In 1973, the BBC set out to interview and document the only British chapter at the time of the infamous Hells Angels at their London clubhouse where they met then-president Mad John, who was a father of four and had a dog named Hitler, Sergeant-at-Arms Karl, a self-described psychopath who “has been cross-eyed ever since his eyes were knocked out of their sockets in a fight” and other members of the club.
The 25 minute documentary plays out like a comedy (though the Nazi paraphernalia that they proudly flew was anything but funny) but these men are also creatures of their culture. When the group feels disrespected by a restaurant host during a run, they discussed going back and trashing the place, but did nothing. Instead they chose to stay inside their pirated barge, drink beer and watch Doctor Who on the telly. While there’s no doubt these guys were tough, they come across in this interview as just wanting to belong somewhere. Commenter John Cashin quite eloquently explained this mindset.
…I get where these guys were coming from, I really do, growing up in Britain and trying to find a purpose as a young man was difficult in those days, … It was especially tricky to find a purpose when you were from a working family because unlike generations before when everything was cut out and you knew exactly where you were going when you left school, all that went out the window, so you had to make your own purpose, this is why you had so many youth cults among working class kids in Britain, along with Hells Angels you had Mods, Punks, Teds, Rockers, Skinheads, Dreadlocks etc, it was all about trying to find identity and purpose, to fill a gap that was there in young people’s lives and even as you got older, in your late 20’s, 30’s etc, this need for identity and this need to prove your manhood, to stand your ground for yourself and your ‘tribe’ stays with you for a long time, it did with me, it’s only when I got into middle age that I began to realize how stupid I was being.
via Nag on the Lake