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Angelscarf Group

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They called them smoothies, bovver boys, hard mods or simply: bootboys. Working class kids growing up in Great Britain's notoriously socially stratified milieu during the late 60s/early 70s with a disdain for anything reeking of the upper or middle classes, like their progeny in the contemporary bourgeois hippie subculture. They had an affinity for close cropped or mod-length hair, steel-toe boots (huge asset in street fights), straight Levi jeans or Sta-Prest trousers, suspenders (braces) and buttoned-up shirts alongside a penchant for short, simple and loud guitar based tunes with anthem-like choruses, strongly prevalent in the glam rock hits of the day. It is those shouted choruses, like chants on the stadium terraces, cheering on the favorite team playing the beautiful workers' game known as football, that resonate as a primal call to arms. The aristocracy had organized and codified football but it was the lower classes that played it. Bootboys became synonymous with violent encounters between rival football club supporters with many participants being sent to tough as nails juvenile detention facilities called Borstal "schools."

The following is a soundtrack of sorts for the years '69-'74, when these bootboys lived and breathed these tunes. Disclaimer: the term proto-oi! is not a revisionist attempt to claim that this is, sonically speaking, what came to be known as skinhead oi!. Bands like Cock Sparrer/Sham 69/Cockney Rejects and the like are responsible for that. I will postulate that kids who became skinheads in the late 70s and 80s heard these tunes in their pre-teen years and were subconsciously influenced by them as well as seeing older brothers/cousins dressing up in boots and braces along with being surrounded by football culture. The glam rock influence would appear to be the complete antithesis to the bootboy ethos, what with its flamboyant and androgynous fashion sense, but sharp, catchy bootboy glam songs underpinning a basic rock 'n' roll beat proved to be a source of future reference for the no-fuss, pure impact sound of the skinhead oi! brigade in the decades that followed. Put yourself in the mindset of a teenage yob in that time period: Your school grades aren't exactly stellar, and the prospect of Borstal or a dreary factory or mill job awaits you. All you can look forward to is listening to loud tunes, dressing sharp, being one of the boys, rooting for your local team and waiting for the weekend drinking benders, 'cause everyone knows Saturday night's all right for fighting.

Take some '66 Pete Townsend power chords, lyrics about going down the terraces on a Saturday night with mates looking for a "punch up" as played by a band composed of flares and braces wearing bootboys and mods; then you have a basic component of the skinhead oi! ethos in it's embryonic stage. Jook put out five glam and power pop-tinged singles between '72 and '74 & a posthumous EP in '78, from which this 1974 song is taken. They clearly wrote from direct experience, in the language of their brethren in the Different (working) Class: "Doc Martens and Crombies [overcoats], all tooled up as well. If you come to cheer, you better stay clear, you'll sign your own death knell."

"Forever Blowing Bubbles" was a Tin Pan Alley hit from the early 20th century that became the official anthem for West Ham United, a football club based out of London's East End. One of oi!'s leading lights, the Cockney Rejects, immortalized the song on a 45 from 1980, but legions of bootboys had previously sung it at the top of their lungs on the terraces, especially directed at supporters of their traditional rivals from the Millwall Football Club. The feeling of camaraderie, massive singalong choruses and cheering your squad on against a common enemy are all vital components of oi! music's DNA and subsequent blueprint.

I would frequently see Fresh's 1970 Fresh Ou


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