Jamaican producer and musician Harry Zephaniah Johnson, 67, credited with producing what is widely considered the first reggae single “No More Heartaches” by the vocal harmony trio The Beltones, passed away on Wednesday, April 3 in his Westmoreland, Jamaica birthplace, succumbing to complications from diabetes; Johnson leaves four children and three grandchildren.
Born on July 6th, 1945, Johnson, better known as Harry J, initially entered the music business as a bass player with The Virtues prior to becoming the group’s manager. Shortly thereafter, he took a job as an insurance salesman but his love for music continually beckoned. He booked time at producer/sound system owner Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One in 1968 and recorded The Beltones. The resultant debut release on Johnson’s Harry J label, “No More Heartaches,” is considered a defining record heralding the emergence of the reggae beat as distinctive from its rock steady predecessor. (“Nanny Goat”, a 1968 song produced by the better-known Coxsone Dodd and sung by the duo Larry and Alvin is also cited as a transformative record, moving the rock steady tempo into a reggae rhythm).
“At the time we were under contract with Coxsone Dodd but he wasn’t doing anything for us so a member of a popular group The Cables took us to Harry J; Harry was new to the business and happy to record us so we broke away from Coxsone and went with him,” recalled The Beltones’ former lead singer Trevor Shields told Billboard.biz. “The driving sound on “No More Heartache” was totally different; we were like outsiders starting something new but didn’t know it at the time. The song was No. 1 on the Jamaican charts for about four weeks, which was no easy feat in those days.”
Harry J’s next big hit “Cuss Cuss” by Lloyd Robinson, released in 1969, boasts one of the most recycled reggae rhythms in the voluminous Jamaican music canon. The same year Harry J released a succession of reggae instrumentals credited to the Harry J All Stars, a revolving cast of musicians that included pianist Gladstone “Gladdy” Anderson, keyboardist Winston Wright, bassist Jackie Jackson, drummer Winston Grennan and guitarist Hux Brown. “Smashville,” “Je T’Aime” and “Srpyone” an assortment of Jamaican originals and reggae adaptations of international hits, are just three of the Harry J All Stars’ instrumentals that garnered steady play from Kingston’s sound system selectors.
Their most successful was “Liquidator,” led by Winston Wright’s spirited keyboard solos, which peaked at no. 9 on the UK Singles chart and became an unlikely skinhead anthem there. The song’s opening bassline was subsequently featured on the introduction to The Staple Singers’ 1972 Hot 100 chart topper “Ill Take You There” (Stax Records). According to an April 7 report in the Jamaica Observer newspaper by Howard Campbell, based on a 2000 Observer interview with Johnson, drummer Al Jackson (of Booker T and the MGs, Stax’s in-house band) visited Kingston in 1969 and met Harry J who gave him a copy of “Liquidator”; Johnson was shocked to hear the song used in the Staple Singers’ hit and took aggressive steps to collect royalties from Stax but made little progress.
Following “Liquidator’s” UK success, British reggae label Trojan gave Johnson his own Harry J imprint; his instrumental productions never again reaped the popularity of “Liquidator” but Johnson triumphed working with several of the island’s vocalists commencing with Marcia Griffiths and Bob Andy: their 1970 duets covering Nina Simone’s “Young Gifted and Black” and Crispian St. Peters’ “The Pied Piper” reached the upper tiers of the UK singles charts.
In 1972 Johnson opened a sixteen-track studio at 10 Roosevelt Avenue, Kingston, which revolutionized the reggae capital’s recording industry. “Back then, we were recording two-track and four-track sessions so it took great foresight for someone to go all the way to 16-tracks, which brought us on par with the rest of the world,” engineer/musician/producer Stephen Stewart told Billboard.biz at Harry J studios; there Stewart learned audio engineering in the 1970s while still a teenager, working alongside the late Sylvan Morris. “Because he had the latest in technology Harry J attracted the best artists of the day,” Stewart noted.
A sampling of the classic 1970s roots reggae recordings done at Harry J studios includes: The Heptones’ “Book of Rules,” The Melodians’ “Sweet Sensation,” Toots and the Maytals’ “Reggae Got Soul,” Burning Spear’s “Days of Slavery” and Dennis Brown’s “So Long Rastafari.” Bob Marley and The Wailers also recorded their first four albums for Island Records at Harry J (“Catch a Fire,” “Burnin,” featuring Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh, “Natty Dread,” and “Rastaman Vibration” with the I-Threes); presently, framed gold copies of those Wailers albums adorn the walls of the studio’s main room.
Harry J Studios are featured in the 1978 film “Rockers” (directed by Theodoros Bafaloukos and starring Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, Gregory Isaacs and Jacob Miller) in a scene that spotlights singer Kiddus I recording “Graduation In Zion” there.
Although the 1970s were Harry J’s production heyday he continued to produce and release hit singles throughout the 1980s including Sheila Hylton’s cover of The Police’s “The Bed’s Too Big Without You”, which reached no. 38 on the UK singles chart. Harry J responded to the massive “Sleng Teng” rhythm released by the King Jammys label in 1984, which jumpstarted Jamaican music’s digital revolution, with his aptly titled “Computer Rule” rhythm that spawned numerous hits for various singers and toasters including Daddy Freddy, Charlie Chaplin, Uglyman, and Little John.
Following a seven-year dormancy during the 1990s, Harry J studios reopened in 2000, under the management of Stephen Stewart who refurbished and re-equipped the facility, with Johnson retaining ownership of the premises. “Harry J pushed the business aspect of the industry, putting deals together and cataloguing his songs (including releases on the Jaywax, Roosevelt, 10 Roosevelt Avenue and Sunset subsidiaries), which were separate from the studio operations,” Stewart offered.
Countless reggae veterans including Toots Hibbert, Burning Spear, Sly and Robbie and Luciano have recorded at Harry J studios in recent years while upstart Jamaican groups Raging Fyah and Di Blueprint Band and an abundance of European reggae acts have each sought out its authentic roots reggae sound. “People come here to capture that live session chemistry where recording is more than just one person using a computer program,” observes Stewart. “The legacy of the musicianship that has come through here makes Harry J studios really special, it’s part of the vision Harry brought to Jamaican music.”
by Modculture 1 October, 2012
Mods in the 1960s
Thought this bunch of clips might be of interest to you, a short movie around the Fred Perry 60th anniversary event and if you missed them, the Subculture movies themselves.
The Fred Perry event took place last week, a showcase for the clothing label and its heritage and the Don Letts-directed mini movies, throwing in some live performances and DJs, headed up by The Charlatans.
You can watch it here…
Episode 2: This Is A Modern World
Episode 3: Made in England
Episode 4: Soul Power
There are many great British bank holiday traditions; determined but ultimately doomed DIY projects, staring from stationary car windows in lengthy traffic jams or simply avoiding the predictable rain.
One tradition though which has largely been consigned to history is the invasion of south-coast seaside resorts by teenage youth cults; namely the Mods and Rockers.
As news of the fighting and arrests filtered out, these youngsters found themselves at theforefront of public outrage.
In fact, the Easter weekend shenanigans were pretty much the first mass-media scare over a drug-taking, mindless, violent youth.
Of course there have been quite a few scares since.
Newspaper headlines from March 1964 screamed ‘Wild ones invade seaside’ and ’97 leather jacket arrests; youngsters beat-up seaside’ as fighting broke out in Clacton-on-Sea.
The trouble caused enough outrage for Panorama to investigate the groups and work out whether this phenomenon would be become a regular feature of future bank holidays.
The results were strikingly candid; providing a snapshot of working-class youth at the point where deference to the establishment was beginning to wane.
The Mods preached a hedonistic take on life; enjoying drugs, music, clothes and violence to a lesser or greater degree and set a blueprint for many a youth tribe to follow.
