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100 Club, London
7th March 2011
Pippa Lang. Photos by Sally Newhouse

judith fisher

"Oi darlin!" I kid you not. I'm outside having a fag just before Garry Bushell and his wrinkly gonads hit the stage, and this bloke (bit of a Skinhead Moonstomper in his day, I surmise) bounds up to me, and continues, "nice eyes, nice tits, nice jeans!" (New Ska anthem, I ponder?)

"Oi?" I retort. He apologizes. I tell him no need, he's just taken me back thirty years to the halcyon days of Oi when old acquaintance Garry first led 'the movement'. In those days, as fledgling journo for Record Mirror, I was a confused hippy-cum-headbanger, and Garry called me 'Suzy Wild' (pseudonym for my failed attempt to write for the legendary Sounds, great Oi and NWOBHM champion).

garry bushell

But I digress. Sort of. Downstairs at the 100 Club, the nostalgia continues in the form of many wrinkly punks ('Pinklies'? 'Wrunklies'?), some of whom I recognize, some I don't, depending on which pub in Wardour Street they frequented in the late 70s/early 80s: the punk-exclusive Intrepid Fox or The Ship, where punks and metallers deigned to mingle, at least within the confines of the pub.

Max Splodge, regular fixture at The Ship then, is here tonight and (as it turns out) he'll be giving it some with Nasty Nick. But that's later, much later. The Eastenders theme, incidentally, recurs at odd intervals throughout the night.

garry bushell

Garry's looking good for his age, I have to say, and when he rants the chorus to opening number, 'Punk Rock Till I Die', it isn't hard to believe that he will, indeed, punk rock till he dies, erm... oi oi... oi... boing boing boing... The pogo-pit at a ska/Oi gig is, obviously, much bouncier than your average moshpit, and the Gonads have a particularly colourful assortment of sproinking bootboys tonight, including, I swear, Herman Munster. Takes all sorts.

After 'Yeti', the jolly ska of old classic 'Oi Mate' and no-frills 'Gob', Garry self-effacingly announces, "We're like the punk rock equivalent of Gaddafi, nobody likes us but we're carrying on anyway!" If that's also a reference to the next number, nobody notices: "This is abaht an East London freedom fighter... this is for John Altman!" Cue ex-Waysted guitarist Nacho Jase twanging out the Eastenders theme, and Garry bellowing "Grant Mitchell! Grant Mitchell! Only one Grant Mitchell!!"

garry bushell

Ah, Grant Mitchell, man of the hooliganesque mug, and there are plenty here in this Oi-polloi of old punks and bootboys who haven't changed their clobber for thirty years (stinky punks!). Sarf London and (pseudo) East London meet tonight in Central London, and it's all thanks to Converse Trainers, who thankfully saved the 100 Club from extinction, so they deserve a plug.

Shame it wasn't Doc Marten, but trainers will do, as long as nobody wears 'em at an Oi gig. (I have heard tell, however, that The Foreskins were actually wearing trainers onstage last year, with cut-offs – and their guitarist was breaking into solos. Sacrilege! At least Nacho has kept it suitably minimal tonight.)

So - you forget where and when you are on a night like tonight, what with Gonads classics like 'Lost My Love To A UK Sub', 'Pink Tent' ('the first song I ever wrote') and to finish it all on a resoundingly Oi note, 'Tuckers Ruckers'.

garry bushell

Oi never became commercial or mainstream or anything but what it set out to be – anti-everything. This is where it all happens, down here below street level, and here it will stay. Brings a tear to the eye that 'the movement' is still squeezing 'em out. Oi, or ouch. Even.

(PS: Amongst the celebs here tonight is Michelle from 'Allo Allo', sitcom of the badly-pronounced French. This gives me an excuse for a really bad pun: I wonder if the French think the Oi movement was started by a dyslexic punk, and that's why they look down their Gallic noses at us? Ha. Knew I could get it in somewhere.)

Pippa Lang
Thanks to Sally Newhouse for the pictures

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