Once Aryan Skynet Goes Live It Doesn't Matter Who Pulled The Switch
“Unique to this island,” writes Sam Knee in the introduction to his book The Bag I’m In: Underground Music and Fashion in Britain 1960-1990, “the music and fashion scenes are ingrained in the UK’s DNA, going hand in hand as an inseparable force of nature that shapes our lives and the society we exist in.” “Why and how music youth scenes reach such a level of diversity and focused intensity in Britain,” Knee continues, “is a side effect of island culture and the distinctive class system in this country.” Here, in the opening lines of his text, Knee has already confused himself. Still, he stumbles onward:
By and large, British music scenes are working and middle class in origin. The upper classes don’t have the regionality or subversive sartorial suss to create such subtle nuances. The seeds of the scenes originate in the generic state school system; secondary moderns, comprehensives and grammar schools – where kids exist on a street level around other kids and cultures in the great mishmash of society that makes up Britain.
Such “subtle nuances” as those ranging “from the hell bent leatherboys to the continentalist mods, into proto-skinhead scenes, through the LSD landscapes of the late-‘60s and into uncharted space rock and soulboy terrain” somehow manage to be both a “force of nature” and a matter of “DNA” as well as a product of a man-made class system. Mod style, meanwhile, manages simultaneously to be “continentalist” and “a side effect of island culture”. For Knee, as for most superficial individuals, history – at least the important stuff – does not begin until the advent of pop culture. Consequently, he believes that Britons’ archetypal potentialities failed to actualize until the twentieth century allowed them to fly their assortment of garish freak flags.
There is an unintended irony to Knee’s characterization of British youths being “in” a “bag” – i.e., safely contained within their consumerist identity. The purchases – of, for instance, a punk’s button-punctured jacket or a Sex Pistols T-shirt or the psychoactive fashions associated with psychedelic experience – were made by young English people of middle or working class background, and the styles are therefore assumed by Knee to have been of middle or working class English origin. What could the rich and powerful possibly have to do with the popular couture and concomitant musical tastes? Surely ted culture, mod, space rock, glam, punk, and each of the other sensibilities profiled by Knee were grassroots developments with no assistance from television, radio, or publications like Rave, Melody Maker, and NME. These were wild, spontaneous things born out of a spirit of youth rebellion!
Knee gives the game away when he reveals that mod’s “trailblazers” were “switched on, working class [sic], London-based Jewish kids with […] connections in the garment industry” and then goes on to describe, unwittingly, the obvious profit motive underlying this “ultimate youth scene”:
Sartorial elitism verged on fanaticism; exotically sleek, continentalist, New Wave-inspired, tailored silhouettes, worn at times in combination with the relaxed, leisurely, modern, jazzy conservatism of the penny-loafered American Ivy League was where it was at, depending on what day of the week it was. Mod was all about the now and the new; styles went in and out at a purple heart frenzy, and one-upmanship was par for the course to achieve Face status. As a result, it was an expensive pursuit, especially given that it was a very young scene (people over the age of 20 were generally considered past their peak). Young mods suffered 9 to 5 drudgery in lowly positions to earn the cash for new gear to show off at the weekend. They splurged on tailor-made or off-the-peg items from obscure backstreet retail establishments “up west”, or from costly boutiques such as Austin’s in Shaftesbury Avenue, who specialised in the new American look or, post 1965, from the Ivy Shop in Richmond.
Mods dug authentic R&B and soul, and for many, the obsession with new, obscure records almost rivalled the obsession with clothes. The Sue label, run by R&B missionary and DJ guru, Guy Stevens, released a slew of hard-to-obtain American tracks, and became the purist mod label. Progressively stylish record sleeve designs from US jazz labels Blue Note and Prestige offered a glimpse of American modernity, further influencing the scene.2
So much for scenesterism being “ingrained in the UK’s DNA”. Mod and all of the variations that followed boiled down to a scheme to get gullible kids with modest wages to throw their money away on as many bizarre new threads as possible. Earlier this year, London’s Jewish Museum debuted an exhibit titled “Moses, Mods and Mr. Fish: The Menswear Revolution”, spotlighting Jewish influence on fashions in twentieth century Britain. As Shiryn Ghermezian of The Algemeiner indicates, the revolution was also a means of turning the young against the old:
Menswear changed most radically in the years after World War II and Jewish designers continued to stay at the forefront of up-and-coming fashion trends. The post-war period featured “young men [who] stopped dressing like their fathers, becoming detail-obsessed mods or flamboyant peacocks,” according to the Jewish Museum.
After the war, Britain saw the emergence of the mod movement and a fashion revolution that put Carnaby Street in London on the map. The strip became home to a number of innovative stores, such as Irvine Sellar’s, pioneering unisex chain Mates and the vintage-styled I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet, opened by Robert Orbach.
“In the sixties we see this real explosion of color and there’s this temptation to think this was very new, very different, but of course, back to the 18th century, men were wearing bright and colorful clothing,” Selby said. [It must be noted, however, that the sartorial ostentation of the Enlightenment era was hardly being mass-marketed with a focus on the country’s wage laborers.] “What’s really interesting to see is just how influential Jewish designers were in setting the trends, many of which continue into today’s fashion.”
