** PLEASE NOTE ** - The contents of this page is meant only to show the extent of the Media Hype surrounding Motorcycle Clubs in the late 60s and early 70s when the Sons of Hell, and some of the other clubs mentioned on this site were formed. It is put together solely from MY OWN experience, opinion and research, and does NOT reflect the opinion of the Sons of Hell MC or any of its members past of present. (I'm glad we've cleared that up)
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin...
Once upon a time a long long time ago, there were gangs of angry young men riding around America on motorcycles, creating havoc and having a yahoo good time in the process, and for the most part the rest of the world knew very little about it. But all that was about to change!! Actually there were gangs of angry young men on motorcycles everywhere. Here in Britain by 1965 the era of the 'Rocker' was coming to an end and was of little interest to the young bikers who were coming of age around that time, a lot of whom drifted around the general bike scene, or formed themselves into loose knit 'gangs' with not much in the way of purpose or direction. It was an article published in Time Magazine that sparked the media frenzy that was to change everything. The article was about a report by California's then Attorney General Thomas C Lynch, on a motorcycle gang called Hell's Angels.
What follows is that article word for word as it was printed.
THE WILDER ONES TIME MAGAZINE - FRIDAY MARCH 26th 1965.
The 1954 movie The Wild One was a slice-of-seedy-life picture about a pack of vicious, swaggering motorcycle hoods called the Black Rebels. The characters were too overdrawn and the violence they wrought was too unrelieved to engage the credulity of its audience, so the film passed quickly into oblivion. Last week it was back - in real life. The story was told by California Attorney General Thomas C Lynch in a shocking report on a motorcycle gang called Hell's Angels. It was a rape case that ignited Lynch's investigation. Last fall, two teen-age girls were taken forcibly from their dates and raped by several members of the gang. From 104 California sheriffs, district attorneys and chiefs of police, Lynch amassed a mountain of evidence about Hell's Angels, the thrust of which shows that the group has more than lived up to its sinister moniker. Founded in 1950 at Fontana, a steel town 50 miles east of Los Angeles, the club now numbers about 450 in California. Their logbook of kicks runs from sexual perversion and drug addiction to simple assault and thievery. Among them, they boast 874 felony arrests, 300 felony convictions, 1,682 misdemeanor arrests, and 1,023 misdemeanor convictions. Of 151 Angels involved in the 300 felony convictions, only 85 have ever served time in prisons or reform schools. No act is too degrading for the pack. Their initiation rite, for example, demands that any new member bring a woman or girl (called a "sheep") who is willing to submit to sexual intercourse with each member of the club. But their favorite activity seems to be terrorizing whole towns. Once, roaring along on their "chopped hogs" (customized Harley-Davidson machines), they swept with their girl friends into the town of Porterville (pop. 7,991). With them were members of several other outlaw motorcycle gangs, the Stray Satans. Galloping Gooses, Comancheros and Cavaliers. Reports Lynch: "By Saturday evening they had assembled in the center of the city. Most started to drink in local bars, becoming obnoxious and vulgar. They stood in the middle of the street, where they stopped vehicles, opened car doors and attempted to pet and paw female passengers in the automobiles. The women who accompanied the group lay in the middle of the street, where they went through suggestive motions. At about this time, some half-dozen motorcyclists invaded a bar and brutally beat an old man and attempted to abduct the barmaid. Shortly thereafter some dozen motorcyclists went to the local hospital, where they pushed in every door of the hospital looking for the victim of the beating." Dossiers. When they are not thus engaged, the Angels-sometimes accompanied by the young children of a member and by the unmarried females who hang out with the club-often rent a dilapidated house on the edge of town, where they swap girls, drugs and stolen motorcycle parts with equal abandon. In between drug-induced stupors, the Angels go on motorcycle-stealing forays, even have a panel truck with a special ramp for loading the stolen machines. Afterward, they may ride off again to seek some new nadir in sordid behavior. Armed with all this information, Attorney General Lynch last week announced that all local law enforcement agencies will now have been supplied with dossiers on each member of Hell's Angels and on similar gangs, and set up a coordinated intelligence service that will try to track down the hoods wherever they appear. "They will no longer be allowed to threaten the lives, peace and security of honest citizens of our state," he said. To that, thousands of Californians shuddered a grateful amen.
