There is much about this that makes sense. I’m not sure it’s something to be proud of, but I guess I’m an ‘anywhere’. You?
In my medium feed at the weekend was a link to a post titled “British skinheads in the 1980s were young, pissed, and stylish as hell“. I scanned through the pictures, read the accompanying text, and see just a very small slither of a culture and a style that I and my friends wouldn’t have been associated with in 1972, and would have rejected. Yeah some of us were involved it fights at Football matches, it was of it’s time.
As I sit here today, my clothes are still inspired and styled by those days, I’m even comfortable with a #1 haircut. While Richard Allens books Skinhead, Suedehead, Boot Boys, Skinhead Escapes, Smoothies, Terrace Terrors, Boot Boys and the final Mod Rule chronicled a generation, it’s unlikely that any single person experienced more that a few of the fictionalised events as youth culture was moving too fast.
Where I grew up in Hemel Hempstead we were almost exclusively white, and with London our nearest big city which had been hugely multicultural, for hundreds of years, racism just wasn’t a thing. So the toxic, hatred filled skinhead imagery of the 1970’s – 80’s just doesn’t ring true for me.
There are a few interesting videos online, two of the best by Don Letts. Letts was the DJ at the Roxy Club and before that, Chaguaramas, and we were there on New Years Eve 40-years ago at the Clash gig, we walked out, our time had passed. Letts films, especially the story of Skinhead, and it’s predecessor, the Fred Perry Sponsored, Subculture of British Music and Street Style take a serious look at the genre. I’d love the chance to talk to Don one day.
Sometime contact and innovative UK Dj/Producer Greg Wilson has a 33-minute interview, I assume based on his Living to music series that he has been running for a couple of years now. Greg talks about actually sitting and actually listening to the music, while not doing anything else. Greg makes a good point about being able to focus while listening.
Which reminds me of being about 14, and converting my clothes cuboard in my bedroom into a mini-recording, listening booth. I had a small stool, papered the walls in music newpaper and magazines, wired up a small red light, and I’d retreat in there, close the doors and listen to albums. At the start of Greg’s interview he talks about hearing early reggae and Trojan singles. Which brings up another thread, which is how influential the West Indian and Jamaican immigration to the UK was in the 1950’s.
While it was far from easy for those who came to help rebuild Britain, after the second world war, what’s true is that they had undeniable impact on music and culture. Don Letts Subculture series covers the impact and the musical impact, Robert Elms talks about the impact on fashion and clothing. The whole sub-culture was so anti- the main stream of the time.
That 1960’s impact certainly opened up minds and wallets to the Jazz, Funk and eventually disco in the 1970’s. Fascinating stuff seen in retrospect, in the fourth episode, Letts nicely shows the how that merged with the Punk music revolution, the subject of my last blog post, which on the Roxy Club, where Letts was the DJ.
The complete Letts six part series Subculture, is available via the Fred Perry Subculture website. If you are interested in this fasset of British culture, I’d recommend watching it all. My personal story is in the latter part of Episode-3, Episode-4 and the early part of Episode-5. I managed to acquire these as MP4 files and look forward to watching them all in sequence one day.
For the record, my Dad, Frank Cathcart, almost always wore white socks and September 23, 1973 was my 15th birthday and the first All Nighter at Wigan. As Robert Elms says in Episode 4 of Letts Subculture, Soulboys, “there was a line across the country about Luton, and you didn’t cross it.” – We lived on that line, often straddling it.
Greg Wilsons latest Living to Music was Shuggie Otis ‘Inspiration Information’. Its a great album, give it a real listen.