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    Photos Showing A Different Side To Skinhead Culture Today

    In 1969, skinhead culture emerged on the streets of London’s East End slums and within the newly constructed brutalist housing estates. Alienated from the bourgeois hippie scene that flourished during the ‘swinging ‘60s’, a new generation of working-class youth came of age searching for their roots. 
    They found inspiration in a uniform look that paired shaved heads and Ben Sherman polo shirts with bleached jeans, Ma-1 flight jackets, and Doc Marten boots. The skinheads – and their ladies known as suedes – revelled in classic English fare: football games, pubs, and concerts. But they also embrace the style and sound of the Windrush Generation of the time, enjoying dub, reggae, rocksteady, and ska music.
    But in the 1970s and ‘80s, as a second wave of skins and suedes came of age, the far right-wing organisation the National Front attempted to infiltrate the scene, appropriating their powerful aesthetics while embarking on a series of anti-immigration initiatives. Corporate media, ever ready to vilify the working class, turned skinheads into the boogeyman.

    Despite the stigmas, skinhead culture has persevered and continues to flourish to this day. British photographer Owen Harvey, now 31, was first introduced to skinhead culture through his father. “He showed me records and told me stories of when he’d go to Chelsea FC in his early twenties,” Harvey says. 
    “Skinhead culture has always fascinated me because it’s complex and has many factions to the look. I was certainly interested in people’s dedication due to their heritage, how their group becomes like their extended family and such a big part of their identity.” 
    In 2014, Harvey embarked upon Skinheads and Suedes – an ongoing photography series that began with a commission from Fred Perry to document a local event for their website. Like Harvey, many of his subjects were introduced to the scene through their parents. “There is a connection that is quite deep. It’s about maintaining something linked in with their family and heritage and keeping it alive,” he says of his subjects, most of whom are ages 16 to 30. 

    Working intuitively, Harvey selects subjects that have what he describes as “a sense of charisma. I usually do a lot of trawling online for people I think would be suitable for the series. Sometimes, it’s through going down to events and being introduced to friends of friends.”
    In Harvey’s photographs, his subjects pose with pride, showing the enduring power of a culture that continues to fight for itself. “Young anti-fascist skinheads are very aware that the media mainly focuses on right-wing skinheads and projects the skinhead look as something to be feared,” Harvey says.
    “What I found was a group of people who were interested in celebrating their heritage, who welcomed me and others around them with open arms – and who could still dance a lot better than me, even when they had 12 pints of cider in them.”

    Text by Miss Rosen
    Photography by Owen Harvey


    West Bromwich Turns Clock Back To Era Of Skinheads And Ska

    But the scenes in West Bromwich were all for the new BBC drama This Town by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight OBE.
    It focuses on an extended family of four young people as they are drawn into the exploding Two Tone and ska music scene of the 1970s and 1980s. As filming continued yesterday, people flocked to the Coach and Horses pub on Kesteven Road, to take part after an appeal for skinheads was put out by filmmakers.

    West Bromwich resident Alex Angell, who is a supporting actor playing a skinhead, said: “It’s been a lot of fun filming the scenes.
    “It’s amazing really being so close to home too, I only live around the corner. The portrayal of the skinheads in this series is great, the majority of us are in the culture already so we are wearing clothes that we bought from home.”
    The actors, who are mostly local to the area, donned authentic period clothing to portray the music based sub-cultures of the era, including some vintage articles from their own wardrobe.
    One Ska-supporting actress said: “I’m actually wearing some of my mom’s old clothes from when she much younger.
    “I was already in with the culture anyway so I had the shoes and the hair, but the clothes are really special.” Actors have also praised the series for having a real representation of the music sub-cultures, with skinhead actors complimenting the fair portrayal in the series.
    Burntwood resident Olly Furnival, 21, who also plays a skinhead, added: “Honestly this is about as real as it gets, most people know skinhead culture from This Is England and American History X, but this is so real.
    “This seems like it is going to be a good representation of the culture, a lot of people get the wrong idea of skinheads because of American History X and This Is England, they think we are all racist and have ties with National Front.
    “But skinheads really just love the music and scene, they weren’t all racist and I hope this educates people and shows that skinheads might look mean but we aren’t all that bad.”
    The filming has gathered a lot of attention with residents, with people sitting on their doorsteps to watch the scenes and one man even booking a week off work to watch the show.
    Mark Whitehouse, 57, of West Bromwich, said: “I actually booked some time from work to see this, it’s one of those things that eventually makes history. It’s not every day that you see this sort of thing around here. In my youth I was really big into the rude boy and Ska cultures and this, this is a real representation of the times – it’s honestly shocked me how close it is.
    “It’s amazing how authentic everything looks, you can see that they have put some real thought into the outfits. I actually still have some of the clothes that these people are wearing.”
    The clashing of cultures comes after a casting call was issued last month to find “skinheads and people with shaved heads” in and around the West Bromwich area.
    The series has been described as both a “high octane thriller” and a “family saga” that opens up in 1981 at a moment of social tension and unrest. A release date for the series is yet to be confirmed.
    --- Article By Daniel Walton

    1 comment

    Skinheads: Variations Within the Subculture

    SPSP: How would you describe your research?

    Kevin: I would call it a cross between several types of qualitative methods. A lot of it was interviewing and ethnographic work, as well. Let’s say I was researching neo-Nazis. I’d go to rallies (they knew I was a social scientist, and that I didn’t believe in their views.) I would go and interview there, and observe what was going on at the events and take notes. And once I got to know some of them and know where their hangouts were, I’d go there and do interviews, so it was both qualitative and ethnographic.
    I got involved with this research because I was teaching a class on deviance and the issue of hate groups came up. Some of the kids in the class were talking about Neo-Nazi skinheads, and I responded back, “Well, not all of them are Neo-Nazis, there are several different types.” I described the Traditional and SHARPS (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice), and a bunch of other types of skinhead identities.
    After the class was over, two female students came up to me and said, “I want to thank you for actually clarifying to people that not all skinheads are Neo-Nazis.” They admitted that they were skinheads and that their boyfriends were skinheads, and they asked me if I would be interested in interviewing them because they knew I was doing research on the skinhead movement.
    I said, “Sure,” and from there it all snowballed into meeting other people, getting contact information from them, and emailing or going to bars with them and meeting people or going to rallies. It really was this huge snowball effect that started with having a discussion in class about the definition of skinheads.
    SPSP: When you’re doing these interviews and other types of communication, what’s the area of focus?

