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In February 1993 The Blaggers signed to EMI and things were looking good, but 6 months later, after Matty Blag quite justifiably slapped a Melody Maker journalist for calling him a fascist, the writing was on the wall. Frozen out by the music press and dropped by EMI in 1994, the band went into freefall and started to break up. By 1996 it was all over.

This video tells the story of the most committed anti-fascist band this country has ever seen and in the spirit of the band all proceeds will be given to the anti-fascist movement.

The story of the Blaggers started back in 1987:

"The Blaggers first started rehearsing mid-1987. The first gig was at the LMS in Hendon and the line up was: vocals - Matty Blag and Bilko, guitar - Steve Serious, bass - Matt Vinyl, drums - Jez the Jester. In those early days getting gigs was hard work, no one seemed to want to know the band except Cable Street Beat (CSB), the anti-fascist organisation. CSB got the Blaggers to support the likes of The Price, The Neurotics and Attilla the Stockbroker, and from this they started to pick up a small antifascist following. By the band's eighth gig they were supporting The Angelic Upstarts at The George Robey in north London. This gig was a very important event in London, it was the first British gig the Upstarts had played after being attacked by the fascist music organisation Blood & Honour.

"Blood & Honour thought that was the end of the Upstarts, they reckoned they could do whatever they wanted in London, but Mensi, Red Action, Anti-Fascist Action and CSB had other ideas. The fight back against these fascist bastards would start here. After a major picket of a shop that sold nazi merchandise in Carnaby Street and a jam-packed gig by the Upstarts and the Blaggers, which went ahead without any trouble, anti-fascists in London started to take the fight to the fascists.

"At the very next gig the Blaggers came up against the face of fascism once again. In the Midlands the band got attacked by a mob of boneheads during the set. We had no other choice but to defend ourselves along with our road crew at the time, who of course did not mess around. All the band were held on violent disorder charges along with a couple of our roadies. A year on from this incident all charges were dropped, but what happened that night brought it home to the band what being an anti-fascist was realty all about - Jez left the band!"

(Taken from the sleeve notes of 'Fuck Fascism, Fuck Capitalism' LP)

The next few years involved a lot of hard work gigging round the country, several tours of Germany where the band were extremely popular, and playing a gig with the Upstarts in front of 5,000 anti-fascists in Rome. The next big issue was EMI:

"In February 1993, after nearly five years hard slog, the Blaggers signed to EMI, or more accurately to Parlophone, an EMI subsidiary. Shortly after this the band played at The Dome in north London, arriving at the venue to find the area covered in anonymous posters accusing the band of "selling out". The argument being that signing to a major label was a betrayal of what they stood for and motivated by greed. It is significant that the people behind these attacks on the Blaggers have never had the bottle to actually discuss this issue with the band themselves, a band that has never hidden behind dressing room doors. EMI are a large multi-national company who previously attracted criticism for being involved in the international arms trade. Before the band signed they took the trouble to check with the Campaign Against the Arms Trade who told them they believed EMI's links ended in the 1970s.

"The idea that a small independent label is somehow better than a major is wrong. Firstly, most of the independent labels, certainly the most successful ones, have been bought up by the majors. For example, Blur would appear to be on an independent label, Food, except that Food is actually owned by EMI. There are some small labels who are genuinely independent, and unfortunately bands on them suffer from their lack of resources. This directly leads to a limited (and converted?) audience. So for a band with a 'message' it is self-defeating not to try and reach the widest possible audience.

"Since the Blaggers signed to EMI they have received considerable media coverage, in the papers, on TV and radio, and they have used these opportunities to push militant anti-fascism in a very positive way. The first manor interview they did appeared in Melody Maker in January 1993 (just before they signed to EMI, but EMI's interest, since November 1992, had alerted the press to the band). At the end of the interview they insisted on including a piece about AFA which resulted in nearly 100 people writing in for more information on how to get involved. Another outrageous example of the Blaggers "selling out" was when they spent the money EMI gave them for a signing party on full page adverts for AFA in the NME and Melody Maker. Again, this resulted in AFA getting sackloads of mail."

(Taken from Fighting Talk, No. 5)

Once the Blaggers had gatecrashed the musical mainstream it didn't take long for the industry's middle class prejudices to be unleashed against the band's working class politics:

"With the band's popularity growing, Melody Maker in particular began to criticise the band's physical opposition to fascism: Calvin Bush wrote: 'An ignorant man's bigotry fumes in black and white. Its us and them, live and die. No inbetweens. The right way is our way is the only way. It's inevitably coupled with senseless violence. For Blaggers ITA, our great white ska-punk hopes for a fascist-free future, this could be their downfall.' Dave Simpson, also of the Melody Maker, went further: 'Blaggers may claim to be anti-fascist but one of them used to be in the British Movement, people can change they ways, but I've seen them live and their methods and imagery are no different to the BM.'

"Things came to head in July 1993 when, at an after show party in Leeds, an argument between Simpson and Matty Blag ended in a scuffle. The incident was blown out of all proportion by Melody Maker, giving total support to Simpson without having heard Blagger ITA's side of the story. Worse was to follow with Melody Maker editor Alan Jones getting Blaggers ITA thrown off the Reading Festival bill and so depriving the band of the chance to put the issue of militant anti-fascism across to thousands of people. The NME's view of the band at this time was little better, Sam Steete commented in a gig review: 'under the cover of a politically-correct banner lurk right-wing attitudes, bad manners and poorly aimed bile.'"

(Taken from United Colours, Blaggers ITA newsletter)

Looking back, things could have turned out differently but that's always easy to say. The Blaggers tried to take militant working class politics into an increasingly conservative music scene. Other bands would do well to follow in their footsteps and learn from their experience. As for the rest of us, the best tribute to the band would be to follow their advice:

"Its about time people stopped sitting around and joined the struggle!"

(Blaggers, NME, May 1993)

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