UNITYHXC.COM | NY Hardcore's history
This essay was written by Uncle AL from Murphy's Law.
New York Hardcore started somewhere back in the early 80s.It became a revolutionary underground music scene that still exists today .Some of the people that started it are still around,others moved on with their lives
The chronology starts like this
New York City's East Village today has become a commercialized section of French retaurants and boutiques,but back in 1980 it was Dodge City.whole areas were off limits to white suburban kids unless they went there to cop drugs like heroin or crack cocaine.Alphabet City was the name given to Avenues A,B,C and D.A neighborhood of burnt out buildings and homeboys cruising the streets looking for victims.
Back in the late 70s the Punk Rock scene was winding down.Most bands like the Ramones and the New York Dolls had moved on from the area due to their rising fame to become world renowned bands,leaving behind a music scene loaded with drug addicted people that stayed in the neighborhood too long.Still there were plenty of venues to play at.Groups like Johnny Thunders and other "X" bands were appearing at CBGBs and Max's Kansas City,The Mudd Club and dozens of small clubs around the town
Around the country the NY Punk influenced other scenes to emerge.In California the "surf punk" scene arrived with bands like The Dead Kennedys,The Germs,Fear,The Circle Jerks,X-all could be found in the movie "Rise and Fall of Western Civilization".
One part of the underground scene that emerged was the rise of audience from passive observers to active partisepents to the music.Gone were the seats in a concert hall.Now folks would "Pogo" and "Slam dance"-crashing into each other on the dance floor to the music.Soon came "stage diving" which meant climbing up on the stage ,running and jumping onto the heads of people.The more aggressive and uplifting the music,the more the urge to react this way.A "pit" would open up near the front of the stage and people would perform their own specialized form of dance called "moshing".I believe the term might have come from the movement of boot stomping as in "moshing" grapes.Some tell me it's a Rasta term.Hence "mosh pit".
Soon,probably due again to fame and drugs,that scene faded.Then another curious scene move occured.Around 1980 Washington DC became home to the latest underground trend-Straight Edge.SxE bands like Minor Threat and SS Decontrol promoted music and audience without the dampening influences of drugs and alcohol-just pure aggressive energy.This is when the Punk Rock scene became the Hardcore scene.Punk became equated with drug addicted nihilism where Hardcore became about healthy,energetic kids that could mosh and dive all night.Another contribution of the DC scene was the "do-it-yourself" attitude that bands shouldnt have to rely on Corporate Music and could actually produce and sell their own records to their peers.Discord Records,headed by Minor Threat singer Ian McKay,set the tone for this movement.Bands now would seek out their own venues to play,like the Wilson Center in DC,where they put on "All Ages" shows where kids under the legal drinking age could go see a band.If the venue were at a club with a bar,underage kids were allowed in but were marked with an "X" on the back of their hands to show the bartender they werent to buy drinks.Today straight edge people wear the "X" as their symbol.
The revolution was underwa
HISTORY OF N.Y.H.C.
The Early 80's America was gripped by severe recession by 1980.High unemployment made life unsure and bleek to the country's youth.NYC was in the minds of most suburban folks a scary,scary place filled with hostile natives,drug addicts and run down buildings.But to a few adverturous types it was a big urban disneyland.
Actually,compared to Detroit at the time,NYC wasn't that bad.There were plenty of clubs and rentable spaces around.The East Village and Lower East Side has been a traditional home for artists and musicians.You could still get a cheap apartment or a squat space somewhere in the fringe neighborhood called Alphabet City,avenues A,B,C,D (A -you're Asking for it,B- you best watch yo' back,C-,yo crazy and D-,you're dead)
The NYC punk scene was evolving into a cross influence of British Oi(Discharge,The Exploited,Sham 69,GBH),Anarchy punk (Dead Kennedys,Black Flag))and a new sound and attitude out of Washington DC.The compulation album "Flex Your Head" on discharge records featured bands like S.O.A.,Iron Cross,Void,Artificial Peace,and Minor Threat.
Groups of us would hop into cars and vans and run down the Jersey turpike to catch bands like the Bad Brains and Goverment Issue down at Wilson Center or the 9:30 Club in DC.One time a roadie from the Brains walked up to us after a cancelled show and asked us for a ride to NY.He said he needed to get out of town.We said sure and he got in.I asked him his name and he said "Joseph...John Joseph".
A7 was a club on avenue A and 7th (duhh!) that on Friday was Hardcore Punk night for local and out of town bands from Philly,Boston and DC.(Its now a bar called "Niagra")You had to enter from the side because the front was barricaded.They let you in one at a time through a small door,totally illegal set-up,and stayed open till 5am or later if nessesary.Dave the owner provided the drums and beat-up amps to a line-up of 8-10 bands that played in a tight backroom all night.
Besides the above bands,local NYC bands started to appear from Manhatten,Queens,New Jersey,and Brooklyn areas.The Misfits,The Mob,Reagan Youth,The Eliminators,Kraut,the Beastie Boys,the Young and Useless,just to name a few.Their mission was to create music to mosh by.
Straight Edge kids from Boston and DC wore "X"s on there hands.NY bands adapted this by adding NYHC around the x that became the New York Hardcore symbol worn by the bands and kids at shows on their clothes or armbands and tagged on walls and subway cars The History of N.Y.H.C. by U.A. Morrison
There were a thousand stories in NYHC,this was through my eyes Two cultural events occured in music during the 80s.Hip-hop/Rap scene that came from the infamous south Bronx and Hollis Queens,with it break dancing and an outlaw art form called graffiti (or bombing,throw-ups,tagging,burners,writing)The music ended up becoming a billion dollar business industry and a major success.
