Scottish writer Craig Brackenridge has been writing about movie sleaze and demented Rock ‘n’ Roll since 1995 and has written for the magazines Street Sounds, Total Film, Bite Me, Best For Music, Dog Eat Robot and Mad Music For Bad People along with a number of album sleevnotes for Cherry Red Records.
His first book ‘Let’s Wreck’ was a part-biographical look at the Psychobilly scene from the early 1980’s to the 2000’s. In a bid to continue to record the history of Psychobilly for posterity he launched ‘Vinyl Dementia: The Psychobilly & Trash Record Guide’ in 2004. ‘Hell’s Bent On Rockin’: A History of Psychobilly’ followed in 2005 and was an attempt to chronicle the entire Psychobilly genre for Cherry Red Books. After the mammoth task of ‘Hell’s Bent…’ Craig decided to move into fiction as he has been a long-time fan of exploitative pulp paperbacks from the 1970’s. Short snappy novels filled with bikers, skinheads, teddy boys, boot boys, youth gangs, randy window cleaners, sexually frustrated housewives and ruthless characters from the old west are what he enjoys the most and his books ‘Psychobilly’ (Old Dog Books), ‘Glory Boys’ (Caffeine Nights Publishing) and the blood-spattered Western ‘Apache Gold’ (Stormscreen Productions) are his contributions to the genre he loves.
01. Tell us about you latest offering for Old Dog Books?
‘Rave On Scooterboy’ is about Terry, a young scooterist in North London, 1988. He’s a committed scooterist but also curious about other underground scenes. Along with his workmate Stevie, he gets immersed in the growing rave scene and it starts to take over his life fairly quickly. Things move into overdrive when they start to promote their own illegal raves but along with the money, drugs and easy sex that come their way there is also trouble in the form of local hoodlum Ricky ‘Dodgy’ Harris. As things descend into chaos and bloodshed Terry realises that the only people that can help him are the ones he has let down the most.
02. What was the Scootering Scene like in the 80s?
There were far more committed scooterists than me about but from 1987-1991 it totally took over my life. It was one long blur of two-stroke engine fumes, pilot jackets with patches, army trousers with beer towels, great music, booze and bunk-ups (occasionally!!). The most amazing part was leaving your home town behind whenever possible and going to places where there were (literally) thousands of people that shared similar interests. The experience of keeping the same pants, trousers and boots on for three days straight was also unforgettable.
03. What began the change towards folks seeking new things like the Acid House Scene?
I think the attraction of being part of some underground scene must have attracted a lot of people who had not previously been part of any subculture. Mainstream clubs in the late 1980’s were mostly fucking awful – shirt, slacks, no trainers, no entry with a funny haircut, girls dancing round their handbags to Stock Aitken & Waterman then all out for a fight outside the kebab shop at closing time. Raving all night in a loved-up atmosphere must have seemed like nirvana to a lot of people.
04. What about new drugs like MDMA and ‘E’ becoming available to more and more people?
I’m not sure if the drug was created to enhance the music or the music enhanced the drug but it’s fair to say they both came together at exactly the right time. People that would quite happily knock lumps out of each other if they were on cheap speed or pissed up seemed to be happy to congregate with a ‘dove’ down their neck.
05. How did people react to the vastly different music on offer at the Rave type events?
I’m sure the drugs must have played a large part. If you were ‘on one’, as youths of that time used to say, it was almost like an epiphany and the music, the lights and the whole experience made sense. If you weren’t then it probably seemed like a sweaty hell-hole in a disused building with someone’s car alarm going of at ear-splitting volume. I don’t think there was any grey area with the music – you either got it with a semi-religious fervour or thought it was shit.
06. Was the ‘Rave Culture’ partly responsible for the end of tribalism in Youth Cultures?
I honestly don’t know what happened but it did seem to ‘blend-in’ a wide range of punters. I’m sure there are still hardcore ravers out there somewhere but I suspect that any Mods, Punks or Scooterists that drifted on to the acid house scene have long since drifted back to their original style. I think the warehouse rave scene got so much national publicity that many people just got involved out of curiosity and then got kind of swept along by it for a few years. There’s no doubt that things did change around then. Before 1988, subcultures were fairly insular and there was not much crossover but I’m not sure if rave was totally to blame. It could have been grunge, the internet… I don’t know? Thatcher?
07. What was it like to ‘mobile’ on a Scooter in huge numbers and take over Seaside Towns?
It always amazed me the buzz that emanated from the big coastal runs. You started of with a few mates from your town, met a bundle more in the city then the numbers slowly grew with every mile that you got closer to your destination until all you could see were scooters. The first time I went to Scarborough, in 1987, I was shocked by the numbers that were there, it felt like scooterists had taken over the town completely.
08. What types of bands were popular with 80s Scooterists?
So many styles of music were part of the scene and that’s what attracted me to it in the first place. The majority of the events I attended were from the Midlands up and my booze-soaked memories certainly recall Northern Soul, Motown, Ska, 60’s Garage, Psychobilly, Punk, revival Mod and even some Glam Rock. Psychobilly bands that played quite a big role at runs, scooter do’s etc. were The Meteors, King Kurt, The Coffin Nails and The Highliners and no matter where you were someone was always playing Al Wilson’s ‘The Snake’ and Billy Ocean’s ‘Red Light Spells Danger’.
09. How does ‘Rave on Scooterboy’ compare with ‘Psychobilly’ your other ODB title?
‘Rave On Scooterboy’ is a real step forward for me, with a lot of research behind it to build up the story. ‘Psychobilly’ was basically autobiographical with names and places changed to protect the guilty. Generally though, I strongly believe that the experience of belonging to a street culture, or movement if you like, is a pretty shared experience. That feeling of being part of something is an unbeatable feeling, so this book should have a pretty wide appeal. If you were there you can remember the feeling, if you were not you might wish you were.
10. Where can folks grab a copy of ‘Rave on Scooterboy’?
Straight from the folks who are putting the boot back on the bookshelf with modern pulp fiction – www.olddogbooks.net