IIPC Debate #101
Thu 25 Oct, 4-5 pm
Seminar Room Hovi (V105), Artium, Kaivokatu 12, University of Turku
Ramones and Hardcore – When Fast Is Bad
Dr. J. Mark Percival (Queen Margaret University)
Everett True in his 2005 biography of Ramones writes, “Speed was John’s craft, his trade. It was the one thing he felt he could do better than anyone else. No wonder he felt threatened by the new breed of hardcore bands”. Pioneering Los Angeles hardcore bands like Middle Class and Black Flag formed in the late 1970s, either directly or indirectly influenced by Ramones, but with ramped up BPM and aggression on stage (off stage though, often literate and intellectual). Guitarist Johnny Ramone’s sense that one of the core Ramones distinguishing characteristics – playing fast, stripped down rock and roll – was no longer unique even in punk rock, increased existing insecurities within the band. Even by the time Ramones had released their first two albums in 1976 and 1977 their live performances were getting faster. The studio recording of Ramones seminal debut single, ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ (January 1976) is 2:10 – by 1991, the Loco Live version is a breathless 1:34. Ramones response to hard core is also evident on two studio albums, Too Tough To Die (1984) and Animal Boy (1986), yet it was Ramones’ unlikely longevity that meant that there was a response at all. This paper argues that the process of essentialising (hardcore) punk rock around speed was almost certainly about distancing hardcore from the ‘mainstream’, but that it also played squarely into mainstream rock authenticities that devalue ‘pop’, valorise technical skill and validates conventional masculine gendering of rock.
J. Mark Percival is Senior Lecturer in Media at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. His 2007 doctoral thesis at the University of Stirling, Making Music Radio, focused on the social dynamics of the relationship between record industry pluggers and music radio programmers in the UK. He has written about Scottish indie music production, popular music and identity, and mediation of popular music. Mark presented music shows for BBC Radio Scotland from 1988 to 2000, and was a Mercury Music Prize judging committee member in 1998 and 1999.