    Kevin: It depends. One of the things that’s fascinating is what they would label as being a “true” skin. There’s a debate within the movement of what’s true. A Traditional skin might be more accepting of a gay skin than someone who is a Neo-Nazi. There’s also differing views on gender. Some skinheads have traditional views of women and basically believe that women should have more of a back-seat role, and some are more liberal in their views.
    Robin: I think you see that with the female Neo-Nazi skinheads, too. Some of the Neo-Nazi women Kevin interviewed were very upfront that they wanted to be involved in, and sometimes were involved in, fighting.
    There can be a lot of aggression, especially among the Neo-Nazi skinheads. Some of the women were okay with women fighting, and some of the men were okay with that. And some of the men said, “Women shouldn’t be fighting”, and even some of the women themselves said that they should take more of a backseat role with that.
    Another question we look into is how different people got involved in the skinhead movement - what brought them to it. There are some commonalities across the board, and also differences. I think a lot of people who join feel that they are accepted for who they are within the movement. They’re looking for a place to belong. A lot of times, they feel like they didn’t fit in in high school, and yet they fit into the skinhead group.
    Kevin: Both males and females join the skinhead movement because of issues of self-worth and self-esteem. A lot of them came from a background of being seen as blending into the crowd, and almost being a nothing. They wanted to stand out, so they ended up joining the movement. Then, they found that people feared them. And there’s kind of a power in fear. A lot of the women really liked that, because they were able to find a “true self”. They were finally accepted for who they were, in a way.

    SPSP: That’s really intriguing. I don’t know that I would have thought about all of the nuances on my own.
    Kevin: I didn’t either, and that was some of what surprised me. When you do reading on skinheads, you almost think that it’s homogenous. I found out there were different types of skinheads, with different reasons for joining. I did boil it down to several elements that were very similar, and one similarity is the issue of self-esteem.
    A lot of skinheads weren’t recruited, per say, but willingly joined. They liked what they refer to as the respect they received. Like I said earlier, I refer to it as fear, but there’s power in that. For a lot of them, they’re only involved with the movement for a short time and then they move off into other things, but it increases their self-worth. I didn’t expect to see some of the results that I did.
    Robin: Interestingly, too, one of the ways in which people are brought into the movement is through music. Whether they’re Traditional skinheads and they’re listening to ska and reggae, or they’re Neo-Nazi skinheads and they’re listening to the white power music, people would show up to the music venue to listen to the music. They’d meet people there, and hang out with them, and then join the movement. So music is one avenue in.
    Kevin: At these music events and even in other spaces, sometimes people who are non-racist will hang out with people with racist views. I don’t hang out with anybody who’s racist because I don’t agree with that viewpoint. But because there’s so few skinheads and there’s power in hanging out in a pack, they basically tolerate this issue of bigotry and homophobia, etc.
    I found it surprising that this happens, especially because there’s a whole SHARPS (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice) movement. But for the most part, that movement has died down in America. I saw a lot of skinheads who would hang out with the racists, and I was amazed that they would tolerate that.
    SPSP: How did you come to pursue this area of research? Were you studying this prior to the interaction with the two students?
    Kevin: I was at Northeastern University and was a teaching assistant to Jack Levin, so I got interested in hate groups. When I started my dissertation in the late ‘90s, the internet was becoming big, and there was an influx of hate groups going online. I wanted to do a comparison of the online views of skinheads versus the face-to-face views of skinheads. That’s how I originally got into this research area, and I stumbled into a bigger avenue of people to interview.
    Robin: My research with Kevin started with online hate, and moved more to looking at skinheads and the different types of skinheads. When I started doing the research, I thought of skinheads as Neo-Nazis and bikers. I started learning about the other groups, like the Traditional skinheads, and that they are around the world.
    A lot of people trace the movement back to England, and say it came to the U.S. on the heels of punk rock. But there are skinheads in Korea, Japan, Australia, Germany, France, South America. It’s one of England’s most successful exports – it exists today and around the world.
    I found a group of Straight Edge Skins Against Animal Cruelty, and they had a whole bunch of songs in that arena. There are female skins and gay skins, which kind of goes against the masculinity that’s associated with the group. Even though it’s a subculture, it’s a really diverse group.
    SPSP: What about your research and your findings have been most surprising?
    Kevin: For the females, the juxtaposition of the two roles. Some women take on a more traditional role and let the men do everything, and there are other women that are a little more standout-ish, and some of the other skins are a little more liberal in their views, and let them do their stuff. A lot of people refer to it as female masculinity.
    One thing that I found was that regardless of gender or political affiliation, they’re extremely violent and you have to be really careful when you’re dealing with them. That transferred over into the women, as well.
    If you look at violent crimes in general in the U.S., women only commit 13% of violent crimes. And yet, I don’t think I met one who woman didn’t have a violent extreme view on something, or who didn’t believe that you could act violently as a means to an end. I was expecting to find something a little bit different based on how the larger social structure is and how women view violence.
    Robin: Some of the gay skins probably downplay their gay identity. But even among those who downplayed that identity within the skinhead movement, their close skinhead friends all knew that they were gay and yet a lot of their family didn’t. They felt comfortable telling these friends, but not their family. It’s really men acting feminine that they’re against, so even some of the gay skinheads beat up men who were acting effeminate.
    Kevin: You saw that across gender, too. Some female skins didn’t see that kind of violence as being wrong. But sometimes it’s tough to tell how people really feel. You’re dealing with a lot of different views and the people all hang out. You don’t know if they’re just ignoring the behavior. But they never really espoused that beating up gay people was wrong, regardless of which gender they were.

    SPSP: What have you found most interesting about the research and your findings?

