We're sitting in a quiet pub two broken legs away from the Bridge House. Hodges,H,and guitarist and legend in his own beer gut Hoxton Tom McCourt, whose extensive knowledge of soul music would put Dexys to shame.New drummer Gary Hitchcock couldn't make it.Hodges is 21 and an unemployed brick layer.H is 21 and a buildng labourer.Hoxton's 19 and an engineer.Gary Hitchcock is 23 and a plasterer. All four were skins since the summer of '77 at the latest,following variously Sham and Menace.But they didn't think of becoming a band till '79. "We formed after the first Rubbles gig at the Wellington last year" Tom explains. "We wrote 'Chaos' virtually on the spot and just leapt up and it.Most of the gigs we've done hae been spontaneous,playing with Untamed Youth and the Rubbles, just playng with our mates.It's always been a good atomsphere,and that's the way we wanna keep it." In all they've played a few more gigs than Spandau Ballet,most of them informal in places like the Hartley,the Standard and the Crown in East and South East London. The only 'proper' gigs have been with the Damned and the Rejects.But ever since i heard the tape of 'Chaos' I've been on at them 'when are you gonna start playing seriously?'
"Have you seen the gear we got?" Hodges is indignant "It's crap.Would you ask a bricklayer to build a wall without a trowel and a level? We've got to get decent gear and to that we've gotta hae the money." Maybe not that much of a problem. 'Chaos' (produed by Mickey Geggus on the album, incidently)is already the subject of negotiations regardng a possible appearance as the A side of a new E.P. A couple of majors are biting.With the money that could bring,the band ould be transformed oer night but if they were,they ould also fnd themselves up against some serious problems.What about the violence that's marred the Rejects' career? " The football things got out of hand," Hodges observes. "There's no way we're gonna show bias to a football team.We couldn't,we support three different clubs."
"But football is part of peoples lives.Our way of life does or did evolve around it," H adds, "And we've got to associate wth our mates.We're still the same as them-cept when we get a £70.000 advance and go and live in America..Ha!"
What about politics? H: "We've got nothing to do wth it.No way.There's nothing worth voting for.They're all the same"
And the new punk? Gary Hodges: "Y'got the new punk groups coming up and y'got critics saying they're not advanced enough.They expect you play 'Bankrobber' and shit like that.Two years ago they were raving over raw thrash, now they expect you to advance into pop pap. Well we're about punk.Raw punk." H: "It's great in Scotland,the movement's still alive up there." Hodges: "Yea,we really wanna play up there." H: "Especially to the girls..."
ANOTHER LEADING new punk band are Infa Riot.Whereas the 4 Skins cite Slade and Sham as influences, Infa Riot acknowledge only the Angelic Upstarts-the sign of a five year age gap.The Infa's are vocalist Lee Wilson,18 and a kitchen worker, bassist Floyd Wilson,16 and still st school, Drummer Gary Mclnerney,18 and "sacked this morning",and guitarist Barry Damery,16 and "supposed to be at school". In their nine months of existence the Infas have built up a following of about 800 kids in North London.After Mensi's review n Sounds i saw them at the Golden Lion in Camberwell Green where they drew about 250 kids at two days notice.If anything,Mensi's review erred on the side of understatement.It's so easy to see why he was so impressed.The Infas sound and feel very much like the Upstarts,they've got the same drive and the same harshness. And they've got a brilliant frontman in the shape of Lee, who like Mensi,Turner and Hodges, exudes an aura of commitment and stardom.He's a natural.
Turns out that the band's first ever gig was supporting the Upstarts at the estimable Lordship drinkerie in Wood Green.Since then their progress has been enouraged and abetted by the '4be2s mafia',and enterprising Jock McDonald recording their first single 'Five minute fashions/Riot riot' on his own McDonald-Lydon label for release next week.'Five Minute fashion' is their best lie number,a slower than frantic treatise on fickle fad following,with verses akin to 'Calling the tune' by the Skids,interspersed with a titanic chorus of 'A-A-A-AAAA You was a punk too/A-A-A-AAAA You was a mod too/A-A-A-AAAA But you're a SKIN-HEAD NOWWW' The final verse pleads:'Can you stay a skin for more than just a day?/Everybody says you look so good this way/At least you're not a nothing in your boring life/So please don't change skinhead fashions over night.' "We don't mind having a hard skin/punk audience," Lee explains in his Cockney-tinged Plymouth accent. "We won't use 'em and ditch 'em.There's skins all over the country and they ain't got a band who they can say is the skinhead/bootboy band.But our rowd are the same age as us.Pursey's nearly 30, he's got no relation with the rowd.Even Mensi's 24 now. The time is right to kick out all the hasbeens.It's time for a new generation of bands. Our name is an abbreviation of In For A Riot. We're talking about skinheads not as a fashion but as a way a life." High on anthem status is their song 'Kids of the 80's'-'Come on boys lets do a shop/There's nothing else for us to do/There's no youth clubs/We can't into pubs/There's no future/Nothing for us/So what do we do?/We turn to crime/Cos nobody's got the time for us/WHO?/THE KIDS OF THE EIGHTIES/We don't go to school/We've given up'
Add this to songs like 'School', 'Bootboys' and 'In for a riot' and you get a clearer dea of what the band are about. But weren't they just inciting kids to violence? "No," Lee is adamant "We're just facing facts.It's what happens, we just ain't scared to write about it." And like the 4 Skins they're convinced ther attitude won't necessarily result in gig riots. "We're gonna keep football out of it. The Rejects have built themselves their own trap with the West Ham thing. Now people are just going along to have a go at them.They're ok in the East End but outside it's trouble.We all support teams but we're not gonna broadcast them.Our songs are for all kids. In our crowd we get Arsenal and West Ham all mixed in and there's no trouble 'cos we're not inciting them.Football and music don't mix.Nor does Politics and music.We're as much against politics and we are against disco.We're making a stand but we're all about enjoyment." And all over it seems that bands are springing up, making the same stand.Most of them I've never heard- the Exploited you know about,Criminal Class (who i hope to see very soon) are another heavily Upstarts influneced band.The rest are vaguar voices on the phone, heartfelt letters,grubby tapes. Nonetheless it is possible to discern a genuine whole new wave of bands,young and aggressive and locked into that same skin/bootboy/hardcore punk mentality.The mentality is essentially male, though lots of girls are involved.It's basically a ccelebration of what John McVicar perpetually called machismo which means a lot more than it's general insulting wet/liberal/middle class usage implies.Properly defined macho is about honour,loyalty,courage,strength and endurance-the sort of Hollywood hero idea of manhood which strikes me as being ideal far preferable to the introspective wimp,advanced by the hipsters.Trouble is, in reality, the noble ideal goes out the window as skinhead mentality translates far too often into brutality,bullying and bigotry, which is not glamourous or laudable in any way.There are idiots and psychos in any movement.But the real problem is that society in all it's official forms chooses to ignore the powder keg it's built,leaving the way open for less scrupulus crackpots,lunatis and demagogues to try and exploit it.
UNDERSTANDABLY THESE kids detest politics because politics has done nothing for them. Which s why extremist views that also despise conventional politics can find fertile breeding ground amongst the kids. And whereas Mensi tempers anti-politics with a rich humanism and populism,the more common reaction is a celebration of confusion,a dangerous and volatile violent nihilism.Which is why is there is a new punk emerging it's the responsibility of the participants not to play into the hands of the demagogues,but to keep their protest and righteous wrath untainted by power games.It's a tall order,because things are muh worse that the media and society spokesmen would have us believe.Smug politicians and greedy bosses have destroyed whole communities and thrown an entire generation on the scrapheap.They have created or overseen the creation of the seeds of a Clockwork Orange future which carries within it the threat of the destruction of much of what is still good about Britain.
The teenage warning is here for everyone to see.The scrap heap is starting to look suspiciously like a funeral pyre.Who lights the match and which way the wind blows the flames is still a matter of conjecture.Either way the fury and resentment of an untamed youth,unwanted and rejected,could burn your temples down,Mr Complacent,Mr Bloated,Mr See-no-evil.Maybe it's worth chewing that over next time the unemployment figures shoot up...
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