>"Badass, trigger-finger cool"

1965, and the Hells Angels are properly entering the consciousness of the American public. These superbly atmospheric photographs were taken by Life Magazine staffer Bill Ray who, with writer Joe Bride managed to gain entry to the scary and chaotic world of this most notorious of outlaw biker gangs. The then editor of Life, George Hunt spiked the story saying “I ain’t running a story on those smelly b@stards” and until now these images were never published.

As a scooterist, I occasionally find myself waiting at traffic lights next to one or more Hells Angels. It’s exactly how I would imagine a mackerel feels when encountering a shoal of great white sharks. The first time it happened, it came as a welcome surprise for one of these Harley-bestriding Visigoths to shout across “Nice old Vespa!”, rather than rip my head off and use it as a mudguard ornament.

Of course, the Angels are er, no angels. About a hundred years ago I went to see a next-big-thing American band at the Cellar Bar (RIP) in Bradford. The gig was cancelled after one of the local Angels took offence to his ‘old lady’ being chatted up by the band’s singer, and ejected him from the pub they were in. Via a window. Which was on the first floor. The reporter that the NME had sent up especially (the late Steven Wells, I think) had to conduct an interview from the unfortunate Yank’s bedside at Bradford Royal Infirmary.

About teninchwheels

Designer, photographer and Vespa-fixated pub bore. Born in Yorkshire, living in that London these past 20 years. Get in touch at teninchwheels@gmail.com, especially if you'd like to send me some free beer.
This entry was posted in Altamont, Heading Out Onto Highways, Loaded Pools Cues, Motors Running. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to >"Badass, trigger-finger cool"

  1. Affer says:

    >Fascinating that Life's then editor spiked the story because it might be argued that Life was responsible for the whole genre! The issue of July 21, 1947, contained the story of how "4000 motorcyclists terrorised" the city of Hollister by rioting, and showed the famous photo of the drunk biker on his 'hog', surrounded by beer bottles! The photo of course was set up and posed, the riot didn't happen, the injuries largely non-existent and the arrests minimal! Not that such trivia came between Life and a good story!

  2. Anonymous says:

    >I live in Oakland, CA. Sonny Barger's home town. A few years ago (2007?), there was a huge gathering of Hell's Angels at Sweet's Ballroom, Broadway, Oakland. On that Friday, I was driving home on the 880 Freeway, and just heard this ROAR. I looked in the rear view, and saw this PHALANX of Angels. I got into the slow lanes HELLA quick. That roar lasted for three days, in and around my town.

  3. TIW says:

    >Affer – ah yes, and the inspiration for the Wild One. They were called the 'Boozefighters' then weren't they?Anonymous – Thanks for dropping in. There's nothing as terrifyingly awesome as the sight of a 'squadron' of Angels in full flight. Except maybe the Great London Scooter Rideout in June.

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