Gilles Elie Cohen Vikings & Panthers
In 1982 Gilles Elie Cohen met the Del Vikings in a vacant lot in the 19 arrondissement of Paris. At the time he was not a professional photographer, but he had taken a strong liking to the band. Spending most of his time with Del Vikings, he followed them to festivals and concerts. At this time Cohen met another Parisian band, the Black Panthers, who had the same ideologies as the Del Vikings.
These bands were heavily influenced by the 1950’s rock’n’roll lifestyle, drawing inspiration from Elvis Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. During this time, many French bands paid tribute to and drew inspiration from old-school rockabilly.
When Cohen met these groups, the Del Vikings and the Black Panthers were still friends. As time went on the two bands turned out to be enemies. Due to differences in rock’n’roll subcultures like style, music, and political view points.
The Del Vikings were “cats”- a rock’n’roll term used for people who were influenced by the 1950’s parties, dancing, tacky costumes, and vintage cars. Their style opposed the more right- wing subcultures like the Teddy Boys and the Rockabilly Rebels.
The Teddy Boys were highly populated in Paris and the suburbs and claimed influences from the English and the US Teddy Boys. They held a tight relationship with the Rebels and often had similar quaffed rockabilly hairstyles.
Eventually the Del Vikings and Panthers conflicted with the Ted’s and the Rebel’s. Each band organized raids at concerts at the Clignancourt flea market where these groups would spend most of their time. Conflicts in ideologies were high, as the Rebels were seen wearing the Confederate flag which was interpreted by the Panthers as a symbol of slavery. This was an issues for the Panthers because their name was a reference to the American black activist group. They were also considered to be ancestors of the antifa and other skinhead-hunter groups.
During this time, It was an incredibly intense period for France. Conflicting lifestyles and die hard motives made it difficult to live and have a political point of view. In their own way, these bands and gangs were defending their passion for life. 30 years later Vikings & Panthers is a perfect representation of how Parisian youth were feeling and coping with the break of their innocence and the growth into adult hood.
Vikings & Panthers by Gillies Elie Cohen was published in early 2015 by Serious Publishing