    Kevin: I think what I found about how, let’s say women, get involved in the movement. A lot of it involved networks of relationships. So maybe they had a boyfriend or an older brother or another female friend that was in it, and they were drawn into it. If they become a neo-Nazi or racist skin, then they learn to hate. They get involved because it increases self-worth, so for them it’s more important to have that self-esteem and sense of pride. And they learn to hate later.
    Whereas a lot of the males were attracted to the violence. For women, violence wasn’t an attractive component of it, but for a lot of the males, the violence brought them in.
    Robin: The stereotype is the neo-Nazi skinhead, but I find commitment of the Traditional skinheads to “This isn’t about politics or racism; those things don’t have a place in the movement,” to be really interesting. Because it’s a subculture, you might expect much more homogeneity. But it’s a diverse group in terms of political beliefs.
    And that’s true even in the women: you have women who are Traditional skinheads, women who are neo-Nazi, and so on. You see it just as you do in women outside of the subculture - very different views about race, politics, and aggression. The women in the movement reflect the larger group of women.
    In the subcultures you can see women struggling for equality. In some skinhead groups they are treated as equals, and in others they have to fight to be treated as equals. That fight is not just with men - it can be with other women. I think you see the same thing in the larger society; some people are very accepting of women being treated as equals, and some say “No, they’re not.” And some people in each of those groups are men, and some of them are women.
    Kevin: Some sociologists say if you understand subculture and deviance it’s easier to understand the larger society. If you look at what Robin’s talking about with women in the movement, it’s a subset of what’s going on in society. Women are fighting for rights, saying they should be able to do various things, or to go into combat. Combat is violent. It’s a microcosm within skinhead culture.

    SPSP: What are the different groups of skinheads, in addition to traditional, neo-Nazi, and SHARPs?
    Kevin: In Europe you get anarchist skins, red skins that are for communism and socialism. I haven’t run into that in the U.S.
    Robin: In Europe, there’s also anti-Fascist skins.
    SPSP: The red skins would seem to be on the left side of the political spectrum, but overall the movement, even if it’s nuanced, seems to be more to the right. Or is that not an accurate characterization?
    Robin: Obviously, the racist nationalist skinheads are going to be on the right. And numerically, they are probably, at least in the U.S., more common than the extreme left. Although, as I mentioned, I did find the Straight Edge Skins Against Animal Cruelty, so you do have some left-leaning ones, and then the Traditional skins are more in the middle.
    Kevin: Some of the Traditional skinheads still had elements of patriarchal views of women, and things of that nature, which aren’t very liberal. But they don’t consider themselves to the right of the spectrum, either. I think a lot of them wouldn’t really put themselves on the spectrum, partly because when people say “skinhead,” the first thing people think is Neo-Nazis.
    They don’t want to be seen as totally to the right or left. A lot of them tend to take a neutral stance and don’t want to discuss politics. Some of them always say, “No politics allowed.” But views are expressed around violence. Some women are praised for their violence, and the attitude is, “You want to be violent? Go ahead and express yourself that way, that’s what the skinhead movement is all about. “
    Others were more traditional towards women – “We’re supposed to protect them,” etc. And the women who were violent were almost chastised. So in the Traditional movement, you have people who lean a little more to the left in terms of self-expression. And others who think women shouldn’t fight. And they’re all tolerated - they don’t get into fights with each other about it.
    Robin: The skinhead movement started as very working-class. “We’re working-class and we’re proud of who we are.”  It goes back to what Kevin referenced earlier, the discussion of the definition of a skinhead.  
    Some people see it as being who you are, being true to yourself. Gay skinheads would say, “I am a true skinhead because being gay is who I am, and I espouse all of the working-class things that go along with being a skinhead.”
    Others don’t think that gay people should be in the movement. They would say that being a true skinhead doesn’t include being gay. So it comes back to who gets to claim, “I’m a real skinhead,” and what does that mean?
    Kevin: That’s the whole battle going on. Some of the skinheads in America embrace coming from England. But if you talk to the racist skins, a lot of them say the movement didn’t start until the 80s, when it came over on the back of the punk movement.
    The definition of who is a true skin is probably one of the most interesting things of dealing with this culture, because everyone says “A skin would do this”, “No, a skin would do that”. The definition is always in flux. It’s never a solid thing that you can point a finger at. If you look on paper, that’s never really explored or brought out. I think that’s one of the interesting things we found.
    SPSP: Thank you so much for your time.

    1 comment

    Happy 50th Birthday Cock Sparrer

    We at Skinhead.com.my would like to wish happiest birthday to our favourite band Cock Sparrer, for 50 great years this fabulous band have been rocking us with their song, we also would like to wish them success on their future endeavors. Long live Cock Sparrer!

