Sunday, October 19, 2014


Your politics should not define your taste in music. Music is, at the end of the day, art. Art can be used for politics, but art is at its core simply an expression of the artist. In the case of Skrewdriver, the artist in question is one Ian Stuart Donaldson. Skrewdriver began in 1976 as a legitimate band.

Skrewdriver is the original aggressive oi band. The Partisans took their cues from this Skrewdriver. If Cock Sparrer & The Cockney Rejects sang about football, beer, and a hard-nosed work ethic, it was Skrewdriver who turned all of that against the world. Skrewdriver basically taught a skinhead to fight at those football matches, to use the beer as fuel (and the containers holding it as weapons) for fighting, and said work ethic as a drive to never lose in fights. Skrewdriver effectively militarized the oi genre. This Skrewdriver lasted for three years. They dropped a slew of excellent singles & one classic album in All Skrewed Up. The lyrics by this Skrewdriver were about misanthropy, aggression, and reactionary hostility to the social climate of late 1970s Britain (which was being run into the ground by Maggie Thatcher). This Skrewdriver has some of the meanest guitars ever captured by a punk band. This Skrewdriver is as catchy as it is hostile.

I use a lot of terms like "drive off a cliff" or "jump the shark" to describe when a band changes things up. I can't do that for Skrewdriver. What happened to Skrewdriver, starting in 1979, can only be described as entering an abyss of which there is no return. In 1979, ISD jettisoned the rest of the band leaving Skrewdriver a one man project. Left to his own devices, Ian Stuart Donaldson took Skrewdriver someplace that many of its supporters could not go to.

Let's get it out of the way: Ian Stuart Donaldson is a racist, a Nazi sympathizer, and a fascist. These facts are inescapable. However, these facts also exist in a vacuum. ISD's beliefs are his own. Belief is not transmittable through audio to the intelligent mind. People who dismiss the work of someone with questionable views as taboo are as myopic and intolerant as the people they are criticizing. Shutting out one side of the argument doesn't make it go away. Nor does trying to eradicate the other side with hostile intolerance ala Antifa. Listening to White Rider does not make you a racist, it just gives you perspective into the mind of a racist. That is the story of later Skrewdriver. Not one rooted in contempt or dismissal, but an intelligent study of ISD's mind which was so warped within this universe he had built for himself. By the time of his death in 1993, ISD almost exclusively dealt with people in the white power sphere of music. He had shuttered himself away from a world that clearly didn't agree with him. He wrote garbage music catering to an audience of mindless people who didn't care what they were listening to as they were more concerned with the politics (hence the point that politics should not define your music taste). His old bandmates had decried ISD for driving Skrewdriver's good name into the ground (which is true).

The story of the two Skrewdrivers is both fascinating and tragic. The band had attained greatness typically reserved for legends in only a few short years. It took 14 years of ISD using the Skrewdriver name as a vehicle for his own politics to make the band's entirety a taboo. Today the name Skrewdriver exists like a swear word in some punk circles. The mere mention of the name evokes a reaction of condemnation and disgust from people. To more initiated and evolved circles, the name Skrewdriver commands a lively discussion. My personal favorite game is asking people how far do they go in the Skrewdriver catalog. If they don't even listen to All Skrewed Up, their opinion is not to be trusted. Obviously the further they go in the catalog, the more in-depth the discussion becomes about understanding the lyrics & music. To listen to later Skrewdriver is like reading Mein Kampf for a history class. The records are documents that should be parsed for understanding the author's mind, not teaching tools to take life lessons from.

Included is here a comp of Skrewdriver's singles & All Skrewed Up. You should enjoy, because they're good.

1 comment:

  1. Why take it so seriously dewd, why be so philosophical about it. "an intelligent study of ISD's mind which was so warped within this universe he had built for himself"?? there was nothing warped about his mind, he was just a good old fashioned Brit nationalist and the music reflects this - nothing hateful about it aside from a few songs.