The Strange Case of Nicola Vincenzio Crane

Nicky Crane grew up in Crayford. He was an archetypal bonehead in the 70s, becoming the Kent organiser for the neo-nazi British Movement by the end of the decade.

A photograph of Crane ended up on the cover of the “Strength Thru Oi!” LP which was complied by Garry Bushell for Sounds and released on Decca in 1981:

“Under looming deadline pressure I suggested using a shot from a skinhead Xmas card which I believed was a still from the Wanderers movie. In fact it had been taken by English skinhead photographer Martin Dean. It wasn’t until the very last minute, when Decca had mocked up the sleeve that the photo was sufficiently clear to reveal Nazi tattoos. We had the option of either airbrushing the tattoos out or putting the LP back a month while we put a new sleeve together…”

There was an expose by the Daily Mail a few months later, also revealing that Crane was then doing a four year stretch for racist violence. Decca deleted the record and Bushell got all indignant:

“Me, at that point in my life a dedicated socialist (used to having ‘Bushell is a red’ chanted at me at gigs), accused of masterminding a right-wing movement by a newspaper that had once supported Mosley’s Blackshirts, Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia, and appeasement with Hitler right up to the outbreak of World War Two…”

On his release from prison, Crane hooked up with Ian Stuart Donaldson, the leading “light” of the rubbish band Skrewdriver, even writing the lyrics to their song “Justice”, about (as Donaldson later put it) “when he was sent to jail for four years for leading a British Movement gang who were retaliating for attacks by blacks upon themselves.” (a nice bit of logic there – an organised political gang dedicated to racial violence is somehow “retaliating”, against anybody who happens to be black).

Crane and Donaldson went on to launch “Blood & Honour” in 1987 – basically a network of bonehead bands and zines which produced “Hitler was right” stickers, released godawful records, organised gigs and promoted the politics of race war and racial violence.

Blood & Honour organised clandestinely because of pressure from anti-fascists. Their gigs were secret affairs for those retarded enough to be “in the know”, often featuring an elaborate series of redirection points, venue bookings under false names, etc. Even given all of this cloak and dagger stuff, B&H were regularly humiliated by Anti-Fascist Action, categorically the most important (and militant) anti-fascist organisation in the UK during the 1980s and 90s.

Two major London events were completely stymied by AFA at their redirection points at Hyde Park (1989) and Waterloo (1992) respectively. Blood & Honour had staked a great deal on these gigs, inviting people from all over Europe to attend. Their credibility took a nosedive and the network soon descended into faction fighting, rip offs, etc. No large scale events have taken place in the capital since.

So far, business as usual for the far right (and a very lucrative business at that, despite all the stuff about doing it for the kids/race). But what most people didn’t know at the time was that Nicky Crane was leading a double life. He was gay, he worked as a bouncer at S&M clubs and even appeared in gay porn videos. In 1992 he finally came out in a programme on Channel 4, subsequently dropping out of the far right and settling down with his partner, an older man, who was apparently Jewish.

Nicky Crane died in 1993 of an AIDs-related illness. He’s now routinely condemned by the hard men of 21st century bonehead-ism, who (despite all the uniforms and male bonding) are always a little too zealous in distancing themselves from anything less than 100% hetero… hmmmm.

Crane is also an icon of “rough trade” for gay porn – just do a google for his name (not at work!) and you’ll find dozens of sites which use his name as a keyword, but don’t seem to have anything relating to him in the content. A strange legacy following a mixed up life.

End of story? Not quite:

“NAZI FARTSY

Earsay’s [A Channel 4 magazine programme iirc] snippets on Genesis P-Orridge et al featured an unexpected guest – a certain Nicola Crane. Crane, the neo-Nazi who by a series of errors made the front cover of ‘Strength Thru Oi’, turned out to be one of the ‘stars’ of a Psychic TV video film. Let’s hope the media are as quick to condemn this obviously deliberate airing for Crane as they were with that accidental airing three years ago.”

Sounds, 22nd September 1984

This press clipping recently came to light on the PTV-related FOPI discussion list. I’ve not seen the actual issue of Sounds it is supposed to originate from, but it looks a bit like a “gossip column” article. Nor have I seen any follow ups / retractions / etc. Psychic TV were no strangers to the letters pages of the music press, though…

image from Psychic TVs Unclean video courtesy of FOPI.net

The video is question must surely be for “Unclean”, a track which was released as a 12″ single on Temple Records in 1984.

Nobody seems to have seen any credits for the production of the video. In 1984, Crane would have been fresh out of prison. Did he earn a crust for one of the many people who directed films for PTV?

Is it actually him?

My copy of the Unclean video is pretty knackered, but looking at it again, one of the featured skinheads does resemble Nicky Crane. He appears in two shots – the one as in the picture above (but only from the shoulders upwards) and one in front of a backdrop of Piccadilly Circus. In the latter shot, he clearly has some tattoos on his arms, but they aren’t clear.

If that skinhead was Nicky Crane, complete with nazi tattoos, I find it peculiar that this was allowed to slip through the net – especially in the light of all the dirt which was thrown at Throbbing Gristle for their supposed (and nonexistent) fascism. It’s all very odd indeed.