Going Underground: American Punk 1979–1989, Second Edition
Author: George Hurchalla
Publisher: PM Press
Page count: 416
The product of decades of work and multiple self-published editions, Going Underground, written by 1980s scene veteran George Hurchalla, is the most comprehensive look yet at America’s nationwide underground punk scene.
Despite the misguided mainstream press declarations that “punk died with Sid Vicious” or that “punk was reborn with Nirvana,” author Hurchalla followed the DIY spirit of punk underground, where it not only survived, but thrived nationally as a self-sustaining grassroots movement rooted in seedy clubs, rented fire halls, xeroxed zines, and indie record shops.
Rather than dwell on well-documented suspects and trendsetters from LA, NYC, and DC, Hurchalla delves deep into the underground’s underbelly to root out stories from Chicago, Philadelphia, Austin, Lawrence, Annapolis, Cincinnati, Florida, and elsewhere. Like most of the truly great books on punk that have emerged to date, Hurchalla mixes his personal experiences with the words of dozens of band members, promoters, artists, zinesters, and scenesters. Some of the countless bands covered include Articles of Faith, Big Boys, Necros, Hüsker Dü, Reagan Youth, Government Issue, and Minutemen, as well as many of the essential zines of the time such as The Big Takeover, Maximum Rocknroll, Flipside, and Forced Exposure.
Going Underground features over a hundred unique photos from Marie Kanger-Born of Chicago, Dixon Coulbourn of Austin, Brian Trudell of LA, Malcolm Riviera of DC, Justina Davies of New York, Ed Arnaud of Arizona, and many others, along with flyers from across the nation.
“Hurchalla’s efforts are impressive, given the fragmented and regional nature of American hardcore in the Eighties, a time well before the Web made for a truly Punk Planet. Mimicking an Eighties-era tour, it meanders all over the place without ever fully wearing out its welcome.”
—Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle
“Chapter by chapter, Hurchalla captures each major cities’ contribution, with the formation and rise of seminal clubs, bands, and indie record labels, all told through the anecdotes of the musicians, club promoters, zine publishers and scenesters themselves. Peppered with original show flyers and rare photographs, this anthropological perfect storm might leave latter-day punks thirsty at the trough, as baby, those were truly the golden years.”
—John James, Cincinnati CityBeat
“What makes Hurchalla’s book so important is that it captures the spirit of the movement, its idealistic sense of purpose that, despite punk’s many shortcomings, has managed to survive and continues to influence a wide swath of people.… Going Underground now stands as the definitive statement on the history of America’s punk/hardcore scene. George, I tip my worn-out beret to you.”
—Jimmy Alvarado, Razorcake
“Drawn in large part from zines of the times, every page brings another memory. Naked Raygun on one, countered by Black Flag or the Butthole Surfers on the next. This isn’t some prettied-up, big publisher look at ancient history, but rather like the music it documents, it’s a raw and passionate take on a revolution of sorts. This music never died, but it did get co-opted, yet Hurchalla steers clear of all that, and just records what matters. Good stuff!”
—James Mann, The Big Takeover
“Punk is an integrated part of American culture now, but it hasn’t always been that way. Hurchalla’s book serves as a window into a time and place where punk meant something completely different. Celebrities didn’t have Mohawks and people didn’t always think you were cool for dressing totally punk. But it was an independent movement where people were taking complete control over their music and culture.”
—Encore Weekly, Wilmington, NC
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What Others are Saying
More from George...
Going Underground: A Review
by Jimmy Alvarado
August 25th, 2016
"Despite the glut of punk history books in recent years, still precious few attempt an overview of the “hardcore” years referenced in the book’s title. The best known, Steven Blush’s American Hardcore, is a highly flawed and wildly inflammatory cesspool of factual inaccuracies, lurid sniping, backbiting, and axe-grinding posturing as “documenting” one of the most important subcultures of twentieth century music history. Though covering the same ground, Hurchalla’s tome is easily superior on a number of levels, not the least that he not only understands the subculture of which he was a part, but he makes a concerted effort to explain it—its motivations, codes of conduct, strengths, weaknesses, and very raison d’etre."
Going Underground: A Review
June 27th, 2016
Ultimately, this is a most welcome reprint that is different (not better, nor worse) from the original. It also stands as one of the best books written about its subject. It’s sincere, intelligent and insightful and is not written by some hackneyed music journalist looking back; Hurchalla was there, on the ground living and breathing American Punk Rock and all that came with it. It’s that genuine sensibility that puts Going Underground head and shoulders above most others.
Going Underground: A Review
Midnight To Six
Going Underground’s subtitle may be “American Punk”, but the book is almost exclusively about the American hardcore movement. Of course author George Hurchalla couldn’t really use that phrase because of Steven Blush’s similar book American Hardcore. Even though Hurchalla’s survey of the regional scenes that dotted the map of American hardcore in 1980’s has some redundancies with Blush’s better known book, it has enough of its own merits to make it a valuable part of your punk library. Most importantly, it focuses heavily on bands whose stories haven’t already been told in great detail. So, while there are obligatory passages on the big guys – Minor Threat, Black Flag, Bad Brains…etc. – there’s an equal amount of ink spent on smaller acts like The Fix, Government Issue, and Toxic Reasons. Even when Hurchalla is talking about the scene’s better known acts he finds new stories to explore, like Minor Threat’s cold war with TSOL, or the night Mike Diamond of the Beastie Boys led a one-off group called Lucifer’s Imperial Heretical Knights of Schism for a musical roast of sorts at the expense of the Bad Brains and their new Rastafarian beliefs. Hurchalla’s own viewpoints play a large role in the book too, drawing on his firsthand experiences as a fan living in Florida and Philadelphia, regularly going to shows by local and national touring acts. He also takes a few excursions into some of the music that was important to him during this era that doesn’t neatly fit into the hardcore genre tag, like The Gun Club or the art-punk comp Keats Rides a Harley. Lastly, Going Underground features a ton of photos which capture the raw excitement of the era, most of which I haven’t seen published before. Like the music itself, Going Underground moves quickly, providing a raw and unflinching look into one of the most important youth movements of the 20th century.