The Rockers seemed more about the bikes.
Perversely for a group with an anti-establishment reputation, the Rockers citied Mods lack of education and class as factors behind their behaviour. The reality though was that both groups were predominantly working-class.
The battles may have ceased almost as quickly as they began; but they have become the stuff of legend, immortalised in the album, film and now stage play “Quadrophenia”.
But as with any legend, it has tarnished a little over the years amid claims that many seaside punch-ups were actually faked for the press.
This tradition carried on through peaks and troughs, right up until the early 80′s when cheap Spanish holidays, took British youth abroad
Both groups still thrive today albeit in smaller, underground circles. The great Skinhead Reunion in Brighton or the resurrection of the Rockers haunt the Ace cafe in north London, or the continued vogue for modish Fred Perry clothing and their mainstream influence is still evident today, although the violence is consigned to the past.
The end of a reign of terror
FOR decades the mere mention of their name struck fear and terror into football fans across the UK and Europe.
They revelled in being the most notorious hooligans on the planet.
They were the Chelsea Headhunters — dishing out their savage brand of football violence on rival fans at grounds across the country in the Seventies and Eighties.
They disappeared from the scene for a number of years following a string of convictions for violence. Then last year the ringleaders coaxed the now middle-aged and pot-bellied brutes out of retirement for one last dust-up.
But yesterday the vile thugs’ 30-year reign of terror was ended once and for all as the last remnants of the ageing, desperate gang were brought to justice following their final brutal clash.
The chance to rekindle the tribal camaraderie and blood-fuelled adrenaline the Headhunters had once lived for presented itself when Championship side Cardiff City were drawn away to Chelsea in the fifth round of the FA Cup on February 13 2010.
The Welsh club’s own hardcore group, the Soul Crew, enjoy a formidable reputation and relished the prospect of invading west London.
In the deluded minds of the Chelsea old guard, getting stuck in to the Cardiff mob was a matter of defending national pride.
The scene that unfolded was a perfect storm of football violence — punch-ups and brick-throwing in broad daylight as terrified families cowered in the carnage.
Marshalling the bloated and blowing Chelsea soldiers that day were Andy “Nightmare” Frain, 46, and Jason Marriner, 43.
Dad-of-three Marriner, of Stevenage, Herts, was yesterday jailed for two years and banned from football grounds for eight years having been found guilty at Isleworth Crown Court of playing a “pivotal role” in organising one of the biggest ever violent clashes between football hooligan “firms”.
He was due to be joined by Frain — who was last seen arriving at court swigging from a bottle of vodka — but his sentencing had to be postponed due to illness. Frain, of Chelmsford, Essex, has pleaded guilty to violent disorder and is due to be sentenced later.
Frain and Marriner have previously been jailed for seven and six years respectively in 2000 after being secretly filmed plotting violence during a BBC programme by investigative reporter Donal MacIntyre. Frain discussed his involvement with the neo-Nazi group Combat 18 while Marriner had close links to Ulster loyalists.
On Thursday, 13 other Chelsea fans were jailed for offences of violence after the Cardiff game and received sentences of up to two years in jail. One of those was Ian Cutler, a 50-year-old builder from Wednesbury, West Mids, who has football-related convictions for violence dating back to the 1970s. He was seen kicking and punching a man lying on the ground and given 14 months and banned from football grounds for six years.
Judge Martin Edmunds QC told Cutler and other defendants they were “old enough to know better”.
On Monday, Terence Matthews, of Morden, Surrey, and two others pleaded guilty to affray. A judge warned them they face jail when sentenced in May.
A now slimmed-down Matthews, 50, was once accused of being the “Fat Man” who rammed a bottle in a barman’s face at a pub near Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge ground.
He was jailed for four years for affray in 1986 but, to the outrage of police and victims, was acquitted of the bottle attack. He later served a two-year jail sentence for assaulting a police officer. Det Supt William Lyle of the Metropolitan Police said of the violence on the day of the Cardiff match: “Nothing like it had happened since the 1970s. One heavily pregnant woman in a car became very stressed by fighting hooligans.
“There was CCTV of a father shielding his two children as missiles were thrown over their heads. We were prepared for trouble but nobody could have foreseen that.”
These fresh convictions have ripped the heart out of the Headhunters’ hierarchy who, in their heyday, became infamous for inflicting their own brand of torture.
In their “manor” of London’s trendy King’s Road they would administer the notorious “Chelsea Smile” — so-called because victims’ faces would be SLICED from the edges of the mouth to the ears.
To hurt or even kill the victim, he or SHE would then be STABBED in the stomach so the face would RIP when they screamed.
But with the arrival of all-seater stadiums in the early Nineties, football hooliganism was all but stamped out. The shaven-headed, hate-filled hooligans got older and there was a lack of wannabes waiting to fill their shoes.
In recent years the Headhunters became nothing more than a myth.
The group faded away after MacIntyre’s documentary exposed the remaining hardcore members.
But the cup clash with Cardiff last year proved too much for the now paunchy monsters to turn down. All the old crew were back for the reunion — Nightmare, Marriner and the Fat Man too.
Police insisted on a noon kick-off but the first signs of trouble came in the morning when more than 100 Chelsea yobs marched on North End Road, splitting into two groups with military precision to attack Cardiff coaches.
Smoke bombs went off as the rival hooligans clashed before police took control.
The court heard this week how Chelsea fans then downed up to seven pints of lager and snorted lines of cocaine in pubs as they prepared to face their Welsh enemy after the final whistle.
The thugs jostled on the Fulham Road. A group of Cardiff fans broke away and made their way to the King’s Road, where they were met by the Headhunters.
More than 200 yobs then fought a running battle for the next quarter of an hour, hurling missiles and traffic cones at each other.
Bricks were thrown at police. One officer had his jaw broken and lost four teeth after being hit in the face with a rock.
The police quickly launched Operation Ternhill to identify the thugs and collected hundreds of hours of CCTV footage.
Seventeen hooligans were named to police in just two days last July following an appeal in The Sun.
A total of 96 people have been charged over the riot so far, with more than 60 having already pleaded guilty to offences of affray and violent disorder.
mpuDet Supt Lyle said: “A high number were in their thirties, forties and even their fifties. The oldest one was 55. A lot of them went because they knew there was a high possibility of violence.”
In February this year 27 Cardiff fans received sentences of up to 14 months in jail. A second batch of 18 more were given similar terms.
Brave telly investigator Donal MacIntyre was in court yesterday.
Thugs from the Headhunters firm attacked him and wife Ameera last year in “revenge” for some of their gang being convicted as a result of his 1999 report. A member of the gang James Wild, 47, was later convicted for the attack.
MacIntyre said: “They beat my wife up when she had a brain tumour. I’m here to see justice done. I’ve been running for ten years and now enough is enough.”
WEDNESDAY 13 + SUPPORT @ CONCORDE 2, 6TH MARCH 2013.
