Southall Skinhead Riots, A witness account
Rob Smiths Account
Friday, July 4th, 1981 had been a hot summer’s day in the Western suburbs of London. Late that afternoon, a small group of us took the bus from South Harrow to Hayes and met up with Hayes skins. From there about 15 of us travelled the short distance up the Uxbridge Road and arrived early at the Hambrough Tavern in Southall. As we walked from the bus stop, along the pavement and into the pub’s forecourt, we hadn’t noticed a hint of trouble anywhere and we weren’t expecting any either!
The pub was a good size. Inside it was bright from the evening sun thanks to the large bay windows but more on those later… The pub is located on the edge of Southall, on the main road leading into a town renowned for its large Asian population but we never thought that going to an Oi! gig on the edge of Southall would provoke a large part of its population to riot. Oi! bands had played in other areas across London with large immigrant populations before and there had never been any trouble.
Inside the pub, it grew noisier as more skins started to arrive. The atmosphere was buzzing – the 4-skins, the Last resort and the Business were going to play.
Inside, I remember thinking this gig had very little that was extreme right wing about it. I was aware of this because I’m of mixed race. There were no Nazi flags, no siege heils and it definitely didn’t feel like an extremist’s right wing get-together. Everyone was there – for this much looked-forward-to gig – for the bands, and to hear some good Oi! music.
Round about 8 O’clock, the crowd was getting a little impatient because the 4-Skins hadn’t yet arrived – you could see the gig organisers were getting a bit impatient too; but sure enough, through the large bay windows, we saw the band arrive, hurrying through the forecourt, ready to go straight on stage.
While the 4-Skins were playing something else was going on. Through the large windows, out in the darkening Uxbridge Road, we could see more and more Asians arriving and gathering by the wall of the forecourt. Inside it was stiff upper lip and the music carried on but there were a lot of murmurings as it became obvious there were going to be a lot of trouble.
The crowd outside got surprisingly larger by the minute. A few police had arrived and were forming a barrier between the restless, shouting Asians and the pub but as the crowd outside became larger and noisier, it became clear that the music inside would have to stop.
Events passed the point of no return when a brick came crashing through one of the bay windows. The music stopped and everyone inside took up defensive positions but no one would go outside – that would’ve been suicide. In the falling darkness, more bricks and missiles came hurtling in through the windows and it wasn’t long before we knew we had to get out… petrol bombs were being thrown at the pub. Many of us weren’t sure if we were going to get out alive because the police outside were looking as if they were failing to contain the situation. Inside, what had just been a calm evening’s entertainment had turned into a war zone. Broken furniture and glass lay all over the place as we fought to defend ourselves.
As more busloads of police arrived, a passage was formed to escape through. As bricks and bottles flew from 100’s of amassing Asians, we headed out of the pub across the no-man’s land forecourt, into the Uxbridge Road, behind the protection of police lines. Looking back, we saw a hijacked police car being set on fire. It was then rammed into the pub by Asian youths, sending the Hambrough up in flames. Fire engines, ambulances and more police cars arrived. Blazing sirens were drowned out by the noise of the riot. The night sky turned a reddish hue from the huge blaze. Even after we’d got back to Harrow, 4 miles away, we could still see the red glow of the sky from the burning pub!
The national newspapers, and radio and television news headlines the next day and for the next few days, were full of it but what I read in the papers and heard on the news didn’t match what I saw that night. The media were pinning all the blame on us skinheads, accusing us of going to Southall to start a riot and throwing petrol bombs at Asians. But I clearly remember going to Southall for a drink and a gig in a pub. There were no Nazi saluting skinheads in the pub. There were no skinheads throwing petrol bombs at Asians and there were definitely no plans to incite a riot.
Because of what happened at Southall, left-leaning media outlets and much of the right-leaning middle classes found every excuse under the sun to marginalise skinheads and Oi! music but their prejudices were based on false accounts! It was the assembled Asians that were the cause of the rioting that night, no matter how much they thought they were justified in doing what they did. They even continued rioting long after the last skinheads left the scene! But it was skinheads who got blamed, even though it was the police who had to defend us, not the other way round. We were the small minority needing police protection from the 100’s of rioting Asians! In fact, there were a few Asian skinheads inside the pub for the gig… these Asians weren’t rioting, the ones outside were! There were a few Black and Greek skinheads inside too.
On a lighter note, one funny thing I heard, don’t know if it’s true, was that the manager of the 4-Skins band chased the pub manager up the Uxbridge Road, wanting his money for the gig!
Seriously, the Southall night changed the course of Oi! – From that time on, the media ensured that Oi! would never get the positive publicity it deserved but despite all attempts to stamp it out, Oi! is still around and now global and long may it be so, but it will always be at home in London, where it all began.
Hounslow Robs Account
I also went to that gig at the Hambrough tavern in Southall, the area itself is not too far from where I was living in Hounslow so it was an ideal opportunity for me to get to see a couple of the bands I was well into at that time, the 4skins and the Last resort.
