New Jersey Punk and Hardcore

A friend of mine and I have had this on-going debate about how kickass Jersey punk and especially hardcore was. In my opinion, no scene was more of an underdog scene than Jersey. My friend contends that Jersey’s bad reputation was well deserved. He agrees with Stephen Bloom that although Jersey had a million bands, 99 percent of them sucked. Well I say balls to that. And since I have a blog and he doesn’t, I’m gonna set the rekkid straight.

Back in the day, hardcore thought it was all about being “street” and “urban”. All of us hardcore kids were trying to prove how tough we were in our respective cities. Problem was, most of us were from the suburbs. Where punk was an urban phenomenon, usually centred on wealthier kids who were slumming it in the streets, hardcore was a suburban phenomenon. It was centred on middle class kids from the outlying boroughs. Take the Necros, for instance, they weren’t from Cleveland or even Toledo, they were from Maumee. Now I understand that this is a generalization and I’m sure plenty of readers can prove me wrong by pointing out that inner city scene full of working class kids and there were exceptions (Boston and NYC come to mind) but generally, hardcore was suburban.

Social Decay – THIS is how I remember the 80s

This is why LA was like OZ to us. Have you ever been to Orange County? It’s the biggest fucking suburb I have ever seen. Here in the middle of the country it was no different. In St Louis for instance, both White Suburban Youth and Drunks With Guns came from North County. Even in cities like Chicago where the scene seemed real urban, most of the kids were living in the city but had grown up in the suburbs. Like I said there were exceptions, especially on the East Coast. But those bands and scenes seemed different than other places. I knew that the Dischord kids were privileged long before I read it in Banned in DC. I could tell from their music. Not to slight it. HarDCore was amazing. It just didn’t feel suburban to me. Most of the other DC bands (like Void for instance), were from the suburbs.

The one big scene on the East Coast that did feel suburban though? Fuckin’ Jersey. And all they got for it was grief. They were looked upon as a bunch of out to lunch hicks. Check out this review of the first Chronic Sick single.

Last and definitely least The Cutest Band In Hardcore E.P. by Chronic Sick. This is the worst. The worst words. These kids should get beat up. If they want to be shocking why don’t they kill themselves on stage. I think that’s better than writing racist and sexist songs that will make people want to kill them anyway. We appreciate a colourful crowd so if they know what’s good for them they won’t play New York again.

-Javi Savage, from Big City zine #4, May/June 1983

That’s crazy! Have you ever heard those Chronic Sick singles? They are amazing! Sure they’re offensive and stupid but so was FEAR and The Angry Samoans. Do you honestly think these guys WERE serious? In the most famous photo of them from this very single, one of them has a swastika inked on his forehead while another one is in drag. Gimmee a break. But they took a lot of shit along with most other jersey bands, for being out of it from the punk elite. What was really going on here was exclusion and snobbery.

Another example of this is the label Mutha Records. Yes, Jersey had its own label and it was a mighty badass label at that. Started in 1982 by Mark “Mutha” Chesley, the manager of the Worst, Mutha went on to release a whole slew of well-produced classic hardcore releases. One look at the labels discography today and you’re slapping yourself on the head and wondering whatthafuck? Why isn’t this label more well-known now?

But even outside the Mutha label there were a shitload of Jersey bands and just like any other identifiable scene (Long Beach, Seattle, Chicago, DC, and Boston), the Jersey bands had their own identifiable aesthetic. The Jersey sound was lyrically centred on offensiveness and vulgarity. You can leave all the talk about unity and scene pride to DC, Boston and NYC. Jersey bands wrote songs that were offensive, stupid, and funny as hell. Like a lot of other East Coast (and Midwestern) scenes there was a metal/hard rock influence in the music that was never as overt as say, Let it Rock, but still there.

The Violators – Coulda Woulda Shoulda

This actually started well before hardcore and the Mutha label. Even the punk rock bands from Jersey had this aesthetic. Take Dead Rock-n-Rollers for instance. Tell me that you didn’t laugh your ass off the first time you heard it. And there were no sacred cows for these guys, John Bonham was weak but Jim Carrol needed to die too. They didn’t care. Another early Jersey band, Shrapnel used to occasionally trek into CBGBs and was generally panned as being reactionary and dumb. True, but they had some fun songs. Probably the best of the early Jersey bands (barring of course The Misfits), the Violators, most famous song was about a serial killer. Grim Klone Band and Ambient Noise, two KBD discoveries also wrote offensive songs. None of these recordings would be classified as pop-punk. So when the hardcore thing started to happen it grew outta this misanthropic, gutter view of the world.

