Thursday, July 14, 2005

Hardcore Hall of Fame

Not that this column is about hockey, but since the NHL and NHLPA finally agreed to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in principal yesterday, ending nearly a year of no hockey whatsoever, I thought this column was sort of appropriate for today's entry.

This column was initially printed in the March issue of Fuck You Fanzine (issue 3, volume III) in 2003.

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I am currently riding a seven game unbeaten streak against the Washington Capitals. Over the past two seasons, in the seven home games that I have attended, the Caps have yet to win a game. My record versus your Nation’s Capitals is an impressive 6-0-1. If the crowd at the MCI center is the 7th man on the ice for the home team, then I certainly count myself as the same advantage for the visiting teams. Just keep in mind that if the Capitals lose their current status as the South Eastern Division leader, or fall out of the playoff race completely, those high-fives should be directed my way.

As I sat in my seat for last night’s game against the Atlanta Thrashers (I’ll go on record as saying that I think the team should replace the bird on the front of their jerseys with the DRI skankman), I looked up to see the retired numbers of Rod Langway and Dale Hunter hanging from the rafters. For those of you who are not familiar with what a “retired number” is, it’s a custom practiced by pro sport teams where, upon a player’s retirement, the team’s greatest players also have their numbers retired, meaning that never again in the history of the franchise will a player wear that number. So in the case of the Washington Capitals, no player on that team will ever wear the numbers “5” (Langway) or “32“(Hunter) again. Next to a spot in the Hall of Fame or a championship ring, it’s about the highest honor that can be given to a professional athlete.

So as I nursed my beer watching the hapless Caps turn a 3-1 lead into a 4-3 deficit, I began to think about those numbers hanging from the rafters high above me. If a parallel could be drawn between hardcore music and pro sports, I thought, which hardcore “players” would have their numbers retired and hanging from the rafters of places like CBGB’s, Gilman Street and other hallowed clubs of hardcore legend?

It’s easy to come up with a list of names. People like Ian MacKaye, Glen Danzig, Jello Biafra, H.R., Ray Cappo, and Kevin Seconds would get the nod for their ideas, charisma and influence throughout the scene. Musicians like Greg Ginn, Brian Baker, Walter Schriefels, Troy Mowat, Mackie, Harley Flannigan and Daryl Jennifer would be recognized for the influence they passed along to thousands of musicians who wanted to play just like them. Others like Henry Rollins, Jimmy Geztapo, Choke, John Joseph, Porcell, Jerry Only and Doyle would have their numbers retired based on their stage presence and reputation alone.

These people are some of the greatest that the hardcore scene has produced over the years. Each individual’s achievements are firmly entrenched in our scene lore. These are only the people I can think of off the top of my head. I’m certain there are more that are worthy of consideration, and I think it’s a safe bet that some of my choices are ripe for debate. The point is that each of these people were very important figures throughout hardcore’s 23 year history.

What bothers me is that, all of their accomplishments and influence aside, these people haven’t mattered much in the last 10-12 years. Sure, they’ve done new bands and remained the subject of scene conversation and gossip, but for the most part these people don’t really inspire this scene the way they used to – which is fine, because they’ve already done more than enough. They’re off the hook.

What worries me is that, in terms of leadership and innovation, I can’t think of anybody who has really picked up the slack in the years since 1992. That is to say, in the past 11 years I can’t think of many people who, if we were retiring numbers or assigning places in the hardcore hall of fame, would be worthy of such a nod.

Sure, many important contributors have come and gone in the years since. There have been many people who have kept the ball rolling. Hardcore could have easily been a flash in the pan, but it has endured because of the contributions of its passionate participants.

In the last eleven years, the scene has stayed on the map due to the efforts of people like Zoli Teglas, Tim McMahon, Ken Olden, Brian McTernan, Duncan Barlow, John LaCroix, Anthony Pappalardo, Matt Smith, Chris Zusi, Todd Jones and many others who have provided the soundtrack for hardcore over the last decade. Hell, I’ll even throw myself into that group.

But when I look at the list, I think to myself -- sure, they’re all nice players, but are any of them worthy of a spot in the Hall? And I don’t mean that as an insult. I have a lot of respect for the people listed above. But in this kind of situation, could anybody justify putting any of these people in the company of Glen Danzig, Jello Biafra, or Ian MacKaye?

What I’m trying to get at is the current state of hardcore, to me, seems like it is getting by on formula alone. For the first 10 years of its existence, hardcore was innovative, aggressive and pretty much offensive to the average person. It was full of many great and terrible ideas that made people think.

Over the last thirteen years, it just seems to me that we’ve cherry picked the best parts of a long-gone era and threw them into a loop. Sure, it’s nice to hear that after 23 years, hardcore has remained a three chord phenomenon. But the new ideas that went along with that music have dried up. You can only put a twist on the same messages so many times.

Everybody knows who Jesus was. Most people know who at least some of his disciples were. After that, it’s a little fuzzy, isn’t it? What’s my point? Everyone remembers the man who puts forth new ideas. Nobody remembers the minions that follow.

You know, Rock n’ Roll used to be full of energy and all kinds of wild and dangerous ideas. To see rock music as it stands now (in its corn-fed, parent friendly format) would be pretty funny, if I didn’t see hardcore heading down the same path.

Create your own fashions. Spread your own ideas. Find your own sound (just keep it fast and loud).

Make hardcore great again.

I have spoken.

Ronny Little

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