Leaving my abode at 6:30 and wheeling down Brighton seafront in, I just couldn’t sit still. The drizzling rain and icy cold didn’t stop me from hurtling down towards the venue, eager to see a band that I had been awaiting their return to the Sussex since Oct 2012. Upon my arrival I met up with a close friend of mine [Captain Morgan] whom has loved WEDNESDAY 13 since the age of 11, including many other blood hungry fans lurking around outside including the usual drunken weirdos! So, after I’d gotten myself the usual I was ready to hear some good n loud stuff from the first support ORESTEA, a five-piece, South East UK Rock band, continuing their ‘uplifting energetic musical approach’. I was somewhat a little surprised as to lovely the vocals were, powerful, empowering and inspiration were my first immediate thoughts. Although the structure of the band is a little to soft and basic for my taste, I felt the front-girl (Lisa Avon), presented us with a great show! Their most well-known songs are their self-release debut EP, ‘Shadows Of Yesterday’, and their 2010 release ‘Your Own Mistake’ - Official Video here - www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8jyhGx93fQ, Twitter : www.twitter.com/orestea, Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/oresteaband~
When the first support band had ended, I headed off to get some air, another drink and chat with others about 2013′s future line-up of gigs and festivals. Although the second support of the night wasn’t far behind so myself and my fellow head-thumpers (Rowan and Captain Morgan) made our way to the crowd gathering by the stage to get a good view. As the music started, there was a series of loud cheers from the barriers in front of the stage noting that SISTER, ‘The sleaze/punk influenced metal outfit’ from Stockholm in Sweden, slowing mooched out in front. Their incredibly Gothic Ramone-like style was almost overwhelming as the screamed loudly at their hyper gathering. I was very impressed by the overall enthusiasm of the band and how the guitarist’s (Lestat) riffs were super fast! The drumming by (Cari) was making everyone around me thrash which in history of gigs, is always a good sign, but the backing vocals from all the members, including main vocalist (Jamie), really was the bath-bomb in the bloodbath! Some of my most liked tracks of the night included, ‘Too Bad for You’ and ‘The Unlucky Majority’. SISTER’s YouTube Channel : http://www.youtube.com/sisterofficial, Twitter : https://twitter.com/SISTER_official, Facebook : http://www.facebook.com/sisterband~
Even though I was psychically exhausted from waving my arms around, me and my friends were really pumped for seeing highlight of the evening ..WEDNESDAY 13. After I relaxed in my chair for a few minutes, the intro music (Death Arise) to The Dixie Dead, (WEDNESDAY 13′s new album), crept up slowly onto the audience, making us all scream in horrific passion. For those who don’t know this band very well, or have heard of them, I can tell you now, they are really amazing live and put on a terrifically terrorizing show! Their music genres between horror punk and psychobilly rock, which personally are my favorite sounds to rave around to at home, muahahaha!! So they began the insanity with ‘Blood Sucker’ motherfucker! My favorite song fro The Dixie Dead ‘Get your Grave on’ was played after and I must admit I went a little fan-girly when half-way through the show they played ‘I Love To Say Fuck’, after all it is my 4th ‘most played’ song on Itunes! Then, after a few other tracks (of which I was too pissed to remember), ‘I Walked With A Zombie’ was played and Wednesday 13 sang it brilliantly! It made the crowd go wild, front and back of the crowd, creating a small mosh for a few minutes.. was tempting to drive into hehe! After my frantic headbanging and spinning in my chair, the gig came to a gory/sweaty end, if which I almost fainted driving outside. All in all, a pretty fun frightening night and I definetly hope to see WEDNESDAY 13 again in the near future! ALSO I RECOMMEND SEEING THEM AT A VENUE NEAR YOU!!! Here are the tour dates for March 2013 starting from yesterday : The Fleece – Bristol [Thursday 7th March] TONIGHT! More dates here - http://wednesday-13.com/?page_id=2~ Come back soon guys!
Article By Naomi McAdam
This post was submitted by Nu McAdam.
385 Willesden High Road is tucked away behind a row of dilapidated 19th century houses, its entrance obscured by high locked gates and a walled yard. But 385 is a treasure trove of reggae history. It’s called Theorem, Music Village, and it’s where we’re recording several artist interviews for Reggae Britannia. As we arrive, there’s a band in the studio rehearsing a romantic Lovers Rock number, there’s a man up a rickety ladder painting the walls and another mopping up from an all night dance in the ‘functions room’ with its damp lino and garish red felt walls.
T-Jae, the tall soft-spoken proprietor of what was once called BBMC (the Brent Black Music Cooperative) helps us with our camera gear. He’s got coffee brewing in the kitchen beside an open can of condensed milk. Before T-Jae’s time this was a leisure centre filled with rattle of pinball machines and the click of snooker balls – now replaced by the drum ‘n bass of reggae rhythms leaking from the studio.
We’re here to interview Dave Barker, one half of the Dave and Ansell Collins vocal duo who set the teenage mods alight, back in 1971, performing a novelty number called ‘Double Barrel’. Dave’s a quietly spoken man with a hint of a stammer. He tells us how, when he first came to this country (and he stayed here ever after) he peered out through the window of his BOAC plane as it banked over the smoking chimneys of the snow-covered houses below and wondered ‘how come they have so many bakeries in England?’ On the drive from the airport he was shocked at seeing white men digging the road and taking out garbage: ‘Wow man, that was strange, you didn’t see those things in Jamaica’. Nor dogs wearing winter vests, nor steak and kidney pies, nor that little sparrow he spied pecking the top off a milk bottle. He can’t help himself: Dave sings a refrain from Matt Munro’s ‘Born Free’ and segues into ‘Summer Holiday’.
Dave arrived in the U.K exactly ten years before Theorem opened its doors to top British and Jamaican reggae artists passing through. Today, there’s the legendary Max Romeo sitting on bench in the winter sunshine, his grey locks neatly tucked into a woolly beret. In 1969, Max brought his wicked song ‘Wet Dream’ to Britain and its risqué lyrics – which got it banned in clubs and on the BBC – made it an anthem for skinheads in dance halls all across Britain. He sings a few lines, diffidently explaining how it caused an ‘upstir’ among the rebellious youth of the time. He’s a little ashamed of it now because, by the mid 70s, Max had embraced the wisdom of Rastafari. That was when he wrote and recorded some of reggae’s most powerful and memorable music in the Black Ark studio of Lee Scratch Perry: ‘War In A Babylon’ and ‘Chase The Devil’. When those songs arrived here, first as pre-releases and then remixed by Island Records, they inspired our fledgling roots reggae bands and then the punks and then Bob Marley too. Max intones a few lines from ‘Chase The Devil’, an ironic, cautionary tale that has been covered or sampled by dozens of musicians – including Jay-Z in ‘The Black Album’ – and was featured in the video-game Grand Theft Auto.
‘I’m gonna put on an iron shirt and chase Satan out of earth’ he sings. ‘I’m gonna send him to outer space to find another race’. Max explains: ‘The devil is the negative within the psyche. Chasing the devil means chasing the negative out of your mind.’ There are people wandering in and out while he speaks; musicians carrying drums and guitars into this studio that’s cold as a morgue, or dropping off an amp or a heavyweight speaker, or they’ve come to pay their respects to the master, with a hug or a high-five.
T-Jae comes sauntering by with a piece of carpet under his arm to help our sound recordist dampen the ‘live’ acoustic of the room (yes, we still have a sound recordist on our crew) and he tells me that among the band members in the studio today is none other than Bigga Morrison. Bigga’s not a front man like Max, but a keyboard virtuoso and music director of renown. Reggae royalty. The band take a another break for a smoke in the yard and Bigga, immaculate in pin-striped suit and brogues, describes growing up in this country as a second generation West Indian:
‘My parents had experienced troubles and threats on the streets, back in the ’50s, with the Teddy Boys and such, but they wouldn’t discuss those things because they wanted to keep you free from the pressures. But as we grew up, we took our message and our fight onto the streets with the roots and culture music we played in bands like Steel Pulse and Aswad.’
Later during the interview, I asked Bigga to show us how the British reggae producers, back in the early 1970s, added violins to the Jamaican imports to make them sound ‘more classical’. Unfortunately, he’s lost his glasses and so can’t read the score. Tee Jay’s on hand to send for a replacement pair. Bigga fills in time by playing us a delightful new track by his band the Skatronics, but when the glasses arrive, they’re all wrong for Bigga. He wears them anyway, and peers astigmatically at the music for ‘Young Gifted And Black‘ which is layered in symphonic-style strings. Bigga (educated at Trinity College of Music) explains how Jamaican reggae gradually transformed into a British musical experience, first through the dub sounds and conscious lyrics of hardworking roots groups like Aswad and then by the bands that went platinum: the 2 Tone crowd, UB40 and The Police.