Anyway, being only 15 at the time (turned 16 later that month) I hadn’t been to that many gigs, one that I had been to was at the Hambrough tavern a few weeks earlier. It was the Meteors and I hadn’t even planned to go; I’d been hanging around Hounslow bus garage which was a meeting place for the younger skins in my area when a local skinhead girl turned up and asked me to help her find the pub. Being a true gentleman (and because she was a right looker!) I went with her. As soon as we got off the bus on Southall Broadway we started to get abuse shouted at us by groups of Asians that were hanging around. Feeling nervous but putting a brave face on we headed towards the pub after asking one of the few white people we saw for directions. We noticed a group of Asians up ahead and as we got closer they blocked the road and surrounded us, there were maybe a dozen of ’em and looked to be in their late teens or early 20’s. One of them said “what are you doing in our area? “, as I turned to answer I got punched from the side and they all piled in. Would love to be able to say I had a good go back but didn’t have a chance really and ended up curled up on the ground getting a good kicking! To be fair they didn’t hit the girl although that was the only fair thing about it! Eventually they ran off and I found I wasn’t in too bad a condition, a few cuts & grazes but nothing serious. We made it to the pub and saw the band and I’m just mentioning that night cos it gives a bit of background to the area and how the Asians saw it, they regarded Southall as their town and you even had graffiti on the walls saying “whites out”!
Going back to the night of the riot I obviously had bad memories of the place but wasn’t gonna miss the chance to see the bands so headed to the bus garage in Hounslow where I knew some older local skins would be meeting up, an advance guard had already left but another 20 or so were there so I tagged along with them. Luckily we got a bus to Hayes and then another into Southall, I say luckily cos if we had taken the direct route it would have taken us to the Broadway and we’d have ended up on the other side of the massive mob of Asians that had already gathered by the time we got there.
I don’t remember any talk on the bus about it kicking off with the Asians that night, the only time I can recall someone mentioning trouble was about the possibility of old area rivalries between skinheads coming up at the gig.
On reaching the Tavern there was a line of police further up the road heading into the main part of Southall and you could clearly see the Asians on the other side of them. In the pub itself there was a good crowd and it was mainly skins but I noticed a few rockabillies and straights. As was mentioned by Cockney Express and London Rob there were also a few black skinheads in the pub and although there would have been right wing skins in there as well I don’t remember any friction between the skins inside.
As for the bands themselves, the gig itself is a bit of a blur and my memory has failed me a bit there. I’d never heard the Business before but enjoyed their set. The Resort I did like, having heard the 3 track tape on sale at the shop. I remember Hodges & co on stage and have read elsewhere that they were playing “Chaos” as the windows came in, dunno about that but it would have been perfect timing!!! I do remember the bricks coming into the pub ‘tho, were standing quite near to the big bay windows where the curtains had been drawn. Looking back I suppose this stopped the bricks and flying glass doing more damage but a number of people did get hurt. I got a small cut on the cheek myself but others had much worse, can still picture a skinhead girl who had blood all down the side of her face. Of course everyone moved away from the windows but many also headed for the door, partly because you didn’t know what was gonna come in next but also to get out and get stuck in if they could, Skinheads were breaking up chairs and tables to use as weapons & to say people were angry would be an understatement!
Outside it was chaos, the old bill was trying to keep the Asians away from the pub but because of the numbers they were struggling. It’s true that some skins were in the front line standing shoulder to shoulder with the police, through the lines you could see the Asians were going mental and were well tooled up, waving sticks, bats and even swords above their heads! Some skins actually managed to get into them, talk about suicide missions! One guy came back with the whole inside of his lower arm opened up, said it had been done with a meat cleaver! From the look of it I didn’t doubt it!
We were being pushed back away from the pub and I can remember seeing the petrol bombs flying, didn’t actually see the moment the pub was hit or when the van was pushed into it but recall seeing the pub burning and the flames high in the sky. Looking back now I dread to think of the outcome if a petrol bomb had entered the pub whilst everyone was still inside really doesn’t bear thinking about!
On our side of the police the skins were pretty much able to do as they wanted as the police had their hands full trying to control the Asian mob. A few lighter moments did occur, a number of shops had had their windows smashed and some skins had entered into ’em to find weapons or just to do a bit of looting! One of the older Hounslow lot reappeared out of a shop with a box full of crisps! A full blown riot going with petrol bombs flying around and you’ve got skinheads walking about munching crisps! I’m sure some were even asking what flavours he had! (I was at the back of the line so had to make do with ready salted!) Cockney Express mentioned in a post that he saw people throwing bottles of cresta at the Asians; I remember that drink, they should have tried setting fire to it, probably would have burnt better than petrol!! At one point word went round that some Asians had managed to get around behind the police line and were up one of the side roads, we all went steaming up there but it was either a false alarm or they had thought better of it and scarpered. Anyway on the way back a couple of skins started knocking on doors and whacking any Asian that answered, out of order maybe but then again the circumstances that night weren’t normal! One door flew open and a bloke came running out waving his arms and shouting “I’m white, I’m white, paki’s 2 doors down”!!