    Cock Sparrer Full History 
    The Early Days

    This story started at school in 1972 when rivalries between a couple of bands were put aside and the decision was taken to merge and form what was to become COCK SPARRER. The boys had loads of different influences at the time which has helped over the years create what could be considered the unique Sparrer sound of today. The early years were spent mostly doing covers while Burge’s songwriting skills were still being honed. The line-up from the beginning was Micky, Burge, Steve and Colin accompanied by Will who would often guest DJ at any gig. It should come as no surprise to anyone that knows him that he would often get paid more than the band. Gigs were grabbed when offered, but were few and far between, until the band started their own residency at Trinity’s Youth Club in East Ham. Playing most Fridays, they slowly built up a following, which mainly consisted of girls from the local Grammar School – Happy Days!! Unfortunately, a lot of these girls had boyfriends that weren’t too enamoured with their new allegiance to the band, and it wasn’t unusual for most Friday nights to end up like a scene from Gunfight at the OK Corral. Once the fights were out of the way, it was over to the Burnell Arms to spend whatever money had been taken on the door that night. Life was simple in those days – music, beer, and girls.
    By 1974/5, gigs were becoming more regular. Sparrer had become one of the first calls that Terry Murphy from The Bridgehouse would make when bands blew out, and there were many Monday nights spent playing to three people in Canning Town. It was worth it for the free rehearsal, the beers, and the plate of sandwiches that Terry and his wife Rita would lay on for after. Support slots at The Marquee in London’s Wardour Street would follow, as well as regular gigs at the Dagenham Roundhouse, thanks to Paul Fenn at the Asgard Agency. The band’s reputation was growing, but often for the wrong reasons. They were banned from most of these venues on more than one occasion, but always managed to turn up the next day with an apology and a cheeky grin to get back in the good books.
    By now, Sparrer were 7 strong with Will & Glen “The ‘Ed” Smith taking care of roadie-ing duties, and Garrie Lammin on rhythm guitar. They had lived in – and done runners from – a number of different flats in and around East London, including one in Green Street, Upton Park, where on one occasion Col got arrested for nicking Will’s stuff…it’s a long story!!
    1976 saw the boys move a few further stops down the District Line to Dagenham and into a house that could have been the basis for “The Young Ones.” Out of work and on the dole, they passed the days playing football over the park, writing songs, blagging gigs, fiddling the electric, and trying to find enough money to pay the rent. By this time, the mode of transport to get to and from gigs was an old Post Office van. It ran on red diesel, and had to be started with a blow torch. By the time they got to the gig their voices were shot because they had to SHOUT REALLY LOUDLY to be heard over the engine. It was either that, or be semi-conscious upon arrival because of the fumes that the engine would chuck out!
    1976 also saw Cock Sparrer sign their first management and publishing deal with Orange Music, who, through their connections, got the band signed to Decca in early 1977. Purely by coincidence, and still a strange quirk of fate, it wasn’t until many years later that they realised that the fella that actually signed them to Decca was none other than Daryl’s Dad! Daryl was five at the time!! Still struggling to find gigs, it was a surprise when, in April ’77, a couple of the band members went round the ‘Eds house to be told by his Dad that he wasn’t in, and that “he’s gone up to London to sort out your tour with The Small Faces.” WHAT?! He was having a laugh, surely? THE Small Faces? Steve Marriott, Ian McLagan, Kenney Jones, etc? It couldn’t be! He must have mis-heard him. With no mobile phones, it was an anxious few hours before the ‘Ed returned to confirm that Cock Sparrer were, in fact, to support The Small Faces on their 12 date UK comeback tour starting the following week!
    The red GPO van made it to the first gig in Preston before The Small Faces road crew took pity on the band and offered to stick the small amount of Sparrer gear in the back of their trucks for the rest of the tour. Steve Marriott lost his voice after a couple of shows, and for a while it looked like the whole thing may be cancelled, but he recovered fairly quickly and no dates were lost. They say you should never meet your heroes, but everyone connected with that tour were very gracious to the Sparrer boys, and this is the thinking that they try to maintain to this day when it comes to dealing with their own support bands. Kenney Jones lent Steve anything he wanted from his kit, Ian McLagan would always accommodate requests for Faces songs during soundchecks, and Micky spent an afternoon locked away in a basement with Steve Marriott trading Humble Pie riffs on their guitars. The tour ended with two shows at The Rainbow, Finsbury Park, followed by an end of tour bash at The Dickens Inn, St Katherines Dock, London where a serious attempt was made to drink every last drop of alcohol in the place.

    Punk Rocking

    “Runnin’ Riot” was released in July, 1977 having been recorded in Decca’s West London studios in Hampstead earlier in the year. The session was produced by Nick Tauber, a producer of some repute who had earlier worked with Thin Lizzy. By the time of its release, punk was everywhere in the media, and Decca thought they had it made with Sparrer and Slaughter and The Dogs signed to the label. The only problem was, the Sparrer boys didn’t really want to be punks. Well, not punks in the way that the press were portraying punks, all gobbing, safety pins, and bondage trousers. They loved the punk ethos that anyone can have a go, but there was no way that they were dressing up in anything other than Doc Martens and jungle greens. The fall out with Decca began almost as soon as it had started, with the label trying to push the band in one direction, and Sparrer flatly refusing to play the game. This is demonstrated perfectly by the release of the band’s second single, “We Love You,” in November, 1977. The reason for the plain white cover on the release is purely down to the band’s refusal of the suggestions that the record company had put forward. The strained relationship limped on. The Decca offices were used to string a bunch of gigs together in October 1977, and again in early 1978, including the infamous Stratford Town Hall launch of “We Love You”. Dignitaries from the music world were bussed to the gig which was intended to be a bit of a Sparrer showcase but ended with Alan “Fluff” Freeman, the radio DJ, going home early because someone threw a pickled onion at him. Overuse of a dry ice machine resulting in the band not being seen by a large part of the audience for much of the show, an over zealous stripper whose physical contortions could have put Olga Korbut to shame, and a venue totally unsuitable to have live bands meant that what on paper seemed like a good idea at the time ended up a bit of a disaster. It was, however, the first of many times that Sparrer and The UK Subs were on the same bill, so there was some good to come out of it!
    The ‘Ed had decided to stay on and work with Mel and Bev Bush after The Small Faces tour, so Sparrer needed a new roadie. At the time, Will was working at a hospital in Goodmayes, Essex, dispassionately referred to as the Barley Lane Nut House, when on one particular occasion he was accused by a co-worker of having stolen his NME. A rapport was quickly developed and not only had this bloke heard of Cock Sparrer, he had heard “We Love You” played on the John Peel show several nights earlier. Will came back to the house in Dagenham after work and told the others that he had met the perfect roadie to replace the ‘Ed. The questions came thick and fast “Can he drive?” – “No.” “Has he roadied for anyone before?” – “No.” “Does he know one end of a mic stand from another?” – “Definitely not, but he drinks like a fish and reads the NME!” He was in! Andy Doré, the original Fist Magnet, joined the ranks of the unpaid.
    It was also around this time that a few regular faces started to show up at Sparrer gigs. This bunch of mates from East London, who came to be known affectionately as The Poplar Boys, were extremely handy to have around should gigs develop into a bit of a scrap. They always had each others backs, and often diffused situations that without their presence could have turned nasty. They were never responsible for starting trouble at any Sparrer show, but because they took no nonsense from anyone, quite often finished something that others had started. Friendships between some of The Poplar Boys and the members of Cock Sparrer are still as strong today as they were in 1977. 
Both “Runnin’ Riot” and “We Love You” got to the lower reaches of the charts, but insufficient sales and a band refusing to toe the party line meant that it wasn’t long before Decca and Cock Sparrer were going in different directions. In September, 1978, having sold all of their equipment – including some they didn’t own! – they moved out of Dagenham and headed for the USA.
    It has been said that Cock Sparrer weren’t that relevant in the history of punk in the UK, and they have been accused of not being around in that first wave of punk. It’s true they didn’t have number one records or make many headlines, but the following is quite interesting –
    “Runnin’ Riot” was released -

