Wednesday, July 18, 2012

New Website!

Hello everyone,

If you have been following this blog please go to the new website for the book. It is at  Thanks!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lexington Books has agreed to sign the book!

The collection has been picked up by Lexington Books - a division of Rowman &  Littlefield.  This is great news and I hope that everyone involved is as excited as I am that this has happened.  Be on the lookout for more great information on the book as it comes through.  If you want to check the press out the first link on the right is the publisher or go here...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The book is in process!!! Tentative Table of Contents~

Skinned to the Bone:

Aggressive Music in the Contemporary World

 Edited by: Eric James Abbey


Colin Helb

Table of Contents


Jeremy Wallach, Ph. D, Bowling Green State University

Food For Thought:

Sid Vicious’s Cannibalization of Sinatra’s “My Way” 

Evan Ware, University of Michigan

Wrath from the Left:

Punk Goes Political at the Dawn of the Dead Kennedys     

Jonathan A. Berz, Freelance Music Writer

Let the Shillelagh Fly:

Dropkick Murphys and Irish Hybridity in Punk Rock        

Sean Ahern, Bowling Green State University

Am I Evil?

The meaning of metal lyrics to its Fans                 

Mika Elovaara, Ph. D, University of North Carolina, Wilmington

Controlled aggression:

the civilizing of heavy metal rituals

Gary Sinclair, Ph. D, Dublin Institute of Technology

From demonic possession to the musical growl:

Scanning “monstrous” voices                         

Marcus Erbe, Ph. D, University of Cologne

Heavy Metal music in the Caribbean setting:

Social practices and meanings of music at the periphery. 
Nelson Varas-Diaz, Ph. D & Eliut Rivera-Segarra, University of Puerto Rico
No Fun:

Noise Music, Avant-garde Aggression, and Sonic Punishment

Ross Hagen, Ph. D, Utah Valley University

The Last Report: Throbbing Gristle and Audio Extremes

Brian Cogan, Ph. D, Molloy College

The Time is Right to Set Our Sight on Salvation: Hardcore Punk and Krishna Consciousness.

Colin Helb, Ph. D, Elizabethtown College

Aggressively Weird: The Butthole Surfers Shred the West Coast, 86-91.                               

Michael Lupro, Ph. D, Portland State University

The Cult of Hellmouth: The Success of Contemporary Hardcore

Eric James Abbey, Oakland Community College


Eric James Abbey, Oakland Community College


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Cult of Hellmouth: The Success of Contemporary Hardcore

Within aggressive and hard music there is often a distinction made between music that is created to be technically proficient and music that vents frustration and moves the audience.   The success of either side greatly relies on the musicianship and talent of the members of the band.  When the music and the motivation are focused on an aggressive output with the audience in mind success is almost always in sight.  The definition of success is greatly subjective but for hardcore punk, metal and other aggressive music styles the audience moving and sharing a commonality of release is success.  Detroit’s Hellmouth are the contemporary equivalent to the hardcore of the past in their motivation, drive and aggression.  As they are consistently referenced with Cold as Life, Negative Approach, the Meatmen and many others, Hellmouth have reclaimed a past that was somewhat lost.  The focus of the group comes from a disdain with the contrived notions of the music community and with everything that has previously existed.  As they continue to play shows around the country, the group espouses a mentality of resistance and destruction to the contrived norm.  While this is not inherently different from other groups, Hellmouth drives the audience with their sound first, their ideals second and their marketing third.  The reasons behind the group’s formation are the basis of their popularity.
Hellmouth formed when the lead singer Jay Navarro decided that he was fed up with the capitally driven music scene and wanted to vent his frustration.  As someone who led the extremely successful Detroit band The Suicide Machines throughout the country, he knew full well the downfall of “selling out.”  The Suicide Machines, originally called Jack Kevorkian and the Suicide Machines in 1991, contributed to the early third wave of ska and went on to sign with Hollywood Records.  With this signing the band changed its sound and focus and would go on to great success, touring with No Doubt and other major label acts, gaining fans around the country and the world. The formation of Hellmouth occurred after the breakup of the Suicide Machines in 2006 with Jay being determined to “get back” to something that he felt he lost.  He stated, “I was part of selling out what I originally believed in with the Suicide Machines…not by going to a major, but by playing out of the community that was a part of it.”  
-Full length of text available in the upcoming book...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Detroit Hardcore: A revolution in politics from the underground