Eventually most of the skinheads were rounded up by the police and we were marched away from the area towards Hayes and Harlington station where the skins from other parts of London were to be put on trains. Those skins from west London carried on as we didn’t want to get trains into town. One thing I did notice was that the further we got away from the pub the worse we were treated by the old bill, we were being stopped every 100 yards or so and searched and hassled by ’em. The police earlier in the night had been fine with us because they knew what had happened and knew the score. Now there were coppers being brought in who hadn’t been at the front line and probably thought we had been the ones who had kicked it off, maybe not the case but it might explain their attitude and actions.
Also on that walk there was a confrontation with a group of white geezers who had pulled up in a van and jumped out with baseball bats calling us Nazi bastards, we were well spread out by this time and only about 10 of us were together in a group but we stood our ground and after a short stand off the police turned up and the blokes jumped back in the van and sped off, dunno who they were but they’d obviously been watching the news!
We ended up getting a night bus back to Hounslow and found a few local skins that hadn’t been to the gig waiting at the bus garage. Of course we played it up and you could tell they were gutted to have missed the night. I must admit I was guilty of the same when I met up with my mates the next day, probably bored ’em to tears going on about it, just like I’m doing now to anyone whose bothering to read this!!
Eventually got home about 4 in the morning, my mum was still up. She just looked at me and said “I don’t have to ask where you’ve been, I’ve been watching you on the telly”!
Looking back now the young Asians in Southall must have planned to attack the Hambrough tavern that night, they were just too organised for it to have been a spur of the moment thing, and they would never have got those numbers out at short notice.
I personally think Southall happened cos the local Asians were never gonna let a skinhead gig take place on their manor without having a pop at it. They did see it as their town and thought they had to put on a show of strength. The fact that most of ’em probably thought (as did most people not in the know thanks to the media) that every skin was a raving Nazi obviously played a part as well!
Still. it was a lively night! Wouldn’t have missed it for the world!
Cockney express (terry London) Account
Before I go any further I should point out that the following is my version of what I saw at the Southall riot. It is my own view of what lead up to the riot and it is my own view on the bands and the era itself. No disrespect is meant to any person/persons or bands.
As far as I know there are only two people that have taken the time to sit down and write what they saw. Both of those versions lead to the same end but, differ because of the people that wrote them and perhaps where they were on the night.
At the time of the riot I was Living in Bethnal green in London’s east end which was just a stone’s throw from the shop; The Last Resort. This shop at the time was world famous because of the Skinheads that used it on a regular basis and, because it was just THE place to be. Living so close didn’t mean that either me or, any of the other Skinheads that lived nearby used the shop or went to it regularly. To us it was just a shop that was around the corner. Any novelty the shop held had long since worn off. We left people from outside the East end to hang around the shop and look hard? And indeed get ripped off by the owner a certain Mickey “Millwall” French and his wife in crime…Margret and of course who could forget their fellow muggers of Skinhead money…”Fat Andy and “Shorditch” Ian.
Anyway before I lose my thread……………….
I had followed first Sham 69 then obviously the Cockney rejects but as these two bands either lost their way or, turned heavy metal I needed to find something new. That something new came in the form of a fellow that lived just a few streets away by the name of Gary Hodges and of course the now legendary 4 SKINS. To most at the time they were THE oi! Band. To us no one came close to them and if the truth be known it’s my opinion that since they (Hodges line up) split no one ever has. As far as I’m concerned since mid-1982 everything that came after has just been clutching at straws but please remember that is just my opinion. It is however an opinion that is shared by many that grew up during that time; living in the birthplace of oi! And, as a lot see it the eventual death place of oi…London’s east End. Yes I am aware of the bands that carried on and in some cases went from strength to strength I/e the Angelic upstarts and the Business but for me what followed was second rate. I will add that yes it was good music but to me it was second rate. If you like oil! at this time had started to grow up and spread throughout the country and in doing so newer bands injected their meaning into the music.
For me oi! Was about life in London, no, life in the East end….tuff, hard and a slum where no one gave a toss about us…the kids. The only ones it seemed that cared were the bands of the time. Listening to the likes of Blitz from Manchester or the Angelic Upstarts from the North east just wasn’t the same as listening to the Cockney rejects/The 4 Skins/Eastend badoes or, Cock sparer. Perhaps the only band that came later that made us listen again was the Ejected. You could call this narrow mindedness and I couldn’t give a f**k if you did…hey it’s not the first time I’ve been called that and, I doubt it will be the last. My take on it is simple….we came from an era which was very tribal and as such listening to what we called a foreign band Like the Upstarts was a no no. Of course we went to see them and of course we bought there albums and played them until they wore out but they just didn’t speak for us in the same way as our own. Just as a side point regarding the Upstarts; in later years I have spoken to many people from the North east and they felt the same way about London bands as we did about, non-London bands…like I said we were tribal. Who knows perhaps this is the real reason for the demise of the oi! Scene. Some say that it was the right wing whilst others say it was the left wing. Some even say it was when Skinheads grew their hair. There are many factors that contribute to its demise but, without a shadow of a doubt the main one IS the now infamous Southall riot.