    3 months before Never Mind the Bollocks by The Sex Pistols
    8 months before Sham 69’s “Borstal Breakout”

    4 months before “Where Have All the Bootboys Gone?” by Slaughter and The Dogs

    A year and a half before “Alternative Ulster” by Stiff Little Fingers

    The same month as “Peaches” by The Stranglers

    16 months before “Teenage Kicks” by The Undertones

    3 months before The Buzzcocks’ “Orgasm Addict”

    And only 6 weeks after “White Riot” by The Clash
    I’m So Bored With the USA
The boys acquired £50 one-way tickets to New York with Freddie Laker. Because this was the first introduction of the “budget airline” in the UK, he had to set up his desk in the grounds of Gatwick Airport, with marquees to keep the rain of the queuing public. By the time they arrived at the airport, it was something like a three day queue. Thanks to some bribery in the form of a shopping trolley full of beer, Will managed to get the boys miraculously to the front of the line by the next morning. Once on board the DC10, their money started to quickly evaporate, as the drinks trolley never got past row 27.
    The plan was to tout the band around to as many agencies and record companies as they could, to try and drum up some interest. After a couple of days in New York, there were no takers, and the decision was made: “Go West, Young Man!” Will decided to come home, and the five remaining arranged to deliver an Oldsmobile Cutlass to Tucson, Arizona within 7 days. Money and food were already getting tight and a welcome pit-stop was made at Andy’s aunt’s house in St Louis, where after the Dagenham diet of a pork pie cut into 4 pieces, the provision of steaks and ribs on the BBQ was manna from heaven. The air-con in the Oldsmobile packed up fairly early into the trip and the sight of five skinny, pasty, yet sweaty English blokes, shirtless but dressed in shorts and Doc Martens, raised a few mid-West eyebrows, but they got to Tucson on time and duly dropped off the car. The Greyhound bus took them on the last leg of the journey into Los Angeles. Several more attempts to raise interest in the band were made in LA, including seeking out one of the guys that had worked with them at Decca, but to no avail.
    Col was the first to head home, being repatriated by the British Consul. Steve and Burge stayed on for a while in LA, while Mick and Andy headed back to St Louis and Chicago.
    Back to Work
It was of course back to nowhere to live, no gear, no money, and no band. Everybody went off in different directions to get jobs to pay back debts or back home to Mum for some proper food.
    It was a period when Cock Sparrer as a gigging band didn’t really exist. Everyone still met up for a beer and a night out, but they all thought that Sparrer had run its course. Nothing was ever said, there was no big fall-out, no musical differences, or anything like that; the band just took a breather.
    Steve and Burge went off to join The Little Roosters with Alison Moyet for a while, releasing an album and a couple of singles, but any success still eluded them. Burge and Will tried their hands at promoting, most notably The Clash at The Notre Dame Hall, Leicester Square, and were heavily involved with the re-emerging Mod scene, promoting the likes of The Purple Hearts and Secret Affair.
 It was all well and good, but it wasn’t Cock Sparrer.
    Meanwhile, going on in the background was the release of Oi! – The Album, which contained “Sunday Stripper” and, partially through this, the birth of the musical genre that Cock Sparrer would forever more be associated with.
    England Belongs To Us
In November 1982, Cock Sparrer released “England Belongs To Me” on Carrere Records, a song that was only a title and nothing else when Burge sold the idea to them. The single was recorded in the White House Studio, Old Church Street, Chelsea, which was owned by the band’s manager and publisher, Cliff Cooper. Cheap studio rates were negotiated with the money that was forwarded by Carrere to record the single, but was actually used to record both that and most of the tracks that were to later become Shock Troops. By this time, Chris Skepis, a mad Brazilian (from the East End of Brazil, obviously) and a lovely fella, had been recruited to play rhythm guitar via an ad in a shop window.
    The single’s release was heavily supported by Garry Bushell and Sounds, who provided some welcome reviews, but was pretty much ignored by everybody else.
    Carrere liked the single, and agreed to support and finance an album and dutifully forwarded enough cash to do so. Little did they know that most of it was already recorded and ready to go, and so, in true Sparrer fashion, a lot of the funds went straight over the bar of the pub next door to the studio. Well, they didn’t want to waste it, did they??
    Shock Troops was recorded and mixed in just over two weeks. Songs that had been written and stored away which covered all aspects of the band’s experiences with the scene, former record companies, former band members, friends, characters they knew, and the world at large, could finally be heard. Or so they thought.
    Micky played on every track on the album, but didn’t fancy getting back in the van to do the gigs to promote it.  Another advert was placed, and Shug O’Neill was asked to join on lead guitar.
    A number of gigs were organised, including The 100 Club and The Fulham Greyhound in London. Record company executives were obviously invited along to get to know the band better and to start to think about the marketing strategies required to launch the album.
Unfortunately, it all kicked off at these gigs; several people got hurt at The Fulham Greyhound and the only sound heard for the next few months was the stony silence of non-returned calls, followed by the smell of friction created by the furious back pedaling of the record company.
    A deal was finally struck, and the album was released in November 1983 by Razor Records – a subsidiary of the subsidiary!
 Someone at Syndicate Records must have liked Shock Troops, because they agreed to commission a second Sparrer album that was to be rather lazily titled Runnin’ Riot in’84. Shug’s influence on the songs on this album is very apparent, but once again more could have been done in terms of the writing and production of this release, had all of the monies found their way to the studio rather than The Dog and Duck!
    All Roads Lead to The Astoria