The other was the American hardcore scene,more specificly the East Coast/New York hardcore scene which ended up being kept in the shadows out of the public's eye,a financial disaster for anyone that invested in it.Yet the cultural ramifications are still felt today from fashion (baggy clothes,piercing,tattoos,skate boarding,colored hair,shaved or buzz cut),to ripp-offs by major musical artists,and the mosh pit.If someone tells you that loose pants came from the ghetto ,dont believe it.Skate punks started that trend years earlier.Yet the fact that it never got above the level of underground attests to it actual success.
The whole idea of the hc scene was to keep it out of the media gawking public eyes.Nothing kills a trend faster than to get "blown-up" into an "alternative" musical scene.The NYHC scene was born out of the audience's need to kick shit in the pit .The only form of applause came during the song,with stage diving,shout-outs on the mike and a huge mass of moving,thrashing bodies.When the song was over the crowd would catch it's breath and get ready for the next tune.
While the rapp artists hustled to get signed by major record labels,the hc bands put out their own material on vinyl 7 inch records and lps and tapes which they sold through small independent labels.Many bands sold their records at shows along with t-shirts and other items to support themselves and spread their band's name.At one Misfits show they had a small silkscreen of their trademark skull-mask symbol,doing leather jackets in white for a dollar a pop.
The core of the NYC scene in 1981 consisted on roughly 50-70 people that showed up regularly at shows in downtown Manhattan,which could swell from 500 to a thousand,depending on what major band like the Dead Kennedys ,The Clash,or the circle jerks came to town.Alot of these folks took on their own names such as Tommy Ratt,Stewie and Billy Psycho,Bobby Snots,Vinnie Stigma,Willie Frankenstien,Navy Dave,Johnny Stiff,Jimmy Kontra,Andy Apathy,Jimmy Gestapo,John Bloodclot,Joe Nails,English Nick ,Pokey Lo,Raybeez,Lil' Chris,Tony T-shirt,Big Paul,Big Al,Antknee.Others were one-named,like Kabula,Poss,Lazar,Kim,Ditto,Diago,Blue,Frenchie,Charuki,Boobi.As time went on these and others came together to form a nucleus in a social network called the New York hardcore scene
The Age of Reagan was a time of recession.Jobs at the low end were hard to come by.The word "homeless" crept into the common vocabulary.Young people drifted into New York looking for any opportunity,be it work or a good time.Many came from broken families in search of a new one.The 60s gave us the hip generation,the flower children-all about love and peace only to come crashing down with brutal reality in the 70s.Drugs at first were looked at as mind expansion only to end up another social ill.Musical idols died off like flies,then the industry took a nose-dive due to the high cost of vinyl.The punk scene rose out of America's winter.Before a person would throw out a shirt with a hole in it;a punk would punch a hole for style.Hair was blown dry and fussed over;skins would see it as a nuisance and shave it off,others would dump soap and gelatin on it and make spikes and mohawks.Gone were the pacifists,replaced with those that were ready to fight against a wide array of enemies,be it gangs,rednecks,cops,anyone that pointed a finger or made a negative comment.Lots of them looked like they stepped out of the movie "Road Warrior".Leather jackets with nail studds worn for protection from knives,chains from hardware stores served a dual purpose of a belt and a quick weapon.Even a skateboard made a handy shield.Buzzed hair couldnt be grabbed in a fight.Combat boots for a good solid kick,a forty ounce bottle could become a rocket.The whole appearence said"Dont fuck with me!"
Of course alot of this was appearence.Many of these kids came from suburbia,not the ghetto so they had to learn in reverse.Their survival depended on the balance of street smarts and still retaining the better judgement of their former society,not to succumb to drugs like crack or heroin or the violence associated with it like drive-by shootings.A few lost their balance,but the majority survived,due mostly because the hardcore crowd "looked out" for each other through a theme of Unity and positive attitudes.Instead of joining a gang,start a band. And thats just what alot of people did
Kills History of N.Y.H.C.
Part 4 1981-82
By this time the national scene was moving pretty quickly.Bands like Negative Approach from Detroit,Jerrys Kids and the FUs from Boston,Black Flag from L.A. and tons of bands from the Washington DC area started giving shape to a new style punk underground.The band D.O.A. from Canada came out with a total thrash album called "Hardcore" in '81 which is the earliest known reference to the term describing this music I could find to date.
Lagging behind was the N.Y.C. scene.Many of the bands around were still doing the punk rock thing which lacked the energy and fury the dozens of mosh hungry crowd found in bands like Minor Threat or the Bad Brains. One exception was The MOB Ralph,Jack,Jaimie and Jose',being strongly influenced by the Bad Brains ,formed the Mob and started doing straight-up mosh with tunes like "101,Upset the System and Z.D.F. (Zomboola Dust Fiend.)A band out of Queens,they started playing downtown clubs like A7 and Jerry William's 171A.Going "Mob Style" meant big circle pits and individual floor style along with lots of diving and pile-ups at the mike.So finally NY had at least one band representin'.
