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Hardcore Punk
Hardcore Punk

Hardcore punk, often referred to as simply hardcore, is a subgenre of punk rock that originated primarily in North America (though, early examples could be found throughout the world) in the late 1970s. The new sound was generally faster, thicker, and heavier than earlier punk rock. Early hardcore has a quick tempo with drums and vocals in time, whereas modern hardcore punk has drums and vocals which may not be on beat with the tempo.

In the United States, the music genre that became known as hardcore punk originated in different areas in the early 1980s, with notable centers of activity in California, Washington, D.C., New York City, Michigan, Texas and Boston.

During the same period, there was a parallel development in the United Kingdom of a British form of hardcore punk or street punk. British hardcore bands such as Discharge and Chaos UK took the existing late 1970s punk sound and added the incessant, heavy drumbeats and distorted guitar sound of New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) bands such as Motörhead and Iron Maiden. This contributed to the development of the thrash metal sound of the 1980s but also the crust punk/d-beat sound.

The origin of the term hardcore punk is uncertain. The Vancouver-based band D.O.A. may have helped to popularize the term with the title of their 1981 album, Hardcore '81. Until about 1983, the term hardcore was used sparingly, and mainly as a descriptive term. (i.e., a band would be called a "hardcore band" and a concert would be a "hardcore show"). American teenagers who were fans of hardcore punk simply considered themselves fans of punk – although they were not necessarily interested in the original punk rock sound of the mid-late 1970s (e.g., Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Clash, or The Damned). In many circles, hardcore was an in-group term, meaning music by people like us. Since most bands had little access to any means of production, hardcore lauded a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach. In most cities the hardcore scene relied on inexpensively-made DIY recordings created on four-track recorders and sold at concerts or by mail. Concerts were promoted by photocopied zines, community radio shows, and affixing posters to walls and telephone poles. Hardcore punk fans adopted a dressed-down style of T-shirts, jeans, and crewcut-style haircuts. While 1977-era punk had used DIY clothing as well, such as torn pants held together with safety pins, the dressed-down style of the 1980s hardcore scene contrasted with the more elaborate and provocative fashion styles of late 1970s punk rockers, which included elaborate hairdos and avant-garde clothing experiments.

Michael Azerrad's book Our Band Could Be Your Life and Steven Blush's book and documentary film American Hardcore describe three bands — Black Flag, Bad Brains, and Minor Threat — as the most important and influential in the genre. A major influence on hardcore punk was The Damned's album Damned Damned Damned because of its fast tempos, strange timing and riffs. Azerrad calls Black Flag the genre’s "godfathers"; credits Bad Brains, formed in Washington, D.C. in 1977, with introducing "light speed tempos" to hardcore; and describes Minor Threat as the "definitive" hardcore punk band.

In 1976, a band emerged from the California punk scene known as Middle Class. The band was far faster and more intense than any of their fellows, though did not receive any mainstream attention, being only known by locals of Santa Ana. They released their first record, the 7" EP Out of Vogue in 1978, approximately the same time as Black Flag released their Nervous Breakdown EP, though it is unknown which came first. Therefore, it is unknown what the first hardcore record was. It is also still argued today between fans whether Black Flag or Middle Class was the first hardcore band. Black Flag, formed by guitarist and songwriter Greg Ginn in Los Angeles in 1976, had a major impact on the Los Angeles scene – and later the wider North American scene – with their raw, confrontational sound and DIY approach. Tours in 1980 and 1981 brought Black Flag in contact with developing hardcore scenes in many parts of North America, and blazed trails followed by other touring bands. Bad Brains, formed in Washington, DC in 1977, incorporated elements of heavy metal and reggae, and their early work often emphasized some of the fastest tempos in rock music. Singer H.R. claims that the mixture of hardcore and reggae was an "approach that everyone could relate to", as quoted in American Hardcore. Minor Threat, formed in Washington D.C. in 1980, played an aggressive, fast style directly influenced by Bad Brains. Minor Threat became a direct influence on what is now referred to as "modern hardcore", incorporating off-beat notes and vocals, faster rhythms, and far more aggressive riffs. The band inspired the straight edge movement with their song, "Straight Edge", as a somewhat speech against alcohol and drugs.