Mental Abuse – True Jersey gutter punk

You can hear all this below, Howzabout Send Help telling you that fucking sheep is better than fucking the cows in their town? Howzabout Mental Abuse’s lovely ditty about the Sock Woman? Howzabout Chronic Sick characterizing a racist suburbanite who is scared of other types of people moving into his neighbourhood? Listen to that fucking riff by the way. That’s some classic rock style shit as filtered through 18 year old, brain damaged, tone deaf delinquents. I love it!

Speaking of hard rockin’ riffs, check out Kill The Cattle, a lovely ode to vegetarianism by Youth In Asia. Every once and a while the vocals go into Teezar territory, which is just good for everybody. Then check out The Beast towards the end of the mix. One of Mutha’s later releases and definitely intended to be crossover. When the singer proclaims that he is the “heavy metal power beast” are you gonna be the one to disagree? Check out I’m Appalled by Fatal Rage, one of the best bands on the Mutha Label. Those guys did their time listening to Nazareth before discovering punk rock.

Another big influence on Jersey was Flipper. This is evident in two notorious releases by Cyanamid and My Three Sons. Shit, This Is Hell has GOTTA be the best Flipper rip-off this side of Drunks With Guns. In fact it might be even closer to Flipper if for no other reason than it was farther away from the Kiel Auditorium. It’s no surprise really that Flipper was a big influence in Jersey. These bands ate misanthropy for breakfast. If you want affirmation that the human race isn’t utter dogshit go listen to posi-core. You won’t get any warm fuzzies from this stuff.

One of the more obscure Jersey bands

There were a few other strains running through Jersey as well. Both Rosemaries Babies and Mourning Noise were from Lodi and they were walking in the footsteps of Lodi’s bastard sons The Misfits. Sacred Denial, were a band that sort of defied definition. Probably the most underrated Jersey band of them all, they at times resembled Void and I think you will be able to hear that in What Religion below. The Secret Syde, threw in a neo 60s element but just rocked too hard to really be a paisley underground type band. By and large, the Jersey bands were gutter bands. They wanted to offend you and be stupid and as the scene developed they just didn’t seem serious enough.

At the time, I was aware of a few of them. I loved AOD, who really were quite typical of the Jersey approach. Musically, they were hardcore as fuck, but lyrically they were just stupid in a good way. Sand in The Face’s posthumous album found its way into my hands in the mid-eighties and I played it relentlessly. But most of these bands were posthumous discoveries for me from a scene that got very little cred back in the day. Much like Philly really, except Jersey even had a label. I have repeatedly been impressed when I hear one of these bands for the first time. Enough that I decided to shed some light on it and put together this mix.


New Jersey Punk and Hardcore Podcast

Dead Rock and Rollers – Detention
Sex With Sheep – Send Help
Working for the Kremlin – Teenage Depression
N.Y. Ripper – The Violators
Kill The Cattle – Youth In Asia
Sock Woman – Mental Abuse
There Goes The Neighbourhood – Chronic Sick
Go to Hell – The Worst
Laundromat Loverboy – Active Ingredients
We Don’t Want You Hanging Around – Child Abuse
Suburbia – Borscht
Wendy O – Bodies In Panic
This is Hell – Cyanamid
peggy’s got a problem – Genocide
Lost in Space – Bedlam
Song X – Sand In The Face
White Hassle – Adrenalin OD
Verbal Abuse – The Undead
I’m Gonna Be Sick – Rosemary’s Babies
Combat Love – Shrapnel
Where Eagles Dare – The Misfits
Burnt – Public Disturbance
Heat’s Rising – Grim Klone Band
I See Through Your Mind – Secret Syde
I Was There At The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – Ambient Noise
What Religion – Sacred Denial
Sandwich Meat – Mental Decay
Kids’ Habits – Stetz
Fighting Chance – Mourning Noise
I’m Appalled – Fatal Rage
dismal wit – Social Decay
Electric Shock – TMA
Obedience School – Pleased Youth
The Beast – The Beast
Starving Artist – My 3 Sons

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73 Responses to New Jersey Punk and Hardcore

  1. Greg says:

    It’s true, most of the kids from the NY scene were from the ‘burbs, and that’s going pretty far back. I was from Stamford, CT about 50 min. from Manhattan, I started going to shows in ’84. Just a few examples of third-wave bands from outside the city: Ray Of Today was from Newtown, CT, (Voilent Children) Bold was from Westchester, Underdog were from Jersey. Beastie Boys were one actual city band that come to mind. Most of the kids at the matinees were from the Island, CT or Jersey. if you were from Manhattan, you were probably into rap or disco. The only guys actually from NYC were likely from the outer boros like Queens or Brooklyn. Kraut and Murphy’s Law were from Queens. I’ve said it before, NY is a dance music town, there would be no NY punk scene without the tri-state area kids. I’m in agreement though that most of the Jersy bands sucked. CT bands were much better!