One of the bands operating at this time was Vinnie Stigma's "The Eliminators" with guitarist Kevin.They used to come out dressed in Clockwork Orange outfits.But Vinnie saw the future so he started a new band with people he picked out from the audience.He recruited Watson to do vocals and Diago to play bass and both Robbie KryptKrasher and Raybees on drums.Mind you,besides Vinnie,none of them had ever played in a band before,much less even picked up an instrument.But they had heart and attitude and John and Diago were tearing up the mosh pits with their own heavy styling.Diago used to get so carried away hed throw down his bass in the middle of a song and start dancing down in the pit.They came up with a name right off- AGNOSTIC FRONT Needless to say, A.F. took awhile to develop some sound,but lots of people loved the energy behind it.Agnostic Front practiced a few times on Essex St then played their first show at a club on 2nd st and 2nd ave at a place Dave from A7 opened up called 2+2.The crowd was enthusiastic,but the singer from Social Distortion threw a bottle at the crowd,hitting Vinnie in the knee.He was chased up 2nd avenue by the whole crowd,got hit by a cab and got stomped by everyone(we took turns).Finally he had to be stashed inside their truck.Typical night. Another band that sprung to life was Reagan Youth-a political anarchy band with Dave,a nice jewish kid from Corona,on vocals that bridged the punk/hardcore sound quite nicely.Lots of kids from Queens came downtown to see them and represent."We are Reagan Youth-seig heil!" Other notable bands that sprang up were The Abused,Heart Attack,Urban Waste,The Psychos("Collosal Man was a skinhead!"),Kraut,The Beastie Boys,and the Stimulators with a 14 year old drummer named Harley Flanagan The summer of 82 was the turning point for N.Y.H.C.,with lots to follow. *note-this story is as true as I can remember. Im writing it with help from others that experienced it.Its being written as a history of an unusual and much overlooked event that went by with only personal experiences that today's youth can learn from.If my facts are out of wack and someone knows better,dont hesitate to let me know.Email me any corrections or additions,I'll be glad to add you to the credits U.A. Part 5 Clubs,road trips and a crucial cruise By the summer of '82 the singer from MDC called NYC "The closest thing to anarchy".There were clubs springing up all over to handle the influx of bands and audience.Max's Kansas City closed its doors after one last show with the Bad Brains and Reagan Youth.Danceteria,2+2,A7,Gildersleeves and the Ritz (now Webster Hall) all were packing them in.One show at Irving Plaza featured Minor Threat and the Misfits,which unfortunatly ended in a brawl.You could see a show in a club almost any night.Abandoned theatres became concert halls.Free shows in Thomkins Square park.People came to visit NYC and ended up staying-there was too much going on. At A7 Friday night would pack out.Once when a blizzard hit and dumped 2 feet of snow,the city stopped dead.Yet people climbed over giant snowdrifts and still filled the place.Once when the Mob played there I swear I saw people running around ON the walls.Jimmy at 17 was both DJ and security.The motto over the door said "Stay in peace or leave in pieces".Many a Saturday night youd walk in there to a dark room then leave on Sunday morning to blinding sunlight.
Lots of punks and skins lived in either large share apartments they rented,while others with less funds stayed in "squats",abandoned buildings that they fixed up by tapping lightposts for electricity and fire hydrants for bathing (a pretty cold option during winter).Younger kids came in from the suburbs and outer boros,riding the subway downtown from places like Astoria Queens,Brooklyn,taking the ferry from Staten Island,or grabbing a ride from NJ.Back in those times club owners were kind of lax about checking IDs so it wasnt unusual to see 16 year olds hanging around shows.(Of course it also wasnt unusual to see a parent drag their kid out of a club either). In order to survive,some of these "yoots" would pull off small crimes like purse snatching and selling bogus drugs to dimwits looking to cop.Many actually got jobs as roadies or even were recruited to play in bands.
Since there was lots of shows,bands were needed to play these shows.Ive been a musician all my life but Ive never seen such a wide open opportunity.You could start a band and within a week you would be up there playing at a club at 3am with a beat-up drumset and a half strung guitar and a week later youd be playing a huge concert hall like the Ritz to a thousand or so people.If you were in an active popular band you could walk in and out of most clubs like you owned the place
Not everyone joined a band in order to contribute support to the burgeoning scene.Local Fanzines started showing up,done by people with access to a typewriter and xerox machine.Artists made flyers and stickers for the bands.Today thats pretty common,but back then people bugged out to get that stuff.The whole feeling and attitude was about building up the scene as a communal enterprise.Thats when the phrase "Unity" came around.
Soon bands would form road trips to other nearby states,sometimes bringing other bands along with maybe 20-30 mosh crew.The scene existed up and down the east coast,from Virginia Beach to Boston.So life for alot of people revolved around the music.Everyday.Onetime Raybeez organized a trip to Staten Island on the ferry to see the Dead Kennedys.200 hc punks on the boat was a funny sight.So was the fight at a bar in Staten Island Agnostic Front was going through changes.Watson left the band and later became a fulltime Krishna devotee while Diago went off to join the Marines.Bands do that alot.Vinnie tried out a few singers then Roger Miret asked to try out and he got the job.Now AF started sounding serious.Within a few months they released the United Blood 7in.
