Steven Blush and American Hardcore at Sweat Records January 13
Ten years ago, Steven Blush wrote a book called American Hardcore: A Tribal History.
His motive: "I'm documenting the American hardcore punk music scene because it's being forgotten," he writes in the introduction. "Its history is evaporating as the participants die off or find religion or repress their memories of those dynamic days." As it turns out, thanks to his tome, the 2006 documentary movie of the same name, and a new expanded second edition of the book, hardcore is now a term even your grandma understands.
Last week, New Times called the punk professor to talk about the Middle Class, youth culture, and the death of an era.
New Times: What do you consider the beginning of hardcore?
Steven Blush: In the late '70s and early '80s, the music was really going in a direction of speed and aggression, starting with the Ramones. Loud fast riffs, no guitar solos, and an emphasis on playing short songs, as opposed to the typical "Free Bird" and "Stairway to Heaven" scenarios.
You had a band called the Middle Class in Orange County, California. Right at the same time on the East Coast, there's a totally independent, low-distribution single put out by the Bad Brains called "Pay to Come." This is kind of where it starts.
The band that really takes it to the next level is Black Flag. They're almost like Johnny Appleseed. Literally, like half a year after they played all these towns, there was a hardcore scene.
You generally mark 1986 as the end. What happened that year?
I just came to realize, historically, that it kind of ends in '86. For instance, Black Flag's first significant record, Jealous Again, was 1980. They broke up in 1986. The Dead Kennedys released Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables in 1980... Final album and breakup in 1986. Then Minor Threat's first album was in 1980 as Teen Idles. In 1986, they break up and turn into Fugazi.
But it was never an agenda I had. It's just something I realized. And when we made the film, it was the same deal. You know, nobody told Ian MacKaye or Greg Ginn to say, "I'm sorry. But I checked out in '86." That's really how they all felt.
It seems strange that the whole thing could conclude so abruptly.
What happened was everybody burned out on it. Hardcore might be the only musical movement in history where its pioneers just literally moved on. You know, there is no Minor Threat reunion coming. There is no Black Flag reunion coming.
I remember talking to Ian MacKaye when the American Hardcore film came out and we were talking about having some of the old bands play. And he referred to that as Sha Na Na, the '50s revival band that used to play in the '70s. I don't know if I would be as harsh. But I'm just saying that's how true these guys are to the original vision. You know, there was no sellout.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.