  2. Brushback says:

    Underdog were solidly a NYC band when they started, as far as I know (first as Numskulls, then True Blue before becoming Underdog); Richie’s family had an apartment in Hells Kitchen, and I know that for a fact because I was in it once. Maybe a couple of the guys in the Underdog lineup along the way were from New Jersey, but I don’t think Richie himself counts as a “suburban punk”.

    Ray Cappo was from Danbury, CT, which is not even a mile from the NY State border (been to his family’s house, too), and Ray and Porcelly went to matinees in NYC a lot while they still lived in CT, but Youth of Today never pretended to be a New York band, up until Ray and Porcelly moved to Manhattan in ’86. I’d been to their first NYC apartment, as well, which was a tiny tiny mess. The two of them lived in Manhattan, struggling like everyone else, so I’d say that they definitely weren’t suburban punks at that point.

    I mean, you can say that a lot of the kids at the CBGB’s Sunday matinees were from outside Manhattan, and you’d probably be right, but Underdog and YOT probably aren’t 100% pure examples.

  3. Greazy Tony says:

    Aaaw, this post mak-a me wanna cry!! The best years of my teenage life was spent at The Show (Go-No) Place and Club Hell in Dover!! Why hasn’t Pat Duncan of Paul C. from WFMU been mentioned?!? I guess they just were! I got some tapes of you too Mick Sludge! Yeah, I can see how looking in from the outside it looked like a crummy thrash metal scene, but believe me, I really hated the metal songs but loved drinkin’ with the long hairs! Good people. If you ever want to laugh your ass off, buy Mental Abuse’s Sid Sludge a few beers and get him to tell you stories. Mental Abuse. That was a punk rock band in the truest definition! THERE is a biography that needs to be written! It’s so good to read these comments. Thanks Joe. “Ism, ism, ism ism, I don’t care what it ism . . I just don’t like it!”

  4. decimal says:

    devildick, sorry for my ignorance, which is your blog? Not too many copies of Fatal Rage made it here to the home of Poison Idea…

  5. decimal says:

    never mind, found it. duh

  6. jeff says:

    hey greazy tony, pat certainly crossed my mind when i was posting… didn’t think this outta state crowd would’ve know him & his show which is still on fmu by the way.

    uber-cool dude… met him @ the station in like ’88 & he let me pick out a few sides. remember sittin’ by the radio w/ a pen & a scrap of paper trying to catch the name of like the 15th song he played as he back announced the set list… made some killer tapes. good times. the interwebs have spoiled this gen. of h/c kids for sure.

  7. devil dick says:

    for those interested the fatal rage album is up on my page!

    http://www.devildick.blogspot.com

  8. Paulie says:

    Hey Syd I play guitar and/or bass if youre ever interested in putting Mental Abuse back together. I could play “Streets of Filth” note for note. Any chance of that ever happening? Do you have a copy of “Mental Abuse – Prostitutes for Hire”??? Whatever happened to that record? I’d be happy to write the biography of Syd, Andy, Echo, Lenny, etc etc…do you remember I used to hang out with Mike Gionis (& I still do) and Anthony Guisto (aka Roach) i still remember D.R.I. show & …the car, the british bulldog, thriller, crazy eddie…hit me up paulmusolino@hotmail.com or go to http://www.myspace.compaulieshere2

  9. Paulie says:

    I still go see Murphys Law they play at “Dingbatz’ in Clifton pretty often along with some other decent HC bands sometimes. Hardcore is not dead its awaiting resurgence. Go to a Hatebreed show and see what I mean. Post hardcore isnt so bad…but its not like the old days.

  10. devil dick says:

    hey, if anyone gives a shit i just re-downloaded the 2nd Social Decay demo from 1985 here:

    http://demo-tapes.blogspot.com/

    i plan on updating the site with tons more jersey and non jersey bands soon!
    cheers!
    devil dick

  11. Matt Landis says:

    What about Sticks and Stones?

  12. jay says:

    I had the fcc demo tape fanous cheesecake.Saw them live at club 288 in Albany,n.y. in 1988.Which side are you on?The apartheid song rocked.I’d love a copy i nyone has it.