Could this album really cause so much trouble for the Oi! scene? In the eyes of the media/government and any other dimlo that wanted to jump onto the “lets ban Oi! bandwagon” it could…or could it?
The album ‘strength thru oi’ which takes its name from a Nazi slogan ‘strength thru joy’
has been used as a scapegoat to justify the unfounded claims of the media from the day of its release until now. It’s true that the front cover had a photo of the late Nicky crane who was a member of the British movement and, head of the leader guard. It’s true that he had British movement tattoos. It is also true that he was a last minute stand in because the cover should have featured Carlton leach the notorious West ham and ICF hooligan but due to one thing and another he didn’t show. It’s also true that on the rear of the cover it pays homage to various non-white peoples.Thats as far as I will go with that because I don’t feel it’s worth going into detail about what Jesse Owens did or who he was or/Sugar ray Leonard etc. etc. What I will say is this. It has been common knowledge for a long time now that the Front cover was changed because of the real cover model not showing. What you might not know is this. Others who I cant mention have indicated it was actually the rear cover that was changed due to its right wing content…..think about it! Either way that album was and always will be the best of all the Oi! Albums in the series. To me everything that came after carry on oi was a waist of money.
I and others were due to leave on coaches for Southall that were to leave from the Last resort in Goulston Street, East London. As it turned out around twenty of us didn’t because a couple of weeks before we had arranged to meet Skinheads from Ealing (West London) at Ealing. We had met the Ealing Skinheads at various 4 Skin gigs and got to know them and would travel to a pub that they used called the Victoria. I also knew a couple of the Green ford Skinheads who at the time were working at the same place I was in Old Street. One of these Skinheads was talking about the planned gig at the Hambourgh
Tavern in Southall one Monday morning at work. To come to the point the same Skinhead told me on the Wednesday of the same week that he wouldn’t be going because he had heard that the Southall youth Movement was going to try and disrupt the event. Talking with some Ealing Skinheads later that day it was confirmed that they had also heard the same.
This is a bit of information that to my knowledge has never been mentioned anywhere by anyone that has ever spoken or written about what happened on the night.
It turned out that we got held up in Ealing and arrived in Southall almost forty five minutes late. As we made our way to the Tavern it was obvious that what I had been told was quite true because of the huge amounts of Asians that were gathered and, armed.
We were a good thirty in numbers and just cut straight through these people without any sign of them even trying to have a go at us. As we came near to the tavern there was about ten Police already on duty outside. We got the usual bollox that they tended to give Skinheads back then but it did them no good because they were just ignored which I don’t think they liked all that much. Now, at this point I would like to point out that the media has established a myth which goes something like this.
They, the media claim that what sparked the riot was us. Skinheads came into the Southall area and were abusing Asian woman/daubing walls with Swastikas and racist slogans etc. This is complete and utter bollox. The real reason is this. Two months prior to the event a gang of Asians had been arrested and two had been beaten whilst in Police custody (something that was quite common back then). The end result of the tension that this event caused lead straight to the doors of the Hambourgh Tavern. The Asians were looking for an excuse to get back at the Police and despite three meetings with the elders of their community and the Southall youth movement to keep the peace it was going to go off. Claims that the British Movement and National Front were in the pub were complete rubbish. Claims that on one of the coaches that brought people from the Last Resort there was a National Front flag in the rear window are rubbish. Perhaps what people don’t know is that inside the pub there were Black Skinheads that had travelled from the Kilburn area.
It was these that were the first to be hurt as the windows came through and believe it or not it was these that were pulled to safety by white Skinheads. Any notion that this was a right wing motivated event is an untruth. Obviously there were right wing supporters in the pub as there was left wing. We all knew each other and it was an unwritten rule that on a 4 Skins bill you kept that at home. Who would want to tangle with Gary Hodges and those that he had with him? Only a fool that’s who.
Playing on the night were three bands…they were. The Last Resort. The Business. The 4 Skins.
It was those Black Skinheads that were hurt first and as ive said were pulled clear. I don’t know if they were in the bay window on purpose to wind the Asians up or what but if that was the case then it worked. One of their names was Lenox and he came from Ladbroke grove and as a side point was also injured at Acklam hall during another event that went tits up.
As the windows came through i would have to say that we were still not too worried inside the pub about what was going on outside because we thought the Police would move the Asians on. I have never worked out why they didn’t or, why it got so out of hand.We have to be honest here because the Police could have been heavy handed and forced the issue but obviously the event with the Asian gang had something to do with it. The only thing people were concerned about was the woman that were there…one of whom was pregnant and the younger ones. I’ll never know how everyone got out safe and sound but, we did. It certainly hasn’t got anything to do with the Police because they just lost it.
