While I was driving home with a few skinheads – WOA there, buddy, before you start yelling at me, read about skinheads, the music subculture; I assure they’re the non-racist kind – from this Oi! festival – Oi! is the sub-genre of punk rock that is typically played by skinheads, has a lot of sing-along parts, deals with “working class” topics and sounds like a sea chanty set to a Ramones song – where I had to drink a lot to deal with the head drilling monotony of working class anthems, shaved heads, old time-y cabby hats, suspenders (oh, sorry, I meant “braces”), denim jackets and the three hot punk girls who would rather fuck these bald meatheads than yours truly, who isn’t deliberately bald, my friend Gabe said, “there are two kinds of skinheads; the ones that listen to Skrewdriver and the ones who lie about it.”
And I thought, “why would someone lie about listening to a band he likes?” Well, in this particular case, for those who weren’t already aware, Skrewdriver was the most popular band in the white power music industry. MTV and VH1 have both covered the sub-sect of the punk/metal/hardcore genres called”hate rock” in vomit inducing, after-school special like documentaries, such as this one:
But, one thing few people point out is that, regardless of where one stands on the issue of “racism”, if one is truly honest, then one really has to commend former Skrewdriver lead singer and chief provocateur Ian Stuart Donaldson for, by all accounts and purposes, launching a true “alternative” music industry.
You see, in these PC times, we LOVE to heap praise upon bands such as Black Flag, Dead Kennedys and Minor Threat for helping launch the entire world of independent music by saying “fuck you” to the major labels, investing their own capital, starting their own labels – SST, Alternative Tentacles and Dischord respectively – and building up a whole network from the ground up that was both sustainable and profitable. They tapped into an audience, found a crowd of people willing to fork over cash for their records instead of, I dunno, Van Halen or Def Leppard and, to this very day maintain these record labels.
So, how is Ian Stuart of Skrewdriver any different? Well, that’s simple. He’s a Hitler supporting, neo-Nazi who joined the National Front. A younger version of me would have balked at giving him credit for doing anything good, but, then I’d be a hypocrite since I read Lovecraft and highly respect both Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. I don’t agree with the message, but I respect the work involved to make himself a sustainable entity. Of course, if you talk to a bunch of Crass or Dead Kennedys fans, they’ll say, “you’re a fucking neo-Nazi, racist supporting asshole!” But, I’m not, so who cares? These are just records and they can’t hurt you. In fact, Ian Stuart’s lyrics are remarkably tame in comparison with the bands that he inspired.
But, first, a brief history. Like most punk rockers, Ian Stuart was actually a long haired kid weened on football (the British kind, dope), fighting and mainstream rock music; the Rolling Stones, the Who and Free were his faves (don’t play the irony card with me about how those are all blues based rock bands; there is SO much irony in the world, that this is a mere trifle). In 1975, he and a few buddies formed a band called Tumbling Dice, who played gigs in their local area of Blackpool, but, in 1976, punk rock carpet bombed mainstream rock and everything changed.
In 1976, Stuart and a couple of the other guys attended the legendary Lesser Free Trade Hall Gig in Manchester, England, where the Sex Pistols played in front of forty or so people; sadly opening act Slaughter and the Dogs is all but forgotten except for by the truly dedicated. Now, THIS is what I find ironic. People praise those gigs because Mark E. Smith from the Fall, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris of Joy Division/New Order and Morissey of the Smiths were all at that show and were influenced by it to start their own bands. Well, can you guess who ELSE was at the show? I’ll give you a big hint.
Before 1976 was over, Tumbling Dice made themselves over as a punk band, bashed out a bunch of basic, catchy, 1-4-5 punk tunes with titles like “Antisocial”, “I Don’t Like You”, “Government Action”, “Back Street Kids”, “Jailbait”, “You’re So Dumb” and “Too Much Confusion”, sent their tape to the dinky Chiswick label in London, went over there and were signed. Many people don’t realize that it was actually Ted Carroll at Chiswick who named the band Skrewdriver when he gave them a list of names to choose from; somehow I couldn’t picture a white power record by a band called the Nervous Wrecks.
But they weren’t a white power band at first; they were just a standard issue, three chord punk band. Again, since their story is filled with irony, I find it kind of funny that again it was Chiswick records who suggested that the band change their image from spiky haired punks to skinheads. Would Skrewdriver have even become a white power band if they hadn’t become skinheads first?
