Born in the summer of 1957 at Poulton-le-Fylde in Lancashire, England, Ian Stuart Donaldson was to become the godfather of underground music the world over.
Growing up in nearby Blackpool, Ian felt the urge to do something other than conform to the boring and mundane lifestyles that surrounded him. In the early seventies he was drawn to the style and culture of the Skinhead. When he watched his good friend Grinny (John Grinton) play in a local band his heart set on forming his own.
His first group was called Tumbling Dice which played mainly cover versions of the Rolling Stones and The Who. An offer came from a London record label, but the rest of the band refused to move to the capital and they disbanded.
It wasn't long before Ian formed another band, but this time he had the added influence of Punk. He had seen the Sex Pistols play their first gig in Manchester and was struck by their attitude and aggression. In early 1977, Skrewdriver was formed and Ian, Grinny, Kev McKay and Phil Walmsley ventured to London to set up base near their record label, Chiswick Records. They went about promoting their band by playing regular gigs and with their debut single 'You're So Dumb.' At one gig a fight broke out involving one of the Skrewdriver crew which resulted in Bob Geldof being knocked out on stage. Skrewdriver acquired a reputation for violence and it spelled commercial disaster when a riot erupted at another London venue, this time with influential music business people present, and Skrewdriver lost various big deals and earned themselves a London gig ban at the same time.
From then on it was to be an uphill struggle and although their debut LP was given fair reviews, their Skinhead appearance was not welcomed by the music press and promotion became almost impossible. The band moved to Manchester on the recommendation of Chiswick Records and acquired a strong local following there but, due to their reputation and their change in musical direction, they found themselves dropped by Chiswick. They continued alone, and even produced a classic single 'Built Up, Knocked Down' for local Manchester label TJM, but by the end of 1979 Skrewdriver was no more.
Back in Blackpool, Ian became a major figure on the Skinhead scene which saw his involvement with the National Front and later the British Movement become a real focus for him.
He wanted to re-form the band for the NF but he never got the commitment from them that he so dearly needed. So it was in the summer of 1982, while back in London, that he was persuaded to re-start the group. He recruited two South London Skinheads on bass and drums and placed an ad. in the music press for a guitarist. It wasn't long before they were rehearsing, and recording was under way with two tracks for the United Skins compilation and two more for the very popular 'Back with a Bang' maxi-single.
The single was well-received but the chattering classes were gossiping that Skrewdriver were a racist band. The press had to wait no longer than the end of the year to have the rumours confirmed. Skrewdriver played regularly at the 100 Club and on stage late in '82 Ian raised his right arm and proclaimed "This one's called 'Tomorrow Belongs To Me.'" The crowd roared and thus began the true legacy of Skrewdriver.
Albert Marriner, to whom â€˜Sick Societyâ€™ is dedicated
At 7:45pm on Tuesday 3rd May 1983, old-age pensioner and NF member Albert Marriner was walking to a National Front election meeting when he was struck on the head by a brick hurled from a "mainly black" mob of rioters. They had been mobilised by an unlawful election leaflet issued by Labour Councillors of the London Borough of Haringay. Albert was taken to hospital where he died the next day. The police refused to investigate the events which led to Albert's death.
How the media would have howled and screamed if we had murdered one of them!
Ian was working closely with the National Front who were keen to exploit the band's popularity, seeing it as a great way to recruit members. A record label was set up producing the band's first political tracks. 'White Power' sent a shock wave throughout the music industry - one paper claimed the single was "The most evil record of all time." All Skrewdriver's gig adverts were banned and pressure was placed on any venue with the courage to host them. For the NF, 'White Power' was a great success and they increased their coverage of the scene, with more bands emerging of the Rock Against Communism genre. This was real-life Rock 'n' Roll rebellion, an underground movement that was thriving right under the noses of all who had tried to destroy it. Skrewdriver struck a deal with German-based label Rock-o-Rama and despite bomb threats, government action and music business pressure, the partnership remained strong until Ian's last days.
Skrewdriver produced their second LP Hail the New Dawn in 1984 and while their line-up went through various changes, their popularity grew, not only in Britain but internationally. The NF decided that their coverage in Bulldog magazine was not enough and launched White Noise magazine and an organization to run it.
Martyrs are Made of This:
Just before making Hail the New Dawn Ian was quoted as saying: â€˜I am not the type of person to creep and crawl to a bunch of weak-kneed, pacifist lefties and two-faced Zionists. One must be honest to people about one's beliefs and especially when the survival of our very race is at stake. I have no doubt that anyone who expounds patriotic beliefs has a little black mark put against his name, and by now I must have a massive black mark near my name. C'est la guerre. â€™
These remarks were to prove prophetic. It seemed as if Ian's hard work was beginning to pay off when he was arrested after a skirmish with a gang of Africans and then found himself sentenced on 11 December 1985 to a 12-month jail-term.
On the night of September 23, 1993 Ian was involved in a car crash that would result in his death, as well as that of friend of the band Boo (Stephen Flint). It was Ian's car but Robert Sherlock was driving, and at the inquest he described how it had felt as if the steering wheel "was 'snapped' from his hand." Derby Coroner Peter Ashworth concluded: â€˜We are still no nearer finding out what caused this tragic accident. All we can say is that because of the car's two defects the car became less easy to control. But there must have been some other factor which contributed to the crash, even if Ian had not grabbed the wheel in a way many others in the same situation would have done.â€™
The suggestion is that Ian's car had been tampered with. Whatever the origins of his death, it was a tragedy that the Blood and Honour movement has yet to recover from.
Check out the artist's website:
1. After The Fire
2. Mean Streets
3. Win Or Die
4. Land Of Ice
5. Eyes Full Of Rage
6. As Life Bleeds Away
7. Forty-Six Years
8. European Dream
10. A Time Of Change
11. Sweet Home Alabama
12. Green Fields Of France