* *


Skrewdriver and the degeneration of the Punk Rock dialectic

If the dialectic I am describing appears crude, that is simply a reflection of my subject matter which is neither intellectually sophisticated nor receptive to self-consciously complex cultural forms. However, while Oi! provided its audience with a parodic vision of what it was to be 'British and working class' in the early eighties, this does not necessarily imply that it was simply a joke; the categories 'serious' and 'not serious' aren't really applicable to the subgenre. Oi! orientates itself in a very different manner to the ideological dogma of high culture and it is absurd to project philosophical notions derived from the latter modes of belief onto an unrelated set of phenomena.

Some readers may feel that I come across as suspiciously anti-Bergsonian, holding to the position that time is not real, that all events are merely the unfolding of a reality already existent in the world. If this is so, it is merely an unfortunate by-product of my current engagement with the Punk Rock discourse, which in retrospect appears to have been completely (pre)determined. Since wo/man exists in language, only those who master semiotic codes rise above determinism to heroically assert their free will. If, like Bergson, we dispense with the notion that real time is homogeneous then there is no difficulty in explaining why a band like Close Shave could produce classic slabs of Oi! in the late eighties. Of course, I could just as easily state that 'late' manifestations of Oi! were produced by individuals who had been left behind by the World-Spirit, but it would be difficult to reconcile such a position with genre theory. The point I'm making is that it's too easy to reduce things to neat but absurdly reductive categories. Instead of attempting to reduce PUNK ROCK to a series of static positions, we must grasp its movement.

As Oi! developed, the subgenre's insistence on propagating a nostalgic vision of what it was to be working class, alongside its desire to posit this in terms of a mythologised British identity, led to an increasing interest in the issue of race. However, once the idea of 'racial nationalism' is sung about openly, quantity is transformed into quality and instead of Oi! we are confronted with 'white power rock and roll'. This is the next stage of our dialectic, within ideological Punk Rock the focus of concern has shifted from rhetoric about class into the most bestial manifestation of race hate. In mystical terms, Earth has been transformed into Water. It is a cliché to state that water always finds its own level, and it should go without saying that in the case of 'white power rock and roll' this is deep beneath the Earth. Instead of being a source of life, this water has absorbed lethal amounts of poison and now festers in a dank cavern deep underground.
Although there have been many Nazi Bonehead bands, given the Fuhrer principle it is only necessary to deal in any depth with the leading exponents of 'white power rock and roll.' Skrewdriver were not so much a band as a person, middle class grammar schoolboy Ian Stuart, whose evolution into a seriously sad bastard peddling a particularly idiotic brand of race hate is a story of cowardice and indecision. In 1977 Skrewdriver emerged out of a Rolling Stones cover band called Tumbling Dice who had been active in the Blackpool suburb of Poulton-Le-Fylde since the end of 1975. Much to their later embarrassment, the independent label Chiswick provided Skrewdriver with both a record contract and a name. Roger Armstrong explains how he came to sign the band in the booklet accompanying the double CD set The Chiswick Story (Ace, London 1992):

"Skrewdriver didn't even have a name when they sent in a demo tape to Chiswick, so one was invented. They were bitter, crude, impassioned and not that fashion conscious. Four lads from Blackpool up in 'the Smoke' and no big advance, but at least they had a record out. You're So Dumb... The B-side of the next Skrewdriver single was a tribute to singer Ian's favourite group the Rolling Stones. Here we are in 1977 – 'no Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones' and Skrewdriver are murdering 19th Nervous Breakdown. The A-side Anti-Social... was one of the most simplistic, brutal punk records ever made. The first album All Skrewed Up... came out and was played so fast it had to be cut at 45 rpm. With twelve tracks and a short running time it was sold at mid-price... Singer Ian eventually joined an obscure British cult. NB: Because of Ian's later activities and the fact that he continued to use the band's name we have regretfully omitted any Skrewdriver material from the compilation, though the songs in themselves were fairly typical punk rants of the days and gave no insights into the unfortunate associations that the band's name developed later. None of the other members of the band became involved in any such activities."

The most amusing thing about the picture sleeves of the first two Skrewdriver singles is that the band are shown to be punk hicks with longish hair. The barnets had been cropped by the time of the photo session for their album All Skrewed Up, which has the opening lines of the old reggae song Skinhead Moonstomp scrawled across the back cover. Now, if Roger Armstrong is embarrassed about what his young protégé went on to do, then Ian Stuart's later apologists have to make excuses for Skrewdriver's early output. National Front jailbird Joe Pearce put it this way in his booklet Skrewdriver: The First Ten Years, The Way It's Got To Be!:

"The shallow nihilism of Anti-Social, I Don't Like You and I Don't Need Your Love on side one of All Skrewed Up are counter-balanced by 9 Till 5 and the excellent (Too Much) Confusion on side two. These last two tracks, together with Government Action on side one, indicate through their lyrical content the birth of Ian Stuart's political awareness."