Bigga’s being called back to rehearsals now, so we break for a late lunch. It’s a choice of The New Golden Duck Chinese Take Away or the Caribbean place half a mile up the road. We do the walk and settle for salt fish and akee. Or rather, the others do. I choose the goat curry on plantains and soon regret it.
Back in Theorem, Bigga’s at the keyboards and a couple of pretty female vocalists are delivering more saccharine Lovers Rock. And that’s where we see Big Youth, in among them, gyrating his hips to the pounding bass and chugging upbeat of the guitar. He’s chaperoned by a petite Italian lady from an artists’ agency called Roots Rockers. She’s Trish, and she’s exhausted because they’ve only just returned from a nightmare flight from Spain. Trish is a miracle of calm and efficiency in the maelstrom of the struggling reggae business and it’s clear all the artists adore her. Trish has offered us the opportunity to interview Big Youth, the toaster who excited British reggae fans with his revolutionary, rasta-inspired lyrics in the mid ’70s. He’s on top form today, his wiry body twisting and swaying in the interview chair as he sings lines from ‘Hit The Road Jack’, telling me how the great Ray Charles called him up one Christmas-time to admit that Big Youth’s version was just ‘the best’. ‘Big Youth stole the scene,’ he concludes. Modesty isn’t one of Big Youth’s virtues. But I can vouch for his status, and integrity. I first met him insideRandy’s Record shop in Kingston Jamaica back in ’77. He was checking out the sales of his album – visiting these record stores was about the only way an artist could tell how many were selling. He was as big a name as Marley at the time, and revered both on the island and over here. We met again – by chance – in Lagos, Nigeria, when he was on the run from some unscrupulous promoter. He’s older and greyer now, but with no loss of energy, showmanship or sharp humour. And the red, gold and green implants in his front teeth are still there.
The filming days at Theorem haven’t only been productive for our ninety minute programme, they’ve also been enormous fun. Maybe it’s the familiarity and affection the artists have for this building, or maybe it’s what they call ‘the spirits’ of the house: a combination of all those sounds and experiences imbedded in the cracking plaster walls, the creaky floorboards which once the feet of hallowed artists trod, or the reverberating bass you can hear down Theorem’s honeycomb of corridors.
We’ll be back here later in the week to interview the fiery, bubbly Lovers Rock singer Sylvia Tella, from Manchester; and Tippa Irie who came to fame DJing for the Saxon sound system, and maybe Dennis Bovell, the multi-talented producer/song writer and bass player, who did so much to anglicise reggae music in this country. Oh, and Trish says Dennis Alcapone’s coming by, the dapper, bowler-hatted vocalist who brought a whole new style of toasting to these shores with songs like ‘Guns Don’t Argue’: ‘Don’t call me Scarface, my name is Capone, C-A-P-O-N-E!’
For him, we’ll haul our equipment boxes down the dark corridors of Theorem (we never could find the light switches, thriftily hidden away in recesses above door frames). Because we’ll place him in a room, behind the studio, which is every reggae fan’s dream, an Aladdin’s cave of antique tape machines and mixers, and an expansive crimson casting couch. The wood-trim Rainderk desk dates from the early ’70s when Reggae first exploded onto our pop charts with songs like ‘Young Gifted And Black’, bringing an upbeat musical thrill not just to those of Caribbean origin and the packs of skinheads who followed them around the country, but to the whole nation. This mixing desk was donated by Pete Townshend of The Who. It has made history since, recording reggae artists like The Wailers, Gregory Isaacs, Aswad, Janet Kay, Maxi Priest … and so many more.
The traffic’s slow on Willesden High Road as we leave the studios and T- Jae waves us into the evening gridlock and shuts the gates. Back-in-the-day, Theorem would be filling up with dreadlocked musicians and their natty entourage, ready for another all night session. Sometimes it still does, but with the proliferation of cheap home studios and a music industry in crisis, it’s a whole lot quieter now. No sessions tonight. Just the rattling pipes, the whispering corridors, the vacant studio and the ghosts of British reggae history.
Jeremy Marre is the Producer and Director of Reggae Britannia
Can the UK’s ‘toilet circuit’ of small music venues survive?
From Punk Rock,Ian Dury, The Police, U2, Madness, Coldplay to PJ Harvey, Amy Winehouse, and countless other big British rock acts started out playing tiny pubs and clubs around the UK. But with many of these venues closing, who will keep the rock’n'roll dream alive?
Will another coffee shop bring in £ billions, tourists, radio play and record sales worldwide, that so many British bands have done for the UK. Small pub curcuit is the first step to a carreer, and artform, that british people hold so dearly to their hearts. The Government war on pubs and alcahol consumption will have its casualties, and British music is suffering severely. Every person that comes to the UK to see a band will bring on average around £500 to the British economy. The translates to £millions every year. Bands didnt start their career, at Wembley arena. Are we going to hand over the entire music industry to 5 minute kareoke singers and make Simon Cowell a bit richer
The Bull and Gate in Kentish Town in north London is, in music-business vernacular, a “toilet venue”, where the stage can just about accommodate a four-piece band, and the dressing room contains a solitary grubby mirror. But the term does this place a real disservice, both in terms of the ornate Victorian splendour of the main bar, and in the roll call of names who have played in the 150-capacity back room – among them, Madness, The Clash Coldplay, Pulp, PJ Harvey, Muse, Blur and the Manic Street Preachers.
After three decades of hosting gigs here, the landlord and landlady are selling up and retiring. The Bull and Gate has been bought by the brewery and pub company Young’s, who are apparently set on turning it into a gastropub (“We don’t feel that having a live music offering at the pub alongside our plans to serve food is viable,” went one company statement). The venue’s current music promoters, a four-person outfit called Club Fandango, will stage their last show on 4 May, which will be preceded by a special run of gigs, likely to feature notable alumni of the Bull and Gate, to be titled Play Your Respects. And that will be that: yet another small music venue shutting its doors, adding to a list of closures that extends across the country, and threatens one of British popular culture’s most inspired inventions: the so-called “toilet circuit”, on which no end of hugely successful musicians have taken their first decisive steps.
In London, as with most matters reducible to hard cash, things are not as bad as elsewhere: here, the story is partly about decline, but also a migration of venues to the east of the city, as ongoing gentrification pushes live music out of its old north London stamping grounds. But beyond the M25, things look grim. The national Barfly chain, which had venues in Brighton, Birmingham, Cambridge and Cardiff, closed most of them between 2008 and 2010. Such famous places as Leeds’s Duchess of York, Newport’s TJs and Leicester’s Princess Charlotte have either been converted to new uses or left to fall into disrepair.
Others are surviving, but struggling: the people in charge of the renowned Hull Adelphi have expressed serious doubts about its future, and venues such as the Tunbridge Wells Forum are now staffed by volunteers. Four or five years ago, the music business clung to the idea that even if sales of CDs were being squeezed, people’s appetite for ticketed live events looked to be increasing. That may hold true for bigger venues, but at the bottom of the live hierarchy, a new rule seems to hold sway: if people now expect to get their music for nothing, they increasingly think that the same ought to apply to watching new bands, no matter how promising they might be.
Twenty or so years ago, when I was a young music writer, I spent most of my evenings in these places, keeping myself going on lager and cigarettes, watching endless bands and occasionally finding music worth evangelising about. It’s a life I still miss, when I used to keep the company of some of the people whose drive and enthusiasm still keep the milieu around small venues alive today – people such as Simon Williams, the one-time staff writer at the New Musical Express who went on to found esteemed independent record label Fierce Panda, before also extending his activities into gig promotion and eventually rooting Club Fandango at the Bull and Gate.
