Tag Archives: mod

Beverley – A short film. 80’s Britain revisited.

22 Nov

80’s Britain was a melting pot on all social and political levels. It was a time of high unemployment, racial tension, riots and the threat of nuclear war hung in the air like a mushroom cloud of gloom throughout most of the decade.

Anyone from a working class family that left school during the Thatcherite years faced the prospect of standing at the back of the dole queue. The miners were chucked on the slag heap, police brutality was common place and the youth rebelled.

Football hooliganism, Casuals, Mods, Skinheads, New Romantics, the second wave of punk, all flourished during the 80’s. At a time when material wealth was not the order of the day, the youth took the DIY ethic to heart. Creativity was shown in personal ways still echoed to this day.

Music became angrier and so did the kids.  “If the kids are united”, sang Sham 69”- a rally call that was more of a plea, as youth cultures and races clashed on what seemed like a daily basis. The police brought in the Special Patrol Group to control rioting youngsters and adults alike. The SPG idea backfired massively, as the heavy-handed tactics of the group resulted in many incidents of police brutality.

One band during the punk era did fuse a link between racial and musical cultures. The Ruts, later to become Ruts DC were the heir to The Clash’s punk reggae throne. Formed in the late 70’s, The Ruts pulled together Punk and Reggae influences and fans of both genres alike. Front-man Malcolm Owen sang about Rude boys, Jah and proclaimed the fact that Babylon was burning. The political message made perfect sense to alienated black and white youths and the music wore its influences on its red gold and green safety pinned sleeves. The Ruts were active in The Rock Against Racism movement and played many of the gigs that were held under this banner. Lead sing Owen died of a suspected drug overdose but The Ruts left a great legacy and the band continue under The Ruts DC banner to this very day.

In the early 80’s punks and skinheads clashed as the mods and rockers did years before. The skins split into two factions – There were the highly nationalistic right-wing skinheads and there were skinheads that loved the original ska and reggae once championed by the mods that came to the UK via the first Jamaican immigrants that settled in British Isles.  Punks went into two main groups- On one side you had the Anarcho punks that lived by the non-violent anarchist ethics of bands like Crass, Conflict and The Subhumans. On the other side you had the punks and skunx (skinhead punk hybrid) that were into a punk spin-off called Oi.

Oi was punks in the pub on the streets older brother. Punk was about rebelling against youthful boredom and unemployment – Oi celebrated working class tradition, football and beer culture. From the start Oi had its detractors. Yes, there were some moments that don’t stand up to the test of time and were slightly dubious but bands like Cockney Rejects, Cock Sparrer and The Business released seminal albums that still resonant with a passion and vigor that lacks in a lot of current guitar music.

Oi concerts were seen by the media to attract right wing skinheads and football lads and gigs were now turning into full scale riots. The culmination of troubles that plagued Oi was at a gig by the 4 Skins in Southall West London. The local Asian community feared that the gig was a far right rock concert, what ensued has gone done in rock ‘n’ roll history as some of the most violent scenes to grace a music gig.

Petrol bombs were thrown, the police were under attack and under prepared for the onslaught by the local community and the gig venue was burnt to the ground.  Oi fans were all brandished trouble makers and bands found it impossible to get gigs.

The 80’s must go down as one of the most violent decades in history and anyone growing up in that decade I am sure will look back with fond memories but those memories will always be tainted with the angry and oppressive nature of the decade.

One person that has a story to tell about this decade is Beverley Thompson and she along with a great crew is set to make a film about growing up in this volatile decade.

The film short Beverley will be about a mixed-race girl trying to find her own identity within early 80’s Britain. Bev’ fought against the uncertainty and hatred of the 80’s and carved out what was to become the woman she is today – One who is grounded and with a special story to tell.

The Two Tone movement united skinheads, black youth and punks in a way that put the cultural differences aside. Two Tone fused the fast paced beat of punk, mixed in a dash of reggae guitar and fused punk and dub bass lines that provided a voice to black and white youth alike. The fashion colours were black and white and it was the first time that black and white really did come together. Bands including The Specials, The Beat and The Selector, were at the forefront of the Two-Tone scene and a movement was created.

Beverly Thompson had found the home and culture that she was looking for. Two Tone bands had black and white members and fused cultural influences from far and wide. The Specials sang about life in the UK and covered a few reggae songs that both and white youth had cherished years before. Listen to Ghost Town and every nuance and word within that song sums up the violent apathy that was felt by the youth of the 80’s.

In early life Bev moved to Leicester, the culturally diverse area of the East Midlands. Here was a place that Beverley truly felt at home and was another place where black and white youth mixed on the streets, this was cemented by joining Leicester City’s hooligan firm The Baby Squad. The football casual scene was bowling about in Diadora, Lacoste and Fila and Bev’ became one of the first female football casuals.

Without giving too much more away about the story here, Beverly is a project that will encapsulate a time and youth culture in England that I think will add a new angle to history of 80’s Britain. Stories like Beverley’s deserve to be told and being able to see this on the big screen is one that is one worth backing.

The short film will include music by The Ruts DC and The Stone foundation, the latter being part of a current crop of bands that fuse together a soulful mod vibe with a cool slick indie-ness. The Former as discussed earlier, were pioneers of fusing reggae and punk and are doing what they do best and are still making music.

Beverley the film is an independent project that is being funded by donations. Produced by award-winning producer Cass Pennant and written and produced by award-winning filmmaker Alexander Thomas everything is in place to make this a seminal piece of film, except the finances to make it and this is where YOU come in…

Every donation, no matter how big or small will help to raise the funds needed to make the film. Vivid Riot has got behind the project and we kindly ask you to do the same.

Independent film is the real deal. It is about real ideas and real people. People like you.

Here we speak to filmaker Alxendar Thomas and Beverley about the film.


From the synopsis, I have noticed that this film will be about your struggle growing up during the 80’s – Culturally how to you feel the 80’s compares to the current decade?

In a lot of ways there are parallels between the 1980’s and the current economical and social situation. We are suffering from a recession, high employment, public sector protests, greedy bankers, a conservative government and immigration used scapegoat for bad policy.

However, there are a number of distinct differences such as the drugs culture, including the introduction of a mass market for class A drug use. Crack-Cocaine was introduced to the UK in the late 1980’s and was epidemic by the 1990’s.

