Punk Front to RAC – 1977-80
ROCKING THE REDS
From PUNK FRONT to ROCK AGAINST COMMUNISM
Spitting anarchy and chaos, the Sex Pistols heralded the arrival of the punk revolution in late 1976. The idea of a marriage between the National Front (NF) and the anarchy of punk was unthinkable, all except for one person, Eddy Morrison, the National Front (NF) Leeds District Organiser. He convinced himself that punk could become a powerful weapon if it could be turned politically. The Reds had already thrown their poisonous tentacles around punk, mobilising both punk and reggae bands to play for its Rock Against Racism (RAR) formed in reaction to the growing support for the National Front. Leeds was soon a hive of RAR activity, hosting the second ever RAR concert in 1977. However, Eddy Morrison was not one to be easily dissuaded, explaining:
We either had to condemn Punk or use it. I chose the latter option and started a spoof fanzine called Punk Front which featured a NF logo with safety pin in it. To my great surprise, Punk Front was a huge success and soon, especially in Leeds, NF members and supporters were going to the biggest Punk Club around – the infamous F Club. I started to regularly go to the club and NF Punks were recruiting other punks.
The fanzine Punk Front ran for five issues and almost immediately attracted enormous attention and support, surprising everyone. At the same time Eddy Morrison continued with his British News newsletter, which aligned itself with the NF. Leeds NF was supportive of his efforts to bring in new recruits for the cause and bring them in it did, even though some of its older members were shocked by their punk appearance! By 1978, Leeds NF numbered just over 400 members.
Darren J, who joined the NF in 1977 aged 16, acknowledges the impact Eddy Morrison had:
After a year of boring meetings with people three times my age and endless soul destroying house to house leafleting, Eddy Morrison burst on to the scene. I instantly hit it off with Eddy and his youth organiser Steve G. and both became good friends. It’s hard to explain how charismatic Eddy was in those days, he held people’s loyalty and the people he had around him were all hand picked for that reason.
Like Eddy Morrison, Darren J. was an early punk convert, whereas Steve G.’s taste in music was much more conventional. Darren J. never dressed as a punk and this was the case with many of those who joined the Punk Front. Photos of the Punk Front show members wearing the full regalia of a variety of youth cultures from punks, skinheads, mods and rockers, all rallied to the message being played. At any other time they would only be in their own establishments and would more than likely be in direct competition with each other.
An issue constantly made by the sneering musical press, was that while RAR overwhelmingly attracted a very middle-class audience, Punk Front and its metamorphosis RAC was firmly a working-class phenomenon: a cry or rallying call from those most affected by imposed mass immigration and the suicidal liberal policies being put in place by the Government that were destroying British community at its heart.
Because of the actions of Eddy Morrison, the NF became the dominant political force on the big punk scene in Leeds, the once dominant reds nowhere to be seen or heard, bar the college campus, the university safe spaces or in the left wing musical press. The Mekons, a notorious commie band, stopped playing the ‘F’ Club because the NF brought every one of their gigs to an end. A letter to the Leeds Other Paper in March 1978 described:
[a] really nauseating incident that happened at the ‘F’ Club in Chapeltown last night (16th March). A Leeds band called the Mekons were playing (supporting 999) and halfway through their set a Nazi in the audience yelled ‘Goosestep’, to be told ‘No chance’ by the lead singer. The atmosphere really froze immediately and the band had to carry on to yells of ‘Commie’ and three of the Nazis goose-stepping to the music and holding up their arms in Hitler salute…
On 24 May, NF supporters, turned away from the ‘F’ Club, targeted members of The Mekons and The Gang Of Four out drinking in The Fenton pub and started to sing ‘Tomorrow Belongs To Me’ as performed by the Hitler Youth in the film Cabaret. A fight broke out. There were injuries and police arrests. The New Musical Express (NME) later confirmed that after their latest beating and for future safety The Mekons and The Gang Of Four had decided not to play the ‘F’ Club again until such time as it changed its current ‘apolitical’ stance and banned NF supporters.
