August 12th, 2008

American Hardcore – A Tribal History by Steven Blush

Posted in bücher by Dolf

Feral House, P.O. Box 13067, Los Angeles, CA 90013, Usa (19,95 $)

When I was reading thru the book I mostly thought „good thing I have not been in the Us-Hc-Scene between 1980-1986“ (the book is only speaking about this time frame and only about America). Because all the scene seems to have been about is: violence, fuck ups, drugs, booze, psycho thugs, rumbles all fueled by some great energy driven music. After finnishing the book I understood that the author of the book simply failed to portrait the scene from back then fairly. He did a good job in his research (I’m sure you will find your incorrect info, if you look for it), spoke to almost all the keyfigures of Us-Hc from back then. (I’m sure he had good reasons not to speak to somebody from Maximumrocknroll, maybe that explains his complete disregard for any of the political undercurrents that were rampant in the scene at the time)

He put a nice oral history together, that he escorts with his own words that are as biased as the picture he draws from the ‚good old days‘. The picture he has of women seems, if there, weird and also strange is his confused agenda with gay men. Needless to say Blush left Hardcore shortly after 1986 and therefore – as no surprise – says Hardcore died in 1986. Which is not true. „That“ (or maybe his) Hardcore died, but as everybody else, still involved, knows the scene is still alive up to today. It might be different, but it is still there – if one likes it the way it is or not is another question.

The book (over 300 pages, 7″x10″ Paperback) , is devided in different chapters with different parts. It goes along city/area by city/ area (Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco, Washington DC, New York, Texas, Boston, Midwest), but also covers smaller towns. It concentrates on some of the big bands back then (Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, Misfits), as well as smaller band and touches other subjects (Straight Edge, Fashion, Art, DIY, Media, etc.). But thru the whole book a terrible picture is presented, be it total violent fucked up suburban kids raising shit in LA, be it sober straight edge brats, that had nothing in mind than fucking people up that were different, be it uneducated macho tough guys that have seen it all living on the street.

All you read is negative, negative, negative. I’m sure it has been like that too. But I also know that there was also different aspects, a scene with people socialy and political conscious. Trying to change something more than just wrecking a party. People that had believes, ideas, where different from other people and that difference not only beeing super fucked up. That aspects you will not really find in the book. (The DIY part is 8 (!) pages long). You can see it blink thru, here and there, but otherwise Blush managed to select his quotes the way he wants them. If you keep all that in mind. It is still a good read, since it indeed gives you a picture of a part of the scene and their makers and shakers from back then.

Sometimes I had to smile, when some old punk was talking about how fucked up, constantly drunk and on various drugs he has been for months, on the other hand seems to remember every fucking detail from back then. That leads me to think that alot of the people quoted tend to romanticize their fucked up past, rather beeing proud about it, then ashamed, or at least neutral. On the other side, you learn that some of the most stupid elemements/persons involved in Hardcore, that are still around, have been as dumb back then as they are nowadays. (Which is no surprise, really.) I had to go thru a bunch of disappointements (that where not necessarly new, but got refreshed, since most of it, like Bad Brains homophobic attitude, is already largely known).

But also learned about interesting connections that I have not been aware of before. The photos and flyers brought back also some good memories (remember, while I have been around back then in the european scene, I have not been to the Usa myself before the end of 86). And it is always interesting to read quotes of people that you know, or just even met. This brings me to another point. If you have not been around back then, or have some insight in the matter, you will get a bad, as well as wrong picture of the time back then.

Therefore I say, it is a good book for people involved, but it gives a terrible historical image to outsiders, who cannot know any better and therefore depend on information like this. Of course it is debatable if oral history should be taken for good, or just for what it is. Some oral history, mixed with the experience and opinion of one individual. I should also mention the extensive disocgraphy of Hardcore (records and tapes) music releases from 80-86, I’m no collecter, people who know better say there is betters discographys available. I did not regret reading the book, but suggest it needs to be taken as only part of the story. (dolf)

ISBN 0-922915-71-7

[Trust # 93 April 2003]

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