I was in a group of East end Skinheads which included Gary hitchcock/The 4 Skins and Lol Prior. Because we all knew each other we all stayed together and stayed in the pub until we were forced out by the fumes and smoke that at this point was pouring in through the smashed windows. The now legendary story about Lol prior trying to get the bands equipment out before it burned is quite true. He was beaten back by the flames and he was dragged out kicking and screaming.
Just a head of us as we came out of the pub were the bulk of the Skinheads that i presume Rob is talking about when he says they were escorted through the Asians.
There are many stories about that night that have been told since and some i smile about because i know that they are rubbish. One is when Hoxtom Tom the bassist with the 4 Skins was supposed to have knocked on the door of an Asian seeking help and was knocked over the head with a frying pan…funny but untrue. Another is that Gary Hitchcock jumped into the back of a Police van and wouldn’t come out. also untrue. These people were all in the same group together until we arrived back in East London safe and sound.
One thing that is true is this. As we left the pub and tried to charge at a group of Asians that had begun to fight toe to toe with the police that were trying to get away from the pub; they ,the Police screamed for us to help them which we did. With hindsight this was a mistake on both ours and the polices part because this just enraged the Asians even more. I mean, there we were with a solid line of police between us and the Asians and we were beating the living daylights out of ten or more Asians that had been caught as the police reinforced their lines. I suppose it must have looked or was seen by the press as a racist attack but……one of the black Skinheads was also having a go at the Asians…figure that out.
Rightly or wrongly but those Asians that were caught and hurt and, i do me they were hurt deserved it. What stuck with me as i sat and thought about it over the following days was the amount of camera flashes. What the f**k was all that about? how did anyone from the media arrive on the scene so soon? In the papers the following weekend these photos began to appear along with photos of burnt British movement and National front leaflets?
One word can describe these leaflets and I’ll leave you the reader to make up your own mind…the word is…PLANTED.
During a conversation with Gary Hodges he came up with the idea that the police had put those leaflets there the following morning as a ploy to avoid any questions raised about their complete incompetence over the tactics they used on the night. I’d say that is as true an explanation as I’ve heard. I don’t recall seeing any leaflets being handed out. The only leaflets i was given were for future Oi! events and one for a gig which was to take place in the pub two weeks later for a Rockabilly night with the band the Deltas.
The police gathered up the Skinheads that were left over from the pub and tried to force us to the Local British rail station and onto Paddington I believe.
Gary Hitchcock gave them a simple two word answer “fk Off”. The police couldn’t argue because they had other things to attend to. For some unknown reason we ended up in North Harrow When we arrived they MADE us all buy a ticket or they would arrest us. Anyway, whilst on the platform another group of Skinheads arrived who obviously had the same idea as us which was to somehow get back to Southall and have a go back. Among the group which was mainly Chelsea and the South London Skinheads was Chubby chris of Combat 84.By now we were a good forty in numbers and these were all the people that you wanted with you. Thinking on it these days it was quite a surreal situation because there on that tube train platform were two sets of people who probably hated each other more than any other group. The hatred all came down to East/South London and West ham/Chelsea. Funny though, because none of that was mentioned as the hate for the Asians was a lot greater. Well as it turned out we didn’t get back to Southall because we were being followed every step of the way by the Police who were at all the stations we went through. I would like to be telling you how we did make it back to Southall and, how we did take revenge on the Asians but if I’m honest its lucky we didn’t. Looking at it now im older there’s a good chance that i might not have lived if we made it back. It goes without saying that the amount of weapons we had gathered up and the mood we were in we would have killed or been killed. As it was many Asians throughout London fell foul to Skinhead attacks in the following weeks and during one of these attacks one Asian that got a little too mouthy was knifed to death. I don’t have a problem with that because not one Asian when asked by the media said that what happened in Southall was wrong. We are aware of the tightknit community these people have and we were aware at the time that they knew the truth that was hidden behind that riot so ,fk THEM. You could say that im a callous bastard but i was at Southall and was also there the night the Asian was killed. I don’t think it too relevant to go into detail about his death but he deserved what he got as did those that turned up on the night in question. What you have to remember is tensions were running high within the Asian community and, amongst Skinheads. Some of the younger Asians took what they read in the papers as truth. Lets just say that when a group of Asians turned up to gloat and gave it large to a group of Skinheads that were at Southall then they were inviting trouble…..like i said tensions were running high.
The story came out about the Asian gang and the beatings the police gave to two of them but by now people’s minds were closed. We all thought f**k it then…if this is what you think we are then that’s what we will be.
We eventually ended up at Harrow on the Hill where there was also a large number of Skinheads but by now the police had, had enough.
Everyone just drifted off onto the tube and went home.
Obviously we all knew it was on the cards that there would be a backlash but i don’t think that anyone realised it would be on the scale that it was. At the time it was as if the whole world and his sister had something to say about the oi! Movement and, everyone wanted to have their say. The papers were full of it each and every day for two solid weeks or more and no one wanted to touch an oi! Band or, even touch and oi! Event. Clubs and pubs that were due to host an event pulled out and gave some lame reason.
