained to the local press about our misappropriation of their good name. I never realized that poetry was so popular at the time, and that a cultural backwater like Southend in the early ‘80s could have sustained both a “real” and a “provisional” poetry group (I‘d like to think there might have been a “continuity” Southend Poetry Group as well, operating in the shadows, still scribbling cheeky agit-prop limericks and scrawling badly-drawn knobs on pub toilet walls, long after everyone else had moved on….)

But why did we do it? What was the appeal of ranting? For me, it was born from a negative and a positive… The negative was the irrefutable fact that I could neither sing nor keep time, so no bugger would have me in their band. I’d been involved in something called ‘Angry Women’ around 1980, and then briefly tried again with Andy Brown (Allegiance to No-One) and Steve Pegrum (Bleeding Piles/Kronstadt Uprising) with the abortive ‘Tower of Babel’, which was the baby of an earnest but likeable bloke called Steve Dobson, who I think envisaged something more arty and post-punk like the Virgin Prunes, but it just ended up with me doing a load of off-key ‘Rejects and 4-Skins covers, and shouting my way through my poetry set. I remember us going through so many drum-driven versions of my rant, ‘Campaign with No Direction’, that the interminably repetitious output of the most self-indulgent, 12” re-mix-obsessive Balearic club DJ would look positively parsimonious in comparison (So, I’m sorry for messing about, Steve – even if it is thirty-odd years too late!).

But on the positive side – the fun side – of doing stand-up poetry was the urgency and immediacy of it all, and its sheer disposability. I certainly wouldn’t have thought I’d be writing about it three decades later. I didn’t really even think of it as gigging at the time, and I certainly never got paid anything beyond beer or a free entry with one or other of the bands I was notionally ‘supporting’ (“but it’s not about the money, is it Gal; it’s the charge, it’s the bolt…”) and in that respect it was a natural part of the whole cut’n’paste DIY ethic of the time, when everyone seemed to be in a band, writing a fanzine, or doing some thing. Despite taking weeks of typing, fiddling about with scissors, Pritstick, Tippex and Letraset, the fanzines of the time all shared an urgency, an anger, a passion, and a sense of community and genuinely common experience that no soulless 21st century Tweet could possibly hope to match.

Of course it wasn’t really better back then, was it? We were just younger! Although the ‘80s are now presented as a champagne and coke-fuelled loadsamoney free-for-all of power suits and Porsches, it was just a dull run-on from the beige ‘70s for most of us, that saw the transition from school to work, where every drunken two-fingered mug to camera was recorded on grainy Kodak 110 stock to a soundtrack of hissing, muffled C60 cassettes. I remember going into Town for gigs – and going to work in Hatton Garden – in and out of Liverpool Street station, when it was a dingy toilet of a place that actually felt more like the 1950s, perpetually brown and grey, always dark and dank, smelling of soggy mailbags, stale piss, and diesel from the black cabs. It was a microcosm of the country at the time -not a nice place to be – and I can remember many a night waiting for the milk-train back out to Essex, with not a Costa Coffee or Prêt a Manger in sight!

Things were certainly more black and white back then; heady times, where the political energy swirling around the GLC , the Falklands, the miners’ strike, the anti-racism movement, and a genuine fear of imminent nuclear oblivion played out against a brilliant musical score, and an entertainment backdrop of The Comic Strip and The Young Ones. Period film favourite ‘The Long Good Friday’ was shot in a still undeveloped Docklands where an Olympic stadium in the East End was just a fictitious gangster’s grandiose daydream. Few of us could have appreciated just how much the physical and political landscape was changing around us, and no-one could have possibly foreseen the sorry spectacle of today’s London where a bunch of hip and happenin’ bearded twats would be flogging each other breakfast cereal at a fiver a pop, while ordinary working folk are back in a Dickensian world of tradesman’s entrances and segregated housing. We had Ken, and now they’ve got Boris! Some progress, eh?

But getting back to the ranting… it was a fairly short period of time spent on the edge of a fairly small but dynamic, sharp and surprisingly varied scene (there are actually a lot more ways to inform an audience of your level of inebriation and your hatred of ‘Faaatcha’ than you’d think), and there was the undeniable buzz of putting yourself up on stage with just your own words to play with, bolstered by a belly full of Directors, and an occasionally witty riposte and/or a thick skin to see you through. Being heckled – from the simplistic, “Oi! Joe 90!” or “Fuck off, peanut!” to the more imaginative, “See your band’s not turned up again. They must think you’re a right c*** as well!!!” – was always a challenge, but the payback for this (generally) good-natured abuse was getting collared in pubs by drunken strangers shouting my own words back at me, or being put on the spot with ad-hoc requests to recite ”that one about” shopping bags, CND, Paul Weller and Jesus, or Margaret Thatcher (well, this was the ‘80s; I’m sure we ALL had one about Thatcher!)

And here we thirty years on. Thatcher’s dead and gone, along with the ‘eighties and our youth, but we’re still here – older if not wiser – and each of us continuing to stand up and spit in our own little way!

They were good times, and it’s great to see so much on the blog…. The past, as they say, is another country, and there’s no going back -which is just as well as I’d probably be on some bugger’s “no fly list” for all my youthful crimes against literature, art and culture! Oi! Oi! Carry on ranting!!!

Ian Hayes-Fry

Me Now_n

Provisional Southend Poetry Group

This inspired lads were a couple of sussed skinhead herberts, Paul Barrett and Ian Fry.
Paul had previously sung with The Sinyx.
Ian did a few ranting gigs and was a pretty good cartoonist. Paul and he were responsible for crucial skinhead ‘zine Hard As Nails, which set the tone for smartly dressed, good music loving, anti-racist skinheads.

PSPG

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The Railway Hotel, Southend, Saturday May 7th, 1983

Ian says: “I remember that ‘Railway’ gig particularly well – the “real” Southend Poetry Group turned up (all beards and real ale) and we had them jumping around to the bands by the end of the evening. Also recall some scooter-boys and psychobillies who’d turned up to “get the skins”, now that’s what I call edgy poetry!”

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Paul Barrett

PSPCian

Ian Fry