Their first album All Skrewed Up is actually regarded as a classic punk album by some people’s standards. Yeah, sure, it’s no Never Mind the Bollocks… Here’s the Sex Pistols, Young, Loud & Snotty, (I’m) Stranded, Ramones, L.A.M.F. or Damned Damned Damned, but it’s got its place.
Of course, with the National Front having recruited skinheads around 1977, all of a sudden Chiswick realized they had fucked up in promoting Skrewdriver as a skinhead band. Oh well, too late. Stuart and crew liked being skinheads. Unfortunately, the bad press and violence surrounding their gigs became too much, and the group disbanded.
However, Stuart was no quitter. First he resurrected the band in 1979 as some sort of hard rock band, who released one terrible EP titled Built Up, Knocked Down and even supported Motorhead, and then things REALLY changed.
Stuart discovered the National Front and liked their literature. In 1980, he was a full fledged member. People like to paint history with rosy colors and claim that every other member of the band completely disavowed Stuart like some sort of evil pariah. That’s a blatant lie; original Skrewdriver drummer John Grinton followed Stuart’s footsteps and, for crying out loud, Ian Stuart hung out with Suggs, the singer for Madness, yes, the “Our House in the Middle of Our Street” band. He even put him in the Madness movie, Take It or Leave It.
Don’t try to rationalize it; that is the singer from Madness hanging out with National Front skinhead Ian Stuart. Again, none of this would matter in the greater of scheme of things if Stuart wasn’t so good at promoting himself. By 1981, Ian Stuart wasn’t even in a band. The Oi! genre had taken off without him thanks to the promotion of Sounds journalist Garry Bushell. The genre began generating a WHOLE heap of controversy thanks to the double punch of the release of the Oi! compilation album Strength Thru Oi! and the now legendary Southall riots, in which a skinhead gig featuring three of the most popular Oi! bands, 4Skins, Last Resort and the Business, turned into a full scale riot following an altercation between some skinhead kids and the local Pakistanis.
It also didn’t help Bushell’s case that Oi! bands weren’t all card carrying Nazis when the cover for Strength Thru Oi! supposedly accidentally featured notorious neo-Nazi Nicky Crane on the cover (Crane turned out to be a closeted homo, who disavowed his views in 1992 shortly before dying of AIDS) and the title played off the popular Nazi slogan “strength through joy.” And this is where Ian Stuart falls into place.
Stuart was just an average Joe, workin’ at the plant, drinking at the pub and organizing National Front meetings, until someone asked him what ever happened to his band Skrewdriver. Realizing that Skrewdriver still had fans – after all 1977 was only four years earlier – Stuart assembled a new band and relaunched Skrewdriver.
And herein lies the rub; would Skrewdriver have become the leading voice of the neo-Nazi, white power youth and helped launch a whole fringe industry if the news media hadn’t goaded him into doing it? By 1982 Skrewdriver were performing regularly at normal punk clubs such as the 100 Club and hadn’t written a single song with a racist lyric. Their 1982 single “Back with a Bang” certainly had a nationalist sentiment, but since when was loving your country racist? Sure, their gigs were populated by nothing but skinheads who were well aware of Ian Stuart’s National Front extracurricular activities, but who cares? Just don’t go to them! Really! How hard is it not to attend a gig from a band who don’t share share your views?
I understand the concern about people’s physical safety, especially after being told of some horror stories on the Detroit underground scene when hardcore punk legends Agnostic Front (whose singer is Hispanic) and death metal legends Obituary crossed the proverbial punk/metal divide and performed together; skinheads beat up on death metal fans, but again, does that come down to race or just people with proclivities for antisocial behavior? Best bet, stay the hell back or complain to the club for not doing a better job policing the audience.
But, I digress. Basically by 1983, Skrewdriver and skinhead gigs in general had been blacklisted by the media and clubs; their livelihood as a working rock ‘n’ roll band was officially under attack. So, Ian Stuart, while backed into a corner, decided his only option was the best one; simply to tell the truth about his beliefs. In 1983, Skrewdriver released the single/EP “White Power.”