Yes indeed, one can see the political maturity in the words of (Too Much) Confusion:

"All the councillors in Blackpool / With their poxy bars / Why don't you fuck off / You're much too old to persecute us / And just think about that local publicity huh? / Thank you / Too much confusion / Too much confusion / Too much confusion around here / Well can you hear those Labour rats spouting shit? / Well you ain't too convincing / You can't fool everybody / All the violence / All the reporters snivelling around / Tomorrow's headlines / We all know whose gonna get the blame, don't we?... There's so many people condemning me / They're just trying to dictate / Tell me what to think / Well I don't need your press / I don't need your write ups / And I don't need your put downs / So just go and mess up someone else's life will ya?"

Jailbird Joe Pearce shares an uncanny ability with Groovy Greil Marcus: both are able to find profundity and intellectual sophistication when there's none around. Personally, I can't see much difference between the lyrical content of (Too Much) Confusion and what Pearce condemns as the 'nihilism' of Anti-Social:

"Adding up figures and reading books / Getting sick blinkin' sucks / I don't wanna listen to another word / I'm so bleedin' bored / I'm anti-social, anti-social, anti-social / I hate the world / I don't wanna go work another day / Wanna be somebody / I don't wanna wear no three piece suits / I don't want a family / Coz I'm anti-social... Wandering round the streets you tell me what to do / Thinking of the dole queue line / I ain't got no money or a settled will / It's a bloody drag / Looking at the posers in their flashy cars / I'm just walking round / Never gonna get a wife / Have some kids / I ain't gonna settle down / Coz I'm anti-social..."

Since Groovy Greil Marcus is one drift short of a situation, it's only Skrewdriver's leper status that prevents him from claiming them as Situationists, 'wandering round the streets' must sound remarkably like psychogeography to a 'contemporary cultural critic'. Meanwhile, jailbird Joe Pearce is left with no choice but to completely ignore early Skrewdriver songs such as Jailbait:

"Normal hair looks so good / Temptation think I should? / Jailbait, jailbait, jailbait / No one knows you're sneaking out / Your old man would scream and shout / Jailbait, jailbait, jailbait / Just because you're just fifteen / They can't guess the things you've seen / Jailbait, jailbait, jailbait / They don't want you getting pissed / Enjoying things that they have missed / Jailbait, jailbait, jailbait."

Another song recorded in 1977 that Pearce doesn't mention, probably because he's a convert to Roman Catholicism, is Unbeliever: 'I believe in violence / That's the only way / Make people see our problems / Don't let them fade away / So I said I don't believe in Jesus / When will I see him now?' Prescient, or what?

Roger Armstrong is right, this is typical 1977 PUNK ROCK fodder; beyond the rhetoric about youth, the main lyrical thrust is towards individualism, often expressed through negative posturing about 'anti-social' behaviour. It cannot be emphasised enough that this is pure theatrics, there's nothing here that deserves much consideration, it's just good old fashioned dirty teenage fun. Ian Stuart summed up his beliefs at that time with the song The Only One: 'Never reckoned much to mixing / People always messed me round / Always looking out for favours / Try to bleed me into the ground / Coz God I'm the loner baby / God I'm the only one...' In fact, given that this song appears to have a centred-subject, whereas (Too Much) Confusion is a sea of shifting perspectives, with different audiences being addressed during the course of the number, it seems most sensible to posit an unreflective and narcissistic nihilism as being the world view that dominated Stuart's 'thinking' during the late seventies. Ultimately, Skrewdriver's 1977 Chiswick releases were dumbcore at its dumbest.

Having released All Skrewed Up in November 1977, Chiswick lost interest in the band whose indifferent sales indicated they were going nowhere fast. The single Streetfighter, scheduled for April 1978 release, was never issued. Skrewdriver carried on gigging for a few months but never graduated out of tiny club venues such as the Roxy and Vortex, eventually splitting up in the summer of 1978 when Ian Stuart returned to Blackpool to work in a car wash. Stuart dropped out of sight, not to be heard from again until a letter appeared in the Melody Maker of 29 September 1979:

"I am writing to inform you that the biased information that has appeared recently in your paper, and which RAR seem to be responsible for, is false. The news that Skrewdriver were reforming to do NF gigs is complete and utter bullshit. I formed the band and finally split it up over a year ago. I rarely see the other members of the group and have no intention of forming a band with any of them again. Where RAR get their information beats me. Maybe they have a little KGB-type organisation in their ranks. To suggest that we have come out in favour of the NF is also a lie. I've never voted NF and have no interest whatsoever in politics, and never had. I've also been told that RAR has solid links with the Anti-Nazi League, an organisation who, it seems, are backed heavily by the communist and Marxist parties, who in their way are just as much of a threat to this country as the NF or BM. Why don't the two sides go and battle out their political wars in Hyde Park or somewhere, and let the people who just want to have a good time and hear some music do so in peace, without being pestered by people pushing either communism or fascism? I'm at present forming a new band which is not called Skrewdriver, and don't intend doing gigs for the RAR, NF or any other political organisation."