Other bands in scenes across the country were developing and experimenting with the "hardcore" sound before these pioneers. An example is The Germs crossover appeal between old school punk rock and hardcore punk.

According to Brendan Mullen, founder of the Los Angeles punk club The Masque, the first U.S. tour of The Damned in 1977 found them favoring very fast tempos, causing a "sensation" among fans and musicians, and helping inspire the first wave of U.S. west coast hardcore punk.

San Francisco's Dead Kennedys formed in 1978 and released their first single "California Über Alles" in 1979. By the time they released the In God We Trust, Inc. EP in 1981, Dead Kennedys were playing very fast tempos. The Misfits (of New Jersey) were a 1977-style punk band involved in New York’s Max's Kansas City scene. Their horror film aesthetic was popular among early hardcore fans. In 1981, the Misfits integrated high-speed thrash songs into their set. Bridgeport CT was another enclave of hardcore with the opening of a punk club, Pogo's by Brad Morrison.This venue hosted early shows by Lost Generation, 76% Uncertain, Vatican Commandos and Boston's Gang Green. Hüsker Dü was formed in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1979 as a post-punk/New Wave band, but soon became a loud and fast hard punk band. Hüsker Dü released the 1982 live album Land Speed Record, which has been called a "breakneck force like no other... Not for the faint of heart." By 1985, the band morphed into one of the seminal alternative rock bands. In 1982, Bad Religion released How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, which is considered a benchmark hardcore album, and which secured them as one of the most enduring outfits of the early 1980s hardcore scene.

By 1981, many more hardcore punk bands began to perform and release recordings, including 7 Seconds of Reno, Nevada who formed in 1979; M.I.A of Las Vegas, Nevada; Negative Approach and Degenerates of Detroit; The Meatmen of Lansing, Michigan; The Necros of Maumee, Ohio; The Effigies of Chicago; SS Decontrol, DYS, Negative FX, Jerry's Kids, and Gang Green of Boston; The Mob and Agnostic Front of New York City. The Beastie Boys, more widely known for their later hip hop music, were one of the first recorded hardcore bands in New York City. Negative FX, perhaps the most popular hardcore band in Boston around early 1982, did not appear on record while they were together. They were largely unknown outside their own area until a posthumous album was released in 1984.

Notable early hardcore punk records include The Angry Samoans’ first LP, the Big Boys/The Dicks Live at Raul's Club split LP, the Boston-area compilation This Is Boston, Not L.A., Minor Threat's 7" EPs, JFA's Blatant Localism EP, the New York–area compilations New York Thrash and The Big Apple Rotten To The Core, Agnostic Front's United Blood 7", Negative Approach's eponymous EP and the DC-area compilation record Flex Your Head.

An influential radio show in the Los Angeles area was Rodney on the ROQ, which started airing on the commercial station KROQ in 1976. DJ Rodney Bingenheimer played many styles of music and helped popularize what was called Beach Punk, a rowdy suburban style played by mostly teenage bands in the Huntington Beach area and in conservative Orange County. Early radio support in New Jersey came from Pat Duncan, who hosted live punk and hardcore bands weekly on WFMU since 1979. Bridgeport, CT had an early show that featured Hardcore called Capital Radio, hosted by Brad Morrison on WPKN beginning in February 1979 and continuing weekly until late 1983. In New York City, Tim Sommer hosted Noise The Show on WNYU. In 1982 and 1983, MTV put the hardcore punk band Kraut on mild rotation. College radio was the main media outlet for hardcore punk in most of North America. The Berkeley, California public radio station KPFA featured the Maximum RocknRoll radio show with DJs Tim Yohannan and Jeff Bale, who played the younger Northern California bands. Several zines, such as Flipside and Maximum RocknRoll, also helped spread the new punk style. A few college stations faced FCC action due to the broadcasting of indecent lyrics associated with hardcore songs.