Detroit Hardcore:
A revolution in politics from the underground

If music is created with a lack of integrity and heart it is often challenged for its relevance and importance to the outside listener.  Detroit music has an added dimension of grit that has not occurred in other major cities around America.  With this in mind, bands began by being as raw and emotionally harsh as possible.  Detroit Hardcore stands as the harshest, purest form of emotional outlay in contemporary times.  Beginning in the 1980s with the band called Negative Approach and carrying through to bands such as Cold as Life and the Bill Bondsmen, Detroit Hardcore has continued its influence throughout the musical landscape.  Cold as Life and Negative Approach represent the two major stems of Detroit Hardcore both in time period and thought.  The way Hardcore began was with a desire to remove the pretentious and wasted effort of many of the surrounding musicians.  This occurred in many cities but Detroit is often considered a starting point with Negative Approach as one of the main founders and leaders of the movement.  The pure Nihilism of the group and its consistent effort to offend led to one of the greatest developments in American youth culture.  Although this movement was centered away from politics at first, it began to attract listeners who were less than wanted.  The continuation of the scene was threatened by the racist right wing but the initial feelings of pride in self, outrage with society and hatred for the upper class has never changed.  Detroit Hardcore based itself around these constructs and relied on a harsh sound and lyrical content that has propelled it into every generation since its inception.
Bands that were classified as Hardcore from the beginning of the scene often formed in reaction to their surroundings.  A certain level of disgust for people that were handed everything and for those who did not have to struggle was often a reason for forming a band.  In Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life, Minor Threat’s lead singer Ian MacKaye recalls working the door at a Georgetown bar, “‘Every Friday night,’ says MacKaye, ‘ I just sat there and I just watched a parade of fucking idiots going by.  It was party night, it was Georgetown, and it just turned my stomach.’” (130). This feeling of disgust created a scene that was unlike any other and one that continues throughout the world.   
            Detroit Hardcore can be a difficult thing to explain to someone outside of the movement.  The sound relies heavily on aggressive guitars, bass and drums that propel the music with a thud that is felt and not just heard.  Often people hearing it for the first time construct it as a wave of noise that is almost offensive to the ears.  This is often the point.  As Theodor Adorno suggests in Philosophy on Modern Music, “The dissonances which horrify them testify to their own conditions; for that reason alone do they find them unbearable” (9). Many bands at the start of this genre were tired of the consistent “garbage” that was being fed to them on the radio.  They were determined to assert their own brand of rebellion and disgust for anything simple and contrived.  The main output had to be emotion and harshness, nothing else.  Detroit Hardcore differs in this manner from the groups that would follow it in other areas. 
            The main difference in groups like Negative Approach (NA) from Minor Threat lies in its intent.  The bands may sound similar and hold similar sonic values but the message is completely different.  According to Otto Buj, editor of Sold Out in American Hardcore, “Negative Approach was the definitive Hardcore band – them and S.O.A. made the best Hardcore singles.  John Brannon’s presence was so intense.  He started the whole hardass stance.  There’s no precedent for what they did” (214). A punk band named All summed Detroit Hardcore up in one simple statement, “Keep your politics out of my music!”  In doing so, many of these original bands were often misconstrued as neo-Nazi Skinhead groups and forced to play shows at venues of their own construction.  NA was among this false construction but never claimed allegiance or perpetuated any racist ideals.  The main focus of NA was the rejection of everything. 
            To anyone that is even somewhat familiar with this type of music, Negative Approach furthered the assault and made it even more aggressive.  Their drive and determined stance to destroy everything in their path led to many people being offended.  Dave Laing, in Listening to Punk, also suggests that “…the identity of punk as something different depends in part on its achieving a disquieting impact on listeners whose expectations are framed by mainstream popular music and its values” (459).  This was the point for John Brannon and the founding members; to piss off the established norm.  Brannon states, “People were thoroughly upset by those early sets we did.  All our songs were averagely 30 seconds long and the set would only last about 10 minutes.  The dudes from the older, more established “rock” bands in the area were offended we had the nerve to go on a stage and do that.  But the kids dug it and that’s all we really cared about. We knew it had to be done” (Rettman 1).  The music that came out of this was harsh, aggressive, not very well performed and there was the point.
            The other group that gave Detroit Hardcore its start was Cold as Life.  The band began with Jeff Gunnells and Roy Bates as the aptly titled Apathetic Degenerates which led to the Mattress Rats and then Cold as Life in 1988.  The most controversial figure of the group was their singer Ron “Rawn” Beauty, who was murdered by his roommate, Richard Werstine.  The murder and the stories surrounding Beauty’s life are legendary in Hardcore circles and form the basis for many fans entrance into the politics and violence of the underground.  “‘He was so angry, dude; just burning inside, just so full of hate,’ Gunnells said.  ‘ There were many, many people on the receiving end from his dysfunctional upbringing’” (Moossavi).  Dougie Toms, “Sir Thomas,” states in an interview for Hardcore Times, “‘When Cold as Life played, it wasn’t just a hardcore scene back then.  You had the hardcore kids, the punk rockers, the skinheads; even the straight edge kids came out a lot back then,’ he said. ‘Ron had politicked it that way, where anyone could come to a Cold as Life show and there wouldn’t be no fights.  That was really cool because nobody wanted to fuck with Ron, so it was like Ron’s band, Ron’s show, Ron’s night to shine basically,’ Toms added” (October 2006).  That was the intent of the scene at the beginning, to create a family, but through violence and a hatred of life. 