In fact, at the time he wrote the letter Ian Stuart was Young National Front organiser for Blackpool and Fylde, having joined the organisation after returning north from London in the summer of 1978. Stuart had met up with Young National Front boss and notorious jailbird Joe Pearce at the Hoop And Grapes pub, in London's Farringdon Street, to discuss the possibility of reforming Skrewdriver to play NF gigs, and this was the source of the rumours that the car wash attendant was hell bent on denying. Still hoping for a career in the music business, Stuart had decided that singing for the Front might ruin his chances of chart success. He was to dream about that big record deal for the rest of his life, in a 1993 interview with the fanzine Last Chance he is quoted as saying: 'Obviously I would like to have made a lot of money and been on Top Of The Pops and all that, what other person who's been in a band wouldn't... If I went to the press and told them I've changed my ways I could be on Top Of The Pops.' Yes, it's that old 'I could have been a contender' speech.

Instead of singing for his supper at National Front rallies as the seventies receded into the realm of memory, Stuart and Skrewdriver bassist Kevin McKay moved to Manchester to reform the band with new boys Glen Jones and Martin Smith. However, after a year of northern gigs and the release of a maxi single on the independent TJM label, Stuart realised that Skrewdriver's reputation was even lower in Manchester than it had been in London two years previously, and the band broke up again. Bearing this in mind, the A-side of the one single the group managed to release at this time, Built Up Knocked Down, appears particularly ironic:

"The summer was coming on, I was out in the fields / Then I heard a guitar playing, loud and clear / I saw an old man sat by a tree / He said come and listen to me son, come and listen to me / He said what does life mean to you / Does it mean go out get drunk, drown your blues? / He said, if that's what it means to you / Well that's a waste of life and I've got nothing more to say to you / Quit my job and I went out, I bought my first guitar / Then I started to learn that thing / Instead of propping up a bar / Sent a tape, got our contract, made us all so glad / Then they started messing round, now life's as bad / Are you trying to mess us up, trying to make us quit / If that's what you're trying to do, you're not achieving it / Built up, knocked down, knocked down to the ground."

Ian Stuart returned to Blackpool where he worked for his dad until he moved down to London to take up employment as a cycle courier and reside in a hostel that was used by the DHSS as a temporary dumping ground for the homeless. Stuart never had much initiative and always needed someone else to manage the business side of things for him, and so it took the encouragement of Mickey French, proprietor of Skinhead clobber shop the Last Resort, to get him to reform Skrewdriver yet again. This time, Stuart was the only survivor from the previous line-up. French issued Skrewdriver's next single Back With A Bang on his own Last Resort Sounds label in 1982 with a re-recording of the album track I Don't Like You on the B-side, because the band was seriously short of new material and no record company would touch them. Stuart still wasn't ready to go openly Nazi, he simply wanted to test the water by hinting at his political beliefs:

"Do you remember in the summer / Back in 1978 / When they reckoned that the Skinheads days were numbered / And the papers dripped with liquid hate / Being patriotic's not the fashion so they say / To fly your country's flag's a crime / Society tried it's best to kill you / But the spirit lives until the end of time / Coz we're back with a bang now / Back with the gang now / Back with a bang now / Run with the gang now..."

Once again, Stuart was aiming for an audience who were so lumpen that their theatrical notion of what it was to be 'working class' led them to pretend that they'd never heard of Last Night At The Proms where they could have waved as many Union Jacks as their little hearts desired, and no one would have bothered them. However, in fairness, I should state that this would have presented them with a major 'intellectual' challenge since they'd then have had to find something else to whinge about. Although Back With A Bang is a competent slice of headbanging PUNK ROCK, it didn't surprise anyone that the song failed to make the national charts. Once again, Ian Stuart found himself peddling the Skrewdriver live act in tiny venues such as that cramped basement on Oxford Street known as the 100 Club. He was back where he'd left off four years earlier when he'd first quit the music business, although this time he at least had the safety net of a day job as a cycle courier.

French issued a couple more Skrewdriver tracks on the United Skins compilation album he threw together, a re-recording of Anti-Social and a newer song called Boot And Braces which included such 'classic' lines as: 'Try and get you banned from everywhere / Coz you wear your boots and you cut your hair / They would rather see you in a dirty old kaftan / If you were a hippie baby you won't face no ban.' Anti-Social lacked the brickwall production of the Chiswick single and the only thing to make up for this was the addition of a new verse: 'I ain't gonna be no rich man's fool / I ain't gonna perm my hair / Gonna wear boots and the shortest crop / Watch the straights all stare.' Here we can see the influence of Oi!, something that Stuart had to take up, internalise and transform before he could shift ideological Punk Rock from it's class based phase into the unfolding of its latent racial content. This entailed a number of reversals, it would take innumerable record releases before these could be fully worked out and replaced by something that was much too healthy for Stuart to openly express, only Queercore and Riot Grrrl could do that. Joe Pearce quotes Stuart as saying:

"The press slagged us off for coming out with 'ultra-nationalist' comments from the stage. They called our audience 'morons'. In the end I just got fed up. It was obvious they were never going to praise us for anything, and in any case I couldn't see anything wrong with being a nationalist, it was natural to me. That's when we thought we might as well go the whole way."