Sitting in an alcove in the pub’s main room, Williams and his business partner Andy Macleod briefly rhapsodise about triumphant Bull and Gate moments (when Coldplay played here in April 1999, says Williams, the queue extended down Kentish Town Road, and they were “just too good”). They also talk me through the events of the last few years: their attempts to buy the Bull and Gate to use as a venue and company HQ, and a quest to secure sponsorship which included a pitch to the makers of an iconic energy drink built on the rebranding of the place as the Red Bull and Gate: “We said to them, ‘You can just paint it, like you do with Formula 1 cars – it’s the greatest tag-line of all time.’”
They have now found a new venue in Dalston, but the imminent closure of the Bull and Gate evidently still hurts. “It’ll be appalling when it actually goes,” says Williams. “I’ve been coming here since 1986, when I was doing a fanzine. That’s a long time. We’re absurdly romantic about this place, and absurdly loyal.”
“Once it becomes a gastropub, that’s final, isn’t it?” says Macleod. “That 33 years of musical heritage just disappears. It’ll all feel really sad.”
Coldplay on stage at the Bull and Gate in London in April 1999, the night they signed their record deal. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the GuardianThe squeeze affecting small venues, they tell me, is down to a tangle of factors: among them, the transformation of urban neighbourhoods such as Kentish Town, the rise of free gigs where the band get a cut of the bar takings, and a music industry that now gets involved with up-and-coming acts at an absurdly early stage. “There’s no money in new bands, we all know that,” says Williams. “But now, with the hyper-speed of things in the music industry, you get in touch with a band who might be doing their first gig, and it’ll be, ‘Talk to our manager, who’s got to talk to the lawyer and the agent.’”
Purely to be seen to be doing their job, they tell me, a band’s representatives might now demand a guaranteed fee of anything up to £75. When the costs of a night at the Bull & Gate come in at least £200 before any musicians have been paid, that threatens the whole viability of the enterprise, not least when every promoter fears the turnout music industry lore knows as “two men and a dog”.
Tonight’s bands draw a combined crowd of around 40. First on are an unremarkable-looking quartet called Civil Love, who play a surprisingly accomplished version of the melodic genre some call power-pop. Next are Evil Alien, a part-electronic band from Birmingham who have driven down to play their first London show, pulling in talent scouts from record companies and a smattering of curious booking agents. Last, bless them, are a White Stripes-esque duo called I Like the GoGo, who send me running from the room with their somewhat irreverent treatment of the Dexys Midnight Runners’ song Geno.
Back at the bar, I talk to the Bull and Gate’s landlord, 70-year-old Pat Lynskey, who speaks with the wry detachment of a man who has seen a few generations of musicians and drinkers come and go, and will soon be spending his first summer in over three decades well away from beer taps and time bells. “I think in the last five years, technology has not been good to us,” he says. “Prior to that, people had to come and see what was on, and they’d stay for the night. Now, they can check everything on their phone before they leave. And if they don’t like it, they won’t come.”
History records that the Manic Street Preachers played at the Bull and Gate on 17 October 1990, when they had just put out an almost-ignored record titled New Art Riot, and were trying desperately to get the attention of the weekly music papers, and again on 17 July of the same year, in even less auspicious circumstances.
“We were on after this really weird folk band, who were Russian or Ukrainian, I think,” says their bass player and lyric writer Nicky Wire. “We walked on stage, and the first thing I said was, ‘Fuck me – no wonder so many Russians kill themselves’, to a very bemused audience. We did about five or six songs. It was a bit of a thrill to play there, because it was always on [1980s and 90s TV staples] Rapido and Snub TV. It did feel like a really good gig to do.”
He recalls the shabbiness of the kind of places the Manics once played, but also the romance they embodied. “There was definitely a ragged glory to it. You felt you were treading the boards of heroes, because nearly everyone we loved had done the same thing.” He mentions vividly remembered gigs at the Leeds Duchess of York, the long-gone Buzz Club in Aldershot, and Southampton Joiners, where the boss of the Columbia record label paid the band a visit, and their career-securing contract was thereby confirmed.
The 200-capacity Joiners is now battling to survive, which leads me to pay a visit the night after my trip to Kentish Town. Having never been there before, I’m thrilled to find a toilet venue par excellence: a bar whose furnishings extend to two apparently paleolithic sofas, a disused subterranean dressing room – flood-damaged, it seems – covered in graffiti left by visiting musicians (“Razorlight – I want to torture you slowly and let you die in a lot of pain”), and an abiding sense of everything being held together by simple goodwill.
“The chances of us closing are massive,” says the venue’s manager, the imposing but genial Patrick Muldowney. “Every Monday morning, we see what bills we can pay – and some weeks, we don’t have enough money, simple as that.” Recent benefit concerts by the Vaccines (toilet circuit graduates who will soon play the 20,000-capacity O2 arena in London) and the singer-songwriter Frank Turner have brought in much-needed funds. But times are unendingly tough: whereas he could once depend on even local bands drawing in at least 30 paying customers, Muldowney says the figure is now closer to 10. “It’s a two-thirds drop-off,” he says, with a grimace. “So it’s massive.”
As in London, Southampton now sees regular free gigs in standard-issue bars and pubs that are financed by sales of drinks, something made easier by a recent legislative change that got rid of any need for an official music license for venues that hold up to 200 people. For the Joiners, that kind of event is pretty much impossible: it has an over-14 license for its music room (an integral part, says Muldowney, of its ethos), and a much more thrifty culture. “The difference between us and a pub is that 50% of our crowd won’t buy a drink all evening,” he says; the Joiners’ head band booker, Ricky Bates, also points out that whereas lesser venues will offer little better than a “karaoke PA”, the Joiners prides itself on an estimable sound system, but it needs a paid engineer to work it.
Tonight’s headliners are the History of Apple Pie, who play indie-rock built on a mixture of sweetness and noise, and are at the end of a 19-date tour punctuated by nights spent at Travelodges and the odd recuperative stay at parents’ houses scattered around the country. Before them, I watch a local trio called Imperatrix, who are bedevilled by colds and flu, and by the fact that their drummer learned their songs a mere 12 hours before. They deliver a performance full of very familiar ingredients: brief flashes of promise, gauche repartee and the sense that with enough visits to venues like this, they might just discover who they actually are.
On my way out, I’m given a Joiners T-shirt, covered in an A-to-Z of the bands who have played here – from the Arctic Monkeys to the Zutons. Next to the door is a list of forthcoming attractions, featuring names that instantly convey the mixture of bravado and creativity that often courses around places like this: the Dead Lay Waiting, Our Lost Infantry, Burglars of the Heart. And a potent thought once again hits home: what a profound pity it would be if the toilet circuit was allowed to rot away – leaving endless free music and ad hoc gigs, but no dependable means via which musicians can been transported away from their home turf, towards something bigger.
“It gets under your skin, doesn’t it?” says Muldowney, by way of a goodbye. “You fall in love with places like this.” Counting in a steady stream of people at the door, he looks firmly in his element, though he views the future with an uneasy mixture of hope and uncertainty. “I’m an eternal optimist,” he says. “We’ll certainly be here in a year.”
UK toilet circuit landmarks past and present
1 Leicester Charlotte (formerly Princess Charlotte; capacity: 200)
Hosted Oasis, the Libertines, Muse et al, but closed in March 2010, to be developed into student flats.
2 Newport TJs (capacity: 350)
A legendary venue where, in December 1991, Kurt Cobain is said to have proposed to Courtney Love. Closed in 2010, and has fallen into disrepair.
3 Cardiff Barfly (capacity: 200)
Part of a chain of small venues that hit the buffers between 2008 and 2010. Hosted future US stars Kings of Leon on their first UK tour.
