A History Lesson,
Setting the Record Straight,
and a Rare Interview with

Gary Hodges (The 4 Skins)

By Jillian Abbene
(SugarBuzz Wash DC/Richmond)

SugarBuzz Magazine

First off, before the interview I will have to back track to approximately 29 years ago for a history lesson. Why? The purpose is to clue in those who were too young, not born yet, or simply were not present at the time to witness first-hand The 4 Skins impact on history, not only because they were one of the first Oi bands, but to separate fact from fiction on the attached stigma to Oi and skins. Perhaps educating those who are more talk than walk and recklessly bad-mouthing the scene, will get delivered a simultaneous 2 fingers-up and a boot in setting the record straight.

Personally, I had no idea that The 4 Skins were so controversial. Speaking for other Americans who were around the punk scene in 1981, most of us really didn’t have a clue. Life in the USA was certainly bipolar to the life in the UK. Generally, the American scene in the 80’s were about being angry over yuppie self-indulging commercialism, while the Brits had real issues of disparity, a depleted economy, and truly felt there was, ‘no future’. Truthfully, I can’t say I blame the Brits for their feelings of bitterness. Looking at the big picture, the USA and UK scenes are a bit of an oxymoron. With that, you must understand the history behind the skins in order to understand The 4 Skins.


There was a sequence of events that took place that needs explaining. We must go back to the beginning where the stigma was first plastered on the skins because it was this stigma evolving that falsely pegged skins as Nazi supporters. The Southall Riot is where it all started. Let me just say that these facts are straight from those who were present--along with articles I had researched. I wanted those who have had misunderstandings about the skins and The 4 Skins to grasp the big picture and an accurate one at that. Anyone who listens to Oi or punk for that matter knows that truth is a staple principal, and I wouldn’t have allowed this to go to print without the consent from those who were there—including Gary Hodges himself.

So let’s back track to an incident that occurred 2 months prior, because this was the precursor that led to the actual riot. At that time, there was a large population of Asians dwelling in a part of London known as Southall (a borough known for tough living, slum conditions, and where punk kids were forgotten and left to their own devices). A gang of Asians had been arrested and beaten up while in police custody. Holding a grudge against the skins, they graffitied walls with, “Whites Out!” around Southall, as their way of making a statement in claiming territory. It is there, on July 4, 1981, that may have very well been the death of Oi, because The 4 Skins, Last Resort and The Business were scheduled to play at The Hambrough Tavern in Southall, and it was no surprise, that the Southall Youth Movement was going to disrupt the Hambrough Tavern gig. The problems started just as the gig was starting. Let me add that inside, although, there were some right and left wingers alike, there was an unwritten rule that if The 4 Skins were on the bill, the differences were to remain at home. So they did. However it was outside the venue that a massive crowd of Asians, all armed, that stood in front of guarded police.


Arriving late for the Hambrough gig, The 4 Skins went straight on stage to play. While playing, unbeknownst to those inside, more Asians were arriving outside; with the noise growing louder as the tension was building momentum.

Moments later, a brick was hurled into the bay windows of the venue. At this point there was nothing that The 4 Skins could do but stop. Taking up defenses, punters in the venue picked up chairs and tables ready to use in defense against the growing number of bricks and petrol bombs being hurled into the pub. Most of the skins inside admit that they feared for their life as the drapes were now afire, engulfing the ground floor with smoke.

It was obvious that the police could not contain the situation as the Asians now outnumbered the police. Inside the venue, a passage was created as an escape route. Just about this time, the angry mob hijacked a police car after setting it on fire, and rammed it into the pub. It was now a full-fledge riot. Flames from the tavern can be seen 4 miles away in Harrow.

As skins were led through the escape route, the police actually shouted for assistance to the skins, and both forces formed a barricade between the Asians and the tavern. It was the angry Asian mob that was fighting the police, and it was the skins that stood shoulder-to-shoulder trying to fend them off. Undoubtedly, this seemed to only enrage the mob even more. During the mayhem, there were camera flashes of the media, and with these pictures taken and printed in the next morning’s newspaper, one clean swoop misconstrued perceptions of the incident, sealing the fate of the skins. False accusations solely were pinned on them and for the many that were injured. To make matters worse, some of the young Asians invited trouble by gloating while handing out leaflets to those at Southall regarding these printed false accusations. These falsehood-articles were the most damning. Over the years, it has been speculated that it was the Propaganda and National Front (British Political Party) who deliberately planted the leaflets because if would minimalize the incompetencies of the police and quash all suspicions and tarnishings of their reputation. Ultimately, the skins were the scapegoat.

For the record—most of the skins hadn’t noticed a hint of trouble nor premeditated violence as they were there for the show. Most didn’t realize the melee around Southall until it was in front of them.

Eradicating mislead rumors and speculated insinuating prejudices, the band and the scene were directly impacted, and by 1984, The 4 Skins finally disbanded. Even down to the skin slogan (Which The 4 Skins reiterate), “Never Sorry,” motto was meant simply not to have regrets and to feel free from blame, but others deliberately twisted the meaning as a self-admitting motto--which is told me to clearly, is not true.

Amazingly today, despite the media and the stigma, the Oi movement holds a strong presence. Not only alive in England and Europe, but resurrecting The 4 Skins and spanning across the pond to the USA and the world. With the much anticipated headlining guest appearance of Gary Hodges and the new line up of The 4 Skins here at the East Coast Oi Fest next month, May 24th & May 25th in Allentown, PA, truly a gig will be well documented and into the history books.

