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A Life in the Day of a Skinhead



Week one in a new Sounds series probing the minds and morals of you kt out there. Who sayswe haven't got a social conscience...? Interview by Garry Bushell
John Butler is just 20. A tall tattooed West Ham supporter from East Ham in East London and one of the first of the second coming of skinheads. He's unemployed and lives at home with his father.

'I 'ave worked off and on, mostly labouring. I 'ad a good job before digging roads to be tarmacked. It was only good because of the money. I've been on the dole this time for about six months. I get £18.57 a week. Before if you 'ad long 'air and you went for a job, they'd go 'Bleedin' 'ippie' but now they think ''ere's trouble' straight away. They don't want to know.
"The way I see it I aint going to get a job. If I 'ad an apprenticeship I would 'ave worked, but the only way I'd settle down now in a job is when I get married. Other than that I don't think I should work cos when your married you 'ave to work to keep a family, don't yer, but when you're young you might as well 'ave a good time. I'm 'aving a good time, it's great.
"I spend most on going out and beer. I don't give me dad any, except £1 telephone money. I 'ave to pay the telephone. Me mum don't live at 'ome. My dad works at Truman's checking out the lorries. I'm up the Bridge all day, cos Darren's out of work, and Laurie's out of work. We play records. In the evening we go to the Bridge first then the Roebuck, Kings Road till about eleven. Then there's always a party, every weekend, like a squat, never an ordinary 'ouse. In the week it's dead.
"I can't remember when I became a skin'ead. It was either this side of Christmas or the other side, but it was only about a week either way. I was a punk, but I got fed
up with punk. It's died now. When you go out you see a lot of punks, but other than that you don't see 'em.
"Me mates Gary and Vince were skins and they said 'You might as well become a skin' and I said I don't wanna be one of them, it's silly innit. But then I saw more and more and it seemed like a good idea. I was a mini- skin'ead as well, back in '69.
"Skin'ead dress is Fred Perry's, buttondowns, Levis - but it's got to be red tag, or Levi Sta-Prest for going out. Boots are in, but at football you get the laces nicked so we wear brogues. I wear steel-toed brogues. I don't wear braces. Well, I wear them but they're an egg - liklike they pull yer trousers up and you loose yer bollocks. You walk around going (high voice) 'Oh 'ello"
"To get 'old of the stuff now, it's a joke. Ben Sherman's don't sell the ones they used to sell before. Other than that I can't stand the dopey skins you see now with big flares. Skin'eads with flares, it don't look right, does it? The geezers I can't stand, why a lot of our lot is starting to change from skin'ead to mod, are the little kids now walking along all cocky, bumping into people.
"When it first started we just wanted to be different. We didn't want to be fashion, we wanted to be anti-fashion but we didn't want to be punk, and that's 'ow skin came about. Punk was middle class, the price of the gear, £3 for a pair of bondage strides, it's out of order, innit.
"When skin'eads first started out it was
all hate the wogs, kills the Pakis. 1 don't like em but I wouldn't go out of me way to 'ave a go at them. But then again I ain't an anti- Nazi. I ain't anti-Nazi and I ain't NF, I'm just in between. They don't bother me being there. It's no skin off my back, they're doing jobs I don't wanna do, terrible jobs like London Transport.
"To me a skin'ead is a geezer who wears the proper clothes and who's got the right beliefs. He's got to follow punk. Before it 'ad no chance, following reggae bands. How could they follow 'em? They were over the other side of the Atlantic or wherever it is. We couldn't associate with them. But now there's punk and skins can associate themselves with punk.
"Anything punk I will go and see, even if people say they're the worst band going around, cos everyone's got different views, ain't they. Look at the stuff that gets in the charts.
"'Alf the skin'eads now, they seem to have got a thing they are the enemies of punk, but 'ow can they be the enemies of punk cos loads of skin'eads used to be punks. 'Ow can you go against something that you've been. I don't like soulboys. They're all posers. Their stuff's more expensive than punk's.
"Now with soul, I won't say I like it. I don't like all that fast stuff in discos. It's ill the same innit, all synthesisers. The sort of thing I like, I like Rose Royce, I think they're terrific. Everyone takes the piss out of me for liking that. And I like George Benson too, I went to see 'im at the Albert 'All. I think 'e's terrific.
"I don't buy LPs, just singles. Mainly the ringles I buy are well known ones, I don't buy records I 'aven't 'eard. Personally I like Sham, Clash, Siouxsie And The Banshees. The Tickets are alright, but they've got a Lit boring, I've seen 'em too many times.
"I like reggae and that, but I don't like the reggae nowadays. Cos now they don't sing for us, they're singing all about Babylon and dread. Well that ain't got nothing to do with me, has it. I 'ain't got a big dub 'at and things like that, 'ave I?
