Making Sense of Skinhead Reggae, part 1

Breaking a two weeks or more-long silence in which this zine unwritten is actually being written again, today’s post will [attempt to] thoroughly discuss the phenomenon of skinhead reggae, how it developed, and what it developed into [but will not be able to finish itself in this single post].

Of course, there will be YouTube links to various track uploads, to color what I’m talking about and explore the many variations of related things that and how they are connected.

If you’ve been following my music column (or just generally the postswritten to this zine thus far), you’ll notice my current interest in a variety of aspects of Jamaican music, dancehall culture, and language; and, from varied time periods, from ska, to rocksteady, roots reggae, and the dancehall music of today, I have written about these eerily similar sound system crazes — all connected, very much similar in ways so much that they are sometimes seen as being indistinguishable (easily described by the word reggae, for example) while also nothing remotely alike in any form.

I’m excited about this post because it inherently involves the story of how and why I have hated skinheads since I was 15 years old, not as someone who is ignorantly only aware of the existence of a skinhead as synonymous with a white nationalist, but as someone who has seen their effect on a subculture I was once very a part of — that is, Bush-Era street punk in South Texas — and resisted the threat of what they represented at what were places I went to and considered my spots to hang out, where the music was a form of street punk I could relate with, and the people were all mostly, more or less like minded enough to have peace; until the resounding and in unison war cry surrounded you.

“Oi!” That’s when you realize they are massive, you are alone, and if you are not aligned with them (and you’re god damned right we fucking weren’t), then you have to resist the pressure that is placed on you to be like them — to transmogrify for the sake of a so-called unity and join in crews they will never admit are very much like gangs. If you will not do this, you are on fragile ice. You can either run or you can fight them, and there is never just one of them. They are massive or they are not at all. If you’re a fifteen year old punk rocker, you keep your head down — or you don’t, you know, because you’re a punk rocker of fifteen years — and you will either run from a beat down or you receive them. You might even decide to engage in violence yourself, because you have a zero tolerance policy for fascism in your scene, and you kill it wherever you see it the same as they would kill you.

I’ve thus far only introduced and outlined the things I need to discuss to illustrate the points I want to make clear and the things I want to connect, acknowledge, and use to hold the conclusion I can finally make about the skinhead phenomenon, which at fifteen years old, not knowing the distant history and how far the skinhead had traveled and how it had molded him, I could never make but finally can. So, I’m going to split this into thee parts as this is quite complex.

On Skinheads, Their Good Taste in Music, and the Folly of their Utter Ignorance
(is that really the title I’m using? Whatever… that’s the title.)

1.) The Spirit of ’69 – This portion will require many of us to pretend that we have never heard of a skinhead and understand how the origins of the culture are quite interesting, seemingly harmless enough, and little known to most people today who associate the word with white nationalism — which for this portion, we’ll have to hold off on talking about to explore skinhead reggae (which I happen to think is actually great music), and how the blending of the Jamaican diaspora with British, cockney people resulted in a seemingly positive racial exchange and a “reggae fever” marked by shaved heads and otherwise very particular, uniform, and sharp dress style.

2.) If the Kids Are United… – Next, I’m going to have to explain how skinhead culture crossed paths with punk rock after 1969 had passed and how neither culture would ever be the same after that, resulting in a list of new genres that come about from an unintentional recipe for hatred and violence laid out when the skinhead and the punk rocker will unfortunately take politics to the streets, and experience a less positive attempt to assimilate together. Also, this will address why skinheads may have been less like-minded with Jamaican diaspora as the 1970’s came closer to the 1980’s.

3.) Post-Skinhead Ignorance – This will be a final conclusion, in which I consolidate my experience with American skinheads as a punk teen in the 1990s/2k into my adulthood, well-read self who happens to currently be pretty into first wave ska music, which… only the skinhead can be said to still feel that way about first wave ska in the same way. In the homeland of ska, ska music is outdated. And I mean, it’s been outdated since before I was born. It’s hardly even referred to as itself by many, because it’s just early reggae that hasn’t for a long time been done without being more reggae than ska (not probably since about… 1969). That said, I will ultimately have to conclude how skinhead culture has always been intrinsically predisposed towards a development into a complete militancy powered by an embrace of ignorance… about everything; and why skinhead culture should not be celebrated just because they understand ska music, (which is amazing, [and much better without skinheads in it.]).

And yes, I have totally just published a postwritten where I outline the post yet unwritten. I know. I’m utterly insane. If I were a professional writer, or if I had the desire to produce myself in the way that one does, I would set this document aside and use it as a rough draft and outline to do the piece, which I will say is big enough to warrant this kind of outlining if not this kind of editorial.

