The 4Skins
Old Stories and in the Press

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'Rising Free Fanzine' no. 4. (1981)

The new breed of working class bands has thrown up many new contenders and currently holding pole position are the 4-Skins. Unfortunately this hasn't brougth all the advantages the prime purveyors of street rock would have hoped for. The vicious gutter press tried to associate themselves with the band and the Oi! movement. Naturally the national press soon picked up on this, and as usual got everything out of proportion. Blaming the 4-Skins for the Southall riots, but the band have carried on regardless. A margin of any bands success is it's ability to cope with problems, judging by the 4-Skins recent troubles there should be nothing stopping them now. With the recent release of their first single on their own "Clockwork Fun" label. It's only the beginning...

The interview that follows was done dahn the Bridge House with "hard as masonary nails" lead singer Gary Hodges and beefy bass guitarist Hoxton Tom McCourt.

The first question is put to Gary Hodges. The release of "A.C.A.B." has been long awaited, will it ever see the light of day on vinyl? "If we can, yeah, we'll smother the charts like Adam and the Ants!"

Gary and Tom are both in full agreement that Oi! has united both punx and skins, but the pair of them are a bit preturbed at the violent elements Oi! has. Gary says "It's been isolated things but personally speaking we've never 'ad any troubles at our gigs". "And it doesn't help matters when you get the prats like Valac Vander Veen from Sounds saying 'trouble again', what really happened at that gig (Paisley) was the bouncers steamed some little kids" adds Tom. "So we all dived in. He was trying to build up a violent image around us and Oi!"

What was the real reason for all the Northern and Scottish dates, when you first started gigging? Tom explains: "That was down to our old manager Skully. He was getting us these gigs for 100 pounds, which hardly covered costs. But we did'em for the publicity and the experience."

The band, and in particular Gary have expressed some concern in pursuing the band full time, due to monetary problems- Have these eased at all Gary? "We would like to do it full time but we'd have to be able ti live off it. But I've got a wife and kid to support. So I've gotta have a bit of money to look after them. I wouldn't worry about myself, as long as they're alright." Tom adds he's getting married soon so he'll need money. "Yeah you've gotta, co's if you lose this one you ain't gonna find no one else" chips in Gary sarcastically. Tom isn't amused.

Do you see any difference between the new breed of working class bands and the old, i.e. Sham and Menace? Gary: "Yeah, but not so much Menace, because they were like you say, a working class band. But Sham I knew personally co's I used to hang around with them and they all came from round Kingston. They weren't really a working class band, it was all put on really". So your more like Menace in attitude? "Yeah, but a lot of the older bands who pretended to be working class were middle class art students anyway. The bands that are around now are the real thing".

Of the other 'new' bands Tom and Gary both like Last Resort. But Gary guiltily admits "Tell you the truth I ain't heard many. Infa-Riot I don't like." Is that musically or on a personal level? Gary: "I don't like Lee Wilson". "He slagged us down in the music papers" says Tom, "We were all talking about sticking together and doing our own label and they went and fucked off to Secret Records". Are you interested in signing to a big label? "Yeah! there's been the odd tentative enquiry, but nothing definate, we don't wanna compramise, and that includes not changing our name".

The band, on the whole have gone down better outside London, because as Gary says "The London kids are spoilt for choice, so when we go outside we're appreciated a bit more!"

A final message, Gary "We'll play it ear and see what 'appens".

Well since the interview the 4-Skins have split, perhaps because they didn't wanna compramise, maybe there were other reasons. The interview now serves as a memory.