It really was a case of us and them at the time.
Skinheads were getting grief from every direction; even those Skinheads that were still at school were being threatened with being kicked out if they didn’t grow their hair. Those that were putting the records out were it seems fighting a losing battle with the music industry and the bands were being slaughtered by people that had been all ready to promote them just a few weeks before.
The right wing was claiming a victory over the left and in turn the left was claiming one over the right.
It was even spoke of in parliament…………………
None and, i do mean NONE of this dampened the spirits of those that were involved in the scene because all though at the time we didn’t realise it, this is what we all thrived on and lived for……Confrontation. That is what the whole meaning of oi! Was and should be about even today.
What an absolute victory the Carry on Oi! Album was and, what a sigh of relief was breathed on the streets. Out of all the Oi! Albums this one might not be the best but, it certainly was the most well received of them all. This album to us at the time represented two fingers firmly stuck up to the them……………………………..The establishment.
I would have to say that most if, not all didn’t like the cover notes because to us they went too far…..they were too apologetic. It was if the words wrote on the rear of that cover played straight into the hands of those that were trying to destroy the Oi! Movement. It felt like the establishment had said, either toe the line or, we WILL destroy you. This was too much for some of the more loyal within the Oi! Scene and so they left it. Gary Hodges and the 4 Skins came in for so much flak that it got too out of hand and caused too many arguments so he (Gary Hodges) did the natural thing and left the band. It goes without saying that he went out in a blaze of glory and this was all down to the track that was on the carry on Oi! Album…………….Evil, it says it all really.
Once Gary left the scene it began to fill with what can only be described as kiss arse apologists who played straight into the hands of both the right wing and, the left. It was these people that really brought politics into our movement with their bullste rantings. You only have to have a look at the so called Oi! Albums that came after Oi! Oi! that’s yer lot. Just have a look at the bands that were on these albums and also the cover notes………….Bollox to all that ste. With the exception of perhaps the new 4 Skins/Vicious rumours and of course the Business the following albums were rubbish.
It was the people that were behind the said albums that played straight into the hands of the right wing. You can try all you like to pull that statement apart but history will prove you wrong. By mid-1983 the door was well and truly closed on the whole Oi! Movement; it wasn’t a shadow of its former self and because of those that were now running it….Oi! was lost.
Everything was turned on its head by the middle class, suburban rebels that had taken it upon themselves to try and speak for the kids.
These people were on a collision course with a man that came onto the Skinhead scene kicking, growling and causing havoc. He met these people head on and; with his band he just took over and, blew away the cobwebs and told the establishment exactly what they could do and, where they could go. Oi! Was dead but, Ian Stuart had arrived and, in style.
The left put up a form of resistance but it was just too weak……..
Who honestly could take Chris Dean, Nick King or Martin Hewes of the Redskins seriously? Please, If anyone is in any doubts then think…..Jubilee gardens.
Probably the biggest pile of bullste that came out of those few years was that the Redskins were signed to Decca records which in my mind says it all. The Redskins were supposed to be what they the establishment wanted Skinheads to be like Bollox to that idea because there was no way that any self-respecting Skinhead would listen to three middle class drop out types that had nothing in common with us. These people openly supported the Socialist workers party anyway. Correct me if I’m wrong but the way i see it is like this; if you can’t have the right then you can’t have the left Oh! But of course these type of people don’t think like that do they….too much bullste floating around in their heads and not enough streetwise suss’. It’s at this point in the history of Skinheads that the so called S H A R P Skinheads began to pop up. Yes i don’t understand them either. The bit i can’t seem to get my head around is when they say they are non-political…..errrrr if you say so.
Now before i get accused of championing the right wing let’s just get something straight. In Ian Stuart those people that were beaten down by the media over Southall saw someone that again spoke for them. Those people would be the ones that came from the street., the real Skinheads/the real Herberts and the real football thugs. Not the Sussed Skins as they were known as at the time or the loony left wing lets ban everything and support everything that just isn’t worthwhile, types.
We are all aware of where Skrewdriver went and what they did and that’s not relevant so, it won’t be spoken of. By the time Skrewdriver had announced their true intentions most if not all of the original Oi! scene had moved onto either; Football hooliganism and the casual way of life or were too busy earning a crust to give a fk. As the 80’s wore on under a Thatcher government people began to think in a different way to a few years before i mean…like her or hate her she gave us money/jobs and a meaning. The spirit of Oi! Was about changing the way we were living and getting ourselves out of poverty. She gave us that and, we took it. We are all aware of the miners’ strike but we didn’t give a toss about that because it was a case of “were all right jack”. It takes me back to the point i made about being tribal so nuff said. In any case a lot of the Skinheads that i grew up with watched our Dads being made unemployed as they the establishment closed down the docks in the East end of London…the same applied for the hated ones that lived over the river in South London. We had experienced it…..i don’t recall any miners standing alongside my Dad on picket duty in the 70’s.His favourite saying to me as i grew up was “Boy, the dosh is out there so grab it with both hands and never let go…fk everyone else” too bloody true. Now if that aint Oi! then i don’t know what is.