But I don’t do that. I don’t edit or manufacture myself. I don’t enjoy doing it. I don’t want to. Often times the typos you find are ones that I overlooked in the drafting of the document and have become well aware of and have intentionally left them as is.

I suppose I don’t sound like a too stereotypical obsessive or compulsive person, do I? If you’ve read the psyche column at all, you might follow what I mean from there. I sort of do have the capacity to spend my entire life editing a document for no reason, in which no amount of corrections or do-overs will ever produce a thing that doesn’t require further editing or abandonment.

Choosing to leave myself manufactured, raw, as-is, one take to get the shot, whatever happens type of “artist” has never been an easy decision to make. I wanted at one time to leave a masterpiece on the world. I no longer do. I want to leave myself, flawed as I am, content and happy to die with my imperfections.

So I made a typo. Shrug. It most likely doesn’t matter, and so… if I’ve lost you and you aren’t following this foreword into the next posts that will come. So be it. I will gladly have you read, or listen, or watch; I’m not afraid to show myself. But… I’m not willing to destroy the beauty of the world’s ugly things left as they are, so that you lot can be the celebrated artist that is all you really care about anyway isn’t it?

That’s okay. Social acceptance and approval is a natural human thing to seek out to some degree if you are a healthy enough person, I should think. But… it is of little interest to me in terms of my non-art, which I will continue to create in a long winded way for the sake of itself — shamelessly.

It’s kind of getting to the point where all the columns (categories) that I’m using seem to intersect, even if they focus on one topic more than the others. Part of me would like to redesign the organization, stop using the categories the same way, but…

Logic tells me there is no need for that.

Otherwise, I have an outline of what I’m going to write. I have several albums in mind to share as I talk about various things. I want to continue writing this zine, even if it takes me a long time to come back to it sometimes.

If I save this as a draft, it will become lost forever. I will forget that it was important maybe, or that it was ever a thing I planned to do. The organization of it will prevent it from ever being published at all.

Maybe taking my time between entries isn’t so bad. Maybe it will be more manageable for me to actually read them again, and have it as such that of the many points I wish to make, the fewest of them will in the end be unmade entirely. My early LiveJournal blogs of daily postings suffered from an overflow of  things that were never worth organization. There was less management of any thought that I had, which is why I was never able to write anything but of my sadness and my glory like a teenager with a diary.

I don’t want to write for a sense of daily therapy. I want to say specific things in a highly unconventional way. I want to make my points, and I want to leave them at least in the open to be unmade.

I’m going to make a point to get back to this project in the next few days — not weeks or more.

I will ever have to apologize for the fact that… if you are interested in me at all, you will always have to wait for me to come back I’m afraid.

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over-thinking or just hella thinking?

So, it might be pretty universally considered a wrong move by bloggers, webmasters, and content creators online, to post an entry and then immediately follow it with the next entry after a spell of resting stillness marked with a mind like this one writing. And, it doesn’t bother me because I don’t care to present myself in such a way that I will generate a following ideally. I’m going to do what I do, and while I appreciate any interest in my writing, I can’t change how overwhelmingly intense I can be sometimes. If you can’t keep up with me, that’s not a big surprise to me. A lot of people can’t. And while I do have to keep that in mind when I deal with people, I’m not doing so as a writer. It doesn’t matter to me if my presentation isn’t conducive to being easily consumed. I’m doing it because I want to and this is how I do it.

So, as you can see, whether I’m tired or not, I have the capacity for thoughts that don’t stop. It’s a complex thing because… if my mind would chill out, I would rest and have a more comfortable, easy day of wakeful moods and so forth. But I enjoy the thinking. I enjoy the long way of saying a thing. And it’s good that I do, because… I couldn’t do it any other way if I wanted to.

Let’s see. I’m going to put on coffee… or something. Let’s think of how many hours I have left before -waking up-.

Five hours and twelve minutes. … I’m sitting up in my bed. I’m going to try lying flat with my feet on the ground for a moment.

Typing this paragraph some minute after the last, it was orgasmic to stretch out the arch in my back and release the tension of my body that just sits back up again to type on the laptop, strain my eyes longer with the reading lenses (all I’ve ever known) that aren’t enough anymore, and indulge in the mood uplift that music can bring to the weary.

But, I’m having second thoughts about that… coffee, which I Really might still make. Do I really allow myself to accept that I’m not sleepy and can’t sleep, despite the severe tiredness, the same problems on recent nights, and how much less brutal it would be if I slept a single hour (but of course, ideally two; three is too unrealistic to consider.)

