Sells like Teen Spirit: Music, Youth Culture, and Social Crisis

By Ryan Moore | Go to book overview

2
Reagan Youth

I wanna be anarchy.

—The Sex Pistols, “Anarchy in the U.K.”

There is no such thing as society.

—Margaret Thatcher, interview published in
Women's Own, October 31, 1987

In 1980 the band that simply named itself X released their debut album, Los Angeles. The first cluster of punk bands that formed the Los Angeles punk scene in the late 1970s had been mostly imitative of their British predecessors, but X began to establish a unique regional style by recalling the images of Southern California that appeared in the hard-boiled pulp fiction and film noir of the 1930s and 1940s. Greil Marcus likened Los Angeles to “[Raymond] Chandler's L.A. without Phillip Marlowe” in the sense that “the songs are written and sung not from Marlowe's point of view but from the point of view of the losers and misfits he inevitably discovers at the fringes of big-money murders—or whose bodies he turns up.”1 In the context of the Great Depression, noir had depicted Los Angeles as a dystopian hellhole lurking beneath the surface of beauty and prosperity, where the little guy finds himself stuck in the middle of police corruption and gangster capitalism. In reaching back to the noir tradition, X bypassed the images of Los Angeles as a paradise of leisure and liberty, which reigned throughout the 1960s from banal surf movies to countercultural hallucinations. If Los Angeles had once represented the acme of Fordist modernity and the frontier's edge where material scarcity was a thing of the past, X was the first among a series of local punk bands who revisualized it as a depraved abyss buried

-33-

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Sells like Teen Spirit: Music, Youth Culture, and Social Crisis
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • 1: Anarchy in the Usa 1
  • 2: Reagan Youth 33
  • 3: Hell Awaits 75
  • 4: Young, Gifted, and Slack 114
  • 5: Retro Punks and Pin-Up Girls 156
  • 6: The Work of Rock in the Age of Digital Reproduction 197
  • Notes 219
  • Bibliography 245
  • Index 265
  • About the Author 275
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