The NF and British Movement (BM) also increasingly confronted, disrupted and attacked all manner of left wing groups and meetings. The Leeds Other Paper reported on the escalating ‘Nazi violence’. Paul Furness, a member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), recalls: ‘The National Front were vicious and running riot… There was NF graffiti all over…’
In the meantime, not content with challenging its political opponents, Eddy Morrison and the Punk Front started two punk-inspired bands, The Dentists and The Ventz. The Dentists comprised Mick Redshaw on vocals, Howard on guitar and Chink on bass. Eddy Morrison had met Mick Redshaw at the ‘F’ Club through a mutual acquaintance. When Mick Redshaw floated the idea of starting a punk band in late 1977, Eddy Morrison and Redshaw decided to form one that would write songs addressing the real problems facing working class youth in the area and take a political stance which would give the silent majority a much needed voice. It was agreed the State sanctioned rhetoric, solely on offer at that time from middle class punks and students, people far removed from their reality had to be answered with reality.
Mick Redshaw and The Dentists joined the Punk Front one week later, a legend was born. Initially, the band were all members of the NF, although some joined the British Movement in 1979, but all were on the same page on what problems faced our nation and people, the topics, rage and enthusiasm were endless, there voice would be silent no longer.
Mick Redshaw penned most of the lyrics for The Dentists. Their songs included ‘Master Race’, ‘Union Jack’, ‘Your Country Needs You’, ‘2021: A New Ice Age’, ‘On Guard’, ‘Your Time’ and ‘Kill The Reds’. Some lyrics were tongue in cheek; Mick Redshaw was famed for a great sense of humour. ‘Your Country Needs You’ denounces all things Red:
Let’s look around our country
At what’s happening today
We’re not in control
The strings are pulled from far away
It’s the policy of the Kremlin
And Leninist ideals
You can’t say what you want
Let alone what you feel
What has happened to Bulldog Britain?
We’re under the big red star
Help to put a stop to the commies in our schools
Your country needs you, your country needs you
Let’s look around our country
There’s thousands out on strike
With the communists at the TUC
They can do just what they like
They’ve got our country by the ‘curlies’
There’s never been a truer fact
They will take it and break it and sell the bits to the Warsaw Pact
‘2021: A New Ice Age’ attacked America as a ‘broken down whore’, simply concluding: ‘Fuck the Yanks and the USA’. ‘Union Jack’, as you would expect, waves the flag for St. George’s England and the Queen.
The Ventz, had started life as The Expelairs, only changing name after the band broke up and was reformed by lead singer Algie. The Ventz were not as outspoken as The Dentists but their anti Communist message also resonated strongly with the local youth and they had built up their own sizeable following.
Some six months after forming, The Dentists played live for the first time. Eddy Morrison described them as ‘amazingly shambolic’ but an absolute breath of fresh air, the concert was an outstanding success. More gigs followed. The Dentists uniformly wore bib and braces and boots, the standard look from the football terraces at the time. Darren J. and Steve G. remember the time The Dentists played Vivas Bar for altogether different reasons. There was a great atmosphere, despite the bad sound, which Darren blamed on the venue rather than the band, as usual the venue was rammed to the rafters with supporters. At one point a punk pogoed into the drum kit and wiped out the whole stage! Steve fondly recalls that some actual dentists turned up because of the band name! Imagine their surprise.
The Dentists played The Griffin Hotel off Boar Lane on the same day as Mick Redshaw’s twenty-first birthday. Once again, the venue was filled to capacity. It was a crazy night of punk and alcohol. ‘Master Race’ became their most popular live number, sometimes playing it three times. The song spoke out defiantly against parliament, the National Health Service (NHS) and the education system, concluding:
We don’t need them any more
‘Cos we are the Master Race
Darren J. got to know guitar player Howard and they became good mates. One of Howard’s relatives worked for national weekly music magazine Sounds and used to innocently name drop the band in his cartoon strips!
The Ventz managed to play without hassle at the ‘F’ Club on Thursday 20 April 1978 and again on 4 August 1978, both gigs were sell outs. The scene in Leeds was booming. The Ventz would later change their name to Tragic Minds.