THE NEW BREED - A Teenage Warning
By Garry Bushell
(Sounds 1980)

'Chaos in the city/Civil War now/ Skinheads know what to do/ Skinheads taking over/CHAOS IS THE RULE/

GARY HODGES looks dead smart on stage, a walking epitome of skinhead sartorial elegance, but his face reads murder, twisted into expressions that'd put Jack Nicholson in The Shining to shame. Schizoid eyes stare demented and accusing, voice roars raw and abrasive, rasping like a power drill
smashing against solid concrete.
'Come back of the SKINHEAD/Come back of the BOOT/
People who we don't beat up/We're gonna FUCKIN' SHOOT'

Johnny Rotten wanted to destroy the passer-by. Gary Hodges is putting Doctor Marten's apocalypse into words. Rotten wanted to be anarchy, Hodges is painting vivid visions of what that really means. The scene is a Damned gig at the Bridge House last year (1979) but the 4-Skins are on stage now, a flaming molotov cocktail of sound, and the audience of cropped Michelin Men, belligerent bootboys and sweat-stained spikeys are going seriously barmy. "We are the new breed and we will have our say," Gal hollers. "We are the NEW BREED and we are TODAYYYY!" At the time it looked like the 4-Skins along with the Cockney Rejects and the Rubbles were in the forefront of a grass roots East End punk renewal, a New Punk upsurge that went partially off the boil with the Rejects' overnight ascension to Top Thirty status. The 4-Skins performance that night won them pride of place on Sounds' own 'Oi-The Album' but that's not the reason I'm writing this. The reason is that the 4-Skins have seriously reformed and along with younger bands See In fa-Riot from North London, Criminal Class from Coventry, the
Exploited from Edinburgh, Demob and Arson from Gloucester, the Blitz Boys from Manchester and a host of others, they now more than ever really do constitute the vanguard of an exciting and dynamic, but often disturbing new breed of punk bands.

SPRINGSTEEN SUSSED it with his vision of the hungry and the hunted EXPLODING in rock 'n' roll bands. Born from the Pistols via Menace, Sham and Screwdriver, and in the pioneering wake of the Rejects and the Upstarts, this new breed are blowing up in your face. They're bands for who punk ain't dogma or religion but the fulfilment of a burning need for rock 'n' roll in its purest form, raw, aggressive and threatening.We're talking about music made by and for the hundreds of thousands of human hand grenades primed by this middle class and middle aged controlled society which has guaranteed them NO FUTURE and left them to fester in their frustrations. And this isn't an attempt to glamorise that, it's simply saying it's happening. It's here.
"We're not advocating violence," Gary Hodges says, "We're Just saying what's happening. I don't like it but it's about time someone told the truth."
'Down in East London/Trouble on the streets/
On the street corners the gangs all meet/Talking 'bout the weakend/
What we're gunna do/If you ain't careful/
Gunna do you' ('Chaos')

'Going down the boozer on your own for a night/
A gang of nutters try and pick a fight/
You can try and plead for your life/
They'll still cut you with a fucking great knife' ('Wonderful World')

'Had to go to court to plead my case/Jury didn't like my face/
Judge said he's gonna put me away/Asked what I had to say/

"In a way it don't really matter what we think about it ..." bassist H (Steve Harmer) is talking now. "It's what's going on. It's the way things are in the East End. We ain't against coppers cos you need good coppers but round here the coppers are cunts. 'ACAB' is a true story and a true observation
of 70% of coppers in the East End." We're sitting in a quiet pub two broken legs away from the Bridge House. Hodges, H, and guitarist and legend in his own beer gut Hoxton Tom McCourt whose extensive knowledge of soul music would put Dexys to shame. New drummer Gary Hitchcock couldn't make it. Hodges is 21 and an unemployed brick layer. H is 21 and a building labourer. Hoxton's 19 and an engineer. Gary Hitchcock is 23 and a plasterer.
All four were skins since the summer of '77 at the latest, following variously Sham and Menace. But they didn't think of becoming a band till '79.
"We formed after the first Rubbles gig at the Wellington last year," Tom explains." We wrote 'Chaos' virtually on the spot and just leapt up and did it. Most of the gigs we've done have been spontaneous, playing with Untamed Youth and the Rubbles, just playing with our mates.It's always been a good atmosphere and that's the way we wanna keep it."
IN ALL they've played a few more gigs than Spandau Ballet, most of them informal in places like the Hartley, the Standard and the Crown in East and South East London. The only 'proper' gigs have been with the Damned and the Rejects. But ever since I heard the tape of 'Chaos' I've been on at them 'when are you gonna start playing seriously?' "Have you seen the gear we've got?" Hodges is indignant. "It's crap. Would you ask a bricklayer to build a wall without a trowel and a level? We've got to get decent gear and to get that we've gotta have the money." Maybe not that much of a problem. 'Chaos' (produced by Micky Geggus on the album, incidentally) is already the subject of negotiations regarding a possible appearance as the A-side of a new EP. A couple of majors are biting.With the money that could bring the band would be transformed over night but if they were they could also find themselves up against some serious problems.
What about the violence at gigs that's marred the Rejects' career?
"The football thing's got out of hand,' Hodges observes. "There's no way we're gonna show bias to a football team. We couldn't, we support three different clubs. " "But football is part of people's lives. Our way of life does or did revolve around it," H adds, "And we've got to associate with our mates. We're still the same as them 'cept when we get a 70,000 advance and go and live in America ..."
What about politics? H: "We've got nothing to do with it. No way. There's nothing worth voting for. They're all the same." And the new punk?
Gary Hodges: "Y'got the new punk groups coming up and y'got critics saying they're not advanced enough. They expect you to play 'Bankrobber' and shit like that. Two years ago they were raving over raw thrash, now they expect you to 'advance' into pop pap. Well we're about punk. Raw punk."
H: "It's great in Scotland, the movement's still alive up there."
Hodges: "Yeah, we really wanna play up there."
H: "Especially to the girls.

