Garry Johnson’s book The Story of Oi – A View From The Dead-End Of The Street , and Chris Ryan’s Skinheads reviewed in Sounds, 3 April, 1982.
The first issue of Cardiff’s sussed skinhead ‘zine Backs Against the Wall, from 1986, has this poem in it. Cardiff skinhead/punk pub the Pig and Whistle, also known as The Gill, gets a mention.
A single guy, against the crowd,
So you beat him up, do you feel proud,
He must think you’re insane,
If it happens to you, you soon complain.
You fight in a pub, you fight in the station,
Is it any suprise you’ve a bad reputation,
Is it a laugh, when no band plays this town,
Cause then who’s the dickhead, who’s the clown?
There’s no need of violence, no one’s gonna gain,
Do you really get pleasure, by giving someone pain?
Just be a mellow guy, and drink in the Gill,
Make sure you watch Auf Wiedersain,
And be sure to watch Grange Hill!!
Boner, the poet laureate of Cardiff
Paul Morley sucked the fun out of punk long before he became ‘the cultural commentator Paul Morley’ sucking the fun out of nostalgia TV. He reviewed Killing Joke’s first album along with the Cockney Rejects second in the NME, 25 October, 1980.
Killing Joke (Malicious Damage/EG Records)
Greatest Hits Vol II (EMI)
Here are some young boys sneezing, wheezing, excreting. Where have they been? Where do they come from? The Cockney Rejects tap the baddest taste of their punk mentors (Sham, the Friggin’ Sex Pistols) and exhaust it with breathtaking short-sightedness. Killing Joke are trapped inside a diseased John Lydon/Hugh Cornwell nightmare, doing their cross-eyed best to affect malevolence and translate the bane and dread of PiL into something scrumptiously decomposed and very much their own.
Neither group engages my sympathy. Early-morning emptiness makes me see a point or two in Killing Joke’s conventionally barren music-scape. Nothing lets me in to the secret of how to teeter into the bog with Cockney Rejects.
Two ways of seeing ‘punk’; as dogma or a sense of adventure, Rejects are strangled by dogma: Killing Joke baffled by the possibilities of experiment. The two LPs give credence to the theory that ‘punk’ was just a moderate bump in the history of American rock music, a soft jab in the music industry’s face.
For the Rejects, punk is a licence to scatologically bare their priceless backsides on their glossy album cover, take soiled chants from the terraces into the expensive recording studios, let loose defective egos on the ‘world’. Killing Joke have sluggishly exploited the opportunities post-punk endeavour has offered them to fiddle about with sound and form, to wallow in horror pools of corruption and degeneration.
Like the next person, I have a certain taste for stupidity, but neither of these records stimulate that in the way I want it stimulated. Cockney Rejects are sprightly loony-teen pop prats, Killing Joke are fusty champions of the new underground – well in with the moderns, this lot, but not me chum – and both go through the motions: they’re well-mannered for all their cover of revolt or subversion.
We live in sick times: Cockney Rejects and Killing Joke seem to be part of the problem rather than sceptics or cynics.
Killing Joke’s peaky, broken-winded, meandering songs would actually form a better Ballardian soundtrack than Numan of Foxx, but ultimately the songs lack fierce introverted intensity or harrowing lust just as much as the synth-kids. They ladenly, sub-statically dribble along sounding more blank than terror-filled, forming a sullen, spasmodically wildish soundtrack for impending catastrophe that lacks a necessary sense of calm or disorientating inner tension.
Killing Joke are parasites sucking all the goodness out of important musics. Graceless. A poor joke.
Killing Joke song titles: ‘Requiem’, ‘War Dance’, ‘Tomorrow’s World’, ‘Complication’ (Foreigner playing Stranglers) ‘Primitive’. To another blotchy mix of comedy and tragedy. Cockney Rejects song titles: ‘War On The Terraces’, ‘Hate Of The City’, ‘Urban Guerilla’, ‘The Greatest Cockney Rip Off’, even ‘The Rocker’.