    The period following the release of Runnin’ Riot in ‘84 can probably be considered the band’s most inactive. Don’t get me wrong, socially it was really busy, with every member getting married, having kids, and working to pay the bills. It’s just that Cock Sparrer didn’t gig for a while.
    Steve Bruce grew his hair and embarked on a new career, that of pub landlord. His first boozer was The Flying Scud (nothing to do with The Falklands!) in Hackney Road, quickly followed by a move to a pub in Bethnal Green Road which Steve renamed The Stick of Rock. A PA system and DJ booth were quickly installed and The Stick of Rock became a leading East London music venue. Steve even managed to persuade Burge and Micky to join the house band on the odd occasion. It was while Steve was here that punters realised that the guvnor behind the bar used to be the guvnor behind the drums in Cock Sparrer, and he began to receive requests and offers to reform the band and start gigging again. One particular offer was to play at The Astoria in Tottenham Court Road. A meet up over a pint was organised and it was quickly agreed that this was one of the dumbest ideas that had ever been presented to the band. Who was gonna come? The Astoria was a big place, holding up to 2000 people. Big bands – proper bands – played there. Once they had confirmed that the promoter wasn’t certified insane, they agreed to do it. It would be a laugh, something to tell the grandchildren about in years to come. As Chris Skepis had gone back to Brazil they had to find another rhythm guitarist. Steve mentioned this kid called Daryl who had played with his band The Elite a few times in the pub and knew all the Sparrer songs better than they did – still true today!! An impromptu rehearsal was organised, and the Astoria gig was confirmed for October 4th, 1992. The headline slot was deferred to The Adicts, with The Lurkers and The Elite also being added to complete the line-up. Still convinced that they would be playing to an empty hall, several get-togethers were arranged to run through the songs including one on the afternoon of the gig in The Stick of Rock. It’s funny now to hear the number of people that claim to have been there for that last minute rehearsal; queues would have gone around the block if everybody had really turned up! 
The show itself was sold out. People came from all over the world to see Cock Sparrer for what was intended to be a one-off occasion. They sang every word to every song, which was helpful, because Col forgot a few.
    Sitting around the dressing room afterwards, sharing a litre bottle of Leibfraumilch – classy!! – with Arthur from The Lurkers, he suggested what Sparrer should really do was to go to Europe. The scene was healthy there, especially in Germany, and they would really love to see the band. Grabbing the bottle back from Arthur, who had clearly had enough by this time, little thought was given to his suggestion until the dust had settled a few weeks later.
    Germany Calling

    An offer was received from a small German label, Bitzcore, to record and release a new Cock Sparrer album. With the funds provided up front, the thinking caps went back on, Burge was locked away in a darkened room, and Guilty As Charged was born.
 As is the usual Sparrer method of operation, tapes were dropped through letter boxes, half finished songs were completed, additional verses were added, and it finally looked as though the album was beginning to take shape. One song that was delivered with strict instructions from Burge – “This is finished, it doesn’t need anything, and I’m quite proud of it” – was “Because You’re Young.” Quite right, too!! 
Studio time was booked at The War Rooms in Shoreditch, and Guilty was quickly recorded and mixed.

    A 14 date European tour was organised to promote the album, although as with The Astoria, the band were pretty sure no-one was gonna turn up. The tour took in Germany (10 dates), Austria, Italy, France, and Belgium, and included playing in school halls, squats, clubs, aircraft hangars, and the occasional concert venue. But people did come – from all over! – and friendships were forged with people that they met along the way, many of which remain intact today. The most visited country on the tour was probably Switzerland, which they passed through on loads of occasions to get to somewhere else!! The tour wasn’t that well organised in terms of geography and journey planning, and they were soon sick and tired of going backwards and forwards over “the bleedin’ Alps.”
    Germany was proving to be a second home to Sparrer, and more gigs were organised to further promote Guilty As Charged and the follow up, Two Monkeys, released in 1997.
    The set list by this time was growing and growing. Obliged to play some of the songs off the new albums, there was no way that they would ever get away with not including the majority – if not all!! – of Shock Troops whenever they played live. Whilst wanting to sell as many albums as they could, their priority, which remains the same today, was to give everyone a good night out.
    2000? Quite a Busy Year by Sparrer Standards

    By 2000, the gig offers were coming in thick and fast. The year started with a 4-day trip to the USA. Always an ambition for the band, this visit, which took in New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, helped to convince the boys that people outside of the UK and Europe had heard of the band and wanted to hear the songs live. When discussing the various venues to be played, several options were put forward for the New York gig, but the band really wanted to play CBGBs because of the history and heritage that the club had. The second day was Boston and an all ages matinee show, which was fine – except for the poor sod that had driven for 8 hours to get there only to be told he’d missed the gig! The Dropkick Murphys were a great help in transporting the guys around their home town and providing the backline for the show. Col returned the favour by adding some vocals to a track off their new album. San Francisco was a cracking show, a lot of which (along with some tracks recorded in New York) found their way onto the later released Runnin’ Riot Across the USA album. The final gig in LA turned out to be the biggest of the four, which nicely rounded off Cock Sparrer’s first official visit to the US.
    This year also saw the band’s first collaboration with Darren Russell-Smith’s Holidays In The Sun promotions, with dates in the Basque Region with The Cockney Rejects and The Boys, and then in Berlin with The Dropkick Murphys.
    Everyone knew in the back of their minds that the day would come when Cock Sparrer would again play in England. It was just a matter of when.
    Morecambe (or Morecombe as Darren Russell-Smith’s Tee Shirts Read!) 2001