With Punk Front expanding its influence at every turn, the eyes of the State turned its gaze upon the threat posed by the new musical movement and one incident of note in August 1978 was fully exploited to try and stop Punk Front and RAC in its infancy as Eddy Morrison explains:
On a very warm night in August 1978, I was at the head of around 40 NF members, all from Leeds, who gate crashed a Sham 69 concert at the F Club – we had been banned. The F Club was still situated in Chapeltown, the Afro-Caribbean area of the city. We halted the concert which escalated into a mini-street battle with some rastas outside the venue. Stacks of police arrived and we scattered, meeting up again at a pub called The Fenton in the student area. Unbeknownst to us, the Anti Nazi League (ANL) were having a queers social in The Fenton that night. The evening turned into a really bloody fight with 29 reds and sexual deviants injured. I was arrested the following day. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported the brawl under a banner headline of ‘All hell breaks loose in City pub’. Refused bail, I spent the next three months in Armley jail. Eventually I got bail under stringent restrictions – I could not go in any city centre pub; I was on a curfew from nine at night to eight next morning. I also had to sign bail at a police station every day. I had to reside in one address and inform the police if I left the city.
The police also arrested and fitted up many other NF members, most of whom ended up on trial and then behind bars. Darren J. narrowly avoided arrest. After the Fenton ‘incident’ he had crashed at Eddy Morrison’s for the night and left in the morning. He was to find out later that the police had arrived and forced entry some thirty minutes after he had left, a very close call. From that time onwards anyone in Punk Front or those found to support it were subjected to constant surveillance, general harassment and more often than not arrest, but as the police were to soon realise the movement was now too big to be halted.
The September issue of British News featured a short interview with the lead singer of The Ventz who, disgusted by ‘lefty groups such as Tom Robinson Band, pushing homosexuality and all that trash’, came out in support of Rock Against Communism (RAC). It is not known who coined the expression RAC or when it was used for the first time. But the term Rock Against Communism, being used to describe the emerging musical resistance network and playing style of the bands was now firmly etched into the minds of the disenfranchised of Great Britain.
Despite the police clampdown, The Dentists vowed not to be stopped and continued to rock on, infamously gate crashing a December RAR concert at the ‘F’ Club. Local commie Paul Furness wrote in RAR magazine Temporary Holdings:
The ‘F’ Club, centre of the punk industry in Leeds. Fascists crawl around the place every now and then. Christmas is no exception. Xmas party, ‘Butlins style’ the posters announced. Great! 5 RAR bands on the bill. So we go along. But for a few weeks previous a nasty rumour flies around about The Dentists playing. Or are they? Recently they’d put pen to paper and survived in the letters columns of Sounds for 3 weeks. Kev from the Jerks wrote ’em a great letter from York. Leeds has more RAR gigs than any place he knows. Then someone slaps Sounds’ wrists writing that The Dentists can’t even fart in tune. We arrived and there they were, blasting into ‘White Power’ & ‘We Are The Master Race’. Fucking hell about 30 fascists sieg-heiling & jack-booting (after all the ‘F’ club is in a beer Keller) at the front of the stage. The Nazis wearing ‘Hitler was right’ badges, Union Jacks, Pogo on a communist. Not a RAR badge in sight. The Dentists are evil bastards. Martin Webster’s favourite sing along band are out and out Nazis. Intimidation is going on throughout the audience. The atmosphere is electric. I buy a round and this RAR girl tells me there’s going to be violence. Perfectly obvious, I’d have thought. The fascists following us around beer glasses in hand. A few quick phone calls & a quick bus ride and we fetch down some RAR people. The Dentists get unplugged and from then on its fuck the managers and the promoter, RAR’s doing the stewarding…
Darren J. stated that much of the above RAR report was fabricated, the truth being no problem to left wing fantasists as per usual. Multiple witnesses from all sides of the political spectrum and the establishment have since confirmed that the band were three songs into their set when the singer started throwing into the crowd tin swastikas he had fashioned out of beer cans whereupon the management ended their set. Moreover, Steve G. was present with a strong contingent of NF punks and no RAR supporters made their presence known.
In February 1979, Anti-fascist magazine Searchlight did report on the ever-growing Punk Front, but it had very little to say. In response, British News thanked Searchlight for the publicity. Rock Against Communism booked The Dentists, The Crap, Column 88 and two other bands to play a gig in Yorkshire in March 1979, prompting an angry response from local reds and from Sounds.
