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It all started 18 months ago with a meeting in a pub. Daz, Steve, Fluff and myself met up to discuss a new venture - our own sound system. We had recently been to an Axis sound system night in Huddersfield and had had conversations with Paul Axis as to the cost of building a basic system that would be suitable for playing reggae from vinyl. The four of us had been playing together for a while but the equipment was all begged, borrowed and stolen. It wasn't very reliable and hadn't a great sound. It seemed the cost was within budget and we agreed to go ahead and have the thing built. The first custom-made sound system for the Boots, Bellies & Braces crew.
Within months, the system arrived. 4 equal sized boxes for ease of transporting - two mid & top speakers and two bass speakers, each was made from thick 15mm+ ply. The electronics was basic but effective - a two channel amp and a graphic equalizer. The sound was superb - exactly what we had expected.
With a retro looking system in mind, I had suggested we leave the wood grain showing and I had some designs based on woodstain and white highlights that I was going to decorate the boxes with. A weekend was set aside to do it and I set to work transferring the designs onto the speakers
Boots, Bellies & Braces (as the self-deprecating name suggests) is all about the fun and the music. We're not really trying to compete with the big sound systems like Phil Bush's but we can at the drop of a hat, bundle the gear into a borrowed van and play a set in a small pub, rattle the fascia on the front and annoy the neighbours. I must admit, it's not been easy and it's been a costly venture for something that is purely a hobby horse. Fluff's revival of Close Shave left him less and less time spare and he has dropped out now. Ollie has been nominated as the new fourth member of the crew albeit not a full stakeholder in the system.
Our next scheduled outing is 23rd February at Suited and Booted, The Anchor Pub in Clowne near Chesterfield. Admission is £5. We will be playing part set with Moz and Jon Farmer. For more info contact Moz 0781163458.
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I met some of the Spy Kids in 1986 at a Business gig and kept in touch ever since. On my first visit to Glasgow I was introduced to Eldorado - a sort of local winos drink a bit like sherry that lived up to its name of Electric Soup (A bottle can be seen in the shot above). The Spy Kids were sharply dressed, avid reggae lovers and proud of it. The cause was helped along by a mini ska revival that came along shortly after in 1988. They received a lot of publicity as they appeared to be the figureheads of what the media found to be a new twist to their usual skinhead coverage.
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So boots are just boots then? Not necessarily. Nowadays the Doctor Martens AirWair is the most common skinhead boot but this has not always been the case.
Dr. Klaus Maertens had the idea for the Airwair Sole but it was the Griggs shoemakers in Northampton that made the boot. Other alternative boots were also made during the seventies, including Hawkins boots and Sergeant Peppers (which were pretty dire). When I started living in Leeds in the mid 80s, a shop still sold Hawkins boots. The stock they had were too small a size for a man but looked very good quality with AirWair soles like a DM boot.
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First published in a music magazine in the mid 70s (I only have cuttings so I cannot remember what it is called - Story of Pop I think).