Among the items on display at the exhibit is a brown suede Cecil Gee jacket worn by John Lennon in 1963, a mod suit worn by Harry Bilgorri in 1966 and a “kipper tie,” designed by Michael Fish, who was popular among young aristocrats and celebrities, including David Bowie and Mick Jagger.3
Renegade musicologist Dr. Hans Utter explains that “with music, we have really one of the ideal and most powerful means of social manipulation and control, as well as an ideal means of […] liberation, of creating group solidarity; so, just as much as the power can be used negatively, it has a very positive force, but it’s very important to contextualize and really understand all these interlocking elements and how they operate together.” Utter elaborates:
So if you use a dynamic macrosociological perspective, what that means is you’re looking at the society as being something that’s constantly in flux, constantly in motion; but it’s also not based just on unification, but it’s also based on conflict. It’s based on group identity and divisions between groups, right? So you have consensus and conflict, so within […] the use of music but also within society itself, you have consensus, you know, people moving towards a particular perspective, and you have conflict within specific groups or specific movements to the society as a whole. Music also, within this dynamic model, is very useful for social cohesion, and this is something we can see in primitive tribal societies. We can see this in [our own culture as well], just walk out of your door and look around and [see] the kids with their identities, right? And social cohesion is very important in creating and defining social divisions, classes, subcultures, as well as propagating and enforcing ideologies.
“So what you’re getting at,” interjects Gnostic Media interviewer Jan Irvin, “is like, okay, there was the acid rock of the 60s, early 70s, then we get the hard rock, the Ozzy Osbourne, the Black Sabbath and all of that stuff, and then in the early 80s out comes the new wave movement, and then in the 2000s they come out with the emo music, etc., so […] would those create subdivisions within the culture? […] I do remember in high school, in fact, each of the groups of students was pretty much divided by what type of music they listened to.”
“Exactly. That’s exactly correct,” Dr. Utter confirms, going on to explain how this was accomplished with deliberate intentions:
In fact […] we’ll see how this is actually […] planned, the idea of creating specific manipulable units of society, right? So it’s much easier to manipulate a particular group and it’s easy once you can define the parameters of that group’s experience, then you can just sort of sit there behind the scenes and, you know, flip switches, so to speak. Of course, it’s more complicated than that […] In America, you used to have concert programs, you know, in the nineteenth century, where you’d have a folk song, an operetta, you’d have some type of a dance piece, all in one concert program; but as America’s social and class definitions became much more solidified, the higher culture was sort of reserved for the new developing economic and cultural elites and this was a way to define their culture, and you no longer had these sort of fluid programs […] and this also mirrored the more fluid nature of American society. But, for example, once you have someone defining themselves as part of a specific subculture, they are going to be brought into the broader ideology, so to speak, of that subculture and [it] will actually help and shape and form their identity at the same time it’s creating a group division. If you look at punk rockers and metalheads, even there you take a certain type of music, suddenly you create divisions between people, right? You’re creating social division […] as well as you’re creating in-group cohesion through that […]4
Mick Farren, a member of the psych band the Deviants, brings out the destructive and violently divisive nature of the pop subcultures rocking Britain during the 1960s.
The conflict between the English mods and rockers […] wasn’t a matter of class at all. Both groups were working-class kids from the same streets, the same schools and the same backgrounds. On average, the rockers might have been a couple of years older but beyond that there was no demographic separation. The battle was one of pure attitude and pure style. The second wave of youth culture was in physical combat with the first, its own version of the Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons. In one corner you had the mods – haircuts, mohair and Motown music; smart and slick. They took to amphetamines and became obsessional on the subject of street fashion. In the other, there were the rockers – jeans, boots and a leather jacket, a motorcycle even; stubborn and dirty, they were fixed in the belief that rock died with Buddy Holly. The mods, with vicious pillhead logic, decided that the rockers should be exterminated because they were out of date.
At the root of the clash was a basic mod premise that the rockers had bought a very dumb portion of the consumer myth. The mods hadn’t seen the young Elvis Presley, they’d only seen [1961’s] Blue Hawaii and they were deeply suspicious of the entire deal. Sure it might be great to have all this cheap, disposable stuff, but they were well aware that it was only bought with squirrel cage jobs; stockboy, mailroom, store clerk. They didn’t need Bob Dylan to tell them that a job was being done on them by society’s pliers. The rockers, on the other hand, were massive traditionalists. They’d taken to the black leather jacket, the blue jeans and the motorcycle. They liked them and saw no reason to give them up just because some new fad had come along. As far as the rockers were concerned, what was good enough for 1953 was also good enough for 1963. It was this philosophy that caused the mods to hate the rockers worse than the rest of regular society. The rockers were ponderous kids resisting change. The mod stood for constant evolution; hating rockers was worthwhile. They were easily identifiable, easily accessible and just as prone to violence. It was possible that this was the world’s first consumer war, the street politics of plenty.
Fortunately, styles in both politics and drugs changed before genocide could actually take place. By the start of 1967, the mods were already schisming into two distinct groups. The bright and trendsetting were experimenting with psychedelics, easing paisley and William Morris into their fashion schemes and wondering if there might be a percentage in joining up with the hippies for the duration. The remainder – the ones with the real need for hate – were busy shaving off their hair, buying heavy boots and inventing the sub-group that would eventually be known as skinheads. One of the saving graces of the sixties was that things moved so quickly that there was never any time for root fascism to form a united front. Fascism was left to the authorities.5
There is at once much perception and much blindness in Farren’s account of the competing sensibilities. He appears to completely miss the fact that the mods were themselves the prime exemplars of the empty consumerism that he suggests was a rocker trait that the mods held in contempt. There is, however, value in Farren’s insight that, from a demographic perspective, mods and rockers might just as well have comprised one group of people. Manufactured pop fads in pharmaceuticals, music, and clothing were ultimately the cause of much of the pointless social tension. Britons, divided by design, were kept preoccupied and addled by all of the new products, behaviors, and hedonistic lifestyles displayed in the shop windows and the television screens of the postwar globalist order. As Farren indicates, the “saving grace” of such a system is that “there was never any time for root fascism” – by which, of course, he means nationalism and ethnic solidarity – “to form a united front” against the coming predatory dystopia.