"I don't mind blacks, the quiet ones. Li ke the kids I used to know at school used talk like me, all Cockney, but when they get about 16 they all wanna talk 'bloodclat', they all change their language, I don' that, it's all put on.
"I was up Stratford clinic and I saw this geezer I used to know at school talking all like that so I said what 'appened to the wayyou used to talk. He said, 'That ain't cool then 'e started talking like us. So there's no need for them to talk like it. And that walk they do ...(laughs)
"I believe there's a God, but not the God like everyone goes to church about. I read this book, and I've believed it ever since, that God was an astronaut. We'ad it at school, we done it in English, and I thought t'riffic, best theory I ever 'eard, cos how can you turn all them fishes and loaves like that?
"I've been a West 'Am supporter all me life. I think the first match I went to was the '64 Cup Final. I left it out last season but I'm going this season. Millwall are up next week. We didn't think they were coming, but some geezer I know works where all the Millwall supporters work and he said they're definitely coming but they're coming about quarter past three. They ain't coming to watch the match. Everyone's just going to sit in Queens, we won't bother to go to football.
"I'm going to Millwall away. I went for Arry Cripps testimonial. It was a bit bad. West 'Am made up a song an' all: 'We're all mad, we're insane, we throw Millwall off the train.' On the telly with Millwall it's all' 'We're the greatest, we're the best in London', but when they meet up with people they're useless.
"I watch football at 'ome but away you don't get to watch the match. When you go to away matches you've always got to go in the other team's end. That's the idea, to go in the 'ardest end. Everyone says Manchester United or Liverpool are the best fans, but West Ham, it's only a small club and the amount of people they take to away matches, it's unbelievable.
"I've been picked up loads of time, but I've never been done. I'm lucky. Three times I've bin picked up at football, but one was for a good cause cos I never 'ad a Cup Final seat. I think West 'Am striped everyone up for the Cup Final. They issued all these vouchers for 'ome matches but you never got one if you went away. You 'ad to 'ave this lucky number. I went to every single away match and I never got a ticket! I was gutted and there was a camera outside the Final and they were filming this geezer waving a ticket so I swiped it and got caught.
"I do get in fights. I never specifically go out for fights, but if someone starts I ain't gonna go 'Oh sorry mate'.
"With us you're either a mingeor a chap. A minge is any one who ain't in our crew. The chaps are like Gary Dickle and Vince who arranged with Sham to play the Bridge, and Nicky Chapp and Lloyd. We don't 'ave individual rips. That's a girl. Girls we call rips or wenches. We ain't nice to girls. There's millions of girls who 'ate my guts.
"If you want a girl like in a disco we don't put ourselves out and go Allo 'ow are you' like. We just go 'D'you wanna know, yes or no.' I've tried it the other way and you get pissed all over. You always end up in love the other way. If you start out with you the boss you can't go wrong. If we romance in our little group we take so much verbal it's unbelievable.
"We got two sets of rips, six in one set, six in the other. Say like on a Friday night you might feel all randy, you just go out the back with them or round their 'ouse. But other than that you don't put yourself out and we ain't got no scruples either, we'll go with the ugliest birds.
"There was this really ugly bird at some squat. She was the fattest thing I've ever seen and the ugliest. She was like an 'Ells Angel's bird. Well I thought for a skin'ead to pull an 'Ells Angel's bird that's terrific innit. That's why I was up Stratford Clinic.
"The only time you bother with nice girls is when you want to get married. You put yourself out then. When you're young you've got to put yourself about a bit. And girls don't get treated nice with us. I don't know whether they like it but they stay with us. We say 'Jivel,' that's another word for a bird, 'Jivel, do this Jiveldo that' and if they don't they get 'it. We've got no scruples about 'itting girls. Course, if you're one of them blokes who thinks it's not nice to hit girls, a lot of girls will prey on that and do everything they can to annoy you. And if you count to ten instead of 'itting them she'll think 'What a c***',' inside they'll be laughing their 'ead off.
"See if you're nice to girls you get captured. A couple of us 'ave been captured by birds and they're only in the group like part-time now.
"I'm not interested in politics. All my mates said vote 'National Front' so I did, but it ain't nothing to me. National Front might say now 'we're going to do this and that' but if they got into power it'd be terrible.
"Me old man's Labour, I think. But to me when the Labour get in or the Tories they'll do something for yer for the first few months but after that they shit on yer. If the Conservatives got in it'd be terrible -Maggie Thatcher, what an old bag. I say I ain't got no scruples but I couldn't go with 'er. She'll probably sue me now."

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