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Skinheads and British Hells Angels examined in 1969 BBC documentary
12:23 pm

Pop Culture

Hells Angels

Through their American counterparts, I’m fairly familiar with the skinhead movement of working class Britain (racist, fascist , even anti-racist), but I had no idea there were British Hells Angels.

The documentary itself is fairly removed from the subject matter, but does a decent job at providing some objective insight. While they observe that the self-styled Hells Angels appear to have somewhat limited self-awareness—strange half-hearted adoptions of culture and ritual for which they have no context (these guys weren’t even an officially Hells Angels-sanctioned chapter, that started happening in the UK later in 1969, oddly after George Harrison got involved). But the violent potential of the racist skinheads is treated with gravity. When they interview them one on one, you can see that their relationship with the subculture is based as much in their own young alienation as it is with reactionary politics and working class rage.

What’s at risk of being another youth-culture moral panic piece is actually a fairly nuanced time-capsule look at these then emerging subcultures of disenfranchised youth.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
A must-see documentary on England’s Hells Angels, from 1973

As they motor off into the neon-lit night, their leader, Mad John can be heard shouting, ‘Hey, if the LSD don’t get us, then the cannabis will.’ It’s part joke, part bravado, a youthful two-fingers up to the world.

Made in 1973, this is a fascinating documentary, if at times funny through its overly sensationalist tone, on the Hells Angels Motor Cycle Club of England - ‘900ccs or over’. It follows the dozen-or-so members of the London Chapter, established in 1969, by a transatlantic decree from the Californian Hells Angels. The London Chapter is run by Mad John (who first appeared in court aged 12, and had 5 other convictions at the time this film was made), and his Sergeant-at-Arms, Karl (who considers himself a psychopath, and was once so violently assaulted his eyes were popped out from their sockets, and were replaced in cross-eyed).

We follow Mad John and Karl as they prepare to take a ride down to the coast. The film tellingly reveals John’s visit to his ex-partner who is unimpressed by the Angels and their juvenile antics. Unable or unwilling to talk to his wife or children, Mad John spends the visit collecting mail and playing with his Alsatian dog Hitler. John has an naive and unhealthy interest in Nazi’s, and towards the end of the film makes an odd analogy between Hitler’s vision for an Aryan Germany with his vision for a Universal Chapter of Hells Angels.

Inadvertent comedy comes from a Python-like interview with one of the Angels’ moms (‘He’s a nice boy, really’), and the Chapter’s failure to make it all the way down to the coast. Instead, they end up on a disused canal barge Katrina, where the Angels spend the night drinking, smoking and er…watching Doctor Who.


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Bill Ray’s photos of biker women 1965
01:06 am


Hells Angels
Bill Ray

Digging the music. Biker women in San Bernadino, 1965

The girl kneeling by the jukebox is Ruthie and she’s the ‘old lady’ of Harvey, a Diablos member from San Bernardino. Harvey attends Angels’ meetings and rides with them but is not a member. It’s only two in the afternoon but Ruthie has already ‘crashed’ from beer and bennies .”

On assignment for Life Magazine in 1965, photographer Bill Ray spent a month hanging out with the Mother Charter of the Hells Angels (est. 1948) in San Bernadino, California. Life never published the photos, though they’ve recently made them available on their website. Last year Ray’s photographs were collected in book form, Hells Angels Of San Berdoo, that you can buy here.

The photograph of the two biker chicks at the jukebox is one of Bill Ray’s favorites and mine too.

Bill Ray ruminates on the photo:

There’s something kind of sad and at the same time defiant about the atmosphere. Ruthie is probably playing the same 45 over and over and over again. A real music lover.”

While all of Ray’s photographs are extraordinarily expressive and strikingly composed, his shots of the women are the ones that really get to me. Badass, beautiful and forlorn. These chicks could eat today’s hipsters for breakfast. I want to know them.

More photos after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Footage of Hunter S. Thompson and the Hells Angels
12:45 pm


Hunter S. Thompson
Hells Angels

(via Cynical C)


Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment