American Hardcore: A Tribal History – by: Steven Blush

29 Jan

American Hardcore: A Tribal History
Written by: Steven Blush
Feral House
November 9, 2001

Some years back my nephew called me, and needed to get out of the house, and wanted to know if I could come by, and pick him up so he could get free of the family for a bit. He was fourteen going on fifteen, so I figured the mall was the place he’d want to go. We ate, talked, and then gravitated to the nearest book store. I did my usual scan of the Bukowski books, then the Hunter S. Thompson books, and finally the music books. While flipping through I came across American Hardcore. I sat down with it, and finished about a quarter of it in about thirty minutes or so. I don’t like most books about “punk” it seems like most of these books are written with a bit of an agenda, either to expose dirt on someone (like Don Bolles did with Lexicon Devil) or namedrop like . . . well almost all of them. This one was more of an extensive family tree that spread nationwide. Blush covered things that I thought most people forgot, like all the Los Angeles “gangs” or clicks like FFF, and LADS. It seems silly now, but back in the early ‘80’s it said a lot about the person depending on which crew you hung out with, or were partial to.

I don’t know if I was out of the loop at the time, but back when I was into this . . . meaning going to the shows, trying to get a band together, I wasn’t aware of the term Hardcore. Back then I heard the word used every once in a while, like “that guy’s hardcore, he’s getting into fights at every show,” but not to describe a sub-genre of punk. We took enough grief from people just being into punk, let alone having to describe a different type of punk we were into. That aside Hardcore has never before been captured the way Blush nails it. All the major scenes, particularly in Southern California, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Boston, New York City, and Texas are given a voice through its major players.

Blush was a heavily involved in the scene he writes about, he promoted many hardcore tours, and shows, DJ’d a college radio show, and ran a record label. Later he published Seconds magazine, and wrote for Paper, Spin, Interview, Village Voice, Details and High Times magazines.

The primary photographers included in this volume are Edward Colver, and Karen O’Sullivan. Flyers, set lists, logos, and record covers have been provided by many collectors (mostly the author’s collection), and the book includes an extensive discography of hardcore rock releases from 1980 to 1986.

The text is based on quotes from numerous interviews conducted over a five-year period, with Blush’s comments inserted in between to help mold the quotes into a story. Charting the rise of bands such as Black Flag and the Misfits, as well as more famous hardcore alumni like the Beastie Boys, the book is divided into chapters based on different regional scenes. Rather than having a chronological narrative, the book bounces back and forth in time, from chapter to chapter; this might confuse anyone unfamiliar with the people, and bands discussed.

The only complaint or comment I have against this book is there were numerous images used from Flipside magazine that were credited as Authors Collection, origin unknown. I known where they’re from, I still have the old Flipside issues, and I’m sure he knows, he photocopied them. Other than that, a real good book.

On a side note, I found this blog the other day, and thought it was a pretty funny rant about what punk was all about. I can’t say I agree with the Green Day bit, but, hey, the guy made some sense, enjoy:

If you don’t have it, go buy it.

Rating: ** * two out of three stars

On to the story . . .

I don’t know when it is that life becomes real. I was walking to the car with my son and his cousin tonight and my boy goes and runs ahead of us and when he gets to the car he reaches to his side and flips the side of his sweatshirt as if it was a cape.

I love that at nine he is still running as a superhero.

I think I was around thirteen when I realized that I would never be surrounded by a band of ninjas while walking in an underground parking garage. The closest I’ll get is two or three guys, in a 7-11 parking lot, threatening me over beer money while smelling like human waste. Close, but I’d rather battle ninjas.



Life Won’t Wait is out now, grab a copy today:

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5 Responses to “American Hardcore: A Tribal History – by: Steven Blush”

  1. 1
    Eddie Cook Says:

    Mike ~ love the story and the book~

    ~ Eddie

  2. 2
    Mike E. Says:


    Thanks for reading and writing in.


  3. 3
    gruff Says:

    Hey did you know they made a documentary of American Hardcore. Doesn’t cover nearly the ground the book does but there is some cherry footage. ALSO. Blush put up a shitload of famous and rare HC tunes at They’re java now unfortunately but you used to be able to download them and I did, let me know if you want the whole collection, we’ll figure something out.

  4. 4
    Robbie Fields Says:

    I am surprised Mike, really surprised at the plaudit you’ve handed out, even though you call him out on missing photo credits.

    You are a stickler for meticulous research and you clearly differentiate between fact and opinion in your writing. Blush does not.

    I had not seen the punk24 list where he unashamedly infringes on many people’s copyrights. His disclaimer is pure amateur hour. Besides being the law (from which he himself profits), it is good manners to ask permission, first. He does not seem to mind filching a large number of tracks from my catalog yet villifies and belittles my efforts in his book.

    What little of his book that I read infuriated me : a (factual) howler on every page. A lot of it is simply made up to suit his agenda.

    No, Blush never contacted me as part of his research nor for fact checking.

  5. 5
    Mike E. Says:


    I agree with what you’re saying, I got into a similar discussion with Curtis from TAANG Records, and he said it best when he said American Hardcore is a great history of Boston Hardcore. Everything else is sort brushed over.

    I liked the fact that somebody took the time to do this, but so many great bands are only mentioned in the discography at the end.

    Mike E.

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