Stuart had never intended to take a political stand, he'd just wanted a career in the music industry, it took him five years to realise he was a talentless hack who might as well exploit the shock value of musical fascism. Like most bigots, Stuart's political views were always completely incoherent, as we shall see.

The next Skrewdriver release was the White Power maxi-single on the National Front's newly founded White Noise label:

"I stand and watch my country going down the drain / We are all at fault now, we are all to blame / We're letting them take over, we just let them come / Once we had an Empire, and now we've got a slum / White power for Britain / White power today / White power for England / Before it gets too late / We've seen a lot of riots, we just sit and scoff / We've seen a lot of muggings, and the judges let them off... We've got to do something to try and stop the rot / The traitors that abused us, they should all be shot / Are we going to sit and let them come? / Have they got the white man on the run? / Multi-racial society is a mess / Ain't gonna take much more of this / What do we need? / White power... If we don't win our battle, and all does not go well / It's apocalypse for Britain, and we'll see you all in Hell."

White Power was neither inspired nor inspiring, it had a weedy sound due to its inept production and the only level on which it could possibly work was as a novelty record, because the entire thing was so obviously a joke. Clearly, the slogan 'white power', a completely vacuous and abstract demand that can have no meaning whatsoever in a country that already has a 'white' ruling class, was derived, via George Lincoln Rockwell, from notions of black power. Without the idea of black power, it would not be possible to arrive at the 'concept' of 'white power' and this is precisely why 'white power' was not used as a slogan by pre-war fascist groups. Not only were Skrewdriver playing multi-cultural rock music, but after becoming openly racist, they quickly dropped the 'up-tight' style of punk, which actually reflects socially constructed notions of what it is to be 'white', and instead adopted a more blues based form of rock instrumentation. Likewise, in his lyrics, Stuart became increasingly concerned with portraying 'whites' as an oppressed minority who exude warmth. In other words, Stuart adopted a world view in which 'whites' came to take on all the characteristics that are customarily associated with culturally constructed notions of 'blackness'. Of course, it's very easy to demonise an individual with Stuart's absurd views, but it only takes a little bit of reflection to realise that such a reaction tends to reinforce the delusions suffered by someone tormented by this type of mental illness. A paranoid viewpoint was plainly exhibited on the next Skrewdriver single Voice Of Britain:

"Walking round the streets, hand in hand with fear / Nobody knows what is round the bend / Don't side with the other side coz if you do we'll find you / We want to know if you classify as friends / This is the voice, the voice of Britain / And you'd better believe it / This is the voice, the voice of Britain / C'mon and fly the flag / It's a time when our old people cannot walk the street alone / Fought for this country is this all they get back / Risked their lives for Britain, now Britain belongs to aliens / It's about time the British went and took their Britain back... Now we'll have a go at the TV and the papers / And all the media Zionists who like to keep us quiet / They're trying to bleed our country, they're the leeches of the nation / But we won't give up quietly, we're going to stand and fight..."

Paranoia is equally evident on other tracks from the same period, such as On The Streets: 'Walking down the subway at the weekend / After a good night out on the town / There's gangs over here, gangs over there, there's gangs everywhere / You'd better watch out if you're on your own'. These lyrics do not portray the views of a tough, centred, self-confident individual, but instead display the bunker mentality of a cowed and cringing coward failing dismally in 'his' desperate attempts to prove that 'he' is a 'man'. However, the really important lyrical 'developments' in terms of the unfolding of the Punk Rock dialectic weren't to be found in a mature form until Skrewdriver recorded their album Hail The New Dawn. The notion of race embraced by Stuart leads on into highly formalised rituals of male bonding, which are verbally articulated in terms of 'pride' and 'loyalty'. We are beginning to see the emergence of a love that dare not speak its name, most obviously on the track Our Pride Is Our Loyalty whose lyrics unconsciously betray the fact that the goose-step is really a 'pansy twist'. As Ian Stuart becomes increasingly desperate to assert his masculinity, it continually eludes him, slips away and is replaced by the very opposite of heterosexuality; quantity is transformed into quality and regardless of the singer's refusal to openly admit the fact, it becomes patently obvious that the bloke is a 'cream puff'.