The class system still exists but the lines are blurred. It is easier to get credit, so material objects are more available to lower income families. Mass production has created huge conglomerates and monopolies. Young people growing up in this fast moving technical age do not have the privilege of naivety – sticks used as swords  have been replaced with real knives and the air rifle with real guns!

Off the top of your head, what are your three best and worst memories of the 80’s?

Three best memories of the 1980’s: Pre-1985, the Fashion and music, getting a Doberman dog, falling in love with Mark Kelly.

Three worst memories: Bob Marley’s death, moving schools and city just before taking my CSE’s, and having my heart broken by Jason Cummins.

In your own words, what would you like the overriding message to be from the film Beverley?

I thought at the beginning of this process I had an overriding message – to tell a story from a mix-race perspective – now it’s becoming something else – should ethnicity define us or should we aspire to see pass racial identity? I am still on a journey of discovery so at this point don’t have a defined message.

But overall I want it to be an interesting story and hope every-one finds their own personal message whether they are black or white, mix-race, male or female – if a story is human you will find yourself in there and identify with the complexity of life.

Pick three or five songs that sum up the 80’s for you?

You’re much too young –The Specials

Mirror in the Bathroom –The Beat

Holiday – Madonna

Night Nurse – Gregory Isaacs

Pearls Cafe –The Specials

Do you really want to hurt me – Culture Club

Silly Games – Janet Kay

Which three fashion items define the 80’s for you and why?

Pre- 1985

Black and White Monotone clothing

Leg warmers

Monkey Boots

Post 1985






When is the film likely to be released?

We are planning to start filming in January, so hopefully ready for the Spring 2014.

Thanks and is there anything else you would like to add?

The film is gathering energy even at such an early stage, there is a vibe that something exciting and special is happening. I think British film has a very high standard and our audience will be severe critics so we know we are at the foot of the mountain will a long way to the summit but we are more than confident and raring to go to make a film that will be refreshing and thought provoking.

Those that say it can’t be done need to get out of the way of those who are doing it!


You msut be doing a good job Alex, as you have won a number of awards for your film work, what would you say is your main driving force and inspiration when making film?

Inspiration comes from a broad range of sources: books, theatre, music, other films and even every day occurrences often provide fertile ground for ideas.

It takes an incredible amount of passion and hard work to make a good film. It’s therefore very important that you find ways to make the subject matter personal and become attached to it. If you don’t deeply believe in the film yourself or don’t have enough emotionally invested in it then it’s likely to fall in around you at some point and you won’t have the commitment and mental resources to dig yourself out when it does.

With Beverley, what are you trying to convey to the audience?

Beverley is a short film set in Leicester in 1980. It follows a mixed race girl’s struggles to carve out a sense of identity in a confusing, shifting, cultural landscape. Whilst the film follows Beverley’s journey, it simultaneously explores British cultural history and concepts of British identity. The backdrop to the film is one of the most explosive post-war British subcultures, the 2 Tone movement which saw the coming together of black and white musicians and the union of the musical influences of Jamaican based Ska and British based Punk. The film therefore raises questions about identity on an individual and national basis and explores the relationship between these concepts.

The film will have a very clear point of view. I want the audience to be in Bev’s shoes. She’s a resourceful, strong-willed character – and I hope to raise a few questions in the audience’s mind about the position she finds herself in and what the implications of that are.

How did you become involved in the Beverley film project?

I worked with Cass on the film Casuals. I was brought on board as the cinematographer for that film, but with such a project, where it’s very DIY you have to get involved in all aspects of the process. So during that time Cass and I were working together very closely and we made a good team. We continued to collaborate after Casuals and that has culminated in this film.

What films would make your top three of all time list?

It would change depending on my mood to be honest, but always up there somewhere would be Raging Bull, La Haine and This Is England.

What makes Beverley different to the projects you have worked on in the past?

It’s the first fiction film I’ve written that’s based on or inspired by a real person and real events. Also, it’s set in 1980 so that’s a new territory for me too. It’s required more research than my other films: I’ve learnt a lot about British culture, history, and identity and about its post war subcultures (especially Two Tone). I’ve also thought a lot more about identity than I’ve done before. Gary Young states in his book Who Are We? “The more power an identity carries, the less likely its carrier is to be aware of it as an identity at all. Because their identity is never interrogated they are easily seduced by the idea that they do not have one.” The process of developing this project has required me to draw upon the few occasions when I have been deeply aware of my identity in certain circumstances.

What attracted you to Beverley’s life story and then how did the thought of making it a film happen?

Cass and I both found Bev a very interesting character when we worked on Casuals. Cass really knows his British subcultures and wanted to make a film with the Two Tone movement as the backdrop – and he connected this desire with many of the social issues that Bev’s story raises. He asked me to research and to see if I thought there’s a story we could make in there. A three hour interview with Bev followed. There was a lot that resonated with me, and although I knew it was going to be real challenge to condense things into a short script, I was extremely excited at the prospect of making the film.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Just to say a huge thanks to those that have donated towards the making of the film. In order to make something that does any kind of justice to the material, era and subculture we’re dealing with it will require a huge amount of generosity from strangers and well wishers and an incredible amount of hard work from everyone else who works on the film which will go largely unrewarded except for the product we create at the end of it. So to those who have supported the project so far and to those who will do in the future we owe a huge debt of gratitude. For my part I can promise a hell of a lot of hard work and dedication in return.

To donate to the film click the link http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/beverley

To follow on Twitter – https://twitter.com/BeverleyFilm

To like on facebook – https://www.facebook.com/BeverleyShortFilm

The Broken Vinyl Club. 60’s inspired cool.

28 Aug

Sometimes I need music to wake me the fuck up. The sort of music that no matter how, bad I feel, it sets the early week cobwebs on fire. On this particular day, it’s the Tuesday after a Bank Holiday weekend. The excitement of football, drinking, music and overeating has long gone. There’s a taste in my mouth like the bottom of a birdcage and I don’t know how I am going to get through the next eight hours of work.

Luckily, I stumbled over The Broken Vinyl Club. TBVC are the musical equivalent of an ice cold glass of Resolve and a bacon sandwich. As the tunes flow, you feel your life force being replenished and any notion of a hangover is gone. The effervescent vibes ease your mind, body and soul into the working week and you know what? I feel alright!

