Archive for January 2010

what the heck do we even call it?


So in the “extensive” research I’ve done for my thesis so far (listening to music in pubs, going to gigs, etc), I’ve come across many different labels being applied to the underground/punk/hardcore/independent/alternative/grunge music scene in America (from the late 70s to the early 90s).  And usually, if someone calls it one thing, they are quite adamant about the negative connotations of the other terms, especially if used to describe the music and/or scenes they were personally involved with. 

The main danger I’ve noticed in applying an umbrella term is that, by doing so, a nuanced understanding of a particular scene or the bands within it becomes a challenge. For example, in labelling anything that came out of the Pacific Northwest (in the late 80s-early 90s) as “grunge,” acts as strikingly different as Nirvana and Pearl Jam* are lumped together in the same category. 

So, dear friends and readers, I humbly ask for your thoughts and feedback on the issue of “labels.” Are they good? Bad? Do they even matter? And what the heck do terms like: underground, punk, hardcore, independent, alternative, and grunge mean to you?  

*I mean, of course, they are different musically.

The Past is Unwritten?


This blog* is called “The Past is Unwritten” for a couple reasons. First, it’s  my chance to completely ripoff  the legendary Joe Strummer. He liked to say that “the future is unwritten” (and put it on the wall of high schools like in the film Grosse Point Blank). The second reason for this title is that Strummer’s saying can also be applied to the past. Anybody who has ever taken a history course (or opened a history book), knows that ideas and opinions on “what actually happened” in history is very much open to debate and interpretation. Contrary to popular belief, the “what” and the “when” are rather less important than the “how” and the “why.” New information, and people’s changing perspectives as time goes by, can lead to a more nuanced understanding of the past (or it can just lead to historical revisionism).

The intention of this blog is to help with the whole “nuanced understanding” thing, in particular with regards to the American punk/underground/alternative/independent music scene, and its social/cultural/political implications. I’m writing a thesis for my American history MA on the subject, and since it’s a topic everyone knows something about and probably has an opinion on, I figured it would be a good idea to get a blog going. Then I can steal people’s ideas and get a university degree out of it. I mean properly cite people and their ideas and give them the recognition they deserve.