By the time Hail The New Dawn was released, Ian Stuart had already developed his 'close relationship' with Nicky Crane, who wrote the lyrics for the track Justice and organised 'security' at Skrewdriver concerts. Crane, of course, later renounced fascism and came out as openly gay a year or so before his death from AIDS. Crane's public proclamation of his sexuality was widely reported in the press, as well as being the subject of a TV documentary. Under the headline 'Reformed Fascist Ready To Admit Homosexuality', The Independent of 27 July 1992 reported:

"Nicky Crane is a changed man... But if his defection from the fervently anti-gay ranks of the Skinhead movement will be a blow to its pride, it is only the most celebrated sign of a thriving gay subculture in the traditionally homophobic Skinhead scene. Not only are long-time Skinheads 'coming out' but the image is being adopted by a growing number of men in the gay community."

Of course, Crane was close to many 'white power rock and roll' bands. The group 'No Remorse' are another interesting case in point, their album The New Storm Troopers is dedicated to Nicky Crane and at least one other openly gay man, despite the fact that the chorus to the song We Play For You runs as follows: 'We don't play for no red students / We don't play for no Jews / We don't play for no homosexuals / We play for you.' In terms of the ideology they profess, the membership of 'No Remorse' harbour all sorts of shameful secrets. These, of course, include the long list of their 'shirt-lifting' friends. Some 'No Remorse' fans might be surprised by the intensity of the male bonding that goes on between the group and its German 'brothers'. The singer Paul Bellany aka Paul Burnley, and his brother Jonathan, who has played drums for Skrewdriver, are the sons of Scottish painter John Bellany who was awarded a CBE in 1994. The privileged upbringing these two bozos enjoyed cuts against the rhetoric about the 'white working class' pumped out by the bands they've 'played with', and they are equally appalled by papa's 'degenerate' art and political opinions. Daddy has been quoted by the national press as saying 'I detest racism, I loathe it'.

Returning to Skrewdriver, after Hail The New Dawn, which saw them moving away from a PUNK ROCK sound, they completely abandoned the genre in favour of 'rock' music, although they remained deeply unsure of where they were going, a state of affairs that reflected Ian Stuart's schizophrenic mental state. On the Blood & Honour album they wanted to play competent mainstream rock, but merely come across as mediocre. In terms of idiocy, the standout track was Prisoner Of Peace:

"Free Rudolf Hess / How long can they keep him there we can only guess... And now the situation has changed in many ways / The allies want to let him go they've decided he has paid / The red scum in the Kremlin with their kosher malice try / To keep a proud man locked away until the day he dies / Free Rudolf Hess / How long can they keep him there we can only guess / He's a prisoner of peace / Kept there at the will of the Marxists in the east..."

Less than two years after Blood & Honour was released in December 1985, the Nazi war criminal died in his prison cell, thereby reinforcing Ian Stuart's easily won status as a paranoid political loser. To give an indication of the sterility of the milieu in which Skrewdriver moved, it's worth quoting a small portion of Joe Pearce's blow by blow account of the tracks on the Blood & Honour long player:

"One Fine Day... is somewhat profound making it more like the product of some art student rather than the leader of a down-to-earth Skinhead rock band. 'Yeah, man, far out,' Ian laughs when I put this to him. Seriously though, One Fine Day does make a valid, albeit a subtle point. Ian explains 'I wrote that quite some time ago actually. I was reading through the paper and it was a really beautiful day, sun shining, hot, and a clear blue sky, and there was nothing in the paper but death and destruction all over the world. It just struck me as being something to write about.' Searching, the fourth track on side two, is arguably the heaviest on the album and certainly it is the most proximate to the classic heavy metal sound which Blood & Honour epitomises and which Skrewdriver as a group were evolving towards. This being so it is perhaps no surprise that it is one of Ian Stuart's favourite tracks on the album. 'That's another 'profound' statement!' Ian explains jokingly about the lyrics of Searching, still amused at my observation of the preceeding track. 'It's basically about what you're looking for in life and will you ever find it. Most people never do. They always consider that they have certain goals in life but when they reach them they want something else. Nobody really knows what they are actually looking for I don't think.' Profound indeed! G. K. Chesterton in Doctor Marten's boots!"

The next album was the equally mediocre White Rider and that was followed by the even more abysmal After The Fire, which included covers of Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama and a truly awful rendition of the folk song Green Fields Of France. Musically, Stuart didn't have a clue where he was going. By this time, Skrewdriver had fallen out with Patrick Harrington and Derek Holland, their chums who ran the National Front White Noise Club, and the 'odd couple' provided the subject matter for their song A Time Of Change:

"Stood against us are the scum / They are worried because their time will come / One calls himself a revolutionary, turned out to be a gay / Just a mummy's little rich boy / It's a time of change / It's a time of change / They call themselves political soldiers but they have a massive yellow streak / A soldier has strength but they are bent, limp wristed and weak / Pathetic little mummy's boys there was nothing they wanted for / But come the day when they have to pay, we'll see who they were working for / The other enemy he held aloft a cross / And in his church that day he prayed to be the boss / But all he wanted was money / And all he wanted was praise / Now he's gone and the bands play on / It's a time of change..."

