I'm aware that it's the ultimate hipster cliche - 'of course I like the early stuff before they went all mainstream': On a whim one bored afternoon at work I brought a couple of things on ebay - a book of the late Jim Fogg's biking short stories "Fogg On the Road' - and an old 1984 issue of Back Street Heroes. And reading them I was instantly transported to another more innocent and more authentic age.
Flicking through the magazine I see an editorial bemoaning the right-wing pro-business bias of Fleet Street and defending Ken Livingston and Tony Benn. (Imagine finding that in a custom bike magazine these days). A regular column by the much-missed Maz Harris taking the piss out of Harley-hobbyists and vintage-obsessives. The featured bikes are mainly Jap big in-line fours and old British twins rather than American Vs. A Blues Brothers mural on the tank. There's no visible attempt to be self consciously 'old skool' or retro. Not a single bloated OCC style cash-magnet creation in sight. And some quite decent short fiction that doesn't feature mythical celtic warriors or bad-ass outlaw MC's. It just feels so such much more 'real' and more like the village newsletter of a community than anything you're going to see nowadays.
I suppose it's inevitable that every sub-culture will either die or eat itself as it enters the commercial mainstream. And perhaps the 'cool' of our own youth is always going to be way cooler than the cool of today. Even so I can't help but get misty eyed about the era when I first discovered BSH (about 1986) or when I first went to the HAMC's Kent Custom Show in 1988. I think there were about 20,000 people at that event on Romney Marsh - and it felt as if every biker in the country was gathered in one place. But that unique annual gathering of the tribes is now long gone; four years ago twice that number attended the Bulldog Bash - and that was just one of several similar events.
I'm off with my slippers and coca now ...