Due to intensive red pressure and media lobbying this planned concert never took place but RAC did manage to book a disco and dance in the venue used by the socialist Red Ladder Theatre. Steve G. recalls:
It was an absolutely amazing night, mainly local kids attending, and the place was packed. The highlight was when someone found the props hampers and started dressing and dancing in the costumes. Very surreal!
Around the same title, Bulldog, the self-styled ‘Paper of the Young National Front’, first devoted column inches to a new endeavour called RAC News:
On 11 August, Sounds reported: ‘BAD NEWS: Disgusting leaflet circulating London gigs suggesting that Skrewdriver have reformed to play gigs for Rock Against Communism – believed to be a National Front organisation. The first will be on August 18 ‘somewhere in London’ with the infamous Dentists and a band called White Boss…’
White Boss was a NF punk band from Coventry who had built a firm following and reputation in their local area.
On 18 August, The Dentists and White Boss played the now world famous first ever RAC concert at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, Holburn, London. Column 88 from Rugby and Skrewdriver, while booked did not play.
The audience was made up of Nationalists from across the country, members of the Punk Front, a large British Movement contingent, Arsenal and Chelsea football hooligans, as well as the curious. The Dentists travelled down from Leeds in a fifty-five seater coach that was described by its occupants as overflowing. Tragic Minds (ex Ventz) had also made the journey down south to attend the concert.
The bands played in front of a huge Rock Against Communism banner complete with a blue, white and red roundel which became the RAC logo. The banner, which had been especially produced for the night, was paid for by the NF.
White Boss played first and attendees have described the crowd and venue as “exploding with dancing and chanting” but most importantly there seemed an overwhelming sense of unity. With the crowd whipped to a frenzy Steve G. then introduced The Dentists and jumped into the crowd expecting the band to burst into action but was only greeted with silence. Mike Redshaw grabbed hold of the microphone to explain that they had broken a guitar string! Once the string had been replaced the band played a set that only enhanced there standing and heralded a new age, the crowd were ecstatic.
A threatened RAR counter protest was violently stopped before it had even started. A RAR flat bed lorry belonging to the Socialist Workers Party, complete with loudspeakers and bedecked in RAR and Communist flags that came into the area, was attacked by local skinheads when it was forced to stop at traffic lights, the NF attackers smashed the lorry, occupants and any surrounding supporters to pieces. The lorry was left ransacked and immobilised at the junction, many of the Red banners later being ceremoniously burnt outside the Conway Hall before and during the concert. One liberated banner survived and was taken back to Leeds on the Dentists coach while a second was to be seen proudly displayed at future White Boss concerts.
The reds sum total of resistance was leaving bags of smashed Skrewdriver records outside the hall in protest.
The concert was a resounding success for the NF and RAC, bringing much coverage in the national music press and on the radio, although as expected much of it was economical with the truth. In particular, the RAC Coventry band Homicide was repeatedly misreported as playing at the concert! The concert was covered by both British News and RAC News, who spoke of a new beginning.
The concert actually turned out to be the high point of the Punk Front, but with RAC now firmly established, what was emerging was a national scene and new dawn of musical resistance for everyone. White Boss continued playing to noticeably larger audiences in their area but broke up soon after.
The Dentists also played on for six months after the concert, but despite plans to record a record, Mick Redshaw, who was getting harassed at work and under huge Red pressure, decided to step back from the limelight. The Dentists had played no more than ten gigs. The end of The Dentists spelt the end for the Punk Front, but they had stoked the embers and lit a flame, a flame which was soon to take hold.
Eddy Morrison, Steve G. and Darren J. all agree that the years of the Punk Front had been fun. More importantly, the Punk Front had offered an alternative to youngsters who may have otherwise succumbed to the State backed propaganda of RAR and the Anti-Nazi League. The bands may have lacked real talent, but that mattered not. Simply put, it was the message that really counted. Rock Against Communism was born and continuing from these humble beginnings emerged a new wave of nationalist skinhead bands based in and around London, that would ignite our country and later the world!
Cede Nullis (Yield to No One)!