            The city of Detroit is known as a working class town and a “hard” town.  To be brought up in, or in the surroundings of, one of America’s toughest cities leads to a feeling of disgust for those that have not had to struggle or work hard for what they have gained.  Members of the scene often cling to this feeling and are drawn into it.  Larry Kole, currently of the band Ten Second March, previously of the Jobbers, suggests, “Bands like the Bumpin Uglies, Multi Grain, and Malpractice… played a show like it was the last time they were ever going to be on stage again.” This feeling of hatred and disgust appears throughout the hardcore scene.  The importance here is that the members of this scene treat each other as family and a support network consistently develops because of this.  To the sociologist or others looking at this scene, it is almost gang-like in appearance, which has also led to many people viewing the movement in negative ways.  This perpetuates the ideals of Detroit Hardcore and the people that follow the music cling to this concept of family away from the established norms of family.  Even today, the gang concept exists; to be a part of it lends to certain connotations. 
            The members of C.T.Y.C. or Colder Than You Crew, were the harshest people at the beginning scene of Detroit Hardcore.  It was these people that ruled the scene through violence and intimidation, but also took care of those that were weaker and needed help.  Today, C.T.Y.C. exists but only in fan-based membership.  The original intent has passed, and most of the members have grown up and have moved on to other things but remain as a part of the scene.  In a recent interview with the newest formation of Cold as Life lead singer Vinnie “Enzo” Dufour, suggested, “For me it was a rite of passage.” Roy Bates added, “It’s about fucking frustration you know, people joining together to get through their own anger and frustration of life.”  The foundations of the scene stem from a concept of unity through violence. 
            The phrase, “unity through violence,” receives many interesting responses and suggests that the current, older members of the scene remember the beginnings with nostalgia and longing.  Unity is a concept that is consistently thrown around within underground music circles, but the Hardcore scene is one that truly represents this across the nation. Any challenge to this unity leads members to become violent and the main difference between the two stems of Detroit Hardcore is this unity verses apathy approach of NA.  Other scenes around the country have similar feelings, but the harshest continue to remain in Detroit and New York City.  Bands that play within these scenes rely on the feeling of unity through violence and harshness. 
            The politics involved with the Detroit Hardcore scene are consistently debated over and argued about.  Which bands represented what political view is a difficult thing simply because different members held different political leanings.  Cold as Life often drew a neo-Nazi skinhead element, but were also extremely anti-political from stage, whereas NA and bands like the Skraps and others often drew an extremely left wing audience that did not tolerate anyone unlike them.  This separation led to many members clashing at shows and fighting in order to prove who had the right to be there.  In Detroit, this led to the formation of many groups in support of the bands.  The Skraps had the Apple S.I.D.S, which was a group mainly within the northern suburbs of Troy, and Pontiac, and Cold as Life had C.T.Y.C.   To many people that followed this music the politics did not matter but there were those that clung fiercely to these “gangs.” 
            These politics caused the dissolution of the scene and to many bands being banned from venues.  As the members got older, the violence dissipated and now the clubs are booking newer bands that hold the same ideals as Cold as Life and other original bands.  The newer groups are also following the many stems of Detroit Hardcore, with bands like the Bill Bondsmen carrying the NA thread and bands like H8 Inc. following the Cold as Life thread.   There is an obvious reason for the growing popularity of this music in Michigan.  Most of it stems from the current economic struggles and working class ideals taking hold of the majority again.  When people are upset, or emotional in any way, they turn towards music.  This is common within other cities, but that Detroit grit comes through.  The fashion and brand of Detroit Hardcore has again been shaped to reflect the unity through violence approach.
            Other areas of the country also saw Hardcore develop in this way, but the Detroit scene was much more powerful.  The scene resonated with bands from around the world, most importantly with the leading force in hardcore Agnostic Front.  This group from New York City defined the image, strength and force of Hardcore and for many defined the movement.  When Cold as Life opened for them in Flint, Michigan at the Capitol Theater on December 21, 1991 and then played again with them at CBGBs later that month, the connection was made and Detroit Hardcore was changed forever. 
            The connection between these groups led to a huge following and solidified Cold as Life as the most important group in Detroit Hardcore.  The rest is a sordid history of band breakups, member changes and the like.  The only original member of Cold as Life that is still playing is Roy Bates and the conflict between him and Jeff Gunnels has become legendary within the scene.  Without Cold as Life performing and continuing to perpetuate the unity through violence approach, the Detroit Hardcore scene would have diminished.
 At a recent show, which saw the newest members performing after the death of their guitarist, the crowd was worked up into such frenzy that two women began to fight which led to others joining in the fray.  Bates commented on the night, “We should change our name to Cursed for Life.”  This is not an uncommon thought within the scene and one that characterizes the passion and drive for the music that the band has.  Without this passion, the group would have broken up long ago and the music would have been lost. Yet, due to the constant desire of Roy Bates to spread the word, the band continues. 
Cold as Life and Negative Approach are the foundations of Detroit Hardcore around the world and characterize desires that are found with a great many bands that followed them.  H8 Inc., the Bill Bondsmen and many others play a style of music that conforms to ideals laid by these groups.  The newer generations are finding this raw, emotionally driven music and clinging to it.  The mentality of unity through violence may be a past thought for the original members, but the newest fans are again displaying this family feel.  The scene would have been drastically different if NA and Cold as Life had not been founded on such strong and emotional desires. Hardcore would not have had the same effect on the minds of the young.

