So it’s been a while. Almost one month without posting anything but hopefully I will make it up to you with the next posts. Nice stuff even if I say so myself!
What have I prepared for this Sunday? Well, a week ago or so I bought two magazines dated January and February 1970. The one from January came with an article on Reggae/Jamaican music and the February issue with an article on Greasers and Skinheads. I’ll be sharing the latter today.
Hells Angels Versus Skinheads
The slum wastelands of Birmingham where multistorey flats tower above the back streets.
The Hells Angels and the Skinheads.
This is War in Brum
Wendy Jones reports.
“My brother did two Skinheads single-handed, stripped off their coats and shoved them in the cut. They swam out, but the police got my brother and he’s ‘inside’ for six months. Wait till he comes out! I’m polishing up his motorbike, and we’ll be off again on a hunt for Skinheads….”
That’s Rosko Kane talking. He’s eighteen and one of the Hells Angels’ Small Heath Chapter.
“When we go to the City match on Saturday we defend the Tilton Road entrance against the Angels and the other team’s supporters. We get there early to start scrapping. We fight with anything that comes to hand – bottles, bricks.”
That’s David Ward, aged sixteen. He’s a Skinhead.
The Birmingham “war” has been hotting up in the past year since more Skinheads appeared on the scene – in the district of Small Heath. Every Skinhead tells a story of: “How I beat up an ‘Angel’ “. They fight a lot and talk about it a lot.
As gangs they hate each other. But more than that, they all hate conventional society. Angel leader Ron Saunders, aged thirty, explains: “We are the one per centers, while ninety-nine per cent of the population conform, we are the rebels. We are free, and we live as wild as we like.”
“We were rejected by society long before we put on leather jackets. Nearly every one of us has been victimised by the police in some way. So now we wear swastikas – our mind-snappers. They hated the Nazis and now they can hate us. We’re not afraid to use violence. I’ve only to make a couple pf phone calls to get together three hundred Angels in this area.”
Ron joined the Hells Angels two years ago. Excitement for him comes in Angel gear: leather coats, covered with badges and swastikas, with the red-yellow-and-black “colours” of the Angels on the back; the greaser look and the Hogs, a squad of fifty motorbikes built from spare parts. Angels despise shop-bought bikes, the “citizens’ cycles”. Some Angels, though, have clipped wings – many of them have been banned from driving.
Rosko, at eighteen, is proud of his record of minor offences. He is on probation. “I got caught for screwing telephone boxes.”
Shaun McKearny, who is seventeen, left home to join the Angels, and now lives with Ron Saunders in a back street terrace. Damp runs down the walls and furniture is sparse, but he prefers it to the new semi where his parents live.
“Take my dad. He works all day in a boring job as a painter, comes home, watches television, never says a word to me except to ask for money, my share of the housekeeping or something.”
“If you live like that you might as well be dead. So when my dad said: ‘Burn that swastika or get out’, it was like choosing between life and death. I chose life – with the Angels.”
Shaun wears a German army helmet, which his parents hate. “My mother worked on ambulances during the war. I don’t know what my father did – he’s never told me anything about himself, and I never asked him.”
Like most of these Angels, he has had a number of convictions for stealing motorcycles and breaking and entering. “You don’t steal for the money so much as something to do. A bit of excitement. It breaks the routine.”
Chris Murray, twenty, wears a Brownie badge among the collection on his leather coat.
“I bought a job lot of badges. I didn’t realise I’d ‘joined’ the Brownies. Middle-aged people don’t understand about badges. They scream at us for wearing swastikas. They don’t realise it’s just to give them a bit of aggro. If this country were run by the Nazis, or anyone else for the matter, we’d be wearing Britis uniforms to aggravate them.”
Members of the group usually move from one casual job to another, as the fancy takes them. At the moment Chris is a gravedigger.
Three of the Hells Angels are in their thirties and exert strong influence on the younger ones. Barry, at thirty, is worried about the number of youngsters of sixteen and seventeen who are coming in.
“I don’t think they’re old enough for this kind of wild lie. They copy us older ones and get into more trouble.”
His father was an alcoholic. His home broke up when he was small. “All along, I’ve been in this sort of gang. Teds first, then Rockers. I left it for a while when I was married but after my wife ran off with another man I came back into the Angels. Something to do, I suppose.”
Barry lost a finger in a Mods’ and Rockers’ fight. He also has had his face badly cut in a fight with Skinheads.
He’s a trained biologist but doesn’t need his qualifications to do manual work on the railways. “If you go round with ‘Death to Coppers’ printed on your back, you’re not likely to get a job in a profession. Anyway I don’t care, the money’s lousy in most professions, especially being a biologist.”
