The undisputed heroes of the early 80s skinhead scene, The 4 Skins were one of the mainstays of the second-wave of British punk commonly known as Oi! They endured major line-up changes, going through four lead singers including, at one point, their manager, and recorded three albums in the early 80s.
In the studio the band were capable of surprising quality – check out the ska tune Plastic Gangsters from The Good, The Bad & The 4 Skins album.
When performing live they tended to resort to angry terrace-flavoured skinhead shout-a-longs like Justice, ACAB (“All Coppers Are Bastards”) and Yesterdays Heroes.
The seven-song live side of The Good, The Bad & The 4 Skins is indicative of this forbidding – and at times, unpleasant – sound.
With only bassist Hoxton Tom remaining from the first LP, A Fistful of 4 Skins featured a more musical punk sound.
The group’s lyrics were always pretty sharp while musically they were easy to take but hard to remember (with a few exceptions).
Packaged in one sleeve, the first two albums were later reissued as A Few 4 Skins More Volume 1.
The 4 Skins’ last release before splitting in late 1984 was Live From Chaos to 1984, recorded in a studio before an audience of invited friends.
A sixteen-track retrospective called Wonderful World provided a definitive sampling of singles, album cuts and compilation contributions.
As is almost inevitable for a skinhead band, The 4 Skins were ultimately branded as racist, sexist (which many people still were in the early 80s) and violent.
Hoxton Tom McCourt