Works Cited
Adorno, Theodor W. Philosophy of Modern Music. New York/London: Continuum, 2004. Print.
Azerrad, Michael. Our Band Could Be Your Life. New York: Little Brown and Company, 2001. Print.
Blush, Steven. American Hardcore: A Tribal History. Los Angeles: Feral House, 2001. Print.
"CTYC- Roy Bates." Personal interview. 20 Aug. 2009.
"CTYC- Vinnie "Enzo" Dufour." Personal interview. 20 Aug. 2009.
Laing, Dave. "Listening to Punk." 1985. The Subcultures Reader. 2nd ed. London/New York: Routledge, 2005. 448-59. Print.
"Larry Cole." E-mail interview. 5 Aug. 2009.
Moossavi, Ali. "Cold as Life." Hardcore Times. 8 Oct. 2006. Web. 31 July 2009. <>.
Rettman, Tony. “The Detroit Hardcore Scene.”  Swindle.  12. 2006

Avoiding the Political Ramifications of Oi!

Avoiding the Political Ramifications of Oi!
How the Business Championed the Underground.

The Business began their assault into the South London underground with the album Suburban Rebels in 1981.  This album introduced British youth to a sound that attempted to bring punk back to its street roots.  The Business were pivotal to putting a new, harsher approach to music, into the murky streets of London.  The continuance of the group has often been strained and their relationship with politics has linked them to various developments in the British youth movement known as Oi!.  The Business have remained outside of the political ramifications of Oi! and other Skinhead music for the majority of their career.  The continuous references to English football and West Ham United situate the Business in the hooligan culture and remove them from many politically charged discussions.  Through this outside stance and non wavering support of all things Lewisham, the Business gained an extreme amount of popularity for such a harsh underground musical group.  Political associations led to the downfall and corruption of the Oi! scene and the movement that the Business help found.  The Business have found a way to remain alongside these associations and have continued through the many cycles of the punk movement to become one of the most revered bands of the underground. 
            The importance of this group has often been overlooked because of their insistence to remain loyal to the scene that gave them their beginning.  The Business were following other groups that had brought a new sound into the underground.  Bands such as Sham 69, the U.K. Subs and the Angelic Upstarts all gave birth to the sound that would later be known as Oi! and The Business were simply asserting their trademark onto this music and scene.  The sound of the Business is based completely in anthemic song writing and sing along choruses are the key. The beginning bands, Sham 69 and others played an extremely harsh sounding music but left off most of the anthem feeling that the Business were known for. 
            The appeal of the Business also stems from their strong tie to football (soccer) and the hooligan subculture surrounding matches.  This link serves the band in many different ways, most importantly in their development outside of political leanings.  In England, the link between fans and the football teams is extremely passionate and the Business have developed a style of music that is completely supportive of this undercurrent.  The team that the Business support is generally West Ham United but they also, like almost every English man and woman support England.  For a thorough collection of songs based on this connection Hardcore Hooligans (2003) can not be bettered by any punk, Oi! or other type of band around.  It was this connection to football that led the Business to their greatest chart success and continues their popularity.
            On this album, although a collection or mostly previously released tracks, the Business assert their relationship to all things football.  From the opening track “Hardcore Hooligan” to the closing “No One Likes Us,” the band draws the listener into the world of the hooligan and challenges anyone to stand in their way.  The most popular track on the album has become a battle cry for English football supporters throughout the team’s games in Europe.  “England 5,  Germany 1” sings the praises of the 2001 victory over Germany in Munich in a World Cup Qualifying match that was the largest trouncing in the history of the two clubs.  While the chorus may sound juvenile, the anthem is there and almost forces the listener to sing along.  England 5, Germany 1. Michael Owen is number 1, England 5, Germany 1, Michael Owen is number 1.”  The other tracks on the album are significant as well but do not share the same resonance as this one.
            Hardcore Hooligans contains songs that describe the many facets of football and fully place the Business in the forefront of music to listen to while creating havoc.  From the cover art through the track listing, the attitude of the hooligan is expressed and furthered.  The track listing is as follows:
1. Hardcore Hooligan
2. Southgate (Euro 96)
3. Terrace Lost Its Soul
4. Saturday’s Heroes
5. Viva Bobby Moore
6. Maradonna
7. England 5, Germany 1
8. Guinness Boys
9. Handball
10. 3 Lions
11. Boys Are Out
12. No One Likes Us

The songs, “Maradonna” and “Handball” are direct insults to the “Hand of God” incident that happened in the 1986 World Cup match between England and Argentina where Maradonna  scored the opening goal by using his hand.  The other songs are equally impassioned and show the dedication of the band to football and its supporters. 
            The beginnings of football in England demonstrate the impact of the working class on the game and the way it was played.  As the traditionally upper class players in Victorian England relinquished their dominance of the game in 1883 with a loss in the Cup Final to the Blackburn Olympics the game changed. “They (Blackburn) beat the Old Etonians in overtime, and returned home by train to the adulation of a huge crowd led by what the Old Etonians no doubt viewed as the epitome of that northern, Nonconformist, low-cultured working class life: a brass band” (Baker, 243-244).  The working class relationship with the sport increased exponentially from that point on with teams coming from religious institutions (Aston Villa, Bolton Wanderers, Birmingham City, Everton, Burnley, Wolverhampton), schools (Blackburn Rovers, Leicester City, Sunderland), and finally trade unions ( Stoke City, Manchester United, Arsenal, West Ham United). (Baker, 243)  These teams related to all of the people and had no limitations on attendance which led to a deep seated pride in the home side and resentment towards other teams. 
            While this culture began in response to Victorian oppression and as an escape from the ordinary day of work, it also became a way to gather and support one another outside of political affiliations.  This growing societal structure became one of the most significant developments that still continue through contemporary times.  The culture of football continues from these very beginnings.  “Along with the pubs and music halls, Saturday afternoon football games made possible a new sense of belonging, a ritualistic involvement in a larger group symbolized by colorful scarves, team songs, and folk heroes” (Baker, 248). It is this sense of ritual belonging that continues to drive the hooligan faction today and allows for the game of football to remain with these elements intact.
            The club that members of the Business support is West Ham United and their hooligan establishment known as the Inter City Firm.  West Ham formed in 1900 out of the Thames Ironworks company and continues today to play top level football fluctuating between the Premier League and the First Division.   The team was started, as most teams were, with the Victorian principle of camaraderie in the workplace and shifted to be driven by a board of directors.  The importance of the team, for this discussion, lies in their supporters and the hooligan faction.  The Inter City Firm (I.C.F.), alongside the Chelsea Headhunters, is one of the most notorious hooligan establishments in football history.  
            The concept of hooliganism is often discussed through a negative film and oftentimes should be.  However, it is a fact of football and one that developed early and has lasted until today.  As the playwright Arthur Hopcraft states, “What happens on the football field matters, not in the way food matters, but as poetry does to some people and alcohol does to others: it engages the personality” (212).  This engagement is often filled with a passion that translates to violence.  It is this violence that has created an image of hooliganism and perpetuated the headlines of attacks between rival firms.
            The stories of one “End” attacking another are prevalent throughout the society of football and especially in the press.  It becomes a badge of honor to have been through these attacks and/or fought off one.  The importance of clarification between fans being rowdy and unapologetic in their comments and stance and hooligan violence is extremely important.  For many football fans the chants and shouts at opposing fans is an every Saturday occurrence and does not equate to hooliganism, but as John Williams states in Football Hooliganism: Offenses, Arrests and Violence: A Critical Note, “The football hooligan phenomenon embraces both ritual and violent forms.  The latter is as integral an element of the phenomenon as the former” (111, emphasis his).  Because of these elements the hooligan faction takes on an almost mythic quality.
            The amount of violence that is attributed to the hooligan faction at matches increased with the media’s involvement.  By reporting on such violence during the 1966 World Cup, held in England, the press allowed for the myth of the hooligan was spread.  Clashes between firms grew and “taking an end” became something that was much more respected if the media reported on it.  For the outsider, the issue was one that could only be solved through police control and community support.  The fans and people supporting the game knew better and associated the rise with the media focus on England and the surrounding conditions of the working class.  In an attempt to define the reasons behind the existence of hooligans, Eric Dunning, Patrick Murphy and John Williams suggest that, “…the values which underlie hooligan behaviour at football matches and in match-related contexts are relatively persistent, deeply rooted and long standing features of communities of specific sections of the working class” (241).  These values contain elements of the definition of masculinity and aggression as well as cultural upbringing. 
            The working class ideals that underlie football hooliganism take shape in the outlets that are used to express them.  Through music, songs and chants, and clothing these ideals are espoused continuously at each game and throughout the society of football.  Firms have songs that revolve around events that have occurred in the past or as taunts to opposing clubs.  The songs drive the camaraderie and inhabit most of the firm’s beliefs.  Again, the statement on working class ideals is upheld in the camaraderie of the song and the multiple voices that are used in the chant. 
The Business play into these ideals and create songs that are based around events particular to England’s national team.  As mentioned in the songs about Maradonna and more specifically track number 2 on Hardcore Hooligans Southgate (Euro 96).”  This song takes the debacle of Gareth Southgate’s, now the manager of Middlesbrough, missed penalty shot in the 1996 European Cup semi final against Germany and discusses the anger and frustration that was shared between all English football fans.  The following lyrics are easily held up with any terrace chant.
Gareth Southgate stood on the spot
Couldn't believe the chance he got
He'd be a hero with one toe punt
But sent it at the keeper oh what a cunt