NYHC was starting to rule. Matinee Madness 1982-88 new pics! Up to this time most of the Hardcore shows were mostly happening at clubs and bars that lasted late into the night.So Hilly Crystal,the owner of CBGBs and Connie,who booked the shows there,started booking Saturday afternoons so younger fans of hardcore could catch all the latest bands coming through NYC.The result was not only good for the out of town bands,but also became a showcase for the new young talent from the area.(Later it was moved to Sundays so Saturday night shows wouldnt be affected by the matinees running late)
Sunday afternoons at CBs became a weekly ritual for years to come.CBs is located on the Bowery,an infamous skid-row area that back in the 80s was lined with flophouses where derilect alcoholics and crackheads could rent a room for $5 a night.So no one particularly cared about the loud music and punkrock crowd that hung out in front of the club.More often than not the cops would just roll by and ignore the mohawks,skinheads and whatnot standing there.
It was sort of like a big picnic.No edgers,straight edgers and skaters,people selling records,tapes,T-shirts,fanzines.Hanging and networking with other like-minded people,shit-talking,tagging and bombing,hooking up with friends,showing off their latest tattoo work from Mikee's of Bensonhurst,unloading equipment,grabbing drum cases to get past Brendon at the door.Sometimes a fight would break out,but in those days it was usually peaceful.(One exception was the Bum Riot).Many a band would be formed on the sidewalk in front of the place.Walking across the street to the deli for some liquid refreshment.For most people Sunday meant church or football.For this group it was Matinee sundays.Karen Crystal,the owner's wife,would eye everyone to see if they were carrying beer
..and of course,the bands.Click for band photos For $6 you could see the highest quality hardcore bands.Each time you went youd see a headliner like Minor Threat,the Bad Brains,Youth Brigade,JFA,The Vandals,Flipper,Government Issue,but it was the local talent that eventually became the heart of the NYHC scene. In chronological order there was:
1982-85:Agnostic Front,The Mob,Reagan Youth,Murphys Law,The Beastie Boys,Cause For Alarm,Urban Waste,Armed Citizens,NY Hoods,The Cro-Mags,Supertouch,Youth Defence League,Warzone,Major Conflict,The Psychos,Gilligan's Revenge,Shok,The Doughboys,Ultra Violence,The Crumbsuckers,Mental Abuse,Adrenelin OD,The Numbskulls,Kraut,The Cavity Creeps,Antidote
Then an amazing second generation evolved:
1985-88: Underdog, Rest In Pieces, Sheer Terror, Sick Of It All, Straight Ahead, Youth Of Today, Gorilla Biscuits, Raw Deal, Abomination, Breakdown, Judge, Bold, Leeway, Krackdown, Token Entry, The Icemen, Burn, S.O.D.*
The sound system at CBGBs is probably the best one around.In front of the stage had a hole worn into the floor from people demonstrating their mosh stylings.The stage was the perfect height for a dive at the crowd.The audience stretched all the way around and back of the stage.Bouncers Dennis,brothers Frank and James kept things from getting too out of hand,keeping the stage moving and the speakers from collapsing.Usually the band would disappear into a sea of bodies,singing along and then taking a running leap at the front row.Major pile-ups,damaged skulls,skin burned from the heat pipe.The air was always electric as bands like the Cro-Mags or Sick Of It All hit the stage."Yo,Yo,wus up?Move up,move up!!"
At that moment,you KNEW you were at the crucial point
*Even though I mentioned about 50 bands,there were dozens more.If you want to add to this list Email me the names and I'll gladly add them-just make sure they played these shows.I dont want to look too much like an asshole
History Of N.Y.H.C. Rock Hotel 1984-86
A cultural vortex is when elements of people,ideas,trends,conditions come together through a chain of events and luck to form a unique era.But as soon as it comes together is when it starts to unravel
The NYHC scene downtown in the east Village was growing.The crowds got bigger as word of it spread out beyond the local area.People in the record business also started taking notice .Who were these bands that opened for the major acts like the Dead Kennedys ,Fear,Celtic Frost, and Black Flag,end up walking away with the audiences and commanding their loyalty?One person that noticed was Chris Williamson,a promoter with big ideas and big plans.Williamsom started his own management company called Rock Hotel productions and started out to corner the market on the NY hardcore scene.What he ended up with was a bunch of bands at war with him and each other.The lesson in the end was that to try and put a dollar sign on an ideal and a cause would end up popping the whole balloon.
Hardcore was the true "alternative" music,not that moronic,meaningless term MTV uses today for crapp-ola.It was the bastard child of rock and roll.People didnt realize you needed to be a musical prodigy to bang out hard chords on a guitar,that you had to wait for some record company dick to tell you what or when you was to play.People wrote their songs,booked their bands,recorded them with money they earned or with donations and distributed it without any form of permission from any corporation.They depended on the support of the kids that came down to dance and sing in harmony and unity. When you do this you feel alot closer to the purity of the art.Out of the dozens of bands I knew,only a handful ever got past a year before they broke up and fewer ever really made any cash on their bands.Those that did,if they kept true to their sound,deserve mad props.Those that changed their sound to fit a larger audience,were derided as "sellouts" to the cause.Fair or unfair,that was the way it was.
When one started a NYHC band,the original goal was to just get a show and be part of the movement.Most singers usually were people that moved up from the pit,that had the feeling and wanted to push it further.They knew what it took to get a body moving.After that initial goal was accomplished,where was one to go?Make a demo then a 7 inch?Naturally.Play a few benefits for squatters or hungry kids?No problem.Play a CBGBs matinee with your favorite bands?A dream come true.Become an opening band for a major act?Well that took a few connections.Thats when you enter "The Game". Thats when you meet guys like Chris.