In the pages of the Blood & Honour newsletter and elsewhere in print, Stuart accused Harrington and Holland of using the White Noise Club to rip-off Skrewdriver's money. The paranoid singer already considered himself to have been metaphorically 'fucked up the arse' by Chiswick Records and Mickey French of the Last Resort shop, and one is left wondering if his infinitely deeper hatred for Harrington stems from some more physical attachment. Which brings us back to the transformation of quantity in quality in the four stage unfolding of ideological Punk Rock, because with their lyrical emphasis on pride, loyalty, comradeship and 'brothers across the sea', the exaggerated masculinity of the 'white power rock and roll' bands was transformed into its opposite. Thus within the Punk Rock discourse, the rhetorical organising principle shifts from class, to race, to sexuality and gender; or, if you prefer, after Earth and poisoned Water, we can breath the pure Air of Queercore and Riot Grrrl.

However, before moving on, let's just get the history of Skrewdriver out of the way. On the Warlord long player, Stuart was still looking for a musical direction, and the weedy version of AC/DC's Back In Black provided the answer. On The Strong Survive, Skrewdriver finally went completely HM, with lame covers of United by Judas Priest and the very aptly chosen Paranoid by Black Sabbath. This was followed by the unlistenable Live And Kicking double album, which was recorded through a mixing desk at a concert and then, judging by the sound quality, the tape was flushed down a toilet before being retrieved. Here, Ian Stuart's complete lack of ideological consistence is highlighted by a cover of Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode, with the lyrics changed to Johnny Joined The Klan. Skrewdriver not only played multi-cultural music, they even covered a song written by a black rocker as part of their attempt to spread white racism. They also murdered Sweet Home Alabama yet again, all in all yet another lame, and unconscious, 'outing'. In 1992 Skrewdriver released Freedom What Freedom, featuring such utterly uninspired tracks as What Price Freedom:

"Don't care too much for Tories / Labour wants to flood this land / Don't care too much for Liberals / With their wishy-washy plans / I just care for my country and the people who belong / Because I'm proud to say it the public ban this song / And I said what price freedom in this world today / What price freedom what am I allowed to say..."

Ian Stuart was sounding both very tired and very paranoid. He was put out of his misery by his death in a car crash on 24 September 1993. Fortunately, to date, only one posthumous Skrewdriver album has been released. I don't need to deal with Stuart's solo work or his output with the Klansman and White Diamond because these fall outside the PUNK ROCK genre.

By pushing the notion of 'white' 'masculinity' to an extreme in Skrewdriver lyrics, Stuart ended up subverting his own intentions. All Stuart's recorded product is camp but it was only with Skrewdriver that he played out his (pre)determined role in the dialectical unfolding of Punk Rock. At the time of his death, Stuart's career was at its peak, he was grossing somewhere between £100 and £200 a week from his 'musical' activities, about the same as the wage for a badly paid labouring job. Not exactly a success story after more than a decade and a half of working towards that elusive Top Of The Pops appearance, but typical of both Punk Rock and the financial situations endured by the mentally ill.

Previous: Chapter VII: Back Street Kids

Next: Chapter IX: Suck My Left One

Cranked Up Really High contents

Tony Wakeford of National Front band Above The Ruins AKA Sol Invictus (original bass player Gary Smith simultaneously played with hardcore Nazis No Remorse, while rumour has it that Ian Stuart guested with Wakeford's band in the mid-eighties).

Interview with Jimmy Edwards who fronted original 1960s London skinhead band The Neat Change.

We Mean It Man: Punk Rock and Anti-Racism or, Death In June not mysterious (from punk 'anit-racism' to post-industrial 'aesthetic' fascism)

Sound of Sadism: Whitehouse & the 'New' 'British' Art (post-aesthetic fascism)

Cranked Up Really High by Stewart Home cover
Punks On Drugs
Given the current hysteria about drug abuse, you'd think that the E generation was the first to discover chemical highs. As the following list demonstrates, nuthin' could be further from the truth. And when it comes to substance abuse, punks are a lot more inventive than the loved-up club crowd. Twenty years ago, no one would have believed it if you'd told 'em ravers would spend two whole decades - count it, that's twenty fuckin' years - getting high on disco biscuits and nothing much else. What follows is a by no means complete run down of the ways in which punks get off their face...

NEW YORK DOLLS: Pills. Johnny Thunders and company cover the ol' Bo Diddley r&b classic, demonstrating nicely that rock 'n' roll has always had more to do with sex and drugs than anything much else. This recording dates from those pre-E days when psychedelics came on blotters and pills meant uppers or downers.

URBAN DOGS: Cocaine. Another cover, this time originally done by blues legend Reverend Gary Davis. Knox of the Vibrators and Charlie Harper of the UK Subs, who fronted the band, show their age by using the intro to take the piss out of Bob Dylan. The hippie guru quipped 'it used to go like that, now it goes like this' on a best selling bootleg dating from the period when he was first performing his old acoustic numbers with an electric backing band.