Southgate’s Going Home, he’s Going
Southgate’s Going Home, he’s Going
Southgate’s Going Home – Oh No He’s Missed the Bus

Should he hit to the left
Should he hit to the right
Don't really matter coz he was shite
That's the way our luck goes
Couldn't see the ball coz of the size of his nose


If I score this it'll be a killer
Coz they won't let me at Aston Villa
Didn't take a run up for the kick
Even me mum thinks I'm a prick


Dance now wherever you may be                                                                                                                                                                                           But he missed that fuckin penalty                                                                                                                                                                            So we smashed up the town wherever we may be                                                                                                     Cause he missed that fuckin penalty”
-The Business (Hardcore Hooligan, 2003)

The way that Southgate is treated in the song continues the link between the Business and their football supporters and “A central practice in the re-constitution of manhood in football is the communal chanting in which fans participate.  Through these songs, male fans re-affirm and re-negotiate the partitally sub-concious idea of their masculinity” (King, 585).
The connection to working class ideals, most thoroughly with football, situates the band within the second assertion of the Skinhead movement.  This development, before its infiltration by the British Movement, functioned as a call out to the youth of the day.  The Business were influential in reflecting this back to the Skins through their music and non-political lyrics.  John Clarke discusses the way the first assertion of this movement represented the working class in The Skinheads & the Magical Recovery of Community in Hall and Jefferson’s Resistance through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain, “…the Skinhead style represents an attempt to re-create through the ‘mob’ the traditional working class community, as a substitution for the real decline of the latter” (99, emphasis his). The music surrounding this original movement was drastically different but the feeling of camaraderie and association continued into the early 1980s scene.
During the early 80s in England and elsewhere, political affiliations within the punk and hardcore underground were extremely prevalent.  The Business avoided these classifications through playing shows with every group and not espousing any overtly political stance, aside from the us verse them mentality of class positioning.  This became the significant difference in the way that the community viewed the Business.  The other groups that were playing a similar style, Sham 69, Angelic Upstarts, Skrewdriver, the Oppressed, often used the left or the right to further their popularity.  This use of political affiliations led fans to draw up sides and the bands were pushed into the representations of these politics.  The Business, however, stuck with the themes of the working class and football. 
The theme of football was also shared with other groups of the beginning scene, most notably the Cockney Rejects who also strongly supported West Ham and the ICF.   They even recorded a version of I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles in tribute to the team.  Because of these links violence was extremely common at Rejects’ and the Business gigs.  “A month after the release of Bubbles, a Reject’s gig at Birmingham’s Cedar Club ended in a riot that nearly finished the band.  200 plus skinheads showed up to settle a score from an incident at a previous Rejects’ gig and because of the West Ham links” (Marshall, 83).  This incident led to a good deal of bands within the scene attempting to stop the violence at gigs but it still occurred along political lines.  “Now and then Oi! gigs did go off along football lines (The Business and The Oppressed gig in Bridgend springs instantly to mind), but most of the time the trouble was averted by calling a truce for the night or by using security drawn from opposing hooligan factions” (Marshall, 113).  This violence would come to a head for the Business and the entire Oi! community in the summer of 1981.
The early 80s saw the largest success for the Oi! movement and this was led by the Business and other groups performing frequently regardless of who was in attendance.  Because of the links to the National Front and the British Movement that many followers shared, the bands associated with Oi! quickly began to be linked as well and this led to a shaved head meaning racist and Nazi.  A show at the Hambrough Tavern that had the Business, the Last Resort, and the 4-Skins playing was surrounded by a large group of local Asians and during the 4-Skins set the Southhall riot erupted in full.  By the next week the entire Oi! community was labeled as fascist and the media backlash has continued from there associating anything with a shaved head and boots to the militant right wing.  
By playing music with a hard street edge and only writing songs based on working class ideals and football the Business appealed to all sides of the political spectrum.  This allowed them to play at any show and the only risk was the clash within the crowd between politics and firms.  “At the Hambrough, they went down as well as they ever had, belting out soon to be Oi! standards like Harry May and Suburban Rebels, the latter a song that saw Oi! poet Gary Johnson’s words set to music.  The Business’ brand of drunk rock should have been on tap at every pub in the country” (Marshall, 119).  With their debut album Suburban Rebels, they kicked their way into the underground and took the lead away from the Upstarts and Sham.  This album contains many songs that stand as Oi! classics and they reflect the band’s first stance within the underground.  The title track is an affront to the middle and upper class students who are rebelling and thinking they stand for working class ideals.  The LP consistently references the importance of remaining true to yourself and supporting your own family and community.
As the group continued to dominate the underground and the “second wave” of punk the association with the new Skinhead movement followed.  The original Skinhead movement of 1969 was a completely different assertion than the late 70s and 80s version.  This difference was based around the British Movement and the National Front influencing many people, not just Skinheads, into following their fascist philosophy.  Along with this the press loved to induce confrontation by including Skinheads in every story about football.  The similarities within the movement stem around working class ideals and football.  As Dougie Brimson, one of the most recognized writers on hooliganism states, “The skinhead’s involvement in, and influence on, soccer was major.  The unique style of dress captured the imagination of the tabloid newspapers which loved the idea of something different” (82). This led to a good deal of negative press but also developed the underground scene.
            The link with football hooligans and Skinheads played a role in aligning the Business with the right at times but that was quickly put down as the press’ lack of understanding and anyone, hooligan, skinhead or other realized the claim was false.  This came from the band’s support of West Ham and the ICF (Inter City Firm) which had links within the National Front and British Movement.  The issue here is that every firm had links to the right wing at this time and still more than likely do.  Bill Gardner, one of the leaders of the ICF was adamant that the politics were separate from the football.  Just because you support the ICF, the Headhunters, Doc’s Red Army or Blades does not make you a racist and “…Skinheads challenged British society to guarantee what was promised and expected as a minimum of social stability and recognition by, among other things, fighting racism” ( Malott, Carroll-Miranda, 4).  In fact, many supporters of the ICF fought for the left and attended Rock Against Racism concerts regularly. 
            The importance of supporting class based issues instead of politically motivated ones was and continues to play the most important role in the Business’ success.  They are significantly more commercialized because of it but the underground still supports them.  They even have songs in commercials for Guinness and the movie “Eurotrip” contains a song of theirs on the soundtrack.  It seems that the aspect of commercialism is irrelevant as long as the message remains the same.  The message of the band remains within the working class and with it, football. 
            The band was even broken up for a good length of time and reformed in an effort to support a football player on his death.  This led to the newer albums and a slightly different sound but the band held the same concept and force within the underground.  In an interview with Steve Whale, the guitarist for the Business, this history is briefly recounted. “The band split for several years, but then reformed in 1995 when they did a tribute to the football player ‘Bobby Moore’ who had died of cancer” (Punk & OI in the UK).  The importance of football to the band is easily seen throughout their existence and reformation.
            The issues surrounding football hooliganism and the violence associated with it are ongoing and need to be focused on further.  There are a myriad of sociological studies focused on this “issue” and they multiply as more and more stories appear in the press about the firms and the violence associated with them.  The constant assertion that it is a purely working class phenomenon is limited but continues and according to Gary Armstrong in his study of Sheffield United and the Blades entitled Football Hooligans: Knowing the Score, “…in their behaviour, dismissed as irrational and pathological, the football hooligan, an icon of working-class masculine mores, has become the contemporary enemy of rational recreation” (84).  However, the Business use their support for football, West Ham and working class ideals to make a loud proclamation within music and the underground world.  
            As the Business continue to proclaim underground ideals and support of English football they propel the music of Oi! into society without associations with the right wing and neo-Nazi movement.  Bands that have consistently punk based followings, especially Skinhead followings, are generally linked with the right but the Business avoid these political ramifications by playing music that shifts the focus away from overtly political statements.  They also stand away from the left by playing different shows with many different bands and having supporting acts from all political stances.  While bands like the Oppressed, championing the left, and Skrewdriver the right, force fans to support politics, the Business have not modified their stance and remain as one of the most popular Oi! bands in the world. 