Oi! Can never be as it once was because of the way we live today but that doesn’t mean the bands that have emerged and in some cases re-emerged cant still play good old fashioned Oi! The way it should be played.
There are allot of bands that call themselves Oi! but as far as I’m concerned the only two that are worth a mention are…Argy bargee and Section 5.These two have the spirit of the old bands. The rest are too busy with politics which was not what we were about.
It’s good to see younger people getting involved in the newer scene and enjoying the music of the older one.
Who knows, let’s just take it as it comes and try to enjoy it while it’s here. It could soon be gone.
And lastly, It would not be right to end this article without naming the bands and recordings that made it all worthwhile.
1.The 4 Skins (Gary Hodges line up)
2.The East end badoes.
3.The Cockney rejects.
10.The Last Resort.
1.One law For Them.(The 4 Skins)
2.1984.(The 4 Skins)
3.Class of 82. (The Ejected)
4.England belongs to me.(Cock Sparrer)
5.We can do anything.(The Cockney Rejects)
6.Working class kids.(The Last Resort)
7.Work or riot.(The Business)
8.The Way its got to be.(East end badoes)
9.Vicious Rumours.(Vicious Rumours)
10.Fighting in the streets.(The Cockney Rejects)
As i said at the start, this article is not meant to upset or insult any band/bands/person or persons. If it has then…toughen yourselves up and get a life you mugs.
The Final words come from Max Splodge when asked for his opinion on the riot and i quote…
“I think it was a conspiracy between Esso and Unigate”.
Cockney Express ( Terry London
So much rubbish has been wrote about what really happened and I’m not sure I have ever read anywhere either in a book or on the internet anything by people that were there.
Well that summer was a scorcher as those that remember will tell you and tempers were running high among a lot of people on the streets hence all the riots.
I had been to the Hambourgh Tavern before the night of the riot but that was a Rockabilly gig. In fact I had been there a month before. Whilst on our way we got no end of grief off the local Asians but just pushed through them to the pub. I had gone the month before with two Rockabillys and another Skinhead and it was us the Skinheads we thought they were targeting but as we found out inside everyone had been given grief so we just assumed it was because we were White. Now some people have said that the Skinheads going to Southall was provocative but what a load of old tosh because explain the grief the Rockabillys got or the grief that the Soul boys got when they went there. We were told by someone that worked the bar that everyone that came into that pub on gig nights was greeted with the same hostile reception from the Asians and hey ho…they were ALL White so go and figure that one out.
What Tel says about the geezer from Greenford is quite true.. Tel his name was Greg Page in case you had forgot mate. I knew Greg through the Ealing Skinheads. Jason Harrison (Arty), Tony Jarvis (Samson) and the others; you should remember them Tel.
So Greg tells us about the gig but a few days later he explains about the Southall youth Movement and what they had threatened to do if it went ahead. As a point on the side I think that if the Police had called the gig off they would have still gone on the rampage because I don’t think to this day that it was us that they really wanted to have a row with…it was the Police and the reasons have already been pointed out. Also, why didn’t the Police stop the gig because they MUST have known all the things that we knew. Maybe they wanted to use this as a way of avoiding a full on riot by the Asians against them and its far easier to blame us the Skinheads than have questions asked about them…..now there’s a thought for you to mull over.
Right, I got one of the coaches that left from the last resort along with a few other pals from the East end, yeah it’s true that there was a Union jack in the back window of one of the coaches and why not?, And so what?
Those that I’d gone with had already had a right good drink up and were still at it on the coach. On the journey we gave all the usual waner signs to everyone and that included the filth; Funny coz id have thought they would have stopped the coach and wiped us off but no? maybe im reading something into this that isn’t there but how about this for an explanation…the old bill knew where we were going and they knew what was going to happen and that’s why they waved us on ,sit you never know.
Right, we arrive at the Hambourgh tavern in good time but you couldn’t help but notice that the little journey that we had to take from the coaches to the pub was not pleasant at all. The Asians that were gathered were making cutting gestures across their throats to us and giving the wan*er sign but I don’t think any of us realized that this was any more than a few locals giving it large. We understood what they thought we were i.e. Nazis and so we swallowed it. Some returned the gestures but can you believe that those old bill that were with us threatened us with arrest and started to get heavy handed. At the time I didn’t think on it but now I reckon that is was all for the Asians benefit but it did them no good because those that were being shoved about shoved back.
Inside the pub now. I won’t talk about what happened there because Tel/Rob and Rob have spoken about that.