‘All in Your Head’ is a song that could make the coldest winter morning feel like summer in the Bahamas. Its feel good factor spirals and spins as the lyrics promise that “The sun will shine again.” This is only track number two on the eponymous debut by TBVC and if this track is anything to go by, I will be overdosing on positivity by the end of it.

I can hear everything from The Beatles, The Kinks, The Who, and The Rolling Stones in TBVC’s music. There’s a massive Mod influence in the songs and the song crafting is second to none. Melodic, tight and interesting are three words that I would use to describe TBVC, they are clever chaps and do music with what seems like effortless cool.

‘She’s Tired’ is a stand out track for me. It has Guitars that twang and shuffle, drums that gently caress, a bass that drifts along and vocals that tell a story worth following until the end. The 60’s influence is there throughout but despite wearing the musical influences on their sleeves, TBVC are fresh and interesting enough to be considered for big things.

I relish the prospect of seeing TBVC live. Songs this good deserve the live stage and audience. Music that is clever and danceable doesn’t come along very often but when it does, it’s time to get the old dancing shoes out but be prepared to have them resoled when the gig has finished, because if you stand still, you are past musical saviour. Hallelujah!

I managed to ask Scott from the band a few questions and here’s what he had to say.

What releases have you put out and have you played many gigs?

“We put out our very first single ‘I Want you Girl’ / ‘In my mind’ on Cardiff based label See Monkey Do Monkey in 2010 which gained us alot of attention and we got asked to play at Liam Gallagher’s first Pretty Green Club night at The Garage. That’s where Acid Jazz saw us play and then 2011 we signed to them and put out ‘One Way Street’ August 2011 and then our debut album in October 2011 we then released a follow up single ‘Diamonds in her eyes’ in February this year. We have done lots of gigs as we have been a gigging band since 2009 and have had to build our fan-base by basically doing the toilet tour throughout the UK. We have also played some really cool places such as Stockholm Sweden, Borderline, 100 club London we have also played Bournemouth 02 academy and Shepherds Bush Empire supporting the Stereophonics. ”

I can hear a very distinct Mod 60’s vibe to your songs, would you say that is a good description of your sound?

“Yes collectively we are all influenced by some classic 60s bands and many of the songs were written with these influences in mind.”

Which bands and artists influenced you the most?

“The Beatles, Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Kinks, Coral, The Byrds, Small Faces, Rolling Stones, The Las.”

Which current bands do you rate the most?

“Loving the new Michael Kiwanuka album, also think that Alabama Shakes and Jake Bugg are great too. There’s also great bands in Wales who are releasing music and gigging such as Houdini Dax, The Keys,The Boy Royals, El Goodo and Colorama.”

Is there one new band that you think we should look out for and why?

“Houdini Dax their like Cardiff’s answer to The Beatles, they have great songs, great energy live, a good sense of humor and are young and very talented go check them out! ”

If you had to pick one album that you had to solely play for a week, which would it be?

“Revolver The Beatles one of the best albums ever. Rubber Soul is a close 2nd, though. Its just has tune after tune and the sound and vibe of the album has never been bettered would of loved to have been a fly on the wall at these recording sessions.”

What influences/pastimes do you have outside of music?

“We all enjoy rummaging around for vinyls and buying new clothes. I also love cooking and think I’d probably be a chef if I didn’t have music. Meirion loves trawling e-bay to find vintage studio equipment to add to his collection.”

What is the funniest thing that has happened to the band since you formed?

“One thing that sticks in my mind is when we finished our set at the pretty green club night and came off stage and went back in to the dressing room then someone shouted someones playing your drum kit we all ran out and we realised that its Andy bell from Ride / Oasis / Beady Eye so we start filming it on our phones. Justin is over the other side of the stage and doesn’t realise who it is and starts making menacing faces at him and telling to get the f**k off the drum kit.”

How do you feel about the digital age. Do you think it helps or hinders bands these days?

“It helps bands to start off and get their music out there but I also think that it can hinder signed bands, as the internet has brought in the culture of not paying for music so from that point of view it has ruined the music industry. There are many points for and against to be honest.”

Also, how do you view the music press these days?

“I think alot of the main music magazines play it safe and don’t try to find new music it’s all a little corrupt to be honest. Whatever label pays the most gets the review or article. Many of the music press are quite lazy instead of writing what they actually think of you they just copy what you’ve written in your biog.”



Dig the new breed. The Uptights

21 Aug

I think I have stumbled across what I think is the youngest band to ever feature on Vivid Riot. The Uptights, from Southampton are all aged 17 years old and create music as good as a lot of new bands twice their age. Despite not being old for the pub, they are more than good enough for Vivid Riot!

Younger generations don’t get much credit these days. It seems that all we ever hear about is riots, drugs, drinking and violence. The “yoof” of today as far as the media is concerned are always to blame for any wrongdoings that take place in society. Hold that thought… That sort of generalisation is tarnishing a whole host of creative youngsters who deserve good press but the sensationalism of typical youthful behaviour takes front page instead.

Luckily, there are untold bands, including The Uptights, in their late teens and early twenties that are making music that really can inspire good feelings and thoughts. Think about it, teenage angst has always had a relevant place in music but lazy mainstream journalism and major label interference makes sure that the same old bands get promoted above younger groups that rightfully demand a place in the mainstream spotlight.

I, for one, am grateful that bands like The Uptights exist. Now for the rest of the music world, It’s time to dig the new breed.

The Uptights’ music is big and bold. Somewhere between The Jam and The Libertines. It has an air of confidence and belief.  Take the first song I heard by the band, ‘Liar’. As soon as it came on, I knew I was onto something special. Brash guitars, drums smashed to pieces and snakey bass lines gave me the perfect introduction to the band.

‘La’ is another song that really sets the stall out for The Uptights. The track is a cross between The Cure’s pop classic ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ and it also reminds me of the melodic genius of Orange Juice. A perfect pop song that would go hand in hand with a few pints on a hot summer’s day.

For now, I’ll let the band do the rest of the talking, as I had a chance to ask The Uptights a few questions.

Firstly, hello and how are you all?

All: “Hello. All good thanks.” 

Right, let’s have it from the start. Who are The Uptights and how did you form?