4 Leeds Duchess of York (capacity: 200 officially, 300 on a good night)
Put on gigs in its cramped back room by such future stars as Nirvana, Coldplay and Pulp. Now a branch of menswear giant Hugo Boss.
5 Manchester Roadhouse (capacity: 200)
Still in business. The entire membership of future Mercury Prize-winners Elbow have worked here; singer Guy Garvey was once the barman.
6 Hull Adelphi (capacity: 200)
In a former housing terrace. Has struggled to survive, but will, with luck, celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2014.
7 Glasgow King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut (capacity: 300)
A survivor, and one-time platform for such future stars as Florence and the Machine and the Killers. Famously where Creation records boss Alan McGee first saw Oasis in May 1993.
8 Southampton Joiners (capacity: 150)
Now fighting the prospect of closure; current indie stars the Vaccines recently played a benefit show. Local legend claims that Jimi Hendrix played here en route to the Isle of Wight festival in 1970.
9 Oxford Jericho Tavern (capacity: 180)
A heartwarming story: after a spell as part of the student-oriented pub chain Scream, reopened as a music venue in 2005. It was once a home from home for Radiohead.
10 Tunbridge Wells Forum (capacity: 250)
The toilet venue that was once a (public) toilet. Still in business, 20 years old, and staffed by volunteers.
11 London Kentish Town Bull & Gate (capacity: 150)
One of the most renowned toilet venues, and now set for closure. Has hosted Madness, Blur, Manic Street Preachers, Muse, Coldplay and hundreds more. Set to become – why, of course – a gastropub.
Tattooist inks his own name on
girlfriend’s face on the first day they met.
Is this the face of love, or a mad egotistical possesive Tattooist, taking advantage of a naive young girl
Lesya, from Moscow says she is happy to have his name in five-inch high letters on her face and now they plan to get married
Some men buy their women jewellery to show them how much they love them.
But Rouslan Toumaniantz tattooed his name in five-inch high letters across his girlfriend’s FACE – less than 24 hours after they met.
Amazingly the woman, known only as Lesya, says she is happy to have “Ruslan” in giant Gothic script on her mug.
The art college graduate said: “It’s a symbol of our eternal devotion.
“I’d like him to tattoo every inch of my body.”
She met the tattoo artist online and he inked her the DAY they met.
The pair say they now plan to get married in Moscow.
‘Romantic’ Rouslan, who also uses the name Ruslan, said: “I don’t think I have done anything wrong today.
“I’m in love. We are in love.”
The couple posted painful-looking pictures of the process on the internet.
Kimberley Vlaeminck claimed to reporters and her family that she had only asked for three stars and he inked the rest while she was ASLEEP at his Tattoo box studio in Coutrai, Belgium.
She threatened to sue Toumaniantz for £10,000 to cover the cost of removing the permanent inkings.
However, a week later she confessed on TV that she had asked for all the stars but had lied about it as she was afraid of how her father would react.
He is still unrepentant of his earlier work and posted on his Facebook site: “I have done 25 face tattoos since Kimberley’s case, and don’t feel I did anything wrong during the Kimberley affair.”
Once upon a time tattoos were almost exclusively worn by Jailbirds, millitary, Bikers or Skinheads. Over the last 10 years they have become major fashion accessories to pretty girls. Websites like Suicide girls, based in the USA have found beautiful tattooed girls and posted them across the world. From the tramp stamp on the lower back, girls are now covering themselves from head to foot. Everybody has the right to do whatever they want with their body, but this horror shows how a tattooist can completely change a persons life. Is it time that tattooist need to become subject to legal regulation worldwide.
Bonner Early 1980′s London
Hello. I want to share with you my recollections and memories of the skinhead scene that I have always been a part of. At the moment I am recovering from falling off some scaffolding, so this has given me time to get to grips with modern technology and given me a chance to reflect for the first time on the subject of Skinhead culture and share with you some of the stories and memories of the past from like minded people which has been prompted by hearing the interview with Symond Lawes on the Brighton skinhead reunion recorded some time ago.
I will start by telling you about myself. I’m a 50 year old skinhead and bricklayer now living in Wendover, Bucks. I grew up around the Camden Town/Somers Town area of London.
When I was a kid, kicking a ball around at night, my mum always said: ‘Be home before the Mods come out!’
This was around 1969, she was referring to the lads, who would have been Mods, who had inherited the same patches outside the local pubs that their elder brothers hung around some years earlier.My parents still called them Mods, and I always thought of Mods as being the the elder statement of skinheads. These were previously the 7/6d’s, that have now come of age. We knew which families they came from, and who they were, and our families knew their families and so on. There were some real tough families in the area at that time. By this time the groups that my parents remembered were growing up, getting married, they were joining the Army and working for Her majesty ( GPO) or staying at one of her Hostels. (HMP Pentonville was near my home)The GPO tower was looming over us, like a calling card, it was a respectable career to aspire to and a lot of us did end up going to Mount Pleasant GPO, after being kicked out of school.
But a further aspiration, was to join the local gang. I was way to young for this at the time but I would look out of my bedroom window, with envy watching this group, evolve from 1968 onwards. I will never forget the sound of the the light buzzing of scooters as the gang rode their inheritance from their older brothers. They were a group of lads who had this tough but smart look about them, They wore mostly denim jackets, with Crombies ¾ length coats, boots and braces. The gals didn’t have the skinhead feathered hair cuts, like they did later. Some of them looked a bit like the Toyah Wilcox character in Quadrophenia. Most of the girls had Crombies but looked feminine but they still looked like Sixties Mod girls, with kilt type minis, they wore their hair in a shoulder length style that hinted at skinhead look. It was a bit like a flat mullet, with a fringe, that looked like it had been cut around a saucer template.
You always looked out for “Names” on the skinhead scene. “Names” who were hard enough to have been kicked out of the local boxing gyms. The word got out amongst the scene. They were always tough Jamaican offspring kids, and they were ALWAYS part of the group. These kids where always in the mix, as some of the top boys, but in many ways smarter. “wiv the threads” a right proper mixed bunch who always fought and hung around together, Skinheads or mods, peanuts, however they were, they were the was the only group you would ever see with blacks kids.
In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Somers Town like this:
SOMERS-TOWN, a chapelry and a sub-district in St. Pancras parish and district, Middlesex. The chapelry is a compact portion of the metropolis; lies between New Road, the Regent’s canal, and the Great Western railway, 2 miles NW of St. Paul’s; occupies ground which was mainly unedificed so late as 1780; and has a post-office‡ under London NW, and an S.-Police station. Pop., about 14,500. The living is a p. curacy in the diocese of London. Value, £300. Patron, the Vicar of St. Pancras. The church was built after designs by Inwood, at a cost of £14,291.—The sub-district extends beyond the chapelry, and comprises 184 acres. Pop. in 1851, 35,641; in 1861, 39,099. Houses, 3,907.
Some of the lads dressed smarter then the others, the way they dressed reminded me of the slick character in the 70′s TV show “Please Sir” some of the black lads had the Tennis Fred Perry shirts, and braces with “Peyton Place jackets. My mum wanted to see me dress like that, as she fancied the film actor Ryan O’ Neil.
She seem eager to see me in one of those outfits, more then any other form of attire. Later on most of the Jamaican kids were smartly dressed in tonics and loafers especially on music nights and at that time they had the same inner London accents as most of them had come over in the 1950′s when they was babies and a few of the younger lads was born in the UCH the same as me.
On youth club nights I would hear the sound of the club in the Cumberland Market down in NW1. This was mixed with the turn out of the dads and older lads coming out of the Kings Head opposite my house. At the time I didn’t know what the stuff they were playing was, but it had such a infectious bounce to it, and it echoed all around my room at night. I used to tuck my head under my eiderdown. I felt so spellbound by the rhythms and beats. So much so, that I would wake up with it almost resonating like an exact recording in my head the next morning.
