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.