The Independent London Newspaper


We’re not Nazis, says London SS, punk band barred from Upper Street venue

The London SS on stage: ‘We’re the worst Nazis in the world!’ said lead singer Jimi McDonald. Right: the Hope and Anchor

Published: 18 April, 2014

A GROUNDBREAKING punk rock band whose members went on to found groups such as The Clash and The Damned has been banned from performing in a historic venue in a row over its name.

Owners of the Hope and Anchor, in Upper Street, which hosted up-and-coming punk bands in the 1970s, told The London SS that their name was unacceptable today and may damage the venue’s reputation.

But The London SS – one of whose original members was Mick Jones, who went on to form The Clash – say they are left-leaning but in the 1970s many punk groups adopted Nazi connotations in order to be edgy and controversial.

Former member Tony James, who went on to be bassist in Generation X and Sigue Sigue Sputnik, said of the name: “We hadn’t thought at all about the Nazi implications. It just seemed like a very anarchic, stylish thing to do.”

The London SS were only together for a year between 1975 and 1976 and never played a live gig. They are recognised, however, for spawning some of the biggest names in punk. The band was reassembled in 2012 with new members.

But in an email to the band, the Hope and Anchor said they could not perform there.

“We understand that in 1977 in punk’s heyday, the name may have been deemed as provocative and punky,” it said. “But society has moved on and the negative connotations of the ‘ss’ name, association and imagery are unacceptable in 2014 and we feel would be harmful to our brand.”

Promoter Vamps Entertainment, which represents the band, described the ban as “absolutely ridiculous” and said it would boycott the venue.

“The London SS formed at the beginning of the punk revolution. It is a name that was supposed to hit you in the face. There are no far-right associations. The band are pretty much left wing,” it said. 

Lead singer Jimi McDonald, 28, added: “Is there less freedom of speech now than there was in the 1970s? I don’t see why that has eroded. Surely it would have progressed in the last 40 years... surely it should be less shocking now? 

“It seems that things of this nature have become increasingly more taboo, and less acceptable to parody. And essentially that’s what we are doing, we’re parodying.

“Someone came up to me once and said: ‘London SS man, you’re a bunch of Nazis!’ and I said: ‘No man, we’re a bunch of immigrants and queers. We’re the worst Nazis in the world!’”

A spokesperson for the pub said: “The Hope and Anchor is a popular live music venue, known for staging music for a variety of tastes and with a well-established affection for punk. We appreciate that musicians are creative and we embrace and celebrate that artistic licence. However, we will only host bands that we feel are right for the pub and our customers.”

Original band member Brady said that the name was thought up by former drummer Gier Wadde “on a drunken night in Soho”.

“SS stands for social services,” he said. “But it was meant to sound a bit like we were Nazi sympathisers, which we’re obviously not... we’re left-leaning people. It was just a punk thing to do.”

He added that the band might change its name as they don’t want to get in trouble or send out the wrong image if they 

were to play in other countries, including Germany.

He also described how in the 1970s they sacked Mick Jones.

“We did a showcase for producer Guy Stevens, and he said: ‘We don’t need another guitar player, we need a keyboard player.’ So we gave Mick [Jones] the sack. Mick wasn’t pleased, but about two weeks later he met Joe Strummer and they formed The Clash. So things turned out pretty good for him.”

Jimi admitted: “Things would certainly be easier for us if we changed the name, but if we changed it now we would be backing down, compromising. There is no compromise in this band.”

The London SS will be performing at the Boston Arms, in Tufnell Park, in July. 


London SS

The London SS will be playing at The Boston Music Room on Friday the 6th of June, come and judge for yourself!

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