Mack:   “OK so we have Ben Gibson on lead guitar, Tom Richer providing vocals and rhythm, Torrin Rees on drums and I have the bass and sing on the tracks that Tom doesn’t.”

Tom:     “We’re all mates and have known each other from school really.  Some of us have been in different bands before but not a mod styled one, so the Uptights was something new for us.”

What have you recorded so far and released?

Tom:     “We’ve got about 6 songs recorded but have loads more  new songs up our sleeves. The idea is to keep recording and letting people hear our songs for free, then, say October time we will select maybe four or five of our best and release a debut ep. Where we will  include the popular ones such as ‘Today’, ‘Other Side’ and ‘What Comes Around’”

Mack:   “At our gigs, we get a good reaction to a track called ‘Let me Love You’.  It’s recorded but needs some additional vocal work.  I think it maybe our most powerful tune.”

Which song of your own are you most proud of and why?

Torrin:   “All of them for one reason or another!  We all have an input into our sound and each tune reflects who out of the band has had the most influence.  For instance ‘Other Side’ and ‘Liar’ has Mack’s mod input, whilst ‘What Comes Around’ and ‘Today’ shows Tom’s a fan of Joy Division, The Smiths and Oasis.  Ben comes up with some cracking original riffs throughout and I get the occasional drum intro.”

What does the future have in store for the band?

Ben: “We’re just gonna keep at it.  We feel there’s a big space for our music but no one’s letting us or other mod bands get heard because most people these days are obsessed with chart music. We would also like too set up a UK tour but that should all come around when we’ve released our debut ep. But for now we’d like to build up a local fan base as well as one on-line.”

Torrin:   “Our view is that if our music strikes a chord with people then we’ll keep working hard and take it from there.  The time is about right in this country for a bit of energy.  Simple, honest tunes.”

Which bands or artists have influenced your music the most?

Tom: “I’d have to say Joy Division and Oasis, but we’re not trying to take too much bands influences on us were just doing what we think sounds good!”

Mack: “For me it’s got to be the Jam, I inspire to sing like Paul and play the bass like Bruce!”

Ben: “The Vaccines, The Jam.”

Torrin: “The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys, Oasis and The Beatles”

If you could tour with any current bands, which ones would you choose?

Ben: “I’d have too chose either Miles Kane or The Enemy, I think both  bands are still doing justice to keep guitar music alive and both bands have so much energy in live performances.”

And if you each had to take one album to a desert island for a month, which album would you each take?

Torrin:   “Hard choice but I’d end up taking Arctic Monkeys debut Album ‘What ever people say i am that’s what I’m not ’, mainly because there’s not one bad track on that album.”

Mack: “I’ve got two favourites, ‘Heavy Soul’ by Paul Weller or ‘All Mod Cons’ by the Jam. Very hard to choose one but id most probably pick ‘Heavy Soul’ by Paul Weller.”

Tom: “‘Rubber Soul’ the Beatles 6th Album”

Ben:  “‘By The Way’ – Red Hot Chilli Peppers”

Anything else you would like to add?

All:   “Grateful for the interview Nick, and wish you continued success with your Vivid Riot blog.  As we said earlier, the time is right for what you’re doing, providing decent exposure of some honest music from bands like us and putting real stuff back on the map.”



The Chords. A very British way of life.

21 Jun

For any band to class themselves as openly Mod takes a lot self belief and that belief would have had to have been ten times stronger in 1978.

During Punk’s snotty heyday, South East London’s The Chords set out a stall that was classically Mod and quintessentially British,The band released one album and a wealth of singles that still stand up as some of the best of the late 70’s.


The Chords should have been huge. They charted regularly, played packed out gigs at were at the forefront of the Mod Revival scene which rode across  Great Britain during the late 70’s and early 80’s. The irony in the title of the band’s song ‘Something’s Missing’ feels sadly poignant looking back at what could have been.

Amongst others, Paul Weller and Jimmy Pursey were fans, with the latter signing the band to his own label. The band also did a Peel session, received rave reviews, supported The Jam but after a gig with The Undertones, Jimmy Pursey put the proverbial boot in and this is where things changed dramatically.


Pursey’s idea of storming the stage during a gig with The Undertones with his new band didn’t go down to well with the audience who in reality were probably not the biggest of Sham 69 fans anyway. A riot broke out and The Chords (who were supporting) saw the disrespect to The Undertones as unforgivable and the way that Pursey wanted the band to move in was far removed from anything they wanted themselves. The Chords left Pursey behind as they were in no position to compromise the path that they wanted to go down.

The band members admit to this day that they needed decent managerial guidance but it just didn’t appear to be on the horizon. With this dilemma The Chords decided to go it alone. Surprisingly, this approach worked for a while. TV appearances came, sold out shows at London’s famous Marquee were the tip of an ever growing iceberg. Decisions had been made and results were being seen.

Just when the band seemed to be getting their heads above the murky waters of the music business, bad luck struck and the band started sinking fast.

Internal feuds, a strike at BBC television just as the band released a new single, and with no manager to sort the mess out the band struggled on and Polydor Records gave the band a chance to make one final impact.

‘Turn Away Again’ was the last single the band released and despite the band reaching their potential, so much more could have been achieved with the right guidance. Listen to the ‘This is What they Want’ compilation and I am sure you will agree for a band going against the waves of Punk in its prime, you’ll see why the Chords created huge admirable ripples then and now.


The Chords were stubborn in a no compromise kind of way. That is something that should be held in the highest of regards. The band didn’t sell out to make a quick buck and in terms of having something to hold dearly and be proud of, The Chords can hold their heads up high up have earned a rightful place in musical history!

The Chords still have many fans to this day and the fact they still play gigs is testament to that.

I managed to catch the band live during a gig and DVD release show and trust me on this, The Chords are still capable of something special.

My first visit to the Rhythm Factory in East London was to be a special one.

As soon as I reached the bar expectation was in the air. A really mixed crowd waited for the DVD of The Chords’ history to start and I lost count of the conversations that I became involved in. I have to say that the people drinking before the gig were some of the friendliest I have come across in all of the gigs I have been to.

Anyway, where was I? Ah, the DVD launch. The documentary ‘What Became of the People we Used to be?’ is a history of the band from the people that were there. If you want to know anything about The Chords, then this is as good as a place as any to start. The documentary charts the rise and fall of the band during the late 70’s and beyond and is told with real humility.