Chris had access to a ballroom at the Jane Street Hotel on the Westside Highway,11th ave.Seeing over flowing crowds at the smaller shows,he recognized there was something going on with NYHC,and he wanted to be its "Bill Graham" (the promotor of the Fillmore shows during the 60s and 70s).He also had access to the Ritz (now Webster Hall),Irving Plaza,Danceateria and alternated doing shows these places.
When Murphys Law first started playing out,we had Harley Flanagan as our first drummer.He told me "Dont rely on me to stay with the band because I plan to play bass and start my own band,and dude,it'll be the hardest,ball-crushingest band out there"he said,"and Im gonna call it The Cro-Mags"
In 1985 Agnostic Front put out their first LP "Victim In Pain".It was the first true NYHC hit record.People generaly went nuts over it,but it was also the beginning of a new controversy.The cover depicted a Nazi officer shooting a prisoner in the head.Though it was symbolic of victimization,the AF theme,people outside of the scene saw something else---neo-nazi skinhead.
Rock Hotel shows became the place to go on Saturday nights.Crowds would line up around the block.Chris was smart about one thing.He hired Raybeez and Jimmy to head up a security force which they put together with people from inside the scene.Before that bouncers at shows at the Ritz and similar places were pretty much hated by the NYHC crowds.They would throw you out if you jumped off the stage,which was what NYHC did alot of.One time at a Black Flag show the crowd turned on the bouncers and beat them up,then proceeded out to the streets and caused a true hardcore street riot on 3rd avenue,overturning cars and getting the NYPD really pissed.So Rock Hotel Security was born and since it was made up of NYHC folks (usually the biggest ones),the shows were totally respected and peaceful,unless some idiot would step to a security persons face and find the whole crowd on their ass.NYHC started having some real power.Or so they thought.
A7 was closed by the cops,Max's and alot of other clubs had gone,so there was basicly CBs and Rock Hotel running the scene.So now Chris upped his situation by signing with Profile Records to create his own sub label-Rock Hotel Records.He started wheeling and dealing the bands.If he wanted your band and you wanted to play his shows,you signed.If you didnt,you got stiffed.Since A.F. commanded a huge audience,they were exempt and they went their merry way,but the rest were basicly stuck.Not only did you have to be on his label but he also expected you to make him your manager! When Murphys Law balked at this,he said "Fine! I'll make the Cro-Mags the biggest thing out there!",and proceeded to offer their drummer a job with them since Mackie had enough and left.Instead Murphys Law went on tour with The Beastie Boys"Licence To Ill" tour on Rush Production without any support from their own record company
Meanwhile he send the Cro-Mags out on tour.Within 6 months theyd broken up over God-knows-what.That was 1987.They still dont speak to each other.They also still hate Chris Willianson.
One day Antknee from the Cavity Creeps was mountain biking through Central Park where he spotted Williamsom jogging.Antknee wheeled around past him and hocked a giant luggie in his face.
SKINHEAD ARMY HISTORY OF N.Y.H.C. 1980-2000
It wouldnt be a complete history of the NY scene without mentioning the influence of the skinhead culture.If you ask ten skinheads what it means to be one,expect ten different answers.But there are definite rules and codes to being a skinhead.One is PRIDE.Some refer to pride in being part of the working class,rather than being on welfare or living off anothers wealth.Others refer to Pride of unity amoung their fellow associates,whether drinking in a bar,going to shows ,or standing together in a fight.And then there are those whos pride runs with their racial (or racist) beliefs "Nazi punks...FUCK OFF!" Dead Kennedys
Skinhead style started to show itself in the NYHC scene at its beginning.Actually it was the Buddhist monks that first shaved their heads as to renounce worldly materialism.Ironicly,the Nazis during WWII never wore shaved heads-that was considered a humiliation to be put upon concentration camp prisoners.The true Oi skinheads appeared in Britain in the late 60s(rather than explain,look up 'skinhead' on your search engine.Some sites refer to hate groups,others to groups like S.H.A.R.P.).America also had its version of skinhead with the gangs in the Bronx (The Fordham Baldies actually existed).The first ones I met were at a show at CBGBs in 1978.They were there to see a band called Mike Pardo's Straight Edge(meaning the razor,not the yet-to-happen sXe).Big,mean looking guys with leather jackets and massive tattoo work,totally impressed this kid.
"Collosal man was a skinhead.." The Psychos By 1981 a new generation of skins started appearing at punk rock shows.Not much resemblence to the Oi type,more like punks with shaved or buzzed heads.The boots were basic black combat boots,leather or army coats,jeans with torn knees,work gloves,chain belts.It was the ska followers,more educated in British ways, that brought more of the look into the scene with creepers,Fred Perry shirts,while punks brought in the Oi sounds like the Business,The Exploited,Sham 69,The Cockney Rejects,GBH.The first true skinhead band I saw was the 4 Skins at some club uptown. "Skinhead rebell...kick'em in the ass....Skinhead rebell...ain't got no class" Murphys Law
The skinhead style wasnt the only one that worked its way into the scene.There was also the Rasta influence and the home-boy look of sneakers and adidas sportswear,then came the skater street look. NYHC started to become a wide mix of styles.sXe bands seemed to be wearing the look too,so the was a wide cross influence.By 1983 the mohawks started fading out,so most shows became a sea of bald heads and tattooed bodies.Soon the combat boots and chain belts gave way to Doc Martins and braces.Agnostic Front became straight-up skinhead,American style "We gotta stick together..punks and skins..united and strong" A.F.