Hardcore Hooligan (2003)
Harry May (2002)
No Mercy For You (2001)
The Complete Singles Collection (2001)
Oi, It's Our Business: The Best Of The Business (2001)
Mob Mentality (2000)
Live (1999)
The Best Of The Business: 28 Classic Oi Anthems... (1998)
The Truth, The Whole Truth And Nothing But... (1997)
Loud, Proud And Oi! (1996)
Keep The Faith(1994)
Welcome To The Real World (1988)
Singalong A Business
Blue Stereo Music
Death II Dance
Harry May: The Singles Collection
Saturday's Heroes (1985)
Suburban Rebels (1981)
Under the influence ([2003])


Punch Drunk 4
UK/DK: The Soundtrack To The Film (Soundtrack) (Score)
Oi! The Resurrection
World Still Won't Listen: Tribute To The Smiths
100% British Punk (Box Set)
United Kingdom Of Punk 3: The Hardcore Years
Oi! This Is England (Box Set)
Burning Ambitions: A History Of Punk (Box Set)
Punk, Proud & Nasty
Lords Of Oi! (Box Set)
100% British Oi! Oi!
Give 'Em The Boot
Burning Ambition: History Of Punk Vol. 2
Anarchy From The UK, Volume One
Oi! Greatest Hits Vol. 1
Punk City Rockers (Box Set)
Kill Your Radio
Voice Of The Streets
Eurotrip soundtrack
Trouble on the Terraces

Works Cited

Armstrong, Gary. Football Hooligans: Knowing the Score. Oxford: Berg, 1998.

Baker, William J. The Making of a Working-Class Football Culture in Victorian England.  Journal of Social History, Vol 13. No. 2 (Winter, 1979) pp. 241-251.

Brimson, Dougie.  March of the Hooligans: Soccer’s Bloody Fraternity. New York: Virgin Books, 2007.

Clarke, John. The Skinheads & the Magical Recovery of Community.  Resistance through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain . ed. Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson. Routledge, 1993.

Dunning, Eric, Patrick Murphy, John Williams.  Spectator Violence at Football Matches: Towards a Sociological Explanation. The British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 37, No. 2 (Jun 1986) pp. 221-244.

King, Anthony.  The Postmodernity of Football Hooliganism.  The British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 48. No. 4 (Dec, 1997) pp. 576-593.

Korr, Charles P. West Ham United Football Club and the Beginnings of Professional Football in East London, 1895-1914.  Journal of Contemporary History, Vol 13. No. 2 Special Issue: Workers’ Culture. (Apr. 1978). pp. 211-232.

Malott, Curry, Joseph Carroll-Miranda. Punkore Scenes as
Revolutionary Street
.  Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies. Vol. 1 No. 2 (October 2003).
Marshall, George. Spirit of ’69: A Skinhead Bible. Scotland: S.T. Publishing, 1991.

Pollard, Rebecca. Interview with Steve Whale, Punk & Oi in the UK 11/03/01.  Access date 12/06/2007

Williams, John.  Football Hooliganism: Offenses, Arrests and Violence: A Critical Note.  British Journal of Law and Society, Vol. 7. No. 1 ( Summer, 1980). pp. 104-111.


Monday, November 29, 2010

American Oi! How the Underground Took to a British Phenomenon

When a style of music crosses the Atlantic, gets thrown through the underground and returns it becomes something that cannot be classified with any ease.  It generates countless argument, debate and animosity between followers and practitioners alike with the original bands getting lost in discussions of politics and values.  In the early 1980s American Punk music returned from England in the form of Oi!.  The reformatting of punk into Oi! occurred with the Business and others and then carried over to the States and landed in the form of Iron Cross in Washington D.C., Negative Approach, often referred to as NA, in Detroit, The Effigies in Chicago and many others to form the underground’s harshest musical movement. To the many people that followed the original bands, this movement was about something other than just music.  It was about fun, a feeling of belonging, and pride and respect for working class mentality, not about racism and hatred.  Then the racist Right Wing came in and placed the entire movement of Oi! on the side of the Neo-Nazi and White Power movement in the eyes of the press and to the majority of people.  The infiltration of the underground, by White Power advocates, led to the downfall of the American Oi! movement.  Today, American Oi!, much like its beginning, has retaken the underground with music and bands based on pride and value in the working class, not racist priorities.
When bands that were situated within the working class environments of America started to play music, they played with a feeling of disgust to the yuppie class of the 1980s and were determined to assert working class ideals into the music world.  According to Sarah Thornton in The Social Logic of Subcultural Capital, “Subcultural ideologies are a means by which youth imagine their own and other social groups, assert their distinctive character and affirm that they are not anonymous members of an undifferentiated mass” (185).  The underground bands aligned this character with a focus on working class pride and community responsibility.
The issue of pride is one of great concern for many people.  What does it mean to take pride in yourself, your country, your family, your friends and those that surround you?  The answer formed the basis of American Oi!  If you listen to the lyrics and feeling of the first bands they fall into all of these concepts.  Negative Approach’s, now classic song “Ready to Fight” states, “We won’t take any shit and we’re not about to leave.  Just cause you don’t like who and what we want to be. Who are you to say what’s wrong and what’s right.  If it’s what it takes, we’re ready to fight.” While lyrics from Iron Cross’ “Crucified for our Sins” state, “They don’t know our feelings, only desperate cries.  They see the nation through distorted glass.  They’re only here because of Racist views.”  These short lyrics, from two of the most covered bands, demonstrates first the non-racist view of the groups and second, the way that the youth following was separate from the mainstream and important because of it. 
 The significance of this movement was the way that the bands and fans shared a common connection through the issue of pride. Will Straw, in his essay Communities and Scenes in Popular Music states, “The manner in which musical practices within a scene tie themselves to processes of historical change occurring within a larger international music culture will also be a significant basis of the way in which such forms are positioned within the scene at the local level” (3).  When American Oi! bands tied themselves to a British underground that was based on working class ideals they rose in popularity. Bands often began by covering songs from British artists such as Sham 69, The Blitz and Angelic Upstarts, and added an American grit and strength to them.   Iron Cross and Negative Approach are considered the first American instances of Oi! and led the charge of support for the working class youth in American cities and suburbs. 
Negative Approach began by covering British Oi! songs playing Blitz’s “Someone’s Gonna Die” and “Never Surrender” and “Borstal Breakout” by Sham 69.  NA’s guitarist Rob McCulloch states, “At the time here in the US the media hadn’t got a hold of the whole racist skinhead thing and it wasn’t something we were focusing on.  It seemed as if the whole Detroit scene really embraced the Oi! bands” (Arsehole).  Forming in 1981, around the same time as Iron Cross, Negative Approach used the energy of the hardcore scene and played an even harsher style rooted in the feel of Detroit and punk rock.  They already had a strong following of rough, street savvy kids, and Oi! led the band into a different world.  Lead singer John Brannon forced his band through the underground and didn’t care about anyone or anything in the way.   The start of NA was in reaction to the Detroit “punk” scene being too watered down and ineffective, as they put it too “arty.” 
Negative Approach formed in an effort to play music that people of their age would relate and react to.  They started playing in clubs that were not used to the sound or format and were quickly shunned, but the kids reacted.  Brannon states, “People were thoroughly upset by those early sets we did.  All our songs were averagely 30 seconds long and the set would only last about 10 minutes.  The dudes from the older, more established “rock” bands in the area were offended we had the nerve to go on a stage and do that.  But the kids dug it and that’s all we really cared about. We knew it had to be done” (Rettman).  This no remorse attitude was what carried the entire movement forward. 
Who the first, purely, American Oi! band was is argued over in countless bars and clubs but many agree that Iron Cross from Washington D.C. led the charge and defined the scene from the beginning.  With their first Skinhead Glory E.P. Iron Cross smashed their way into the underground.  What is extremely important about this group is their stance on upholding working class values and denigrating White Power thoughts and philosophy.  Sab Grey, original lead singer of the band, is extremely adamant about this fact and continues to perpetuate these ideals through the creation of books and movies.   The band began in an effort to just have fun.  Grey states, “Politics didn’t matter.  We were all on the same page anyway.  We all knew the system was shit.  We all knew they lied and we just wanted to have a good time anyway.”   Iron Cross led the way for many hardcore bands as well and inspired Dischord Records and bands such as the Minutemen and Minor Threat.