Gary Fieldng - The Link

"The 4-Skins more than any other band were probably "too real". They didn't say one thing, and do another. They just lived their lives, and transferred it onto vinyl. But before you could say "What a wonderful world it is..." the arty-farty trendies were on the war path claiming that "This band is sexist...", "This band is rockist (???) this band is that and the other...", "This band preaches violence...". Let's just for once get the facts right.... The 4-Skins didn't preach the glory of violence. They were just singing about what their inner city lives were surrounded by ...... violence! Remember what they said on their debut album "The Good, The Bad and The 4-Skins" .... "We don't incite violence we only sing about what happens". But that's hard sentiments for a suburban middle-class trendy to understand."

"The band's first vinyl releases came via tracks on the two early Oi albums. It was after the success of these records the band were offered lucrative publishing deal with a major publishing company (no names, no pack drill, as the old saying goes!) of which one of the "minor" conditions was a name change to the "Skins 4" or whatever. Obviously, this was not on, and consequently nor was the deal. A small gesture some might say, but a good example of how The 4-Skins never compromised unlike so many of their so called peers!"

"Secret Records stepped in and signed the band, and released their first single "One Law For Them". It wasn't an instant success, which was no surprise due to distribution problems, caused mainly by paranoid record shop owners, who still had Southall in the back of their minds. Maybe they thought anyone who would buy a 4-Skins record , would instantly run amok, and smash up the shop in true "mad skinhead" Fleet Street fashion. Amazingly, this threat to record store owners never quite emerged, and the single, along with all the band's following releases sold by the truck load. At last the band was happening, people were beginning to take notice. None less that the scandal sheets and the rest of their bandwaggon ..... and guess who was top of their hate list?"

"Gary Hodges fed up with all the nonsense that followed quit, as did Steve Pear. An end of an era?"

"Resiliant as ever in came Panther on vocals, and Pete Abbott on drums, as John Jacobs switched to guitar. An album "The Good, The Bad and The 4-Skins", two singles, and two tours the band seemed to lose momentum, and showed the first signs of fading away as Panther, Pete Abbott, and John Jacobs left."

"Bassist Hoxton Tom, who had always been the centre pin of the band refused to give in, and recruited a new line up. Roi of Last Resort fame replaced Panther, while the other two places were filled by Paul Swain (guitar), and Ian Davis (drums). With a new deal from Syndicate Records under their belts they recorded two more albums "A Fistful Of...", and what was to be the band's swansong the live "From Chaos To 1984". The band were now being completely ignored by the music press editorial departments, while the advertising department gratefully and grubbily accepted their money for adverts. An obvious, but distasteful one-sided affair which was to be one of the reasons the band called it a day."

"Thus in late 1984 The 4-Skins gracefully quit on their own terms and nobody else's, and went out as they came in with their heads held high!!!!!"


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Copyright (c)  2004 Tommy Cassidy.
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Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".