They even do Sweet’s ‘Blockbuster’ – this group don’t try as hard as Killing Joke not to be nostalgic. In fact they don’t try at all to be anything but vacantly, even cheekily, wild.
They come on like scolded Just Williams and sound like scalded dogs. Fourteen songs are spewed out that will abuse the souls and desires of their listeners with as much hypocritical crudeness and puritanical, jingoistic zeal as the Daily Star abuses its readers. If the Daily Star broke through its ludicrous cover of righteousness and owned up to the exploitative forces that drive it on, it would adopt Cockney Rejects as its pets and use them in its TV adverts along side Arthur Mullard.
These LPs emphasise that rock languages are repressive; they do nothing to indicate that music can also open up.
The Exploited reviewed live in Sounds, October 25, 1980.
I came to bury The Exploited, not to praise them, and yet I cannot ignore the facts. Despite all my prejudices and cynical hopes, they took the foreboding cavernous Playhouse Theatre by the scruff of its staid neck and shook the bugger until it screamed for respite.
Of course, they were helped by bthe 400-strong Exploited Barmy Army (soon to be dubiously immortalised in 45 form), a ragged but dedicated following of dead-end punks and skins. These are the real nowhere kids – those on the dole, those still at school and hating it, those too lazy to investigate more stimulating music, those too young to know any better and those who feel the Exploited are their own golden representatives. Hell, it may not be much, but what else have kids like this got?
A third-on-the-bill slot supporting the mechanically trashy Ramones and the limp 60s posturing of the Spectres (it was so ironic that Glen Matlock’s chirpy “Ello Edinburgh” was greeted by total silence from the hordes who probably became punks immediately after the Grundy TV debacle) hardly seemed the ideal setting for such roustabout ‘ready to ruck’ rabble-rousing, but the Exploited admirably overcame the traditional problems of transition from small club to large concert hall – no problem!
Indeed, such overly enthusiastic and physical reaction featuring mass pogoing and riotous applause hasn’t been generated by a local band since the heyday of the Skids as fledgling punk heroes. But Wattie Buchan on vocals and swearing is very much a man of the people – he understands their motivations, their expectations, their aspirations; and he uses it all to his own advantage.
He charges about the stage like some lunatic caged animal, snarling and spitting, whirling the mike around his head in some bizarre distortion of Daltrey on speed, as he strips to the waist, his Mohican hair-style glowing danger, and harangues the mob below to further outrage.
The addition of the energetic Gary on bass and the behemoth ‘Little John’ cradling his guitar like a weeping infant as he throttles it to death, has galvanised the Exploited into a dynamic adrenalin-rush attack of screeching frenzied rage. Subtlety and versatility are virtually non-existent as they thrash through ten or so numbers barely distinguishable from each other.
“Army Life”, that alternative chart fave, is still really the only song they have (though that won’t stop them from having hit singles) – the rest of the set is a garbled charging incitement to violence and hypocrisy. It must be faced – the Exploited are senseless bigots. Their pathetic tribal hatred, as encapsulated by ‘Fuck The Mods’ and ‘I Still Believe In Anarchy’ (at three quid a ticket?) is childish – but more than that, it is dangerous.
Aw hell – I’m confused. I went to the gig to do a hatchet job and came away dancing. But what happens when the twinkling toes are inside jackboots?
The April 2012 American skinhead ‘zine Dance Crasher Byrdzine has that weird American take on skinheads; where the envelope of style becomes the regimentation of brands. The zine is full of pictures harvested from the interweb and from across the decades, there are 4 of my ex-girlfriends, which is worrying. The zine follows the usual septic style of a Jenny Woo interview, pics of pony tattoos, and an uncredited Steve Friel cartoon which appeared in Zoot! in the 80s.
Despite that there is some passion to the zine and an interesting look at women in subcultures.
This Is A Man’s World
By: Joanna W
With subcultures mainly being a boy’s game, I’ve always looked closely to the few females involved as a support group. You would think that with females being about one to every twenty men (if not less) in these subcultures, they would be tight and appreciative to their sisters in the game.