  13. Billy Bob says:

    No Body took jersey Serious? BULLSHIT

    WOW One member of underdog is from NY they are jersey and like alot of others felt it “Uncool” to be real about there Hometown, BELMAR NJ. “Maybe they were from jersey?” stop Blowing Everyone. You Cant change Fact that Is PAST HISTORY.

    Some Crossover HC in NJ was happening as far back as 1985.
    City gardens was Our Scene. VFWs are Fun But Shit. Shit PA a Shit Time.
    Some “youth crew” started in jersey in 1986.
    I Remember the Hogans heros shirt straight and proud – crucial youth did straight and loud because of it. Fact. I remember everyone HATED THE Jerseys Got it Comp. because It sucked.

    Some Jersey HC was real serious some were fun. Most jersey bands sucked. Social, lethal, Rot, hogans, AOD, Misfits that was hardcore. Vision were good. dirge were real good most of the others SUCKED AND SUCK.

    Oh all the mentions of “dirge, FCC, PED, on hardcore breakout and the NJ band on the front and back Cover Fuckin Hogans heros.

    this blog except for a few is like waving a flag for a group of NOBODYS of Course you all have to write about yourselves. WHO THE FUCK ELSE IS? NO ONE. suck it up.

    Its about music all this “blowing” each other is ONLY GOOD IN YOUR “hometown” But Doesnt hold up for shit out of state where bands are judged by their MUSIC.

    NYHC and Conneticut was Influenced By NJ . Social decay and hogans heros had Leads on the Guitar made all that youth shit sound STUPID ever notice how much earlier these bands possessed a “metal” influence. After they mixed it up at shows with new york bands judge started to have more of a metal sound. FUCK EVERYONE. hahahahaha

  14. Joe says:

    Billy Bob has spoken! Thank you sir….

  15. luisinho says:

    Hello friends. I’m Luis from Medellin, Co. I’m looking for the music of Mutha records. Really great stuffs those that I know. anyone that can help with material is welcome. Thanx,
    fernandocampo@terra.com

  16. luisinho says:

    p.s. hi Devil Dick. Can you help me withe ‘The Beast?, discography and demos’ thanx you.

  17. schideout says:

    “Almost none of these records have been reissued.”
    Mine is in the process.

    “The Partners In Crime record looks like it would be bad too but I hear it’s great.”
    It is great. After 25 years, its still great. I’ve paid my mortgage at times selling original copies of NO BIG DEAL on E Bay)We have a very few available on the site.

    J. & I found about 40 minutes of live stuff from rehearsals in our basement & performances at the Brighton Bar, Long Branch & The Show Place, Dover. See the website for the DEAD BUT LIVE CD – & via Amazon MP3, I Tunes, I Tunes UK, & I Tunes Europe, Napster, and Limewire as of 09/22/2010.

    We also found about 50 minutes of video playing a set at the Brighton Bar. and Little Rita (Band Manager) LIVE AT THE BRIGHTON 1985 DVD
    http://partnersincrimejerseypunk.com/
    City Gardens Photo – Concert with Black Flag

    It is so good we can hardly stand listening to it.

  18. Paulie says:

    Wait a minute did you just say Sid Sludge is alive???!?!?!??? I heard he was dead for so long! Even Dave Jones thinks hes dead unless he was playing a mind game with me which is possible.

  19. Man I’ve just bought the vinyl reissue of chronic sick’s cutest band in hardcore, and it is fucking awesome. I’m a London bloke, so the whole NJ thing is new to me so it’s good to hear what came out from there. Oi Oi

  20. Joe says:

    I think the discovery that NJ had a great HC scene was new to a lot of people (except people from Jersey who already knew it). Glad ya dig it!

  21. NYHC 80s kid says:

    Greg, your generalizations don’t hold water. You admit that you didn’t start going to shows until ’84, well past the seminal early-80s period of the NYHC scene. You write that “most of the kids from the NY scene were from the ‘burbs, and that’s going pretty far back. I was from Stamford, CT about 50 min. from Manhattan, I started going to shows in ’84″. When I was on the scene ca. 82-83, most if not all of the kids were from the five boroughs, Manhattan included. The scene in NYC started to get crowded by 1983 — whether those folks were from the boroughs or from the suburbs (or from CT), I don’t know.

  22. mister earl says:

    VIOLATORS news press release-reunion gig to celebrate over 30 years release of ny ripper b/w my country with new record of unreleased and live cuts!! the sound is a tight sonic punch of what makes them the legends they are!! Gigs will have VERY special guests and bands from the classic punk era–tentative dates are fall/winter 2012—please pass it on!! thanks!! VIOLATORS Wrecking Crew Prods.

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