The youth revolted against Reagan and might against Trump, too

by DGO Web Administrator

The Trump win could be great for American music. If Ronald Reagan was the catalyst for the first round of hardcore punk that flourished during his first term, then Trump should inspire and invigorate a new generation of musicians that will make great music in what’s already a buyer’s market of new music.

Punk musicians had an axe to grind against Reagan in the 1980s. As the first wave of punk rock was fading and new wave was dancing toward the mainstream – as much a skinny-tie fashion statement as a genre – bands with a political mindset like Stiff Little Fingers and The Clash were giving way to youth with loads of shitty equipment and even more angst. Here in America, Reagan, a former actor and celebrity, was running for president with a back pocket full of name recognition. Some heard promises before (and again recently) of cutting back government while dispelling scientific ideas about the environment. He also sided with the wackos who felt they could dictate what women do with their bodies, while hearkening back to a greater time, all while selling arms and being generally shady.

It was a time of art, attitude and opinion that came in a whole musical package. The artwork via crude show fliers are a statement themselves; Xeroxed images and cut-outs made long before Photoshop revealed a fascinating underground and active music scene nationwide, featuring a network of bands railing against Whatever via a network of kids putting on shows coast to coast. From old movie imagery to Polaroid’s, to hundred times over Xeroxed newspaper pictures, no art was above use. You see it now in the artwork for shows at Sweet 101, and it’s why so many people now are familiar with the artwork of Raymond Pettibon. If you’re not, Google the name and learn something.

It was all straightforward music with little lyrical ambiguity. It was bleak, it was rude, and it was mean, hopeless, and at times immature. And it’s still great. “Hahaha, you’re all gonna die and you voted for that guy” were words from the Circle Jerks, while Reagan Youth, Government Issue, Black Flag chimed in with anti-Reagan talk. Even bands like Canada’s D.O.A., and Dayglow Abortions had plenty of opinion to offer about the state of American politics.

Now almost 40 years later, there are presently a few hints that are all too familiar of that past. We’re also at a time where music critics, fans, film-makers and anthropologists digging into the 1980s are finding that was a kick-ass time for music; it’s getting some mainstream coverage in the last few years via documentaries on various scenes in cities and even some docs focusing on some of the heavy hitting bands.

Abortion, the war on drugs and immigration are all in question and I’m sure the hardcore bands of 1982 would all have something to say. I’m writing like bands haven’t continued to use their art to question current events; that’s not the case. The current political state should only give way to more angry kids standing to the right of the far left, not stoned to the gills watching the world through bloodshot eyes, but to form bands, be focused, get organized and make some rowdy, angry and fun music with three chords and the truth.

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected].

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