Sadly, this is not a reality…
It seems that in the years I’ve been involved in this subculture, I’ve seen women become more or so “frienemies” rather than a stable support system to each other. This deeply saddens me, as I too have seen this first hand. I guess I am perpetually naïve to this, or just hopelessly optimistic to find nice women who are looking for sisterhood through music. I am not saying all females are like this, but there are quite a few out there who are.
What causes this? Why does it happen? Who are these females? I’m going to go forward and explain my views and opinions on this subject. These are strictly my opinions based on my own personal experiences so you are more than welcome to disagree.
Although a lot of teens come into a subculture looking to rebel and be non-conformist, they are just joining another conformity and rules. These ‘tribes’ have their own sets of rules and dress within themselves. There are usually unspoken rules of how to act, and who holds what seniority. This does vary from subculture to subculture, but they all have the basic skeleton from subculture to subculture.
Those who have been ‘in’ for the longest usually have the utmost respect., and typically, they feel they have the right to put those younger and less senior ‘members’ in their place. Women have a similar yet very different set of rules. Women cut each other down almost endlessly.
Womens rules in these youth cults are those in the same to men, however I feel that they are much more harsh. Typically, it starts out with how you got in. Usually, it’s one of the two – you got in on your own will or from your boyfriend. If you got in from your boyfriend, the rest of the local scene usually knows, as you showed up on the arm of Johnny Subculture at a random gig. If this is the case, respect for you is typically next to nothing – even if you truly do become part of the subculture in the long run – guy or not. You’ll almost always be known as so-n-so’s girlfriend or ex-girtlfriend. Men do not have this problem. They do not have to deal with derogatory names such as ‘oi toy’, ‘scene whore’, or something similar to that. This sexism runs rampant from both males and females. This in itself starts a vicious cycle of women’s roles in youth cults.
Youth cult or not, women tend to run in cliques and groups of friends in which they trust those few friends and hardly anyone else. I often hear young women from every cultural, social, and ethnic background say, “women are such bitches, I can’t stand them!”
Although they’ve made a few friends, what prevents their clique from being ‘bitches’ to each other? Again, youth cult or not – women tear each other down and can be harshly judgemental to each other to their faces or behind their backs, The sport of tearing down other females isn’t a pretty one, but it is often played. In my personal opinion, I honestly think women who tear down others for no apparent reason iss just a verbal venting of their own short comings and insecurities. To me, those who bash on other people who have not done anything to them are just insecure cowards trying to build themselves up by tearing others down. In the subcultural view, I often think that this happens because some women are not 100% comfortable with themselves and the role they play within a subculture. They often come off as they have the world to prove to others. The ‘pros’ of the bashing game for one who plays is typically to brag about how many girls they’ve driven away. This, I think, is a result of the need to be an alpha female.
Socially speaking, a woman with lots of male attention is considered highly desirable – appearance aside. If a female in a niche culture is surrounded mainly by men, logically, she should have plenty of potential mates and attention – boosting her ego, esteem, and popularity amongst males. This makes her an alpha female. Competition gets ripped down without a second thought. Typically, she will do just about anything to keep this status.
This is highly detrimental to the female side of a subculture. Hazing and driving new kids out leaves the scene stagnant and does not allow it to grow or evolve. With the same girls constantly around, this leaves slim options for the males who want to date within the scene. If these girls are single, they will be surrounded mostly by men, and probably have their internal feelings of alpha females pumped up, and will not want new females coming around. Another reason why this can be extremely harmful is that if people within a local scene date amongst each other. With only a few females around dating the men in the subculture, this will typically cause drama. Say, if there were only 6 males and 2 females in a local scene, this would definitely cause trouble. Also, if a female dates amongst the local scene quite often, this can lead her back to being accused of being an ‘oi toy’ or a ‘scene whore.’ Even if she didn’t get in because of a boyfriend, she can be accused of these things, and her intentions within a subculture can be questioned just because of her dating habits. Most women outside of subcultures don’t get called such names when dating around. The dating world for females within subcultural boundaries can be dangerous, dramatic, and disheartening. The need to prove that she is genuine and an individual while dating a man in a subculture can cause many issues within herself and her relationship.