Up to this point it was just that-style and music.Few actually knew the political storms that followed the skinhead movement at the time,but soon they found out.Though the scene seemed to be largely white,catholic school types,there were also jewish,black,latino and asians in the mix too,Id guess about a 60-40 ratio,so it could hardly be considered a prejudiced bunch.Of course I cant say what was in the hearts of every individual but racial politics was at the time avoided.There was too much fun going on for that kind of stuff.In fact it seemed Religion was the big question of the day.Besides being a bunch of hell-raisers,there were the beginnings of those whose spirituality led them toward,of all things,Krishna.
Though Harley was a crazed skinhead kid,John introduced him to the Krishna temple in Brooklyn,along with others.The Krishnas gladly fed them and brought them into the Krishna life.The Cro-Mags then became linked to the faith.It seemed alot of the scene was headed that way,seeing that the life-style worked well with sXe,being about abstaining from things like drugs,sex and alcohol.But it clashed with the beer drinking and sometimes glue-sniffing-dust smoking ways of the Oi boys.Plus the anarchy types hated religion,so a "schism" started to arise-the NYHC scene was splitting into factions.
"Dont forget the struggle..dont forget the streets.." Warzone
Violence up to this point was mostly sent outwards toward home-boys,bouncers and crazed bums that took on the skins and punks on Avenue A,Thomkins Square Park,various bars and clubs.If you liked to brawl,hang around long enough and you were in it.But when an EP called "White Power" from the National Front band Skrewdriver started showing up,things were about to turn real ugly
"The dogs of war are coming for you..." Skarhead
History of NYHC Part 9
-Blood in the Streets By '86-'87 the NYHC scene was at the stage where the first generation was moving up and out as the second was making its presence known.The people and the bands that made up the days from 82 were either getting higher recognition or had moved on.Agnostic Front,the Cro-Mags,Murphys Law were putting out albums and started touring outside of the east coast area.Newer bands like Underdog,Youth Defence League,Warzone,Youth Of Today,Supertouch,Leeway,Token Entry had moved up in local prominence to fill the void.
By this time the scene had grown beyond its original size,from a handful of skins and punks that knew each other,to a huge scene of hundreds going to packed shows.Bands now brought with them their "crews",friends from their area that supported and,when nessessary,took their backs.Some of the early crews were known as the Warzone crew,the Astoria posse,and the Alleyway crew.Other factions were the Krishna devotees and various Oi skinheads.Straight Edge had fallen away for the time being,to emerge later more radical and widespread.
"Metal" started to work its way into the scene,beginning with bands like Motorhead,Celtic Frost,Metallica,Venom,and Slayer.This sound started to influence cross-over bands like Anthrax,Carnivore and Napalm Death.Heavier and harder went the music
Still more bands came up in the ranks.Rest In Pieces,Sick Of It All,Gorilla Biscuits,Straight Ahead,Sheer Terror,Raw Deal,Bold-youth crew bands that stressed either a positive scene attitude,or feelings of anger and distrust.But things were about to go real negative.
The American skinhead scene up to now was just a bunch of hellraising,beer swilling,hard-moshing followers of hardcore music.Meanwhile on the English side,the National Front was becoming the rising tide of white nationalism,using the skinheads as their shock troops.More than just rowdy soccer fans,they got more involved with anti-immigrant fever and politics.The band Skrewdriver preached outright racism with their EP "White Power".Pink Floyd's movie "The Wall" depicted skinheads as Hammerskins,a neo-nazi image of street thugs attacking blacks and "paki-bashing".These images started leaking its way on to the minds of American kids,pro and against.
Up till then,no one outside the scene knew much about skinheads.That changed when an episode of "Geraldo",a talk-show that featured sensational subjects did a show on skinheads and racism.Thats when all hell broke loose across the airwaves.On the panel was the Metzgers,a family of white power activists from Oregon,preaching what white power types preach.In the audience was various factions of skins.When a fight broke out on stage between the metzgers and Roy Innis,the whole audience erupted in a giant brawl on national tv,resulting in a broken nose for Geraldo and a new villian for the media-the racist nazi skinhead!
Racist groups like Christian Identity,W.A.R.,and even the big bellied,bearded KKK,filled their ranks with disaffected young white kids from rural areas.These kids took on the skinhead identity,marching across television screens carrying banners and swatstika flags and seig heiling to the television cameras,wearing docs with white and red laces.If you were a skin,even if you didnt follow these beliefs (and many didnt),you might as well have been wearing klan robes or an S.S. uniform in the eyes of most people.
One group that formed to counter that image was SHARP,SkinHeads Against Racial Prejudice,but other,more aggressive crews were about to make its presence known on the dancefloor
Meanwhile,back in NYC,hardcore shows started looking like battlezones.The crowd that established the scene was becoming absent,replaced by younger,more violent kids with their crews.Fights broke out on dancefloors and spilled out into the streets.The unity that marked the scene was being replaced with factional warfare.Not that there wasnt fighting before,most shows had their share of brawls.Before this,bands were the scene leaders,keeping control of situations.But now they were hapless bystanders. e power had shifted to the crews.
Note-If you think Im gonna name names and identify crews involved with violence,forget it.Not gonna happen.Those who were there know what im talking about-those who werent are better off not knowing.
