American Hardcore: A Tribal History
November 9, 2001- Feral House
Written by: Steven Blush
A few months 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 bookstore. 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 the 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 subgenre 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 know where they’re from, I still have the old Flipside issues, and I’m sure he knows. Other than that, a real good book.
If you don’t have it, go buy it.
Rating: ** * two out of three stars
The Fast Times and Short Life of Darby Crash and the Germs
April 15, 2002- Feral House
Written by: Brendan Mullen with Don Bolles and Adam Parfrey
As the years go by and I read books like this and read interviews with Don Bolles, it seems like his sole purpose in life now is to let the world know that Darby Crash was gay. Darby wasn’t comfortable with anyone knowing, he hid it during the filming of Decline. So why dump on the guy now that he’s dead? I read a book about five or six years back that Gene Simmons wrote about Kiss, in the book he states that both Ace Frehley and Peter Criss were addicts and such bad musicians that they didn’t play on Destroyer or any of the other albums. The motivation to reveal these things is strictly monetary, but at the same time, you kick the 8-year-old in me square in the nuts. As a fan, you don’t always want to know that your childhood idols are anything other than what’s in your head. These current exposes are a product of our TMZ-type culture, it’s kind of sleazy, along with the nude pictures they included in Lexicon Devil, and we just don’t need this crap.
If you get the chance, give this one a read, it’s a good book, go out and get it. It’s a great snapshot of an interesting time in music.
Rating: ** * two out of three stars
Misconceptions of Hell is available now: http://goo.gl/n9ofGb