I have honestly never understood the ‘hazing’ into a subculture. When I think ‘hazing’, I think of some dumb frat guys putting a new house member through humiliation. What’s the point? Isn’t that the sort of mentality we wanted to get away from when we chose to stray from the norms of mainstream society? Why do you want to scare away potential new members of a band, future DJs, or life-long friends? Shame on anyone who participates in these pointless and degrading tactics – male or female. Having a healthy, thriving subculture relies on having new blood coming in, and often. Driving new people away, believe it or not, has a domino effect within your local town.
First off, driving people away by not accepting them in the local scene or stating that they need to be hazed in makes you come off like a total jerk. Where ever they’re from, they’ll tell their friend back home (or non subculture friends that are local), “Yeah, I came here and they expected me to do this, that, and the other to hang out with them. Yeah, I know, ridiculous.” Honestly, these games make participants look like total childish buffoons and make said person ashamed to be involved in a subculture. Also, this makes you look like an awful example of a subculture. If you’re playing these sorts of childish games, you should honestly do some questioning of your personality and how you treat others in general. As harsh as it may sound, I believe it’s true. This could also spread around to other places and give your town a poor reputation.
Second, the less people you have in your town, the less often bands will come around. Say a fantastic band comes through your town once, but no one shows up. The impression your town will lay on them is that your town is not a money maker. Most bands don’t even get guarantees on the road and solely rely on merch sales to keep their tour afloat and stomachs filled with food. If your town has no one going to shows, they’ll skip over your town in future tours, Make sense? So, driving fresh blood out of your scene may also eventually drive out touring bands you want to see.
Another thing I’ve never understood is why older members within a subculture are so demeaning to younger kids. They, too, were once that age. I’m sure they didn’t pop outta mama’s womb in full subcultural attire with a stellar record collection. They, too had to go through the ins and outs of growing up and discovering who they are, and I’m sure they had some embarrassing records in their collection at one point. Being condescending to these kids is downright hypocritical. If they were treated like that when they were younger, they should be empathetic. Treating new kids like they were treated is wrong, and those two wrongs definitely do not make a right. If you truly love a subculture and music, you want it to grow, evolve, and last against the tests of time. Sharing your love of all these things with younger kids who really don’t know where to look helps the subculture grow and forms a brotherly and sisterly bond that is so highly idealized. What is the point of hoarding information?
Rarely do you see younger kids coming around these days who are taken in by older members of a subculture with open arms. If just that were to happen, if people could just get off their mighty high horses…they’d see that most slowly dying subcultures would gain new life. Sure, you may think that these kids are dumb and hopeless, but SO WERE YOU! Don’t haze them, don’t demean them – just be a positive influence. Being an older “brother” or “sister” can be very rewarding!
Younger girls especially need this positive influence to help prevent them falling into all the sexism and gender roles that subcultures dole out. They need to know that it IS okay to be in a subculture and not be sleeping with someone, or constantly causing drama. They need to know that you can be yourself with outside interests from a subculture. Girls in their teens especially need guidance to help their self-esteem, identity, and peer pressure issues. I would assume that most of these girls’ parents don’t quite understand why they are expressing their femininity in a boy’s game. My mother thought I was mental. If I had a female to look up to at that age, those years would’ve been a lot easier.
I hope things change in the future. I would love to see more women reaching out and cultivating a sense of sisterhood amongst themselves instead of breeding jealousy, cattiness, competition, and two-faced behaviour. Negative behaviour such as the types I’ve discussed (from males or females) is detrimental to any subculture. Period. It prevents the cultures and scenes from evolving. Why act in such a manner? No one will benefit from it. Acting with class, dignity and grace will never go out of style and will never be looked down upon. Be secure with your place in the sun and don’t concern yourself with anyone else’s. Honesty, no one has the authority or right to drive someone out of a subculture – seniority or not.
To those whom have a sense of entitlement – think twice first. Your actions will speak louder than your words.
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 ne a commie, it takes more than one brain cell to see through this pathetic attitude, unfortunatly 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 regualr 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 aris, 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.