Outside: London Tom and Jerry

Hello, everyone! Time for a new post.

The article I am going to share today is full of topics/clichés we usually try to avoid these days. Mind you, we certainly can’t be proud of them and we have more interesting things to do for sure. However, I still find it interesting to be shared as it is a bit of history of our cult. This feature is dated October 1970 and I would like to thank Phil and Belinda for sharing.

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Outside: London Tom and Jerry

Q: What do skinheads cross the Channel on?
A: A bovver-craft
Q: What do you call a skinhead who goes to the moon?
A: An aggro-naut

Skinhead jokes. Aggro means to dish out aggravation. Bovver is to bother people. Kick ’em. Bash it up. Smash. Skinhead words. Plus a new one: girls don’t like boys with real short hair, so skinheads are growing theirs to just over the ears. Suedeheads.

Stanley is a suedehead: “There are three types of youths, see. You got hippies, right, who turn on and all that. That’s the way they pass their time. You’ve got Hell’s Angels who muck about with their motorbikes. And you got others who got nothing to do. They don’t turn on and they don’t have motorbikes, so what do they do? They think, sh*t, we’ll go have a laugh and they bash people and smash things up. It’s boredom, really, nothing else to do.”

I vaguely remember a fourth: “Aren’t there any kids who just go to school, do their homework, and don’t get into trouble?”

“I don’t know any.” Stanley works with Rudy, a young friend of mine, in a photographer’s studio. Rudy keeps his hair out of his eyes with a bright Indian headband, and it reaches his wings in back. It’s a small studio and the only people working there, besides the receptionist, are Rudy, Stanley, and the photographer. The photographer gave Rudy a telescopic lens, and he just gave Stanley an old Nikon. Rudy and Stanley spend many hours together in the darkroom, learning what they both dig.

If Stanley was hanging out with some friends of his on the corner and Rudy walked by, somebody would probably suggest: “Let’s bash that hippie.” For anybody but him, Stanley would say, “Yeah, sure.”

Stanley screws up his eyes and stares at the cup of coffee next to a pile of transparencies, trying to explain his scene: “You can’t say skinheads do this and they don’t do that, because some do and some don’t, you see. Like I smoke pot. Some skinheads do, although the majority don’t mind you.”

He has an alert face, which tends to fall into a pout, and his voice is soft: “But, you see, I’m sure skinheads are influenced a lot by their parents. They’re from working-class families mostly. You know, they hate Pakistanis, hippies and Hell’s Angels. Greasers, we call ’em. I’m sure their parents say, look at those bl**dy Pakis keep comin’ here and takin’ away our jobs, and those hippies takin’ dope and never work, and those Hell’s Angels so dirty. So the son thinks, sh*t, my mum and dad don’t like them so I’m gonna go and get ’em.”

Skinheads generally grow out of it by about 22, when they start with a regular girl. No time to meet their friends anymore. Stanley is growing earlier. Notice how he calls skinheads “they” sometimes. Next month the photographer is sending Stanley and Rudy to color printing school. He thinks they are both very talented. Watching the two of them helping the photographer around his studio – loading cameras, sweeping up, printing proofs, making the coffee – they remind me of Tom and Jerry under a cease-fire.

“This hippie was standin’ on a corner and my friend just run up, grabbed him, slung him on the floor, and kicked him. I was standing there watching. Then the hippie got up and went over to the older brother of the hippie who hit him. ‘Your brother just him me,’ he said. The brother smashed him and said, ‘So have I.’ And the hippie just walked off.

skinheads at piccadilly

Skinheads and Hippies and Piccadilly

“I was walking down by Swiss Cottage last Sunday. Six skinheads jumped out of a lorry and came for me. Just because they felt like it. They don’t need no reason. I don’t like that though, a lot of geezers on to one. Once this big geezer got a hold of me they knew I couldn’t hit back. Then they all started bashing me. Skinheads must be going a bit soft nowadays.”

“See, a lot of things skinheads do… I don’t know what it is, but when they all get together something happens. Like last Saturday night I was on a bus with about nine other geezers and we thought, sh*t, we’ll wreck the bus. And whe did, we really wrecked that bus. You should’ve seen the state that bus was in by the time we got off. Didn’t have a reason at all. We just thought, sh*t, wreck the bus.”

Skinheads together are called a Crew. Stanley used to belong to a crew called the Cottage Killers. You see their name written on walls all round Swiss Cottage. Nights they’d go to some hippie dance and beat up the hippies or throw bottles through windows. Or mess around with Pakistanis and the Chinamen in their restaurants: “Just to have a laugh. But, see, then what happend is we got a real name around London, and all the big crews, they came over to get us. And there were reallyy big geezers who came down. They gave us a good kickin’ so we called it a day.”

Skinheads listen to Soul music… The Four Tops, Supremers and stuff like that. Maybe that’s why skinheads don’t bother black people. Maybe it’s because black kids mix with skinheads in a lot of places around London. Or maybe it’s because blacks smash back. “Pakistanis never come back at us. That’s one reason they get bashed so often. Sh*t, they should turn round and hit is sometimes. ‘Cause, see, the way skinheads work is they’re only going to give someone a bashin’ if they know they’re not going to get it back. Know what I mean?”

Here’s Stanley going to the football match, Leeds vs. Arsenal. Stanley supports Arsenal. The crew is in uniform. Boots with reinforced metal tips, tips intended to protect working men from falling building materials on the job site. Braces. Levi stay-press pants rolled up at the bottoms. Ben Sherman shirts; short sleeves with buttons on them, button at the back of the collar, pleated back, slim fit.

ChelseaVsArsenal

A copper checking the boots (for metal tips) of this Chelsea supporter before a Chelsea vs. Arsenal match

For football, all the crews that support one club join up for a fight against the other team’s supporters. A one-day merger. Many carry umbrellas, weapons for which you can’t get nicked.

Each team’s supporters have their own end of the stadium. Arsenal’s is called the North Bank. Leeds’ supporters are out to capture the North Bank and to smash up as many Arsenal supporters as possible. They charge. They are beaten back, all 500 of them. They re-group and charge again.

A skinhead kicks a lone copper, then 10 more join in the fun. A squad of coppers come to rescue him. The skinheads sing: “Harry Roberts is our friend, is our friend, is our friend. Harry Roberts is our friend, he kills coppers.” Harry Roberts is a hood who bumped off three fuzz during a job one night.

The furtherest-out football fights are between the supporters of Celtic and Rangers, two Glasgow teams. They’re really crazy about football in Glasgow. Say your father was a Celtic supporter, he wouldn’t let you marry a Ranger supporter. Or, looking for a job, a Ranger supporter wouldn’t hire you.

Anyway, after the game Stanley and the rest of the crew start smashing up the coaches in which the Leeds supporters came down… Pulling out seats, breaking windows. At Kings Cross, one Leeds skinhead gets stabbed in the neck and pushed under a bus. “You know why? Because he supported Leets. He just didn’t support the right team.”

Some nut ran all over the neighborhood writing “LOVE” everywhere. On Monday, Rudy took Stanley’s picture standing under one. Stanley has a bandaid near his left eye from the bashing. Rudy and Stanley think it’s a great shot. Stanley took it home to show his mum and dad.

Stanley

And as always in parting, a nice little tune… Soon Come!!

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2 thoughts on “Outside: London Tom and Jerry

  1. Gabriela, as I recall it back in the day, so many of us (boys and girls) got into it because we loved the clothes and the music. The football thing and the anti-immigrant thing was just something that was there in inner-city culture, and would have been there even if there had been no skinheads but something else instead. The first of the skinheads were the last of the mods, which is why the skinhead boys’ smart gear looks so much like mod fashion, and we all know that the mods were into clothes and music.

  2. Hello, Marie. Hope you’re fine.
    You’re totally right. Jan, another original skinhead girl commented something similar on the link on Facebook and I must say that I agree with you both, of course. I will tell you the same that I told her:
    “It is very sad and something to be ashamed of. Most of the original skinheads I know were into the cult because they loved the clothes and the music and we know very well that that disgusting attitude from this post has not to be generalised. If someone was a trouble maker, he would have been a trouble maker being a skinhead or not and I guess this is the case of Stanley in this article from October 1970 and other kids, unfortunately.”
    And I guess something similar happens with us, the modern skinheads. Some of us are into it because we love the music and the clothes but others…… I prefer to avoid them.
    Thanks a lot for your comment. Kind regards,
    Gabriela

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