History of NYHC
Part 10 Blunt Trauma and Cold Steel
In order for me to illustrate this chapter,I'll be taking a personal view From its beginnining the NY scene had its share of fighting and violence.All punk scenes did.Mosh pits are violent affairs,what with people crashing into each other at breakneck speed,some dont take kindly to a stranger suddenly wacking them in the balls or face with a thrashing fist,or to get their heads stepped on by stage divers.Though some would say those are the rules,there really arent any rules.You never know when your joyous dancing is gonna wind up getting you smacked in the head and possibly trampled by someone and all his friends.Thats life in the pit.
Though as Ive got older Ive come to realize violence is detrimental to keeping a scene alive and growing,I can also admit to being in my own share of fist fights,sick pits,kung fu brawls and near riots.So far Ive had a cracked jaw,two mild concussions,lost a tooth and chipped most of the rest,broke my nose twice so it points in two directions,fat lips,eyes swollen shut,bruised ribs,twisted my back,coughed up blood,numerous cuts and a scar under my eye from a hockey stick.And I can truthfully say I caused some damage to others.More than a normal person,less than someone from the NHL.
Now compared to a real gansta scene,that aint much.But then again people die alot in real gansta scenes.Drive-bys,revenge shootings,turf killings-goes on everyday in America,all real children lost forever by a simple pull of a trigger.A sad waste of life,no matter the color or background.
Thats why i came to appriciate the hardcore scene.Black eyes and bloody noses,hurt feelings,but at least nobody died.At least I thats what I thought One time in '87a band was filming a video at The Ritz,when one kid climbed out on the balcony.Someone told him to go ahead and jump and so he did...to his death. Another bad thing that occured from time to time is kids that get permanently crippled from accidents on the dancefloor.I know of at least two people this happened to.Really sad stuff.EMS will tell you : DONT MOVE SOMEONE that appears injured like that,moving them could make the injury alot worse.Stop the show and make room for EMS to help them
By this time I had been out on tour with my band for a year,so I missed home and all the fun downtown.I decided to drop out of it and go back to being an audience member again.When i went down to a CB's matinee,I was taken by the fact that most of the people i knew from before were gone,replaced by an even younger crowd,some that knew me but others that looked at me with suspicion.That day I saw kids being stomped for wearing Doc Martins and having them taken from them,or their flight jackets ripped off their backs,getting wacked with hammers on the dancefloor,all kinds of stuff straight out of Clockwork Orange.This sure wasnt the scene i had left a year ago.I was told that there was a war going on between racist skinheads and local gangs of mixed black,white and latino skins.I decided to steer clear of this fight,instead trying to be a peacemaker,not to too much success.
This started to be an ongoing thing.At CB's and places like the Ritz and Lamours this scene kept repeating itself.A steady stream of blood.I got together with some of the old schoolers to see if the scene could be salvaged from the mayhem.The original formula was that the bands ran things like security and kept order.Now they were pretty much just spectators to the violence.Bands that stressed a positive attitude had an audience that some didnt listen to the message.Besides violence,some of the newcomers did a lot of thieving.Even the bass player from Gorilla Biscuits once had his wallet ripped off by them.
One night at a show at CB's I noticed a few "outsiders" hanging around in front,looking for people to fuck with.Inside,when a fight broke out of the floor,some kids ran out to the front.I stopped a group from pursuing them,and convinced them to let it go,and they went back in.Later when I went outside,the place was surrounded by cop cars and ambulences.One of the kids that ran outside was stabbed to death by someone out front.
Hilly,the owner,had enough.No more hardcore shows. Soon,after another kid was stabbed to death on Ave A for going to the aid of a black youth,the NYHC scene came to a screeching halt.Though the excuse for the violence was to rid the town of nazi-skinheads,which really werent that many,the people that died were innocent bystanders that just wanted to see a show.
The reputation of the scene was now one of deadly violence and gang warfare,so club owners closed their doors to it.From shows two to three times a week down to an occasional once every two months.People left it in droves.
The scene that started with so much promise,unity and brotherhood in 81,that launched world reknowned bands from just a small group of people,was now going down in flames in '88.
Was this the end of NYHC?Stay tuned........
Part 11 RE-IGNITION:The 90's
Epilog-"Those that dont learn from history are doomed to repeat it." As you can see from all the chapters so far,NYHC was a mix of fun,craziness,fame,tragedy and urban adventure for lots of people that were there to experience it.The scene was not static.It changed everyday,different people came and went as did the bands and their music.Everytime someone says hardcore is dead,it re-emerges somewhere,and probably will continue to re-emerge because its a helluva lot of fun,and fun never goes out of style
Ive been catching heat for mentioning the downside (some annonymous message board postings calling me a "Jewish-fag-Puerto Rican lover or some kind of idiotic thing Im not) but I believe it should be pointed out.Like I said at the beginning its for this and later generations to read and learn how to avoid some of the problems that come with it.
One thing Ive learned is to keep race politics or similar controversies out of the mix-keep the focus on the music and you'll have a clean scene.Straight edgers can hang next to No Edgers as long as one keeps their views,pot smoke or beer muscles to themselves.Example is the best teacher.Bands should show a little leadership and responcibility to their audience,moshers should respect each other.Club owners should be helped by keeping the heat away from their clubs,like cops and lawsuits.Keep it all on the DOWNLOW and youll have many days and nights of fun instead of sitting home on weekends
I didnt mention any names of people or crews involved with the violence.The ones that killed were thrown in prison for keeps (Ive heard one has died in prison) others have paid the price in their own blood.The rest grew up and changed their ways.