Even now, the band members speak with a fondness for the music and friends that they made. It wasn’t all roses and the band knew their failings but watching the film, I felt this is what made The Chords special. They were just ordinary working class blokes who could write a bloody good song or 20 and for me and many others that is the perfect combination for good honest music.

The DVD is well worth a watch and is well put together. A history of the band was well overdue and they way in which the story was portrayed was perfect.

Then it was time for the gig…

Firstly, original vocalist and guitarist Billy Hassett now resides in Japan and therefore the vocal duties were down to founding member and song writer Chris Pope. As I was seeing the band for the first time, the absence of Hassett was cause for concern. I shouldn’t have worried, Pope did the job and he sure plays a mean guitar.

With Pope at the helm, the band went through a set that would put many bands to shame. ‘British Way Of Life’, ‘Something’s Missing’ and ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ were as fresh and as poignant as ever. Song writing of this quality just doesn’t age, which can’t be said for me, as after getting caught up in the dancing, I felt like my dodgy moves had been pushed to the limit.


Half way through the set a Kip Herring, the band’s second vocalist took to the stage. Kip sang on a couple of numbers which he co-wrote with the band. “One More Min” and “Turn away again” Saw The Chords and Kip Herring in fine fettle. This was a nice touch to the night, as Herring was part of the band’s history and as this was what the night was all about.


Kip Herring on Vocals

Special mention must go to the musicianship on the night. Everything was held together by some amazing drumming, Pope’s guitar sounded punchy with clarity and the bass player didn’t shy away from being heard. At the end of the gig, someone actually said to me, “They’ve still got it.” And from what I had just seen, I had to agree.

A ‘casual’ stroll through football, fashion and music.

24 Jan

There was one youth subculture that got up the noses of the establishment more than any other in history. They were clued up, dressed up and had an attitude that went beyond realms of any other movement before them.

When it came to shaking things up this lot knew how, where and when to be. It’s not Skinhead, it wasn’t Mod and wasn’t the ripped up anger of the punks. ‘Casual’ embraced everything that went before them but they weeded the shit out of the garden of England and grew into something that is still creating ripples to this day.

Firstly, let’s take a look at the moniker ‘Casuals’.  In the late 70’s, Everton and Liverpool football clubs were both taking part in European cup competitions. The fans from the Mersey travelled everywhere to follow their teams and on these travels the opportunity came to literally smash, grab and steal whatever goods were available on the continent. This usually meant exclusive designer clothing.

Steaming in. Old School.

The skinheads that attended football matches in the late 60’s and early 70’s started to get their steel toe-capped Doctor Martin boots taken away as a safety measure and at some grounds and the laces were removed by the Police at others. Skinhead fashion was always aggressively working class and the Police now had an easily recognizable target for trouble started at football. A movement to supersede the ‘boot boys’ was hiding just around the corner.

The police confiscating boots and laces.

English football casuals took every chance to watch the national team play, with every trip abroad becoming working holidays for some.  Stolen gear was sold as soon as the casuals were back in the UK. Labels started appearing that today sound familiar but in the 80’s, Lacoste, Sergio Tachinni, Ellesse, Gabichi and Fila held certain mysticism for lads that wanted to stay one step of their rivals in the fashion and fighting stakes.

Unlikely Style icons.

The casual look and attitude was just what the football lads needed to avoid the police detection that the skinheads suffered before them. The establishment didn’t expect anyone involved in football violence to be wearing a dearstalker hat, a Barbour jacket and Italian desinger tracksuits.

Footwear also played a huge part in the casual scene and Addidas were at the forefront of innovative trainer production during this period. Adidas have re-issued an Originals range that includes the casual classics Forest Hills and Trim Trabb. Fila and Sergio Tachinni have also released vintage  clothing ranges that use the original designs that were first produced in the 80’s. It just goes to show that there is still a market for these garments and the film industry has also helped with this resurgence. Never turn up at a football match with a bastard pair of trainers on – ask anyone who did, they won’t do it again!

Trim Trabb. Timeless.

As the labels started flooding the terraces, new streams of fashion appeared every week. Lads who once had cropped hair and thought long hair was for girls sported the much groomed wedge haircut. People that were looking like they had stepped off a tennis court or from an 80’s music video started travelling up and down the country on trains using cheap rail fare tokens torn from Persil washing powder boxes.

The inspiration for the wedge haircut. 

 Persil – All good clean fun.

For the football following youth of the 80’s, it was an adventurous and exciting time. Getting off a ‘Football Special’ train with all your mates, dressed to the nines and bowling about like you owned the place, was just the beginning of the buzz. Travelling to certain grounds for out of town supporters was becoming very risky business during the casual era but this was also part on the buzz. If there were just a few of you – you may have got the classic line, “ere mate, you got the time?” Always a tense moment for anyone in this situation, if your accent wasn’t regional, then your luck was up. This was a cue for it to “kick off.” For those that travelled in big numbers the thought in the back of the minds was one of anticipation. If you were confronted by another mob that were not going to let you stroll about like you owned the place it was game on in terms of the fighting. Week in week out, lads from all over the country got addicted to the buzz of football adrenaline and fashion changes. Just like youth cults before it, casual was new, exciting, and dangerous and people put a real effort and passion into it.

The early days of the “Football Special” trains.

The casual scene does exist to this day but not in the sense that it once did. Mass production has reduced the quality of a lot of goods and the ability to ship things from all over the world at a click of a button has taken away the one – upmanship that was once the essence of the casual culture.

“Dressers” still attend football matches, listen to decent music and look the part and if anything casual needs more dedication than ever. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen people wearing the same things at football, but I can memorize the amount of times that I have seen the way someone is dressed and football and thought, that person looks smart in every sense. It’s all about being clued up, as they say.

Stone Island – One of the most ubiquitous casual labels.

Casual was also a youth culture that had mass diversity when it came to the music that was in any discerning casual’s collection. I bet if you asked three people who were into the scene in the early 80’s about the music they listened to, you would get three different answers.

Ska, Reggae, Punk, Electro, Oi, Northern Soul, Madchester, Rave, all genres that attracted the casuals. Bands even had casual elements at gigs. The Cockney Rejects had a West Ham Following, The Farm had a huge following in Liverpool, Chelsea fans amongst others loved the early Ska and early Reggae, Cock Sparrer attracted football fans from many different clubs but there was one band that unified casuals more than any – The Jam.