And that was it, tucked away in an issue of Time Magazine, but it opened the floodgates, and the media frenzy that poured out was fucking unbelievable, from 1965 onwards there was so much press coverage that before long anyone who rode a bike was being called a Hell's Angel. It has only been through the efforts of the Hells Angels themselves that the press has learned to differentiate between the various back patch clubs, and even then they still use the phrase 'Hells Angel style' to describe other MCs. I have no intention of writing an in depth general history of motorcycle gangs, there's already a mountain of stuff out there for you to read if you're that interested. All I want to do is give those of you who weren't around at the time a sense of what turned Britains 'Rockers' and 'Greasers' into what the authorities now call "KNOW SUBVERSIVES" and "ARMED MOBILE CRIMINAL ORGANISATIONS". Personally I think they're over reacting, never having been an Organised Armed Criminal. And as for Subversive, well I think they've got some fucking cheek when you look at what the "Authorities" have done to our beloved country. (Oh don't get me started!!)
This edition of the Bulletin from 1969 and the others pictured below from 65 onward are typical examples of the media feeding frenzy, and once these various newspapers and magazines arrived here on the news stands it gave focus to thousands of the country's young bikers. There were of course hundreds of clubs with hundreds of different names. The Hells Angels were by no means the first Motorcycle gang to emerge after WW2, but it was the Hell's Angels that the media latched on to. Sure the sensational headline opportunity for the press was too good to miss, but it worked both ways, and I believe the astute and charismatic Sonny Barger took full advantage of the situation when it came to satisfying his own personal Napoleonic itch.
It was a dream of empire shared by a lot of other club presidents, but the hand of fate fell upon the Hells Angels. The sensational headlines that followed the Lynch report turned motorcycle gang members into 20th century versions of the outlaws of the old west, and the Hells Angels lead the field much like the James/Younger gang had a century earlier, with Sonny Barger in the role of the legendary Jesse.
Try not to read this in the light of 21st century 'biker politics', the situation today is not the same as it was forty plus years ago. This is in no way intended to glorify or intimate any kind of support for the Hells Angels or any other club, its simply a matter of fact, and the fact is that if you are a member of any motorcycle back patch club anywhere outside America, then to some degree you owe your existance to Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels.
Ooh!! I can feel the venom coming at me from all over the world!! well don't fucking blame me blame the media, without them it's unlikely anyone here would ever have heard of the Hell's Angels or anybody else for that matter. As it was we did hear, and thank fuck we did otherwise who knows what my life, amongst so many others would have been like, I might even have 'grown up' (ugh!!). So before you start thinking this is a party political broadcast!! It's not, it's just the truth, and if you start denying the truth just because it doesn't suit you, then before you know it you'll be a fucking christian.
For those of us who were around at the time, it was headlines like these that gave us a welcome alternative to the peace and flowers brigade who were babbling on about love, and having peaceful protest's and turning the other cheek, because the truth is that if you do turn the other cheek, some cunt will slap that one as well. Having said that, some of the Hippy women were fucking georgeous, (and friendly!!) Much better than the Skinhead women who came along after, although you could get a half decent fight out of the Skinhead lads. Headlines like these also created a sense of fear amongst the general public, which in turn meant they didn't like you, but for me at least, people didn't like me anyway so it was part of the attraction, and it did mean that for the most part they left you alone.
Once Hunter S Thompson's book book hit the British Bookstores, there was no holding anybody back, and it became both a bible and instruction manual for 'greasers' everywhere, and back patch clubs began appearing almost overnight.
The New English Library series of books kicked off by 'Chopper' was also to have an influence on many a young mans mind, mine included. And of course to top it all off there was also the promise of some sex.