If I take the Benadryl, I’m going to feel like anticholinergic ass for the next hour as I slowly become more distant and unable to focus, which will put me into a state of perturbed dreams most likely and result in an extra amount of confusion when the alarm finally occurs to me and I’ve managed to do something about it, pop out of the dream I instantly can’t remember but know was utterly mad and quite the annoyance. And on top of the extra, it’s going to be extra-extra because there aren’t enough hours for the drug to run its course. I’ll have to wake up under the effect of it, drag myself up, and somehow get to work without showing up late as fuck or no call no showing before I realize that it even happened.

These are the very critical concerns of an insomniac… At a point, does sleeping become more dangerous to attempt to squeeze in? Because let’s just be honest with ourselves. It’s not going to happen in the amount of time I have between my last night’s close and my this morning’s open shift without some form of pharmaceutical action. There are some awesome things I could have to take at times like this that would make this a lot simpler to get through, but I don’t have those things. What I do have is the pill I have always had to fall back on when I had to.

And then there’s the possibility that the Bendaryl will have wrought all of its side effects on me all night and into the morning, and I will still get out of bed having felt like I didn’t completely fall into zzz’s even once.

So, you can call it over-thinking. A lot of people think that about me. But these are things one has to think about, I would think. Or do they not have to and this is the only reason I’m not able to feel sleepy in spite of such tiredness? Could I just let it be that this was very simple, lie down, (not even take the wretched pill), and go right to sleep? I’m sure it’s a bit more complicated.

I don’t always feel like this, as I’ve said. There are times I have the opposite problem, where I can’t will myself to want to do anything but lay in my bed and snooze away the free moments. And it’s definitely a cycle of opposite problems that lead to the other problem. Being over exhausted eventually results in a hibernating torpor that groans to momentarily reach out of and drag itself to the moment where it can go back. That has its own difficulties.

And the cycle just goes and goes and goes.

It’s more complicated than I (and especially you) realize, but it’s been slowly (or rather rapidly, maybe) driving me crazy and killing me for years.

Fortunately, I’m pretty happy anyway. Sure, sometimes I endure suffering. So does everyone. But I practice acceptance a lot lately — I’m not a Buddhist or anything. This is just what I do and it brings me peace in spite of the strife, in a lot of ways. I try not to let the stress overwhelm me, though I occasionally falter, and feel content anyway in spite of anything that could possibly happen. I try to maintain this. Most of the time, I manage.

If you ever read my blogs or writings or LiveJournals or whatever from some years ago, like… literally anywhere from 2002-2013, you would find everything I did and said laced with anger, sadness, despair, depression; all characterized by wildness of the mind. I suppose that’s subjective, but… Let me just leave it at that.

I deal with a lot of the same issues I’ve always dealt with. In some ways, some of my issues are much worse. I am, after all, older. But the one that is not much worse is that I am not unhappy about things I can’t control anymore. There aren’t things I can’t have that I lament so badly all the time. There aren’t atrocities, tragedies, and horrors I haven’t looked dead on and accepted for what they are without breaking down.

But I deal with a lot of bullshit still. It’s just that… I’m pretty good at dealing with bullshit now.

And part of that skill is the fact that I know that I need to lie down rest my body, let my mind do its thing, and if I have to have my coffee in the morning (I do), I’ll have it. But having it now would be fairly masochistic and not even willing to chance rest.

And so, while I’ve not said everything on the matter, I figure it’s best to let it be at that. I won’t get started on the posts about different types of music, bands, and so forth that I’ve been meaning to write about and intentionally forego sleep with several hours left.

But I’ll tell you this for certain: I’m not taking that Benadryl. If I was going to do that, I should have done it hours ago, like I said in the post from earlier when it was still last night. But there were a lot of reasons I didn’t, as you can see.

I’ll go ahead and end with a random song that I would normally say something about in these posts, but which I’ll let just speak for itself again.

It’s interesting because I’ve come full circle. This is the music I listened to as a teenager, which was influenced by music I never really knew much about, and now am having such a phase that it brings back the memories.

I nearly started going into all these different opinions I have about various waves and elements of ska and blended ska genres. Because, I really want to.

But right now, this post about how hectic my sleep and work life can be is far more prudent to throw out there and end with.

And the funniest part is that I got out of bed to post this maybe some hour later, am about to pour my coffee, and then some. 😛

I hope that someone can relate with the struggles of the mind described, which I admit at times does over think things to the point of interference. But sometimes, things are worth thinking about at length, I think.

‘(healthy body, sick mind; it’s just a matter of time; sick body, sick mind)’