It wasn’t even the first of its kind. A few months prior, the Ovaltinees (what the fuck kind of name is that) released “British Justice“, which has the charming lines, “It’s all right for the monkeys to riot/but there’s no fucking way that I’m keeping quiet.” Prior to that the Australian hard rock band Rose Tattoo had the song “Revenge“, a song one could read deeper meaning into lyrics about “people who have no love for the mother country” and “practice strange religions that are buried in the East.” And even the allegedly apolitical Oi! band 4skins’ first single is the anti-immigrant themed “One Law for Them.” It should be noted for the simple-minded folk out there that “anti-immigrant” does not have to imply “racist”, but the song still has a controversial, nationalist sentiment, that is persona non grata amongst the “egalitarian” elites. A lot of people try to claim the song is about class, meaning one law for the rich and another for the poor. That is a lie. The song blatantly makes references to “riots in the ghetto” and “trickle before the flood”, a reference to conservative politician Enoch Powell’s 1968 speech about the flood of immigrants from Pakistan. Hell, in 1975, Eric Clapton blatantly made the following speech:
Do we have any foreigners in the audience tonight? If so, please put up your hands. Wogs I mean, I’m looking at you. Where are you? I’m sorry but some fucking wog…Arab grabbed my wife’s bum, you know? Surely got to be said, yeah this is what all the fucking foreigners and wogs over here are like, just disgusting, that’s just the truth, yeah. So where are you? Well wherever you all are, I think you should all just leave. Not just leave the hall, leave our country. You fucking (indecipherable). I don’t want you here, in the room or in my country. Listen to me, man! I think we should vote for Enoch Powell. Enoch’s our man. I think Enoch’s right, I think we should send them all back. Stop Britain from becoming a black colony. Get the foreigners out. Get the wogs out. Get the coons out. Keep Britain white. I used to be into dope, now I’m into racism. It’s much heavier, man. Fucking wogs, man. Fucking Saudis taking over London. Bastard wogs. Britain is becoming overcrowded and Enoch will stop it and send them all back. The black wogs and coons and Arabs and fucking Jamaicans and fucking (indecipherable) don’t belong here, we don’t want them here. This is England, this is a white country, we don’t want any black wogs and coons living here. We need to make clear to them they are not welcome. England is for white people, man. We are a white country. I don’t want fucking wogs living next to me with their standards. This is Great Britain, a white country, what is happening to us, for fuck’s sake? We need to vote for Enoch Powell, he’s a great man, speaking truth. Vote for Enoch, he’s our man, he’s on our side, he’ll look after us. I want all of you here to vote for Enoch, support him, he’s on our side. Enoch for Prime Minister! Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white!
But, it was Skrewdriver’s song that galvanized a movement. Maybe it was the anthemic chorus; who knows? The bottom line is that, after the release of that single and, subsequently their 1984 LP, Hail the New Dawn, it seemed like a whole network of white power bands simply appeared out of thin air. Of course it wasn’t “out of thin air.” The band Brutal Attack had been around since 1980, but they dressed like punks and hid their lyrics because they too didn’t want to prematurely kill their career; it turns out they didn’t have to.
In 1984, the German label Rock-O-Rama was more than willing to take a gamble on this new group of fringe rock bands; Skrewdriver, Brutal Attack, Public Enemy (not the rap group!), Combat 84, Skullhead and No Remorse were all signed to the label. But Stuart didn’t rest on his laurels. Skrewdriver became more prolific after they had professed their love of Hitler and the white race, releasing one album a year until Stuart’s death in 1993, of which some suspect foul play. On top of that, Stuart started side projects such as, ugh, the Klansmen, who were backed by the psychobilly band Demented Are Go and even released folk albums of “patriotic ballads.”
Now, this isn’t to say that I endorse the views of these bands; I still believe you should judge a person by the content of his character, not his skin color. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in the law of large numbers indicating trends among certain groups or that people shouldn’t voice their true beliefs with impunity. I believe the first true Social Justice Warriors were the SHARPs – Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice – whose motives seemed noble until they essentially began beating up ANYBODY for “transgressions” such as wearing iron cross necklaces.
Nowadays, there is a fringe industry of white power labels such as Resistance and Panzerfaust. I fully believe that, if a record store wants to sell this music or if a bar that holds 50 to 100 people holds a white power concert, that’s their right to do so and not have it impeded with threats of violence. If anything, one would think SHARPs and Anti-Fa people would be happy that these bands have their OWN concerts in their OWN venues, rather than having to do what they did in the 80s and 90s, which is to start trouble at gigs of bands who don’t hold their views. But, what do I know? I’m just an obnoxious, Jewish libertarian rocker, who skated out of an Oi! concert after the 15th band who shouted, “oi, oi, oi!” and that girl with short skirt and cute ass dissed me to hang out with baldy-McBalderton, who dresses like an old man in his suspenders and high cuffed jeans.