JOHNNY THUNDERS & THE HEARTBREAKERS: Chinese Rocks. While the song was written by Ramone/ Ramone/ Hell, the Heartbreakers made it their anthem. Thunders transformed the song into a celebration of substance abuse. Dee Dee Ramone clearly didn't find the activities documented in the lyrics particularly glamorous; he funded his habit with a spot of male prostitution as detailed in the track '53rd & 3rd' on the first Ramones album.

FALLEN ANGELS: Amphetamine Blue. Knox obviously liked this song since he's recorded it more than once. On this outing he's backed by Hanoi Rocks, whose main man Andy McCoy is notorious in his native Finland for his abuse of stimulants. When this number was penned you could still get amphetamine in pill form. These days, all you get is powder, and that gets right up my nose.

THE SIMPLETONES: I Like Drugs. A straight ahead, hard hitting, loud-fast-stupid and tuneful number from the US punkers. No speed-metal guitar heroics, no shit anarchoid hardcore influences, just an anti-social message avoiding any form of political 'awareness'. Treats drugs as drugs, avoiding the pitfalls of both junkie obsession (DRUGS) and puritan rejection (Drugs). Crucial listening for anyone with an 'opinion' about narcotics.

UK SUBS: Killer Time. Former hairdresser and everybody's favourite punk uncle Charlie Harper in drugs nightmare shock! Luckily for music fans, the Subs frontman has been raking in the ackers from the Guns & Roses cover of his classic composition "Down On The Farm", so he'll be able to spend time recovering, er... down on the farm.

CREAMING JESUS: Smoke (Skin Up For Jesus). Okay, so it ain't punk, goth or even metal. However, it's the best we've got as an answer to "The Pope Smokes Dope", the John Lennon number which propelled hippie hero David Peel to celebrity status. Incidentally, punk junkie G. G. Allin was briefly the drummer in David Peel's backing band.

URBAN DOGS: Speed Kills. More of a good time boogie than an amphetamine rush. Is this an ironic restatement of the spirit of '77, when everyone from the Sex Pistols to hard rockers Motorhead loved those little blue pills; or is the title to be taken literally? Answers on a postcard please.

JOHNNY THUNDERS & THE HEARTBREAKERS: One Track Mind. Walter Lure and Jerry Nolan composed this tune shortly after the band's extremely brief honeymoon period with their label Track Records. Innocent souls might conclude that the Heartbreakers were merely beefing about their record company. Lines such as 'tracks on my arms' indicate that something else is going on too. Thunders and company only worried about the commercial quality of their musical product when they needed to score. All junkies have a one track mind.

ACTION PACT: Suicide Bag. This is about glue and is definitely anti-drugs. The lyrics may be a little melodramatic but they're heartfelt. These days, twelve year old kids seem able to lay their hands on all sorts of illicit substances but there was a time when nippers had to make do with a tube of Boztik and an old crisp packet. My own objections to solvent abuse relate more to the horrible ring of spots habitual glue sniffers sport around their mouths, than with the potentially lethal effects.

NEWTOWN NEUROTICS: The Mess. Don't take drugs kids, or you might end up sounding like the missing link between punk and indie! Alternatively, you may find yourself living in a mansion, driving a roller and having sex with a different groupie every day of the week. These political punkers sang stuff like "Kick Out The Tories" and "Living With Unemployment", they didn't believe in the rock and roll dream.

THE HEROES: Too Much Junkie Business. Ultra-rare French only release from ex-Heartbreakers Walter Lure and Billy Rath, who certainly knew what they were singing about. Since you can never trust a junkie, it's safe to conclude that the real message is too much is not enough.

UK SUBS: DF 118. When Subs frontman Charlie Harper had his first heart attack, he was given DF 118 in the intensive care ward. I ain't got a clue what it is, but it made Charlie feel so good he wrote a song about it. At fifty-something, Harper knows about growing up and mellowing out. Where's the party? Where's the charlie????

THE ADICTS: Get Adicted. A catchy theme tune from the Ipswich funsters, who fail to state what it is we should be getting addicted too. Having consulted a lawyer, my recommendations are Lavazza Espresso Coffee in the morning, and Laphroaig Malt Whisky every night. In other words, a classic upper and downer combination. Drinking large quantities of cough medicine, regardless of your state of health, is another legal high that has enjoyed an enduring popularity among punks...

BROKEN BONES: Secret Agent. The problem with taking a cocktail of drugs is that it can induce a state of paranoia. On the other hand, I'm so drugfucked right now that I may well be reading too much into the lyrics of this song. If I was straight, I'd find it hard to believe that these ex-Discharge stalwarts ended up influencing Mettalica.

EATER: Waiting For The Man. Back in '77, reviewers used to take the piss by suggesting that schoolboy band Eater didn't have a clue what this Lou Reed chestnut was about. Of course, it was difficult to treat Andy Blade's take on scoring in New York seriously at a time when he'd never been west of Bristol. When that the group's members have hit their mid-thirties, they reformed and re-recorded the number. What next? Maybe they'll do "Hey Hey We're The Junkies". Watch this space!

