Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Jules - Side By Side / Alone In A Crowd 2011 Interview - Part V

Jules, Lars and Eric with Side by Side at The Anthrax, Norwalk CT, Photo: Boiling Point

Here's part V of our ongoing interview with Jules. This picks up where the last part left off, as Jules was explaining what caused Side By Side to break up, what was happening at that time in the NYHC scene, and how that tied into the formation of Alone In A Crowd. In case you missed part 4 (or the previous parts), go here:

Jules Side By Side 2011
And in case you've been under a rock, here's the latest batch of records Jules is auctioning off here, with ALL money being donated to the Japanese relief effort:
Jules Auction
Take it away Jules... -Gordo DCXX

Just after Side By Side's breakup, this whole nazi skinhead revival thing was happening. There were always a few right wing skinhead types hanging around the NY scene, but prior to maybe mid-'88 they were a superminority. White power was a thing that Skrewdriver sang about in England, and any interest in them in NYHC, as far as I can remember, was purely musical. Even the closest thing to a New York Oi! type skin band at the time, YDL, was not so extreme. Listen to AF and War Zone -- United And Strong and As One were the anthems for the NYHC skins.

Then on the weekends down at Tompkins Square Park, I can remember packs of skinheads showing up -- nobody local knew who they were. And each coming weekend there seemed to be more and more of them. They were "weekend warriors" from Jersey, Pennsylvania, upstate NY...who the hell knew. And they would just come and camp out on the corner, drinking beer until they got bored enough to find some unfortunate soul who just happened to be alone in the wrong place at the wrong time. And the thing is, these guys weren't even going to shows, they'd just come into the city, loiter at NYHC scene hangouts, and cause trouble -- presumably so they would have some "war story" to tell back home.

This caused major problems in the scene. For example, one weekend, they jumped a kid from the alphabet city projects and then split for the suburbs. Well, not long after, a bunch of project kids, with weapons, started sweeping through Tompkins Square attacking anybody who looked even remotely like a skinhead. So a lot of folks that had nothing to do with this got hurt, including some of the toughest guys who used to hang out pretty regularly at the park. There was a crew of old school Krishna consciousness types who you absolutely did not mess with. I remember one of them, I think it was Mike Boyer, got cracked in the knee with a bat. My memory is pretty dim on this, it could've even been John Joseph -- because he used to hang out outside the Alcatraz all the time. Anyway, they went looking for the skinheads who started all this. A bit of a witch hunt followed. But since the instigators were from out of town, I don't know if anyone ever figured out who they were. It would not surprise me if some other innocent got their skull cracked by mistake in the retribution.

Jules and Lars with Side By Side at The Anthrax, Photo: Boiling Point

Then all of a sudden in late 1988, there was a media blitz about Nazi skinheads. All of the talk shows and news magazines started showing all these freaking skins on TV that none of us knew. They were palling around with Tom and John Metzger, who were KKK and Aryan nation types -- from California, I think. These shows made it appear like the third reich was reborn and there were hundreds of thousands of skinheads ready to start a race war. The media loved it. And the white power political organizations loved it because it gave them national media exposure. Geraldo Rivera had a show that ended in a brawl -- he got his nose broken by a chair. Some people think it was staged (I don't know). The video is on YouTube, judge for yourself. A week later, competitor talk show host Morton Downey Jr. had white power skinheads on his show. Sometime after that Morton Downey Jr. was on the front page of the rags, with his head shorn and a swastika drawn on his face, claiming that he was attacked by skinheads in San Francisco. San Francisco. In the airport bathroom. Needless to say, almost everybody believed the attack on Morton Downey Jr. was staged, and his show was canceled soon after.

All the sensationalism and exaggeration was nonetheless a great recruiting tool, apparently. Almost overnight, the white power skinhead population exploded. Every weekend, more and more of these out of town, white power skins started showing up at shows. I don't know what they were thinking -- because they were not welcome. Things got violent.