He is one of the only Angels who takes drugs. Angels as a rule say they get al their kicks out of bikes, and the clothes they wear.
The Skinheads are obsessed with cleanliness. Their convict crew cuts – half an inch long all over – make them more popular with the older generation than the Angels who prefer their hair long.
Many come in from the suburbs. David Ward, who works in a factory, used to live in a city back street, but his home was demolished to make way for redevelopment. His family were moved to a suburban council house. “It’s death out there,” he says, “nothing to do. No one to talk to, and all the houses look the same.”
So he spends every evening in what remains of his childhood area – the sordid streets of cafés and clubs for coloureds. “We like Jamaican music. Sometimes we stay out all night in the clubs.”
“The haircut is compulsory, though you do feel a bit cold at first.”
Steel-capped boots – “cherry reds” – and braces are uniform. “The police don’t like the boots. They take them off us at football matches; we get picked on all the time. Just walk along the street in boots and they’ll stop you.”
“We look nicer, but we’re much rougher than the Angels. They’re always saying how brave they are, but we think they go in more for beating up old ladies* than fighting tough people like us.”
“At football matches the ‘cock of the Tilton’ – the best scrapper at the Tilton Road entrance – is a Skinhead. We usually chase the Angels into Town and scrap with them there. We always start it. I don’t know why we fight; it’s just that everytime you see an Angel you’ve got to. You must do what everybody else does.”
“We’re no organised with financial accounts and everything like the Angels – we’re just a gang of mates who know each other. There are thousands of us around; particularly in this area.”
“Parents don’t have the faintest idea what goes on. When they heard about the fighting, my parents started to get a bit stroppy, but I’d threatened I’d leave home if they didn’t stop nagging. so now I’ve got them where I want them, and I do as I like.”
John Barnfield, who is sixteen, spends his days putting down pavement slabs. He joined the Skinheads when he was really very young.
“You can join from the age of eleven upwards; most of us do because it’s the fashion.”
“We like this fashion. It’s like the Mods, it’s very smart. Look at the Angels, all that revolting greasy hair and the way they’re always boasting. It can’t possibly be normal.”
The Angels almost have a pathological delight in anything that is cruel or frankly revolting.
Whatever you decide about all their different stories, one thing is certain; the Angels really do believe in their way of life and living. some are saving up to go to America.
“That’s where it really started ad where we could all be kings. We could have our own land and build our own town. Compared with the ‘Frisco Angels’, we’re quiet and respectable. But just wait until our numbers grow and we’re big and powerful over here.
*The old ladies
Girls who hang around with the Birmingham Angels are known as “sheep”. When they become the property of one particular Angel, they are known as “old ladies.”
If they don’t choose one steady boyfriend, they are expected to “pul a train”, which means they have sexual relations with all the members and are known as “Mammas.”
Skinheads don’t go in for lasting relationships with girls; more often they are passed around among the group.
Occasionally they are called ‘Irigs’ instead of girls, but most Brimingham Skinheads feel that their “special language is a myth invented by the newspapers.
Sylvia, who is eighteen, is the old lady of one Angel. “I’ve known them all about a year and they’re great,” she says. “I wouldn’t be seen dead with a Skinhead. They’re freaks. Angels don’t abuse their old ladies as the Skinheads do. We’re treated wit respect, not like something the cat dragged in.”
“It’s not true to say Angels don’t work. I work in a sweet factory forty-two hours a week, and so do a lot of the girls, and most of the lads have jobs, too.”
Maureen Taverner, who is eighteen, married an Angel last year. She met her husband, Steve, through her brother, who used to be an Angel.
“My parents weren’t keen on the group, so after an argument I left home and now we both live with Steve’s parents.”
“When you’re on your bike it’s so wild you don’t think of anything except the run. I’m never scared of an accident, but I keep away from fights. I worry about Steve sometimes.”
Lorraine, twenty-one and also addicted to motorcycles. “All my life I’ve been mad on bikes – that’s all I care about. I go around with Mad Mick – he’s the president – and we just live for Hells Angels.”
A crazy read! But with lots of details. Of course we know that this couldn’t and can’t be applied to the 100% of Skinheads, many of the ‘originals’ didn’t like violence and I don’t like it either. The aim is just to share, stuff like this doesn’t come out that often, you know.
Here are a couple of links regarding the same ‘fight’ in case you would like to have a look:
And as always in parting, a nice little tune. Last week we were dancing to this in his honour, what a gem! R.I.P. Harry, ‘The Liquidator’, Johnson