History of N.Y.H.C. Part 11 Re-ignition :the 90's
The dark days set in after the violence of '88.
If you watch any of those cheesy music shows on Mtv,whenever they talk about the music of the 80's,all they can come up with is Madonna,Run DMC and a Flock of Seagulls.The Corporate music industry had no idea what was going on inside the true American music scene.It was occuring in small clubs across the country on a small,personal level where they couldnt get their greedy hands on it.Until they got a look at it on the "Geraldo Show",scenes of skinheads punching Geraldo in his nose.Very politically incorrect.
All the predictions of Hardcore being "the next big thing" in music were way off.The music industry turned its nose up on it,instead putting their energy and cash into hip-hop and a new scene from Seattle called "grunge".Better to put their money down on a bunch of drugged out hippies playing droned out pointless music and ganstas wearing gold chains rapping about bitches and hos than all these riff-raff white kids with bald heads who's audiences balk at paying more than $8 for admission to a concert.
Meanwhile,back in NY the chaos had caused a near meltdown.Bands were feuding with each other,breaking up,shows were disappearing due to the violence.It seemed the days for hardcore in ny were numbered,that it had run its course.But it actually managed to bearly hang on.Raybeez kept the Hardcore Superbowl going at the Ritz,now relocated at the old Studio 54 uptown.Sick Of It All,Murphys Law,Sheer Terror,The Icemen,Leeway,Warzone were still active and able to pull in a crowd
On the national scene,bands morphed and changed.Minor Threat's singer Ian McKay joined Fugazi,Black Flag's singer started the Rollins Band,The Misfit's singer went solo as Danzig.Metal became Death metal,with bands like Anal Cunt,Death,Entombed,Napalm Death and the emergence of SLAYER as the ruler of all that was evil.
On a popular level there was Guns and Roses,Gwar,Tool,Helmet,Nirvana and a zillion other radio/video friendly bands flooding the airways and concert halls AF's singer Roger had bad legal difficulties,so the band drifted off.Vinnie decided to build a new band using Willie the drummer and Matt the guitarist with Roger's little brother Freddie and Hoya on bass.The result was MADBALL.This band in my opinion exemplified the best of the new breed
On St Patricks Day in '90 at a Murphys Law show at the Kat club,two new bands were introduced-Crown of Thorns and H2O.
These and other bands like 25 ta Life,Demize and Merauder were part of the crew that were sponsored by the established older bands to keep the scene alive in a new era.It wasnt gonna be easy.It took time to shed the image of people getting stabbed and brutalized and these new bands belonged to a particularly notorious crew.As time went on the list of bands grew so much I couldnt mention them on one page.
Clubs slowly came around to give these shows a chance again.Besides the Ritz,other venues opened were The Limelight, the Wetlands,Tramps and later Coney island High The music this time was a mix of metal,thug-core with a taste of old school,with more severe breakdowns reflective of the street life these people knew.Within a year or so these bands and others that re-emerged like Agnostic front, Breakdown,Maximum Penalty and Killing Time,the spirit started coming back. Many of the best shows were held at The Wetlands and even CBGBs re-opened to hc for a while-until more fights broke out.Some people never learn Jimmy and Poss started the Creepy Crawl series of shows at Coney Island which were totally cool and deserve their own mention.
Today there are so many bands active in the NY-tri-state area that the border lines are blurred to the point that it couldnt really be called a NY scene.Its more accurate to call it East Coast.In days past it was because the bands gravitated to Manhattan as its central point,but now most of the action takes place outside the area.
On the national scene the music split in two ways-Emo (meaning emotional experimental) and Brutal,a hybred form of metal and hardcore.Also returning was Straight Edge,this time mixing the anti-drugs/alcohol/sex message with veganism and animal rights,making it more radically political than ever,sometimes to the point of violence.
Not only in NYC but across the country and in fact the world,hundreds of bands sprang up under the HC banner.Japan,South America,Europe,Canada-pretty much most countries across the world had some sort of hardcore scene.The most fucked up thing about it was in the country where the best bands came from,America,the music industry and media totally shunned and ignored it.
The medium you are looking at,the internet,is probably instrumental in keeping hardcore moving and communicating in the future,whichever form it takes In September of 97 I got a phone call from Jimmy.Raybeez of Warzone had died from pneumonia that he walked around with untreated for a year.
The wake and funeral was held in his old neighborhood in Inwood,Manhattan.One thing that stuck in my mind was the weather was totally clear and warm.Everyone I knew from NYHC attended,wearing suits or their best hc clothes.Ray was there from the beginning in 81 when he got out of the navy and never lost his faith and dedication to the scene.His loss was sadly felt and today i use it as a marker of a close to an era.We said our goodbyes to Ray and afterwards said goodbye to each other.
A few weeks later a memorial show was held for Ray at CBs.Pretty much every band that was still around played the two day event,including an appearence by Gorilla Biscuits.Still it was a nostalgia show,reflecting the past.
NYC is a changed place from the early eighties.The economy has everyone working,rents skyrocketed out of affordable sight,Mayor Giuliani closed down the squats and closed alot of clubs,or at least put the club owners in fear of being closed because of rules from the 20's that didnt allow dancing in clubs without a cabaret' license.Gentrification took over so all the conditions that led to the rise of the NYHC scene were gone.
Still a few of the original bands are out there,touring and recording,but Manhattan is no longer the center.Hardcore moved out to the suburbs.