I want to talk about what happened as we came out. Tel talks about the group he was with being the last ones out and by rights that should have been me as well but because of where I was in the pub I had to leave because I couldn’t breathe. Correct me if I’m wrong but those bay windows had large curtains hanging from them and they caught on fire and gave off smoke. It had gone from enjoying ourselves and told by Hoxton to keep calm to sudden chaos and blind panic. I thought I was going to be burned alive and I’m not afraid to admit it. As I say I was forced out of the place and was shoved towards two rows of Police and bundled forward still coughing my guts up.
I managed to find two pals that I had gone with and we mobbed up with all the other Skinheads some one hundred feet from the pub. It was at this time that the last lot came out of the pub and got straight into some Asians that had come across to where a few Police had got in front of a small wall. To me it looked like these Skinheads were trying to make a stand and this caused some of those that I was with to try and get back but it was all done in a few minutes and we were bundled away. It was just as we were being told that we would be taken to the local BR that a huge bang went off then a flash that lit the place up; the Asians were all cheering and I have since found out that it was the Police car that was rammed towards the pub.
There was no way I was going to get on a train and go to Paddington or wherever it was because my only interest was getting back home to East London and the same went for the seven or so I was now with. We managed to escape from the police escort and walked what seemed like miles through all these back streets. Along that way we just kept bumping into one mob of Asians after another and they wanted it and they got it. I hope this doesn’t sound like we were some kind of super heroes because trust me I was shitting myself and I don’t give a toss about admitting it either but we had to fight our way through a good fifty plus Asians in little gangs for about fifty In one of those little rows we had we came across ten or so Asians that I think wanted to kill us. As we turned a corner they were coming the other way and it went straight off but we managed to get the better of them and get them on their toes. It was as we were leaving them behind that another lot came out of an alleyway and I was hit over the head with a bottle. I tell you I went down like a ton of bricks but those that were with me stopped the Asians from putting the boot in and fought the cunt’s off me. These Asians also ran off but the talk was that a huge mob will come back our way so we had better get off ourselves. I honestly can’t remember too much about getting home because I was dizzy and seeing double. One thing I can remember is the looks I was getting from people on the bus we had jumped on and this was down to the claret coming out of my head. None of us knew where we were or where the bus was going but as long as it was heading away from that pub I don’t think any of us really care. As it turned out we ended up in a place called Eastcote where we got a tube train all the way home. Now that was luxury I can tell you.
By the time we got back it was all over the TV and radio and guess who got the blame?
The following day after getting along to the hospital to be stitched up from cuts I bought the papers and they were full of it and I still can’t understand to this day what the press thought they were doing. They made out that Skinheads had gone to Southall looking for trouble and got turned over by the locals. One report said that a Swastika had been sprayed on a window. If that is true I can’t see why the riot happened. The press basically said that the Asians gave us a good hiding because some of us gave them some verbal….the press were gloating over it instead of condemning it which they should have. It seems that the press were saying that two wrongs do make a right so if that was the case then why did all the revenge attacks that took place across London get bad press?
No, something was most defiantly dodgy about that night and I think that somewhere in a Government vault is a paper with the names of the ringleaders from the Southall youth Movement and the names of the Police that let it all happen to protect themselves.
My account (very boring one)
My Memories of that night – said in short quick version.
We had been drinking in the Hambrough for a few weeks before the gig It was just inside Southall on the border of Hayes. Obviously, it was mainly skins from Hayes and Southall and local areas pre the riot night and there hadn’t been much trouble every time I had gone there. I had gone there as usual but was looking forward to the gig. It was slow to start but the atmosphere was great inside. I was getting hot so went outside for some air and saw groups of Asians gathering. Suddenly Peter Soda a black guy that had gone to the same school had spotted me and came rushing over to me. He asked me why i had come tonight and that i shouldn’t have come with my skinhead as it was going to be kicking off in a few minutes and he said “loads of them have got petrol bombs ready”. He grabbed my hand and told me to go with him. (By the way I forgot to mention he was a friend) He walked me through the gathering groups to the other end of Southall – the wrong end!!! He left me near a copper close to the police station and said i should be far enough away to be safe. The Petrol bombs started going off and i saw the smoke from a couple of cars that had been set alight and could hear screaming and shouting. Loads more police shot out of the Station and towards the trouble. The copper i was standing with shot off so i dashed right into the front of the station. Some police were coming back bleeding as the Asians were attacking them too. It was getting dodgy near the station too so a copper told me to get in his car and drove me to another part of southall down the backstreets that could connect up to Yeading. He left me there then drove off, I started walking and not long afterwards I heard my name being shouted. It was my mum who had driven round the back way with the minibus from the children’s home and she was picking up some stray skinheads she found and was dropping them over to Hayes via Yeading. There were both black and white skins in the pub that night and my mate who was Black had gone with me. She had got out and got back to Hayes and had told my mum she didn’t know where I was, my mum then came out looking for me.
My mate Peter told me that the Asians had gone prepared with the petrol bombs. It was a load of crap that the skins had gone there for trouble but the next day on the news it was saying we started it all and were provoking the Asians but the rioting carried on with Asians attacking the police even after all the skins had left.