    That opportunity came in the shape of Holidays In The Sun, Morecambe, July 2001. It seemed a strange place to hold a punk festival. The old seaside town up on Britain’s west coast, famous for its cockles, came alive as 5000 punks and skins from all over the world descended to breathe life back into the old girl. Billed as the 25th Anniversary of Punk, the weekend was still pretty much ignored by both the music and mainstream press, which funnily enough, didn’t seem to matter to those attending. It was almost as though this was a private party with all of your best mates turning up. Sparrer were knocked sideways by the welcome and response that they got when they played on the Saturday night, when The Market Arena was packed to capacity and a big sweaty singalong was had by all.
    Still only doing the occasional gig, Cock Sparrer returned to Morecambe in 2003, where they filmed and recorded footage for the “What You See Is What You Get” dvd. The idea was to put together a live recording of the show plus numerous bits of unseen footage including a hand held video taken by the band themselves of their trip to the USA in 2000. This lot, coupled with some guitar tuition from Micky and a trip around their old East End haunts, ended up as nearly 8 hours of material.
    Blackpool 2006

    By the summer of 2006, Darren and Jennie Russell-Smith had moved the biggest punk rock n roll circus to Blackpool. I think they saw it as a bit of a quest to re-invigorate seaside towns that had seen better days. I’m not sure what the locals’ thoughts were as the place was invaded by hordes of punks and skins from all over the world. I would imagine that they were grateful for the extra income from this unexpected source. Stag and Hen do’s were pushed off the front pages of the local papers, replaced by images of mohawks and Dr Martens.
Sparrer were asked to play the Saturday night to a packed house in The Empress Ballroom, where several punters commented that they thought the floor was going to collapse from bouncing up and down so much! A good night was had by all.
    A New Album, Are You Sure?
There had been many offers for Cock Sparrer to get back in the recording studio during the ten years after Two Monkeys, and on several occasions, the band had sat down to discuss just that subject. Those discussions always came to the same conclusion however: that unless they were totally happy with the quality of the songs to be used, they wouldn’t bother. The band were on such a high after the success of Blackpool that once again the subject was raised over a pint or three, but this time it was decided to do a bit more about it. An earlier meet up with Lars Frederiksen of Rancid in a pub off Tottenham Court Road had added more fuel to the flame: Lars made it clear that he’d want to get involved in any future recording project. Like the band, he recognised some of the failings of the previous releases, and wanted to produce an album that everyone could be proud of. Slowly, the idea of putting a new Sparrer album together was taking shape. Over the next few months, CDs were once again dropped through letterboxes with demos and ideas for songs on them, and in January 2007, the band started on a series of rehearsals that would eventually knock those songs into shape. The plan to get Lars involved in the recording of the album failed to materialise, due to his work commitments and the timescales involved, and eventually it was decided that he would mix the album once recorded. Sessions were block booked at Pat Collier’s Perry Vale Studios in South London, and having spent a couple of months rehearsing and arranging the songs, Here We Stand was recorded over a three week period in May. Lars mixed the album over the course of the summer of 2007, after which it was handed over to Captain Oi! for release. Although it was also planned for the album to come out in the States, that wouldn’t happen until a couple of years later, and not until Pirates Press Records got involved. Having spent quite a while – by Sparrer standards – writing, arranging and recording the new album, thoughts moved to the launch.
    Why Wolverhampton? Well It’s In the Middle, Ain’t It?!

    Cock Sparrer at The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton on Saturday, November 3rd, 2007 will go down as a seminal evening in the history of the band. Darren Russell-Smith and the boys and girls from Rebellion put together a fantastic line-up consisting of Goldblade, Deadline, The UK Subs, Slaughter and the Dogs, and Cock Sparrer to launch Here We Stand. People came from all over the world to make this night one of the most memorable Sparrer gigs ever. Packed to the rafters, everybody sang, shouted, and punched the air to every song in an atmosphere of fun and celebration. Even the new songs that no-one had heard yet were well received. This was Sparrer’s only show of 2007 and it seems everyone was determined to have a good time. By coincidence, a former roadie of the band – the ‘Ed – had been working at The Civic Hall the previous evening with Van Morrison, which was a polite, demure, half of shandy affair compared to the full–on, “What’re you drinking?”/ “What have you got left?” party atmosphere provided by the Sparrer faithful on the Saturday night.
    Gigs and Gigs and Gigs
Cock Sparrer is never gonna be the sort of band that will put together a 40 date tour these days; it would kill ‘em! They continue to play the odd gig – and some of them have been very odd!! – here and there, and as long as they’re enjoying it and people still want to come and hear the songs, it will carry on. As soon as that changes, then it will be time to hang up the Martens.
    After Wolverhampton, 2008 included two shows in Vienna and back in Blackpool for Darren and Rebellion, following which they decided to dust off their passports and get out to a few different places that they hadn’t been to before, or been back to for a while.
    2009 started with a belter in Berlin in the snow at Punk & Disorderly, and included three trips to the USA for gigs in Texas, Chicago, and – in November – San Francisco, for the 5th Anniversary of the band’s new American record label, Pirates Press Records. Countries visited for the first, but hopefully not for the last time that year included Serbia, Norway, and Holland, while they also played the Ruhrpott Rodeo in Germany and Oktoberfest in Girona. The gig in Oslo saw the introduction of a new verb to the Sparrer vocabulary, which is to be “Heini-ed.” Will met up with our German mate Heini for a swift half in the afternoon of the gig, and woke up 12 hours later having missed the show completely.