Concerts in the early hardcore scene increasingly became sites of violent battles between police and concertgoers, especially in Los Angeles. Reputed violence at hardcore concerts was featured in episodes of the popular television shows CHiPs and Quincy, M.E., in which Los Angeles hardcore punks were depicted as being involved in murder and mayhem.

By 1985, most of the early hardcore bands had broken up or were on their way out. The New York hardcore scene became an epicenter for the hardcore movement, and was the birthplace of the youth crew subgenre. Young bands formed by teenagers in New York City between 1986 and 1987 found huge followings in hardcore scenes around the world.

By the end of the 1980s, hardcore became more diverse, branching off into two sounds: one traditionally punk-based, referred to as old school hardcore and the other evolving into something heavier, faster, more technical and more intense, influenced by heavy metal, known as new school hardcore, metalcore or metallic hardcore. Sick of It All's second studio album, Just Look Around (1991) is illustrative of this style. Earth Crisis, Biohazard, Hatebreed, Snapcase, 108, Strife, Integrity, Damnation A.D. and World's Collide were some of the earliest bands to feature an amalgamation of deep, hoarse vocals (though rarely as deep or guttural as death metal); downtuned guitars and thrashy drum rhythms inspired by earlier hardcore bands; and slow, staccato low-end musical breaks, known as breakdowns. Thrash metal and melodic death metal elements are common in melodic metalcore.

By the middle of the 90's, a new found interest in old school and youth crew hardcore had developed and the scene experienced a major revival of these styles with many bands adopting the sound of late 80's New York hardcore bands such as Gorilla Biscuits and Youth of Today. For this reason, many of these bands were credited as playing "'88 style hardcore" or being part of the "'88 hardcore revival". Bands that were an integral and prominent part of this movement were Battery, Better Than A Thousand, Ten Yard Fight, In My Eyes, Speak 714, Floorpunch and Good Clean Fun.

An important aspect of the this old school revival was its stripped down and back to basics sound which stood in stark comparison to the more technical and complex style of new school hardcore and metalcore that had developed earlier in the decade. Ray Cappo, the singer of Better Than A Thousand, who had sung originally with Youth of Today in the late 80's but then founded the new school style krishna core band Shelter in the early 90's, explained in an interview his return to the rudimentaries of hardcore in the late 90's. "I was sick of going into the studio for 3 months to record a CD. With Better Than A Thousand we wanted to capture something spontaneous and raw on tape. Get rid of all the flashiness and gloss of expensive studios and just get in there and pour out your heart. We erected a studio in Ken Olden's bedroom and whipped off a completely crunchy and emotional CD that completely captured the essence of what this band was about."

The early 1980s hardcore punk scene developed slam dancing and stage diving. A performance by Fear on the 1981 Halloween episode of Saturday Night Live was cut short when slam dancers, including John Belushi and members of other hardcore bands, invaded the stage, damaged studio equipment and engaged in some profanity. These slam dancers included John Joseph of The Cro-Mags.

There are several styles of dress within the hardcore scene, and styles have changed since the genre started as hardcore punk in the late 1970s. What is fashionable in one branch of the hardcore scene may be frowned upon in another. Clothing styles are often chosen to make moshing easier to perform. Plain working class dress and short hair (with the exception of dreadlocks) are usually associated with hardcore punk. Mute colours and minimal adornment are usually common. Some elements of hardcore clothing are baggy jeans or work pants, athletic wear, cargo or military shorts, khakis or cargo pants, band T-shirts, plain T-shirts, muscle shirts, and band hoodies. Many hardcore punks wear sportswear and sneakers, including Pony, Vans, Adidas, Puma, Nike, and Converse apparel, or boots such as Doc Martens. Personal comfort and the ability to mosh are highly influential in this style (Jewellery, spikes, flashy hair and chains are highly uncommon and discouraged in hardcore fashion.)

Image from yoursceneucks, info from wikipedia.



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