The current line-up is as follows: Gary Hodges-vocals, Big Tom-Guitar, Bacon-Bass and Sedge-Drums, and will be releasing new material at the East Coast Oi Fest, and surely setting up the band perfectly for the Blackpool UK, Fest in August. What a great way to spend Memorial Day weekend--At the East Coast Oi Fest, where you can hold onto a piece of history in the making as The 4 Skins will be recording Saturday’s live set and making the CD available for purchase the following day for $20. The copies are limited, so you better have your dollars ready, ‘cause an event like this is may not come around again, especially here in the USA.

In closing, I hope this writing may rectify blanketed assumptions that attempted to smother The 4 Skins, and skins everywhere. Listen to The 4 Skins and allow the truth to surface. You will understand why others aspire to follow in their footsteps.

When word got out that the ECOF is going to headline The 4 Skins, I had the sincere privilege to interview the lead vocalist, Gary Hodges. Here’s the interview:


1. History has it that The 4 Skins disbanded in 1984 and many Oi bands filled in the slot of the new Oi. Why did The 4 Skins break up?

I left the band late 82, we had all the shit and repercussions from Southall, I wanted to face problems head on, be true to myself, and the people that used to support us. We had elements in the media branding us Nazi's (which we were not) and other band members etc thought the way to combat this was to suck up to the left. I was of the attitude "Fuck 'em, believe what you want, we are what we are, take it or leave it" So I walked away and let the others get on with things. Their way didn't work as all the sucking up didn't change the media attitude anyway

2. Since 1984, what have you been doing? Have you been writing music, and do you stay in touch with the other past band members? Curious!

I took no interest in music at all, and I didn't keep in regular touch with other band members. I basically concentrated on building a home and a life for my family.

3. Although Oi derived from the UK earlier on in the late 70’s, and then American Oi hit the USA in the early 80’s, there seems to be different definitions established (and even prejudices) about Skins. What’s your definition of being a Skin?

For me, being a skinhead was about being with good friends, dressing smart, and having decent morals. Some of the things I have done may have been outside the law, but I have always maintained my own standards. I'm not a bully, and certain actions are only carried out by scum. I don't think a skin should have to have political leanings one way or the other, the only thing is to be true to yourself, and do what YOU want to do. Role models are shit, don't ape others, do your own thing. Mind you, your own thing could be enjoyed by a lot of people, then you have a movement.

4. With this, do you think the attitude of skins in the UK differ from those in the USA? If so, how?

I can't really answer that, most of the old skins in Britain were people with similar attitudes to myself. They all evolved into football thugs (casuals) and the majority has good families and have been successful in business. I have no idea what the skins of the USA are like.

5. Before “One Law For Them” was released, you mentioned on your Myspace page, “Southall happened.”. For us Americans can you please fill us in on the history? I presume this was pivotal.

Southall is an area of London where the band had a gig organized. We had a lot of support in this area (North West London) and we thought a gig would be OK. The local Asian population had other ideas, accumulated a mob of 100's and started making threats etc outside the venue. The police allowed the gig to proceed as they thought that they could control the situation outside the venue, as long as our audience remained inside. The Asians didn't like this, they started rioting, and attacking the police, it was then that they threw petrol bombs into the venue, trying to burn everyone in there. It was only then that the skinheads left the venue and joined in the riot, on the side of the police. Obviously the media blamed the skinheads for what happened, and everyone connected to Oi was tarred with the same brush. As I said earlier I don't believe we did anything wrong "Fuck 'em."

6. Obviously your mates (pass and present) have inspired you—Cock Sparrer, The Business, Cockney Rejects—Are there bands that inspire you now? And any here in the US?

The Rejects inspired us, in the way that we used to watch them all the time, and we thought "fuck it, that’s easy, we can do that" Apart from that I haven't taken inspiration from any one.

7. I understand that you will be headlining The East Coast Oi! Fest 2008 in Allentown, PA, May 24th & 25th, and there will be a live CD of the performance there at the Fest? (which is awesome by the way) -- What has made you want to perform again (especially in front of a large audience)?

I appeared on a CD, produced by G&R records, so that my little girl could have the experience of going in a studio, sing the chorus, and be on a CD. From there it was only a small step (with a lot of pushing from one or two people)

8. In addition, how did Steve Reeve aka Milky of the band, Indecent Exposure get involved and besides the music that has been written, will there be new songs?

Milky of Index, [Indecent Exposure] has been one of the people pushing me to perform, as I said, I have had little to do with music for years, and Milky still has a lot of connections, and he has been very supportive of the whole project, which I am grateful for.

9. On The 4 Skins Myspace page, I noticed there is a comment posted in the background that says, “Never Sorry.” What does this mean to you personally?

I will never say sorry, or apologize for Southall. In fact I have never been sorry for any of my actions. Do it and suffer the consequences. You should only be sorry for what you haven't done- Lost opportunities etc.

First I’d like to extend a heart-felt thank you to Gary Hodges for taking the time to answer my questions and for Craig Downtown and Milky. Also, the great informative Oi! Forum, “ThisisOi,” for giving a shit with their direct and honest input. Personally, I’m excited about the East Coast Oi Fest 2008 – and yes, although I may be a face of what some may be pegged as the media because I write, I believe I can use the weapon of the pen as a means to write truth. Witnessing The 4 Skins live—never seeing them before, will definitely be documented in rewriting history.




SugarBuzz Magazine