 In the early 80s imagery played a large role within the punk scene.  It still arguably does, but was influential in the split between politics.  The images of the Swastika and other Nazi symbols were taken and used as a form of rebellion against the established order.  The term Iron Cross and the image of an Iron Cross is obviously a reference to the German army but the band and its followers used the image as a comment on the way their society was turning towards that mentality, which often led to extreme disputes about the bands politics.  Sab Grey discusses this by saying, “Yes well it wasn’t exactly the brightest thing to do in retrospect.  But I will say that when we were sitting around choosing the name the main objection to it was that we thought it sounded too metal.  The thought of fascist connotations didn’t occur to us.  And let’s remember when we started there were NO Nazis or right wing elements in the scene.  NONE!”  Images of power were then co-opted by the scene in an effort to realign there meaning. 
The use of these symbols was often conflicting, even in the scene and members that chose to wear a Swastika or other iconography were often segregated at shows or, at worst, beaten.  As the racist right infiltrated the scene these are the youth that were easily swayed.  When a youth culture that was based on aggression decided to focus that aggression on these members, they were ostracized and pushed towards other versions of power.  The White Power band Skrewdriver started it all here and gave these members a voice, and a fist, within the scene.  Grey continues this thought by stating,
“…skinheads were actively targeted by members of the far right.  The far right when my band started consisted of a few mal contented clowns who dressed up in brown shirt.  The Nazis seen in the film the Blues Brothers in fact.  They realized that this wasn’t going to work (duh!) and at the same time saw a large group of young people who were dissatisfied and went after them.  They gave them someone else to blame, which of course is far easier to do than to look within yourself and make improvements.”
This power of coercion found its way amongst all forms of youth culture and drove many people to reevaluate their participation within it. 
To successfully function in the underground, Oi! bands had to form an identity that was distinctly linked to the violence and strength found within the scene.  These bands formed in an effort to describe the everyday life of kids on American streets.  The striking difference was in the way the audience took to the American bands.  The shaved heads that started coming to shows increased and certain hardcore bands developed an extreme popularity within the growing skinhead scene.  “…skinheads in America were first viewed in the 1970s and early 1980s as a group rooted in the youth music scene and not as a strongly politically oriented collection of young men,…” (Moore 7).  The main reason for this popularity was in the way the bands constructed their identity. 
The beginning of Oi! both in England and America was apolitical and focused solely on kids interacting with their immediate surroundings.  Their identity was founded on what was important to them.  According to Gary Bushnell in Oi!- The Truth, “They believed in standing on their own two feet.  They were patriotic, and proud of their class and their immediate culture.  They looked good and dressed sharp” (5).  Although the statement refers to the English side of things, American skinhead culture began in just the same way.  The influence was not from politics but from pride and internal working class values. The pride in America issue was quickly used by the White Power advocates to turn many people to their cause and the American pride issue continues to signal incorrectly, to some people, racist attitudes.  The reasons for this are extremely varied and led musicians and fans to question the intent behind statements on albums and throughout the scene. 
White Power bands and institutions began influencing the scene in England through the British National Party but when the music came to America it was mostly apolitical, until the White Power elements saw the way that the British youth clung to the music and message of hate that was espoused by bands like Skrewdriver and others.  At that point groups like White Aryan Resistance, the Aryan Nations, World Church of the Creator, and others like Robert Heickt began to infiltrate the scene. It began in a simple way through the distribution of literature with the message of white pride and separatism and grew into a significant force within the underground and mainstream of society.  The main issue here is that American Oi! began with non racist bands playing a style of music that was a bit slower and harsher than the punk they were listening to. 
These implications of racism and hatred are a key element in this discussion.  Youth in America have never been so easily taken by a group of people.  Why?  Some sociologists argue that youth cults develop because of a breakdown of the family structure and the failure to find adult role models.  This may be true in some cases but not every skinhead comes from a broken home without a father, or male role model.  Theodor W. Adorno’s pivotal study Philosophy of Modern Music suggests another possibility, “…no work of art can thrive in a society founded upon power, without insisting upon its own power” (216).  What that power consists of is controlled by the members of the scene, except when the media takes over.  When such power contains extremely negative connotations the intent of the art becomes questioned.   
The power of Oi! music stems from its focus on aggression and outlook on life.  The way that people react to the groups and the followers suggests that the message is not always clear.  Contemporary bands still encounter this duality and often have to fight against preconceived notions of racism and hatred.  By continuing to promote a music that represents pure street level ideals and working class pride, contemporary Oi! bands continue the traditions of NA and Iron Cross and uphold the beginning feeling of Oi!. 
 The racism found in all of America is problematic and continues to challenge the way many people construct their identity.  It is not only within skinhead circles that this problem exists.  The way that the media has manipulated the image of skinhead demonstrates the extreme power of the image of racism being linked to youth and fear.  The beginnings of the skinhead movement in both England and America were non racist and apolitical.  The blatant use of the young to manipulate the underground is one of the most offensive and appalling things that has happened in the past decades.  As the racist right continues to perpetuate these thoughts the term skinhead and the truth behind it continues to get buried deeper and deeper in lies.  The music known as American Oi! cannot continue to be linked directly to the racist right and must remove itself from this infiltrating force. 

Works Cited
Adorno, Theodor W. Philosophy of Modern Music. Verlage, Hamburg. 1958. Continuum International: New York and London. 2004.
Areshole, Stuart.  “Negative Approach Interview.” Game of the Arseholes. 4. 2000.
Bushnell, Gary. Oi!- the Truth. Access date 22 February 2009.
Grey, Sab.  Personal interview. 23 February 2009.
Moore, Jack B.  Skinheads Shaved for Battle: A Cultural History of American Skinheads. Bowling Green State University Popular Press: Bowling Green, OH. 1993
Rettman, Tony. “The Detroit Hardcore Scene.”  Swindle.  12. 2006
Straw, Will. “Systems of Articulation, Logics of Change: Communities and Scenes in Popular Music.”  Cultural Studies 1991. 5, 3.
Thornton, Sarah.  The Social Logic of Subcultural Capital.  Club Cultures: Music Media and Subcultural Capital. Wesleyan University Press. New England, Hanover and London. 1996.