Five Short Hardcore History Lessons With Punk Professor Steven Blush
|Your hardcore crash course instructor, Steven Blush.|
Word is, there might be a pop quiz. So ... Are you ready? Have you committed the entirety of the textbook -- American Hardcore: A Tribal History, Second Edition -- to memory? Have learned the lyrics to both Middle Class's "Out of Vogue" and Bad Brains' "Pay to Come"? Have you shaved your head and reinked your Black Flag four bars tattoo?
No, no, and no? Well, shit ... Sounds like it's time for a crash course. Go read Crossfade's original blurb, our interview, and then check the cut for five short hardcore history lessons with Steven Blush.
Way More Than Just Music
"Hardcore was more than music. It was more than a sound. It was a subculture. We were growing up in the early '80s and Reagan had come in. It was a pre-Bush vision of America and there were a few people who were fighting it. And that was manifested in this suburban youth culture of bands that couldn't really play, were barely old enough to drive, couldn't really afford to make a record. But all based on enthusiasm and zeal, they could create something. And that's the power of hardcore.
"I've come to see that we're very well versed in the post-World War II youth cultures, like the beatniks and the hippies and the punks and hip-hop. I think American hardcore deserves to be right in there."
Hardcore Kids, Hippies, and Jocks
"It's like religion. And it's actually a pretty apt comparison because in these days when people aren't as religious they do hold music on that kind of spiritual importance level. It's like the story of Christianity: Does it end with the death of Christ? Or is the story of the followers more important? I think really what we've had since  are the followers. And that's OK. But it's just different.
"It's just another 'cool' music. You know, I went last night to see DYS and Antidote. I'd still take those bands over half of the metal, hip-hop, goth, and techno I've ever heard. But hardcore became something different, just another music scene. It became like being a hippie or a jock. It became another class or type of kid."
Henry Rollins Is Not a Thug
"These bands were real pioneers. They really took the brunt of the weight for people to be cool and indie today. And they really are pioneers. These are the guys that started the whole thing. There's a lot of misconceptions about hardcore. Most of them are self-intended. One is that people discredited hardcore as being just a bunch of dumb thugs. But just look at its pioneers, Ian MacKaye or Henry Rollins or Greg Ginn ... They're not thugs. They're the furthest thing from it. They're like erudite men. And they're like the most progressive social thinkers of our time."
How Hardcore Went to Hell
"In the book, I describe it as like Lord of the Flies. The kids have to start their own society. At the beginning, it's really awesome. And then, it kinda goes to hell. And that's really the story of hardcore.
"When I first set out to write the book in 1995, there was no internet as we know it. And it wasn't like you dialed 411 and asked for the number to Joey Shithead. I had to be an insider and my particular thing was that I was a concert promoter. I had booked Minor Threat and Black Flag and Dead Kennedys and GBH's first American show. You know, half these bands crashed on my couch, so I had a believability factor with them."
It Wasn't All Mosh Pits and Fun
"There is a lot to glorify. But there is a lot that needs to be called on. And that's kind of the purpose of telling a story like this too. It is such a two-prong story. It is such a bittersweet legacy. If you read the bios of these bands, the major ones like Black Flag, the Misfits, and Dead Kennedys, it's just awful. And today, for people who have stood on such high ideals, they certainly have fucked up their legacies and don't talk to each other anymore for some very petty reasons. It's tragic, so part of what I'm doing is digging into a lot of raw memories.
"I was on tour in Albuquerque, in Denver, El Paso, in Austin, Madison, Milwaukee and on and on not to mention the bigger cities. So I'm not talking out of my ass about all this stuff. Like everything, you glorify stories in your mind. You think that something's a little greater than it was. If you speak to anyone who went to Woodstock, they will tell you that it was an awful experience, with rain and no food and nowhere to take a shit. Similar things happened with hardcore and it's not like I'm here to turn the light on in the front house. It's more like I just want to set it straight."
American Hardcore: A slideshow with Steven Blush. Thursday, January 13. Sweat Records, 5505 NE Second Ave., Miami. The discussion begins at 8 p.m. and admission is free. Call 786-693-9309 or visit sweatrecordsmiami.com.
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