This would stay with me for life. Later on I discovered exactly what it was and that it was the ska/rocksteady music. The ska would be played at the early part of the night just as it was getting dark, and the sound would be taken down a level later in the evening with the Rocksteady beat. At the time I was too young to get involved and my nearest encounter of rubbing shoulders with this crowd, was seeing these older kids break away from the group and go on the march to Highbury, on Saturdays. The older lot headed for the boozers and then the North Bank, while we went to the West Stand with my dad,and my mates who all had older brothers in the ranks so with that and the fact that there parents knew mine and who’s boy I was!
As I got older, I would go around me mates gaffs, a lot of their elders had left home to start families. It was almost the unwritten law at that time, that the elder brothers room should remain untouched, and that included record collections. For me, at the time that was heaven. I understood that ska was the main stay amongst Skinhead record collections, although a lot of skinheads at the time, did listen to other stuff apart from reggae there was a popular local band called “The Action” that locals still followed also nearly everyone of them had “Who” and “Small Faces” poster or disc, and also would you believe: “A Kind Of Blue” by Miles Davis. which his brother always called his “Shagging music.”
I thought it was a kind of dance at the time and I remember being glad to see those records and posters as it kind of blessed what I thought was a guilty secret of mine, my love of “The Who.” In a way it wasn’t that strange, as we all gravitate to a kind of group or music that attracts us and that was the whole Mod ancestry! It wasn’t quite the mainstream but it was heavy enough to be called Geezers music but it never crossed over to hippiedom which I always thought of as being “THEM” the group you never want to be with. I inherited a hatred of them, not so much the music coz there was a lot of “Blues” which I always loved, and that’s when I started to get more knowledgeable about this kind of music, as I knew that it was the root of ska, a Jamaican take on the blues that they had heard from the Southern states. So this also gave it a blessing to like “The Blues” as well.
My dislike for hippies came from the fact that they all seem to talk posh and they always seemed to be moaning in middle class accents and I despised those military wing greasers.The music consisted of “geezer rock” or white English men who played “Soul” and “Blues” that came out of “Rock” getting it slightly wrong. This was a style that developed by mistake. This clashing together of styles seem to repeat itself later on with Punk which I embraced quickly as soon as I was old enough to welcome it all but I had always being a Skinhead or Suede head since the time I tried to dress like guys from 1968 and 1969.
I have never been anything else as my age stopped me being a Mod. Then Punk came along and there was no way I was going to wear flares and attend concerts with the hairy ones on ice at Wembley!!! I’m pleased to say, that I have lived my life as a skinhead, and never succumbed to wearing flares no matter how out of step I was with the early to mid 70s.
I would also like to touch on something that Skinhead/Suede head discussions seem to overlook, This is when I started to hang around music venues the remainder of Skinheads from early days to the early mid 70s suede heads, were influenced by “Glam Rock” although it was from the less feminine side such as Mott the Hoople and Steve Harley. There seem to be the pre- punk, side which was full of the skinhead types, and that was “Pub Rock”. There were so many of us in our group, we would make our way up to Tally Ho boozer in the north end Kentish town, to see the bands that played there, that included all of us and those who were old enough to get in “legit”.
We were all part of the old gang of would be skins. This time more of them were wearing DMs, and crombies, with either a No2 or slightly grown out suede head haircuts. This was still the family “Skin” very much so, and this was the heavier aggressive sound that was for working class inner Londoners, or any other cities youth. We could relate to it.. it was our Generations “The Who.” I sounded out all of these bands, pre-punk even trying to get down to that London in Essex hotspot which was Southend. I thought Dr Feelgood were fucking magic. My mates started to hunt through those record collections to find stuff like it and in hindsight we enjoyed Kersal Flyers Brinsly Shultz etc….. I loved all that stuff. By then of course we’d turn up trying to get in to gigs (I was still too young by the way) to any gigs that we thought was of that ilk, but once we got to them and heard them there was something more unhinged about some of those bands: “London SS” and the “101ers” need I say more that was my introduction into punk and then for a year or two I indulged my self into it.
I met up with mates all over London, that I knew from Boxing Gyms by way of boxing, regular trips down to the Bridgehouse, when it was in Barking Road also it was only a short walk down to the “Roxy” it was close to us and we used to just to hang out there. We Heard that “Dee Generate” out of “Eater”, was our age so we thought: “Let’s ave some of that.!” Some of the punks were a bit creepy, and a bit too arty, for my liking, but I went with it. There was some crumpet, but the girls were all weird wiv suspenders and stuff, and their knockers were sticking out of bin liners!
This was great for a kid my age, especially the at the “Roxy” the mighty Menace at “The grope and wank her” (Hope and Anchor yes we used to think it was funny!!!!!!) We would chat to Charlie Harper at the George Roby,there was this lesbian down the west end. We used to go and hang around with her with an added idea I was gonna cop an eyeful, but that turned out to be the only place a lot of bands were able to play, thanks to the then Tory run GLC so although I did do a lot of growing up in experiencing ways of female flesh. It wasn’t the lesbo orgy I was expecting.
I will like to add, that at times we could feel a change happening, felt a ruck coming on, there were more swastikas, appearing with some of the punks. My jeans were scruffier but I still wore my black “Peyton Place” jacket and me Fred Perry tennis shirt we used to call em, not polos, they was well cheap then down Petticoat lane or Roman road. I always wore me DMs, and my hair was a bit above No2, I was a punk, but I always stayed a skinhead,too so the Swastika was a symbol that we despised. We grew up with parents and grandparents that had experienced it.
Half the streets were still corrugated fenced up, from Bomb sites, back in the days of me observing original skins I used to read read battle picture library and War picture library, those booklets, you know the kind of thing I mean. I used to have dreams of single handedly wiping out Nazis. I used to go to bed thinking that there was an army of rapist, Nazis hippies and coppers, and Narkie Grasses. and how I can dispose if them.It also was a symbol of The Grease, another reason why we hated them, because of their treachery of wearing what Nazis wore. although we hated “The Filth” and any establishment figure,, we were still working class British people and we was not that rebellious. So I resisted wearing that stuff but we was always up for a ruck people tend to think or want to believe it was the far left that was bovver boys when it was the opposite. I hate politics in music or subcults ,that’s why I don’t hold wiv no S H A R P stuff, but I will say this, we never saw a Tory never mind supported them.
Everyone came from Labour voting working class families,, so we knew what we wasn’t, but never dwelt on what we were or what we were going to be. I hated politics and what’s great about being a skinhead then and at now my age is that it’s like being in stir “You don’t ask questions.” The nonces will be found out and dealt with at some point, and a skinhead gathering is the same for anyone on both sides. Both far extremes will feel marginalised eventually and this it started out as a youth sub culture, and we have taken it with us. It’s what you feel, being a skinhead is all about, and it is what brings us together. As it’s the furthest thing away from being a 14 to 15 year old Mod. Skinhead, Rude Boy in the 1960s, suede head 1970s is politics. Thats what your mum and dad talk about, and as I still haven’t grown up nor do I want to I am a old but proud pathetic old git, and I won’t never change!
Going back to attitude. Well, We did speak in a way that isn’t talked now, but even your hard line trade union lefty activist would be slaughtered by the speak Gestapo now!!! it was another time, there was paki – bashing by gangs of mixed black and white youths especially after the arrival of Ugandan Asians not because of colour but because they were new and strange and our ignorance wasnt enlightened by the lack of integration and not willing to embrace, the culture,, unlike the Irish around our way which was a massive wave of families and for young people the West Indians shared there fashion and music it was ignorance and for us, the it was an overwhelmingly important pastime of fighting. This could be amongst any inner city youth Asians were just another group to ruck with, nothing more or less, as far we were concerned! As a group, privately who knows or cares what your views was away from the the lads was,, there was and there wasnt, least among us anyway and especially skinheads who were the hardest lot of the roughest manors, but I am sure Teds, Rockers, fuck even some working class hippies that went along for the trip as it were spoke like that,or picked on someone or something they didn’t understand that they felt weary of amongst not just kids but everyone at that time.
