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11th August 2005

Politics To Partyin' by Ian Mutch

An unusual book landed in our laps last week, so we sought out someone unusual to review it. So Graham Ham got to grips with biker subculture. Yikes...

Apparently, on receiving a copy of this book for review, His Royal Editorialness sent it straight to me on account of having the word "partyin'" in the title. I don't know why because surely it's common knowledge that I'm in bed by nine o'clock every evening? That aside, it's on my desk now, so let's get on and have a look at the thing. On first inspection, 'book' is maybe a bit misleading, for it's actually a soft cover A4 sized largely pictorial tome.

The author, Ian Mutch, is a fairly well known character if you keep up with the goings on in the political arena. A founder member of the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) and now its President, he's been at the forefront of the anti-legislation lobby for a good few years. It's no surprise then to find that his introduction reads like a MAG recruitment leaflet and it sets the scene for at least the first half of the book's content which is mainly focused on the political machinations of that organisation.

Macho Mutcho

We all know about the helmet law, and most of us are at least dimly aware of the protest movements and subsequent demonstrations that followed. We're probably less aware of a number of other Governmental proposals aimed at our wellbeing and safety which never made it into law, and the first twenty pages of this tome do quite a good job of revealing some of these, as well as the counter actions of the lobby groups. But I couldn't help but be slightly irritated by Mutch's tendency to belittle or ignore the existence of other lobby groups such as the BMF, virtually suggesting that MAG had single handedly defeated the Government of the day each time and ever since.

That aside, the archival photographs that accompany this section of the book, coupled with some interesting 'behind the scenes' descriptive writing do make for a good read. So far so good then, I've learned a few things I didn't know and I am fairly impressed with the passion of the author for his subject. Mellow Mutcho

But what about that word which caused the book to hurtle in my direction to start with? Aha, here we go, page 22 '..The demonstrations spawned a calendar of rallies…' it says here, but what follows is actually more archival photos from MAG demos and then, after a few pages of this, we're suddenly off on a seemingly completely disconnected thread as we catapult into the Rocker era and a patchy few pages on the 59 Club!

I've just made the mental adjustment to the sudden, albeit welcome change of focus, when this promising theme also comes to a sudden halt as I find that Harleys and the Harley riders' club have muscled in on the action, but only for a fleeting moment it seems, because the author has yet another theme change up his sleeve before two pages have been turned.

What follows is a kind of Rogue's Gallery - a who's who of … yes you guessed it, MAG activists, with a few other profiles of well-known names on the fringes of the Harley and custom fraternity. There are undoubtedly a couple of interesting pieces here, and I am fascinated by some of the characters under the spotlight such as Dave Barr, reputedly the 'hardest biker on earth' which is not a reference to brawling but rather the man's sheer tenacity on two wheels in the face of pretty harsh adversity.

From here, we're suddenly back on the rally theme, MAG rallies of course, and we get a brief introduction to some eleven events - mostly pictorial. In keeping with the author's style however, this section has a two page spread smack in the middle, seemingly unrelated to the theme and called 'the big picture' - it happens to be a big picture of a rather nice thirties Enfield V-Twin though, a damnably fine one too, so that's all right then.

Harleys on

Seaside MutchsideFrom rallies we now find ourselves focusing on clubs. But the club focus is fairly narrow, being almost exclusively those around the Harley and Chopper scene, and before long it seems that the book has become an extension of the Harley Davidson marketing department. We are introduced to The Harley Legend, Hog UK , Harleys in France, Harleys in Portugal, Harleys in Spain … Italy, Greece, Sweden …

You get the idea.

Great if you're into Harleys, and the whole Harley image thing; not so great if you're not.

We finish up with a short piece on Chops, or The Art Of Harley as the book prefers to call it and a two page focus on the numerous fringe life-style type bike mags, such as Back Street Heroes, Easyriders, Hog, etc. Again, you get the idea. At this point, You might be thinking that I didn't like this book, but that's not strictly true. I certainly found it confusing , lacking flow and it bizarrely fails to actually do what it says on the tin (the banner at the bottom of the cover proclaims it to contain 'A pictorial history of biker subculture in Great Britain' and it's anything but that) but I also found plenty of interest in there too, particularly the archival photographs.

In summary; If you like the fringe biker culture, chops, Harleys and the whole easyrider image thing, you'll love this book. If you like the rebellious anti-establishment thing, you'll love this book. If you like larger-than-life colourful characters, you'll love this book.

Politics To Partyin' by Ian Mutch is available only from the author at the moment from or 020 8556 6495. You should be able to order online fairly soon from


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