Essay Preview: American Hardcore
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The American Dream?
“Nearing the twentieth century, major industrialist personalities became the new model of the American Dream, many beginning life in the humblest of conditions but later controlling enormous corporations and fortunes. Perhaps most notable here were the great American capitalists Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. This acquisition of great wealth appeared to demonstrate that if you had talent, intelligence, and a willingness to work extremely hard, you were likely to be a success in life as a result.”(Appendix 1.1)
Although Hardcore was a reaction to the American Dream, they have their similarities. With talent, intelligence and willingness to work extremely hard, Greg Ginn of Black Flag, Jello Biafra of The Dead Kennendys and Ian McKaye of Minor Threat, all succeeded in a business sense and a creative sense. All three set up record labels, SST Records, Alternative Tentacles Records and Dischord Records, and all three were in bands who spearheaded the hardcore movement and are listed as influences to hundreds of bands who are around today. But were they the American Dream?
The aim of anyone pursuing the American Dream is to gain wealth through talent, intelligence and hard work, though Greg, Ian and Jello used all three aspects, and succeeded, they are somehow not the American Dream. They did not acquire vast amounts of wealth from what they did, but they never intended to, instead, they will be forever remembered for the style of music they created which is still influencing bands to this day and the record labels they set up and the ethics that surrounded them. They also helped out other bands and other artists with their labels. The labels were set up by hardcore kids for hardcore kids, and there is no mention in the “American Dream” of helping fellow men out and giving a helping hand, the American Dream is that of a selfish man, whos only aim in life is to gain wealth.
The American Dream gave hope to the citizens of America, who were being brainwashed into thinking that one day the American Dream will come to them. That each and every American deserves wealth and happiness is unrealistic and it seemed that kids who were living in the broken dreams and in the broken homes of America, needed something more physical than a dream, something they could actually touch and feel and hear and call their own. These kids didnt want to grown up and get a suit and a job, they wanted an alternative future. The top selling artists of 1981 were Bruce Springsteen, Dolly Parton, Queen and John Lennon, artists these kids couldnt relate to, although John Lennon was singing about things that effected these kids, he didnt have the aggression or intensity that could reach them. Bands such as The Clash and The Sex Pistols had toured through America in the late 70s and gave a violent awakening to the hopeless youth. The Clash let America know that there is a “system” and its not working, that they are being lied to and that there are intellectualists who have written about all of this, that you are the ones who need to make the change and that you are the generation that can make it happen.
The 80s was a great decade for alternative music, but the mainstream aspects of America were becoming less and less meaningful, status and money was in the mind of every American, tricked into thinking that was all that mattered. Mens fashion was at an all time high with designers such as Calvin Klein setting the example of what a male should be.
A character called Patrick Bateman in the book and film “American Psycho” was a fantastic example of the 80s male living in New York. Patrick was obsessed with status, money and possessions; he would only eat at the most expensive restaurants and made sure he wasnt seen at any place deemed “un-cool” by the Zagat. He would sleep with only the most beautiful models and he was constantly competitive with his work associates when it came to clothing and even business cards. He loathed anyone who had more attention or had a finer suit than him, Patrick became a serial killer, or so we are led to believe, something I can see easily happening in the situation he was in. It seemed that nothing apart from status and money really mattered and people and feelings just got in the way of his American Dream.
“A 1980 study by UCLA and American Council on Education indicated that college freshmen were more interested in status, power, and money than at any time during the past 15 years. Business Management was the most popular major.” (appendix 1.2)
The Ramones had stripped down rock and roll to its bare essentials and played it as fast as they could, every person in hardcore sites The Ramones debut as their wakening, along with The Clash delivering the politics, the formula was there. The kids would listen to these records over and over and would be inspired to create their own fast noise, but no one would put them on at a gig nor would anyone release their work. So hardcore became self sufficient, hardcore fans put on their own bills and booked out the venues. This was the reaction to the failed American Dream, this was the reality, it was a real dream that they developed and nurtured and pushed. It was a dream within a broken dream, a small dream that signified community and fun and freedom, and this scared the average American.
Venues in LA and DC were hired out and bands were put on, the kids who loved hardcore would come along and have fun and watch the bands, but when they got outside, 10-15 squad cars would be lined up and ever single kid got clobbered with a billy-club. This was more than a regular occurrence, bands would get questioned by police officers who set up files on bands and have mug shots of band members, they would find out where these bands were next playing and then go down and beat them all up. It wasnt just the police who hated the hardcore kids, it was everyone, you had to fight to walk down the street, fight to go to the shop, people would throw objects from cars and hurl abuse. This just made hardcore more and more aggressive, it was an outlet for being beaten up and bullied by society. And once again in the history of America, different people came along and did something different and they were beaten and arrested for it. This was America trying to steer its future down the straight and narrow whilst making an example of anyone who did otherwise.
Greg Ginn of Black Flag and SST Records was arrested after police had been following him and the band for weeks, the cops thought SST was a drugs ring and they were taken to court where everything was cleared up. “Why would these kids want to make