The Jam had the lot. They looked sharp, had a style that set them apart and most importantly, they were brimming with vitriolic anger and were 100% working class. The Jam crossed paths with the Skins, Punks, Mods, Casuals and Soul Boys and to be honest, I can’t think of a band in history that had an audience as diverse as The Jam. The Jam are and were the ultimate casuals band. What was to follow would change it all.

The Jam. “Life is new and there’s things to be done”.

In the late 80’s, the rave scene came along and the casuals found a different reason to travel the length and breadth of the country. It wasn’t a new cup competition, it was dancing rather than fighting that was on the agenda. The ‘top boys’ from football firms all around the country started attending and putting on raves. People that were once fighting on the terraces were now hugging in fields.

From tooled up to loved up.

The drug ecstasy started a new wide-eyed revolution and the thought of getting up for a football match after dancing for ten hours or more was becoming less appealing for most. Dropping an’E’ and raving to acid house music became the craze of the 90’s and again the police got involved. 20,000 people dancing to thumping music in a field, whilst taking drugs was too much again for those in power. Add a sleepy farmer waking up to bass and bleeps at three in the morning, co-operation was thin on the ground. Middle England was up in arms, yet again.

The Criminal Justice bill was introduced in the early 90’s to quash any illegal events that were taking place in the UK and the rights of anyone meeting in groups for any public activity was becoming harder.

The Rave scene in its original state was put to bed and to anyone that was there at the start, it felt like it never recovered.

A common site at most grounds these days.

The Criminal Justice Bill included something that spelt trouble for anyone involved in football related violence going into the mid 90’s and beyond. The Section 60, which increased police powers of unsupervised “stop and search” was introduced. The police now had the power to take photographs of known football firms and banning orders and prison sentences were the final death knell for anyone involved in football related instances from the early 90’s onwards. Put a CCTV camera on every street corner and the risk for most now outweighed the buzz of the original football scene. For many the game is over but for others the adrenaline is as pure as it always was…

“We’re the stars of CCTV.”

In the next part of this feature, I decided to speak to some of the people that were involved in the casual scene in the 80’s

Starting with Cass Pennant, who was part of West Ham’s Inter City Firm and was in and around the subculture from the start. Cass has written numerous related football books, had a film about his life made and most recently released a DVD on casual culture itself, ‘Casuals.’

Looking back, how has the casual scene changed and personally do you think it is still alive and kicking today? 

“The original casual scene at its height and will always be the tennis wear heyday from 81-84, then came the rave era in 87, that started and was the blowing out of the casual scene until the Stone Island, Burberry and Aquascutum baseball cap wearing 90s which was finally for me when the entire North were all dressing and going to England games.

Not much changed, except the loss of hair and expanding waistbands until the vision of Neil Primet started a retro clothing company called ’80’s Casual Classics’ after noticing old skool casuals had used E-Bay to locate the finest gear we ever wore in the 80’s and now its all relevant today with all those 80’s brands back on our high streets. It should never be too mainstream for some of us, but the big difference is, nobody is following anyone as to what is in or out, it’s really personal choice and also the joy of getting gear in XL and XXL, which being a original fashion of youth is something of a big give-away as to who are the real authentic wearers. Another give-away is a white sole on your Diadora Borg Elite or Adidas Forest Hills trainers.

Cass Pennant with Peter Hooton from The Farm.

What music were you listening to at the time of the casual movement?

The early London football casual scene was sort of 78-80 and so diverse musically and because you had these different and rival subcultures driven by youth that used their UB40 cards to get into gigs cheaper, or they became of part of a band entourage by being roadies, or even forming their own bands. The transit hire van would stop off somewhere from an away match to catch a band on tour and depending who it was they’d be following that scene for next few games. The East End boys did them all, from Sham 69, The Jam, Cockney Rejects and the mod revival going on at the Bridge House in Canning Town – this was the Newham area lads, the Essex lads were far older, they were still Floyd, Zepp’ and pub venues that played classic rock, while the non-East London West Ham lads I knew were very much ‘soul boys’ that followed the Ilford, Canvey Island and Southend club scenes. The Lyceum ballroom I avoided, as much of the West End had North and South London football lads.

My stand alone memory of the time, was a transit drive to Madrid for Castilla v West Ham in the Cup Winners Cup. Everyone took their own cassette tapes and having won the FA Cup beating Arsenal, the Cockney Rejects tracks ‘Bubbles’ and ‘West Side Boys’ were all the rage. Then Grant Fleming forced on pirate tracks of an Irish band he said was U2 -total different sound to anything we had heard and continued plays had everyone blown away by time we drove into Madrid.

The East End was now turning to disco pubs from Stratford to Bethnal Green full of posers but wearing your MA jacket to football and then going to gigs was still all about being a tasty geezer. Then the pirate soul radio of JFM and Horizon etc exploded around the same time. The younger football lads I call the ‘Thatcher’s children’ started to put the colour into Casual, with the track tops, fraying the Lois cord bottoms and diamond Pringle jumpers. By the time I’d come out of doing remand and then a prison sentence from 81 and’82, that one-time geezer crew had firmly got into Jazz funk, Brit funk and into birds. Great days for the music of Southern Freez, Beggar & co, Shakatak, all them – never forget it. We all went to the same places but like as one now, with the black lads from Leytonstone and Canning town all properly on the firm.

The Cockney Rejects. The pride of the East End.

Why do you think casuals had such a diverse taste in music considering most youth movements stuck to one or two genres?

The football lads would often be the influential in crowd by nature but on the terraces it’s a gathering of various groups with the common ground being supporters of the same team. Travel had opened up to be affordable with firms now travelling to the game and for some of us it had become part of the day and adventure. Going to different towns taught you about different music scenes on a regular basis. Before that, youth sub-cultures remained regional and only ventured out on bank holidays, or to venues and gigs that entertained only their own sub-culture, while the football casual scene was a sub-culture born off the terraces and unlike every movement before it was not coming from music. Think about it, the teddy boys hit off from rock & roll, the original skins, it was from the reggae, mods from beat clubs, soul boys South and North came from the club scene and the punks from punk music. The casuals never came from any music link, so it was always going to out last the movements that created their scene from the music and die with it the moment it becomes mainstream.

