Friday, 18 February 2011

Why Be Something You're Not: Detroit Hardcore 1979-85

It's a good question. Why be something that you're not?

Detroit has a long glorious history of pop music. The home of Motown, the birth of Proto Punk with the Stooges and the MC5. In the present day they have Eminem representing in the world of Hip Hop. However when the early days of Hardcore Punk is looked at Detroit does not get a look in. Everyone is interested in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Boston and even New York who for the most part were years behind the rest of the country or doing their own thing with No Wave that the scene did not get going to the latter part of the 80s.

This aim of this book, I presume, was to alter that view somewhat. Detroit had a lively Hardcore scene. Its easy to forget, what with the blowing up of the alternative scene in the late 80s that Touch & Go originated in Detroit and only moved to Chicago later on. The scene was very much alive in Detroit. While initially taking its cue from the burgeoning L.A. scene, midwestern Hardcore Punk soon developed their own personality, which Rettman argues soon switched this around and the L.A. bands started to copy bands like the Fix and Necros. Refreshingly as well, the main Detroit bands had no problem having fun, getting drunk etc. This made them occasionally butt heads with the D.C. bands and sometimes led them to being beaten up. Similar to stories in other areas of the US the decline came when the scene started to grow and younger kids came through, who followed holier than thou ideals and all dressed the same. A music genre that came from not wanting to be the same as every one else, soon descended into a scene where everyone looked the same and those who did not were often met with violence.

Why Be Something You're Not is written by Tony Rettman in a style reminiscent of the Touch & Go 'zine. It is also padded out with verbal histories with all the major players of the scene (Tesco Vee, Dave Stimson, Corey Rusk, the guys from Negative Approach) and also equally impressive scores of flyers, photos and articles written in various fanzines and newspapers. This book really does give an impressive overview of the Detroit scene and I doubt that I will dismiss it as easily as I did when I look back at the great Hardcore scenes of the early 80s again.

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