Tommy Carroll got into a fist fight with this big fat skin at a matinee. Tommy was a boxer, though he hadn't started fighting competitively at this time. This skinhead was like two heads taller than Tommy and about three times his weight. A circle formed around the two in front of CB's -- his buddies were clearly smart enough to know not to gang up on Tommy, 'cause everybody watching would've jumped in to beat their asses. Tommy cracked the guy in the jaw with a right -- and he looked at Tommy shocked like he had never taken a hit like that in his life. Big as he was, nobody probably ever tried. Tommy went low while the guy tried to grapple and started hitting him in the gut. This went on for a while. And, inexplicably, the skinhead just walked away. Tommy let him go. He said to me afterwards the skinhead was just "too fat to fight." I never saw him again. But there seemed to be a never ending supply.

Billy (Side By Side) also had similar problems. Billy's girlfriend at the time was Japanese. She had a skinhead girl haircut (bangs only) and wore Docs. She got attacked at CB's by some white power dicks, and Billy had to step in. This kind of _ _ _ _ started happening with increasing regularity.

And not only was the NYHC scene defending itself physically from the encroaching white power skinhead "movement," we had to deal with the public misperception that we were somehow a part of that movement. I had spent years of my life having dicks say _ _ _ _ to me on the street, throw things at me, etc., because of the way I looked or dressed. But now I had to deal with being called a racist and a nazi to boot. I needed this like a hole in the head. I think a lot of people started phasing out of the scene at this time -- it was just too much of a hassle to even go to shows.

Marcus Pacheco fought back, though. To his credit -- he didn't take it lying down. He formed SHARP and used the media's love affair with the skinheads to call attention to the non-racist hardcore, Oi! and ska scene. I think he and his organization did an admirable job of attempting to educate the general public. I have heard that SHARP later devolved into gang violence, and if true, that is unfortunate. It was a positive thing when it started.

For me, though, I think I was already heading toward the exit. Because in addition to the rise of this white power lunacy, the scene, as I had come to know it, had been pulling itself apart in other ways...



Side By Side at CBGB, NYC, Photo: Bri Hurley


Brandon said...

Wow. Simply epic. Can't wait for the next installment.

Ben Edge said...

I'm sure Morton Downey Jr. was full of shit, but there WERE nazi skins who hung out in San Francisco around that time, on Haight Street of all places in the world. Buena Vista Park (I believe) was nicknamed "Skinhead Hill."

Jim Pitts said...

You are correct about Skinhead Hill Mr Ben....it was called Hippie Hill in the 60's....LOL (quite a swing of ideals)

ShayKM said...

Yeah, have to second Ben's comments here. SF was notorious for Skin violence at shows going back to the Vats and the early mission scene. And yes that concrete semi-circle bench at the bottom of the park was always littered with Nazi/Skin graffiti. Fuckin' dunces. And this was just a block or so from the Anarchist bookstore and a primary school!!!

Years later I saw this begin to plague the Gilman scene. Skin gangs from all around the Bay Area would converge if any lefty political bands would play. Saw fights weekly for a while. It always seemed than Ben Econochrist was fighting back. And I remember Dave MDC chasing some guys back across the street one night waving a chair! These Skin assholes even brought dogs.

SoCal was even worse. Just awful going back to the mid-80s.

I find it a little strange that Jules wouldn't have noticed that the Nazi Skin scene was always part of the NY punk scene. It certainly didn't start in '88. And it DID involve a lot of people who later disavowed being part of that scene.

But awesome interview... just keeps getting better...

Nicky Dirt said...

Yo, Andrew Scum!!

Mr. Lee said...

In late '87 five of my friends who knew very little about the HC scene got seriously stabbed on 8th Street by some out-of-town, cowardly WP boneheads who were looking for trouble (rumor had it later they were from CT, or was it PA)... Needless to say, yeah, some of the wrong people got blamed. A crazy time for sure.

Anonymous said...

a friend of mine from england, he was playin' in "the fits", told me than around '85 the skinhead nazi scum almost killed the english hardcore punk scene.

B Aggro said...

It is a shame. Boneheads have their own venues, they have their own music genre RAC and they have their own festivals/hangouts. Why do they need to come to our stuff? Why? I mean they just gonna get beat up or arrested. Is it even worth it?

Anonymous said...

ahhhh post the next installment already!!!