CHRON GEN: L.S.D. Things are much worse than you'd imagine from listening to this ditty. Check out "Acid Dreams. The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond" By Martin A. Lee & Bruce Shlain. The summer of love was a state sponsored conspiracy, and rather than simply being thrown in for good measure, the psychedelic drugs were a CIA espionage weapon. Never trust a hippie!

FAMILY FODDER: My Baby Takes Valium. Not quite punk but since the sons of '77 come from a generation whose mums were all hooked on tranquillisers, it will appeal to anyone with an Oedipus complex. The singer's girlfriend has nodded out on downers but why he wants to wake her up remains a mystery. An anorak is more likely to get his evil way when his 'baby' is asleep! Maybe the band want their tea.

THE SLITS: New Town. If you lived in Milton Keynes, you'd be on drugs too. Nuff said.

ONLY ONES: The Beast. Singer Peter Perret introduces this live version by stating that "contrary to what everyone believes, this is the only song I've ever written about drugs, this is definitely an anti-drugs song, this is called The Beast." A suitably unambiguous end to our balanced and educational survey of punks on drugs. I hope that next time you're faced with the dilemma of either buying some top quality gear or paying the rent on time.... you JUST SAY YES!  The personal is the political. Sorted or what?

The buzz around punk rock in the late nineteen-seventies was that the bands might not be able to tune their guitars, but they knew how to make a racket. In England the music was fuelled by a couple of chords and sheer amateur enthusiasm. However, things were different in New York, where the local punks produced an extraordinary racket precisely because they knew exactly what they were doing. "When the Dead Boys opened for the Damned at CBGBs in 1977, it was the first time an English punk band had played the United States and it was one of the finest nights American punk ever had, because the Dead Boys blew the Damned off the stage," New York scene maker Charlie 'The Nose' Young announces proudly.

While some of their British counterparts were busy making political statements, the Dead Boys set the masturbatory tone of New York punk. Lyrics by the Dead Boys singled out for criticism by UK based music journalists inevitably included: "Look at me that way bitch/Your face is gonna get a punch/I don't need no cook girl/I need lunch." Sex and violence were favoured themes on the New York punk circuit. Chain Gang infamously issued a single called Son Of Sam about a local serial killer who murdered courting couples, while the Violators went even further on their 45 New York Ripper with a chorus that ran: "He's the New York Ripper/Cut off your head/He's the New York Ripper/Likes women dead".

Despite appearances none of this is that far removed from the comic book imagery of New York punk grandfathers The Dictators, whose set included Teengenerate and I Live For Cars And Girls. "If I'd lived in California I'd have been in a surf band," says Dictators bass player Andy Shernoff, "but we were from New York, so we got a residency at the Miss Nude America contest and did songs about drinking coca-cola for breakfast." The first Dictators album Go Girl Crazy came out in 1975 and it inspired a whole slew of punk bands, most notably fellow New Yorkers The Ramones. "What the Ramones did was strip down the sound of the Dictators," says Big Apple punk face Legs MacNeil. "The Ramones also took the Dictators' interest in dysfunctional adolescents to a logical conclusion in songs like Gimmie Gimmie Shock Treatment and Teenage Lobotomy."

"There were a lot of different approaches to punk in New York," says Armand Zone who played keyboards with The Fast, "you had the rockers, the art punks and the pop acts. What held it together was the sense of humour. It was a freak show. In the case of someone like the singer Wayne County, he turned being a transsexual degenerate into an art form. County crossed all the boundaries on the punk scene. He wasn't just a chick with a dick, he really had balls. But then everyone had to put themselves out there in order to survive. There wasn't a well funded publicity machine to push the scene into the public eye."

"We didn't have a pot to piss in, we practically lived on the streets, and it was coming from there," says Alan Vega of Suicide. "People used to come in off the street thinking they were walking into a club to be entertained, and with us it was like coming in off the street to the street again, and I think that's why we had so much confrontation. The fact that we didn't entertain 'em man, we tortured them, no mercy."

"The one thing New York couldn't invent was hardcore," says Nicole Panter, manager of seminal LA band The Germs. "The New York bands were too entrenched in sixties rock and too into heroin which slows you down. A lot of the East Coast bands were into surf music, which punks in California were reacting against. That's why the baton of punk rock passed over to the West Coast. The Germs started out as an imaginary band called Sophistifuck & The Revlon Spam Queens. They just told people they had a band to impress them. At first The Germs didn't even have any instruments. The group had to learn to play as they went along, and it was the spontaneity that went with this that created hardcore. The Germs were the first hardcore band, and the incredible New York hardcore scene that emerged later wouldn't have happened without The Germs."
First published in Sleazenation volume 3 number 7 August 2000.