The band were keen to do both festivals and club shows, as well as wanting to fulfill a promise to themselves to play London again. Finally, two nights at the HMV Forum, Kentish Town in March 2010 were planned to achieve this ambition.
    Two differing line-ups saw Friday night host The Rabble, Deadline, Street Dogs, and Agnostic Front, while Saturday had a real ’77 feel to it with The Exposed, UK Subs, Penetration, and The Boys. After the show on Friday night, they were told by The Forum management that bar takings for the night almost broke the house record. Col had a bet with the manager that the record would definitely go on the Saturday but £28,000 worth of beer had to be consumed to do so. Well my friends, you nearly did it! In fact, I think the record would have been broken easily if they could have kept up and were a bit quicker behind the ramp. They admitted afterwards that they had underestimated the number of bar staff required to fulfill the thirsty needs of the Sparrer faithful. Still, £52,000 taken over the two nights put a smile on their faces! A good effort, my friends, a good effort!
    Other gigs in that year took in Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic for the first time, and saw returns to Italy, Belgium, France, the Basque Region, Scotland, and Germany.
    In January, the band re-entered Pat Collier’s studio to re-record “England Belongs To Me” for Dan Hardy to use as his entrance music when entering the octagon prior to his UFC fights. Dan was also keen to help out on backing vocals and as Daryl said at the time, “He can do whatever he likes, we ain’t gonna argue with someone who beats people up for a living!”
    2010 also saw the publishing of Steve’s book, The Best Seat in the House, which documented his recollections of the band’s story and allowed him to share his fantastic collection of Sparrer memorabilia gathered over the last 30+ years.
    It also saw the inclusion of “I Got Your Number” on the soundtrack of the movie Jackass 3D.
    Towards the end of the year, Pirates Press Records released the ultimate Cock Sparrer collection in a limited edition, vinyl box set. Produced in two parts, with one being all of their live material, Cock Sparrer Essentials has over 32 sides of the band’s back catalogue, as well as posters, Steve’s book, and other goodies. The package took over 18 months to put together, and is something that the boys are rightly very proud of.

    2011 saw the chaps heading to Vegas for Punk Rock Bowling, which was always a danger. The 24 hour city of sin didn’t disappoint, but thankfully, they all came back in one piece, and no-one got married by Elvis in a drunken prank.
    Dates in Berlin, Leipzig, Croatia, and a return to Blackpool were all highlights. September saw the band hit South America for one night in Buenos Aires, Argentina and one night in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where they were joined on stage by the mad Brazilian ex-guitarist Chris for a rousing version of “Take ‘Em All!”
    2012 – 40 YEARS OF SPARRER

    2012 was a very busy year for the band, who were celebrating their 40th anniversary. Amongst the many special gigs organized, there were 6 with Rancid, who by coincidence were celebrating their 20th year together. The idea was for two shows to take place in Rancid’s hometown of San Francisco, with the ‘return leg’ in London, later in the year. Duly, two sold out shows took place at The Warfield Theatre in San Francisco in March, with three – also sold out – shows at The Forum in London in December. These were topped off with a final show together under the Rebellion banner in Birmingham, UK, also in December 2012.
    Amongst the other gig highlights of that year were a massive show at the Alsterdorfer Sportshalle in Hamburg, as well as a trip to play Philadelphia and Boston. The journey between the two gigs was in what can only be described as a “Simpsons-style” school bus. Not the most comfortable ride, but made easier by West Ham playing in the Championship Play Off Final as they travelled. Poor signal reception meant that only snippets of game were watched, with much swearing and threats to throw laptops out of the bus window, etc. All was good in the end though. The band’s beloved West Ham won the game 2 -1, and were back in the Premier League.
    2012 also saw the release of the band’s 40 Years album, a compilation of tracks chosen individually by the band members, with a brief explanation as to exactly why that song was chosen and what that particular song meant to them. Each person had to choose 3 songs, with “England Belongs To Me” and “Because You’re Young” going on automatically. What seemed a fairly simple idea resulted in a lot of hand-wringing and cursing, as old favorites were either left out or snaffled up by other band members.
    Outstanding Gigs

    With Cock Sparrer now playing more gigs than ever before, the opportunity to visit many new places and make many new friends has been gratefully accepted by the band. They obviously treat each show as special, and whether they are playing to 50 people or 5,000, the same level of professionalism and attention to detail is applied. In saying that, there have been some that stand out, either because of the venue or location. They have played in the grounds of a castle in Serbia, and a bullring in the Basque Country. For the Pirates Press 10th Anniversary party in San Francisco in October 2014, the street was closed off, a stage erected and a good time was had by all. If you had asked any member of the band whether they ever thought that they would have the opportunity to play Las Vegas, they would have laughed you out of the bar. But thanks to Punk Rock Bowling, Sparrer have played there in 2011, 2014, 2017, and are due to return in 2020! They also enjoyed PRB on the road in Asbury Park, New Jersey in 2016. Of all the highlights over the years, one evening has to be included. Probably one of the smallest gigs the band has played in a while was in the 12 Bar (RIP) in London’s West End for Steve Bruce’s 60th birthday celebrations. Packed with family and friends and with sweat running off the walls and ceiling, Steve’s special birthday was certainly one to remember!
    2017 – Forever

With another ten years passed since Cock Sparrer’s previous album, Here We Stand, 2017 saw the release of the full length album, Forever. Recorded over a four month period between the end of 2016 and February 2017, Forever took shape as a collection of songs written in what only can be described as “the Cock Sparrer way.” Anthemic, filled with hooks, and with lyrics relating to real life, the album was immediately hailed as the next chapter in the band’s amazing career. The glowing reviews piled up, and the band took to the road once again, playing in front of crowds the world over who screamed along to not only the confirmed classics, but the new classics as well.
    Into the Future
    Today, Cock Sparrer remain humbled that people still come out in great numbers to see them, and the band will always be grateful for that. The years since the release of Forever have been filled with more festival appearances and club gigs across the world. Their continued appearances at such revered festivals as Riot Fest, Punk Rock Bowling, Groezrock, & Rebellion (just to name a few!) have cemented their reputation as an electrifying headliner. Rock The Ship 2019, the Pirates Press 15th Anniversary weekend, saw them command a crowd of thousands who flocked to see them headline a punk rock show aboard an aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet!
    Along the way, not only have they had the opportunity to play with a younger generation of support artists who grew up on their music, but they have even seen the next generation get in on the act in a very literal way. Cock Sparrer have enjoyed support on many gigs from Bar Stool Preachers, a band on the rise who are fronted by none other than Col’s son, TJ! It’s safe to say that the family business is still booming for both father and son!
    With enthusiasm for the band only increasing as the years go on, the early months of 2020 found the band in the studio once again, with the intent to bring even more new music to the stage in 2020…and beyond!
    When Cock Sparrer formed in 1972 all they wanted to do was have a laugh, pull some birds and give everyone a good night out.
    2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

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