Freez and their brand of funky dance.

What were your favourite items of clothing during the casual era and your worst?

The distinct black and white dog tooth patterned full length beltless Burberry mac that I wore in the Hooligan documentary about the ICF in the 1984-5 season. Same film that I bellowed out the now infamous quote of , “Kiddie Firm” to the Chelsea hordes on the train opposite us wearing a bright blue Burberry short Harrington style jacket. Both these items were unique and one-offs for their colour and pattern, because at the time the tin-tack macs were like FBI style coats in only navy or beige, same with their jackets. The bright blue Burberry I acquired from Spanish mainland while on a day trip shopping from the fighting going on in Magaluf between rival English football firms. The overcoat mac was from Burberry and sold as a one-off design they were not going to run with.

My film production ‘Casuals’ has everyone wanking over their trainers and what must my pair of size 12, all white Ellesse, long pointy nose shape that the lads called my “torpedoes” think? They had the Ellesse badge protruding out on the back of the heel. They were from Europe, from a thieving trip by the Under-Fives who could not find anyone in the pub that was a size 12. By the time they came to me, I knew the reason and would only part with a fiver to teach the thieves a lesson (rob a popular size next time). Never ever in all my travels saw another pair anywhere in the country, I got ribbed for their shape that made them look size a 15 but boy was they the softest leather trainer ever. If I knew the name (That’s the trouble when gear comes unboxed) I would have searched high and low on E-Bay today-they would be worth a mint.

Burberry was the order of the day.

Which songs would you choose to sum up the casual era of the 80’s?

The Whispers – And the Beat Goes On, because of a mental mad weekend in Blackpool with the young ICF. We had it with groups of Burnley, Man Utd, Leeds, Celtic and everywhere we went, one of us had to carry the portable double-decker tape player that everyone called, (totally politically incorrect to say now) ‘Ghetto Blasters’. Our escape was made from the guest-house when word came back to us that all these firms were now joining up looking for West Ham Cockneys. So after a mad dash, we enter the station running, where we came across Man City and Wigan having it. Decide now, wait for the train, or pick a side and join the fight? Wigan outnumbered, so we sided with them and saw City off. Wigan and West Ham on same train and buddies now, then as we approach near Crewe, the Wigan we had helped, they try turn on us… Which was a big mistake.

The same Whispers track (pre-release off pirate radio) was on continuous play on this massive silver double deck tape recorder and someone commented and we all nodded in agreement that the film ‘The Warriors’ had nothing on us as the Inter-City hurtled back South. That song and weekend summed up a dawn of the casual in West Ham ranks. A young crew of unknowns, dressed like London spivs and fought like gangsters, that had gone from Cockney Rejects into Jazz funk and soul overnight – like Jam to Style Council, plus this new attitude of have money and will travel together and with the Thatcher attitude that everything starts and ends at London. These boys emerging were like all mini guv’nors.

The Whispers – And the Beat Goes on.

The North’s liking for the electro beat bands never really did it for our lot but if it had a terrace anthem edge to it like ‘Don’t you Want Me Baby’ byThe Human League they would be in on the sing-along, but if I go back to Brit-Funk outfit Freez when in ’83 their video I.O.U was first seen. The casuals I knew were quick to notice the Sergio Tacchni wear, with the split frayed Lois jeans and cords worn by the kids body-popping in the video, wearing Nike Wimbledon’s and Adidas Samba.

An absolute classic. This was the future.

Cass’ casuals DVD is well worth a watch for anyone interested in this subject matter and is available on DVD now.


The next person for the interview treatment was Garry Bushell. Garry wrote for the music paper Sounds in the 80’s and was one of few mainstream journalists aware of casual culture and the people and music involved.

When did you first become aware of the casual movement, as at the time I think you were writing for Sounds?

The Casuals were a terrace phenomenon, they incubated in and around football grounds, so it was predominantly a working class thing and I really became aware of it around 1980/81. The people who became those first Casuals had been Mods, and skinheads, and Glory Boys who I knew. It grew out of other working class cults

At football matches, the police were looking for crops and DMs not blokes in Farahs and trainers with wedge haircuts and too much jewellery; so Casual made sense

The papers were still going on about skinheads for years after the real terrace hooligans had moved on

You put the band Accent on the front cover, which at the time caused quite a stir. Basically, from what I know, seeing a group of smartly dressed lads on the front of a rock magazine was not in keeping with ethos of Sounds. What attracted you to the band?

Sounds had a Mod sensibility at its core, and there are huge parallels between Mod in the sixties and Casual in the early eighties. Think about it, the love of clothes, and looking good, the love of black music, fighting and the odd line of sulphate. They’re the same thing a generation apart. And both were driven by the need to be the best, to be the ace face.

I didn’t go out looking for a casual band, but I had my ear to the ground in those days and I was listening out for anything new and interesting.

Why do you think there were not that many bands that calling themselves “casual”?

When people talk about Mod bands they talk about rock bands like The Who, and the Small Faces, but the music Mods listened to was predominantly black soul music. With the first modernists it was jazz, but then it was Motown and Stax and early Ska. Mods had been going for years before the Who had their first hit. And it felt the same with the first Casuals who were in to black music to begin with. Knowing the roots of the cult, I would have expected a casual band to be a direct descendent of a band like The Jam – that combination of smartness, good tunes and lyrical sharpness. Although having said that, the first band who dressed like Casuals were the East End Badoes from Poplar who played fairly raucous Oi music. They were formed by Skully from West Ham and Terry Hayes who was Millwall, but their career went down the gurgler….

The EEB’s are back! 

Were you surprised at the diversity of the musical tastes of the football crowd?

No, even the people who followed the Cockney Rejects at the start had widely varied musical tastes; people are rarely as easily pigeon-holed as they’d appear to be on the surface

Casual wasn’t music based. I think Casuals were a movement based around fashion, which incubated around football terraces. Suddenly the West Side and The Shed became the cat walks! and the first Casuals valued the hottest new black music : jazz funk and early rap

Derek B. This track blew open the UK rap scene. 

Which three songs, sum up the casual era for you?

From a rock point of view, All Together Now by The Farm, We Are Lost by Accent, The Way It’s Gotta Be by the East End Badoes… although there are jazz-funk songs that touched many more people than the Badoes ever did! More Casuals had heard of Harvey Mason and Bobby Lyle than Terry Hayes, much as I love him.

