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The Story of Skinhead with Don Letts
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This thoughtful, troubling film from Don Letts shows how a joyful movement became hijacked by thugs and bigots. To the point where even the title of this programme will be off-putting to some. But the precursor to all the hooliganism was a teen obsession with Jamaican ska. Kevin Rowland recalls, “We saw the Pioneers, we saw Desmond Dekker and we loved them. It was completely multiracial.” And Letts is at pains to celebrate both the fashion before the fascism – reflected in increasingly ugly 70s archive – and the style revival.
The music journeys from reggae to punk and Oi! via a sobering social history that demonstrates how violence poisons wholly innocent arenas. Pauline Black of 2 Tone band the Selecter perhaps sums up the bad old days best: “I still don’t understand how any skinhead could keep that contradiction within themselves of loving the music and feeling that it’s perfectly acceptable to practise racism.”
The director and 6Music presenter offers a first-hand account of the skinhead movement, tracing its origins in the 1960s as a `harmonious subgroup' through to its evolution throughout the 1970s and 1980s into a `threatening and bigoted subculture steeped in far-right politics and violence'. Don reflects on the movement's social impact across music, style and culture, its modern-day legacy, and its associated stigma associated by exploring white power nationalists in the US, fascist revivalists in Italy and Neo-Nazis in Germany.
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