Most skinheads got a bashing from other skinheads most people amongst us was working class, and most of them were skinheads, or related to skinheads. I recall skinhead battles tales amongst the groups , and later on, about area gangs, they didn’t think in terms of London boroughs, just London areas and it was all very Territorial, for example there was Somers town, were I was, Kentish town, Upper Holloway Archway,Clarkenwell ,Shorditch/Hoxton/ Dalton, Queens Crescent, Camden town, then going eastwards there was Stoke Newington, Clapton and then the East End, Bethnal Green, Mile end , Wapping, Stepney, go further east and you get Canning Town, or West Hammersmith, Chelsea Fulham and Shepherds Bush.
Or you might know guys from these areas from work in the centre or boxing club circuit, or gigs, and you would talk and have a laugh but if you were meeting for a ruck then you be knocking shit out of each other if they were representing the area, and further to that, you might have a West Ham or Chelsea supporter in your local gang who would fight with you if you were called out by another manors lot but as they were mostly Arsenal around our way any friendship went at for that fixture. same goes for an Arsenal supporter from Fulham he’d be rucking his mates at football and come Saturday you looked at the scarf not the person that’s what how mad it was I have been told about it from older skinheads that I used to admire when I was looking at them from my bedroom window, fuck some of these guys are in there 70s now.
It was slightly different when I turned the age to shag and ruck but not that far off, but you get me gist !!! so I think Asians at the time got more of ribbing then a hiding it was other groups but most people would unite if they saw greasers setting on a skinhead or what you deemed as one of your ownAs for the Hambourgh tavern I’ve got my own views on that I was there although not for long we couldn’t get to it, but I remember feeling so fucking angry, to see skins that look like they were on the side of the the filth again it was whipped up by both right and left, press and lay politicians and more so the music press who hated the thought of working class council kids being a force, I don’t blame the Asians, they were young fuel filled lads protecting their area or what was force fed to them,they were young like us and was up for a ruck, like any group of whipped up teenage lads, we wanted to go down here or there and make some working class noise and have a few pints. I’m not a conspiracy weirdo, but there was so many reasons why the fucked up middle class left, the fucked up Nazi right wing plus the broadcast media and music press caused that, as the latter didn’t like something that was based around youth led pastime angst and they didn’t like something that they didn’t make or break because it was real and not manufactured, it was something that we could enjoy and dictate what happened with it. It served our purpose, it gave birth to the boneheads that have soiled a working class culture and ruined the fledgling stages of young rock n roll bands,And took away a good deal of their income at a time when they should of been making it good. We could enjoy a good few years of live working class punk rock, seeing as it was taken away from its own manufacturers and given to people who could enjoy it it started going down hill after the Clash signed to CBS it was salvaged and put to good use but the press wanted it dead. These days we can relax with it as our first love and enjoy the Ska and rocksteady that we adopted, and still love, through our own choice as Middle Aged skinheads, that the music press didn’t intend us to love and there’s fuck all they can do about it!!! I’ve got through a whole pack of 20 smokes, in the time it’s taken to do this, didn’t realise the time, that’s more then i get through in three days, but I have enjoyed sharing this with you all…. as you can tell I can go on for ever about this…
Those days were right proper heady,, faces were on stage,in bands that you knew from seeing them around the chippy/ newsagent in tobert street,,or the youth club, and you know faces from school ,, punk , Arsenal ,especially (Arsenal/Highbury grove ) school , most of the locals around our way went to William Collins ,, I was expelled from secondary schools,, St George’s in St. John’s wood, Highbury grove, ect , only two weeks at William Collins,
I was used to seeing loads of local faces being on telly,, in bands, you took it for granted,(Pauline’s people then Grange Hill) 70s corona drink ads,ect ,, i stopped noticing,,
people from Anna Scher and all that!!! and so on,,but I know who your talking about now ,Low Numbers, they were in the Dublin castle,,i recall ,seen em with Madness,( or invaders, cant remember what stage they were at, the time) loads of us started bands, we loosely played,,,,but nothing proper,,, some bands went further then others,,we were called THE St Pancres Chronical after the local Rag, but we were shit,,, I played guitar but every time I picked i it up , I just ended up playing Blues,,,bending notes,,,and sounding to much like Heavy Rock?,, I was fine with it, but it pissed the rest off,,,so we decided to stick to being in the crowd watching/ listening,
,,coz I knew people from other schools in other manors , we kind of broke away from Cumberland market faces , except for four mates in Robert st,,,and The Crown Flats,local people became just another face ,,you recognised ,and the families they came from,,, and who your dad and grandad drank with,
,There was a local crooner type who went of to the Army,,, geezer called Gary Driscoll,, he was the first local I knew off, that was dragged up there!! To get noted,,
,my ole man used to be mates with the landlord,of the Dublin castle ,then a Irish fella called Barney Finley,,I was. Mates with his boy Raymond,, they passed it on to the present family,,in the late 60s ,we used to run about in there after lock up, two o clock on Sunday afternoons, coz we’d often go to av sunday dinner with them!!so it was only right I would later make that me local,, so i witnessed the start of all that too,,was lucky Spose living between West End and Camden Town,
,,I was able to get into clubs in soho,,in the late 70s coz me dad knew all the faces and names ,Jimmy and Rusty Humphreys ect,, that’s why I was able to hang about the latest clubs, being younger,me dad ran an electrical repair /retail shop ,,in Berwick street,called Friel and Francis ,with me uncle Bob (pic,on the front of oasis album), would you believe,, the first parking metre in Westminster was unveiled outside the shop,and a young spiv that hung about in and out was Alan Suger came down parked his van with hilivery A .M .S .TRADING,,marked on the side,coz he knew the press would be snapping, me dad used to sell his car Ariels,(cute ,, got to love that) anyway they used to rig up the sound in Ronnie Scott’s,
I used to bunk of whatever school I was in ,to work on Berwick street market,,,
,we used wheel the sack barras to pick up the veg and stuff from around what was to become the Roxy before the fruit and veg moved across the river,, John Holt used to have something to do with it , I remember , it was converted from that,,,so that’s why I familiar to it to hang around there,,later,,, coz I was a cocky little shit, and coz Eaters drummer was from the sticks and was our age , we dint want him to out do us ,to be part of it all.. , i knew Id be looked after,,by someone that would be to hand,,if it got to heavy we could UP any older punk that snarled at our presence,,when they did, we was quick to take of our young punk head , and say “we ain’t fucking punks were skinheads”,,,you tossers,,, although we were at the time,,, lot of the older punks were from the sticks,, so when we got snarled at ,, we’d give it our “( we’re from here,you ain’t and you don’t know what’s around the corner on the way out ,)
,,the other local connection was my grandads drinking buddy ,who liked drinking with riff raff,was Constance Lambert, he used to live up Park Village East and come down to The Victory ,in Albany St ,he used to drink like a gooden apparently , corse he pegged it before I or the The Who was born,so he dint see his sons success ,!
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- RUDI on The 3rd Great Skinhead Reunion, Brighton, 31st May- 2nd June 2013
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- Johnny Barden on The 3rd Great Skinhead Reunion, Brighton, 31st May- 2nd June 2013
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- subcultz on The 3rd Great Skinhead Reunion, Brighton, 31st May- 2nd June 2013
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- Kel 68 on The 3rd Great Skinhead Reunion, Brighton, 31st May- 2nd June 2013
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