A Bluffers’ Guide to: First Wave Hardcore

Age? Most would locate the genre’s beginnings in the late ’70s, with its existence and underground popularity continuing throughout the mid to late ’80s.

Ok, so why ‘hardcore’? The bands who are associated with the genre’s beginnings wanted to play punk in the way they believed punk should be played – harder, faster, more technical and with no major label involvement. Any form of corporation was frowned upon, or more aptly, spat on.

So, quite a DIY ethos then? Incredibly so. Most original hardcore labels put out records on vinyl pressed in batches of only a couple of hundred, and were run by members of prevalent bands on the scene. Ian Mackaye for example, lead singer of the ‘straight edge’ band Minor Threat, formed Dischord, one of the scene’s most prevalent labels.

Sorry, ‘straight edge’? The band created the term in their song of the same title in order to put a name to their vehement no drink, no drugs, no casual sex lifestyle. Many hardcore bands followed suit, many did not, but the lifestyle still exists today in many genres of music which take influence from hardcore.

Interesting. So how did the scene become widespread? Bands toured relentlessly – we’re talking six people and gear packed into a minivan driving across the USA, playing every night for four weeks. Plus, fanzines were created constantly and circulated throughout local scenes, creating hype, hype and more hype.

That’s a lot of touring… It is. But live shows were the best place to hear hardcore and the bands realised this. Boundaries between stage and audience became blurred from constant stage diving, crowd surfing and the controversial phenomena that is slam dancing.

Sounds fun. Where did the genre go? If we’re talking first wave, the scene collapsed in the mid ’80s because of its growing reputation for extreme violence. People stopped coming to gigs for the music and started to come for the inevitable fight. However, many hardcore scenes still exist today. UK labels such as Holy Roar and Thirty Days Of Night are leading the way in this country, responsible for the rise of such popular modern bands as Gallows.

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Check out our selection of five bona fide bangers:

‘Rise Above’ – Black Flag

‘Pay To Cum’ – Bad Brains

‘Guilty of Being White’ – Minor Threat

‘Kill the Poor’ – Dead Kennedys

‘I’m Not a Punk’ – Descendents

Hear all these tracks, and more, on the accompanying Spotify playlist.