The Farm – All Together Now

To sum it up. How would you describe the casual movement from a personal point of view?

Casual was about looking good, and being hard and sharp. It wasn’t set in time, it was an evolving look, that started with Lacoste, Slazenger and Pringle and developed into the most exclusive ski wear they could get their hands on. The problem for bands like Accent was by the time they’d come through, most of the actual casuals had moved away from designer labels.


Next up is self-proclaimed former casual and one time member of the casual band Accent, Mick Habenshaw Robinson.

How did you get into the casual scene?
Living in Fulham it was all around – local pubs/ clubs but primarily football. Chelsea was my team. Spotting diamond Pringles, deerstalkers etc.
The legendary Pringle.
Where were you buying your clothes from at the time and what clothes labels do you like these days.
Stuarts in Sheperds Bush mainly but also Aquasctum, Scotch House , Later on Gee2. Now it’s Ralp Lauren, Westwood, Lacoste and Billionaire Boys Club.
How did the band Accent form and what were your influences?
We were all friends and had been in different bands who kind of
grouped together. Brian (singer) and me were the  original and regular members and wrote the songs. Steve, on guitar, was an old mate from school days, Chris, the drummer, was through an advert in a music paper. Influences were The Jam, punk and post punk bands.
How many releases did the band have and how many gigs did you play and was the response to the band positive?  
One single, 50 odd gigs, built up a following and always had a positive/lively response. It got to the stage where we could fill the Fulham Greyhound.
Accent – We are lost.
What bands/artists were you listening to during that period?
The Jam, Clash, New Order I was also getting into soul (through the Jam b-sides initially) some electro as well.
What were your favourite items of clothing at the time and which ones do you think were the worst?
Deer stalkers, I still think that was an amazing sight, the early diamond Pringle jumpers and Trim Trabb trainers.
Personally, I never liked the Bennetton rugby shirts.
The Deerstalker. Yes, these were the rage.
Do you think the casual scene exits still, in any shape or form, or is it all just a re-hash of what went before?
In the ‘Casuals’ DVD it showed the kids who are currently  into the casual/ mod crossover which was nice. I think the knock on effect of casuals is still around, but as a movement, no. There is a cut off age for wearing tracksuits. Ha-ha.
What is your best memory of that Era?
Playing at Chelsea, appearing on the cover of Sounds, Gary Bushell
reviewing our gigs and deer stalker hats! The buzz at football too, it was exciting and also extremely passionate.

Accent’s gig at Stamford Bridge.

What was the reaction to the band after you appeared on the cover of Sounds?
In the Sounds it was awful, they were trad’ rock based. The readers couldn’t stand it all. They hated casuals and football. It did get more people at our gigs and led to an interest from big record labels, although we didn’t get signed.
Did Casual influence in you in any way as you got older and left the scene?

Yes, the attitude and confidence that looking smart can give you and the desire to dress up and wanting to improve yourself in appearance. I always head straight for the Lacoste Shop at the airport, even if I don’t buy anything – just looking in awe at all different colours you can get in a polo shirt.  Ditto with Ralph Lauren. If i’m ever in New York , seeing all the cheap Ralphie gear, I am literally in heaven.

The Lacoste polo shirt. Never out of fashion.

Next up I asked Danny Brown AKA  ‘Black Danny’ who was in Aston Villa’s C-Crew a few questions. Danny wrote a book on his exploits following Villa called ‘Villians’ and was in and around the casual scene as it took off.

When did you first notice the casual scene taking off and where?

I first noticed the casual scene in 1980 with lads kitted out at London clubs in Fred Perry shirts. The following years Manchester and Liverpool lads had a fusion of clothing that was second to none.

How deeply were you into the casual clothes and what were you wearing at the time?

Early 80s when Villa where playing in Europe, I would spend a good deal of time in France and Italy getting those sought after items of clothing such as Lacoste, Fila and Tacchini, which couldn’t be bought in the UK at the time.

What were your favourite items of clothing from that era and the ones you really didn’t like?

My favourite items of clothing; Adidas track suits, samba trainers and Slazenger jumpers. I didn’t like classic Kickers shoes or Ben Sherman shirts.

Adidas Samba. A terrace legend.

What music were you listening to at the time and did you go to a lot of gigs?

Mixed with the rave scene and street culture of the era, I was also into Reggae, Jazz Funk, Rap, R&B.  I went to many gigs all over the country; my favourite club was The Haçienda inManchester. The Haçienda was labelled the most famous club in the world by Newsweek magazine.

If one club defined the 80’s it was Manchester’s Haçienda.

Do you think the casual scene has survived or do you think it’s past its best?

The casual scene is still alive and kicking, though I’d say the format is watered down.

Give us three songs that sum up the era for you?

The Clash – Armagideon Time. Grandmaster Flash – The Message. Dennis Brown – Stop Your Fighting.

The streets of America came to the charts. A timeless 80’s classic.

Do you still go to football much these days and how do you view the modern game with all the SKY TV and multi-Millions of pounds spent on players?

Yes I still go to most home matches atVilla Park, and meet up with the same lads on a Saturday afternoon. Things have changed massively to the extent it’s a different place, with modern stands and building going up left right and centre. If you look at the rate of development within most football grounds, they are almost unrecognizable from the grounds I went to in the 80’s. In some way it’s a shame, but you can’t expect fans to watch Premiership football in an undeveloped ground in these modern times. As for the Sky Sports and the multi-millions of pounds spent on players, to be fair, I don’t blame the players. I hope the people who run the FA have a plan B if Sky Sports decides not to renew contracts.

Lastly, I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone involved in helping with this feature.  Without the help of Cass Pennant, Garry Bushell Mick Robinson and ‘Black Danny’ most of this would have have remained an idea. Cheers and thank you for your help and support.

Footnote: This was written out of a sheer a passion for football, music and clothing. I would never claim to be an ‘expert’ on any of these subjects but I have always loved all three and I hope this feature conveys those feelings and emotions that I have felt for the last three decades.

Here are some links relevant to all the subjects covered in this feature.







Author websites:






The above is Mick Robinson’s radio show. Seriously, this is the best radio show there is!

General sites of interest: