May 24, 2015

Housing bubble fueled by transplants

Analyses of the housing bubble have looked at homeowners' race and ethnicity, age, income, and other standard demographic variables as factors that contributed to the boom and bust in home prices. Giving a dirt-poor Mexican strawberry picker a loan for a million-dollar home? Probably not going to ever get that back.

And yet all these studies ignore the major trend in living patterns over the same period — being a transplant. It's a phenomenon that everyone knows about, and which is confirmed by the data on migration between one's birth state and current state. But since most of the folks who think about these big problems are transplants themselves, they are prevented by cognitive dissonance from exploring the destabilizing effects of migration.

The General Social Survey asks respondents if they own or rent the place where they live. It also asks what Census region they were living in at age 16, and where they are living currently. I made a transplant variable that simply spots any difference between the region where they grew up and where they're living now. Note that this definition of "transplant" is not merely someone from the 'burbs moving to the nearest city, but someone who hails from a completely different region of the country — say, raised in New England but living along the Pacific.

I've restricted the respondents to whites only, since we already know about the outsized role that Hispanics and especially immigrant Hispanics played. If there were only a racial / ethnic angle, studying natives vs. transplants among whites shouldn't show much of a difference. If on the other hand Hispanic immigrants were just a special case of a more general pattern about transplants, then we'll see something after all looking just at whites.

I re-ran the comparisons looking only at native-born whites, and native-born non-Hispanic whites, and the conclusion did not change. So I'm only narrowing it down to just "whites" to keep sample sizes as large as possible.

First, the homeownership rates for regional natives vs. transplants, surveying the nation as a whole (natives in blue, transplants in orange):


The long-term baseline for regional natives seems to be about 70%, and about 63% for transplants, a rate that is 10% lower. This shows that transplants are not just switching regions and then planning to stay put in their adoptive region. Mostly they are, but they're more likely than natives to only be renting — just in case they have to bail and switch locations again.

At any rate, the data for the natives shows only one survey year of dramatic rise in homeownership — 2006 — and a pretty quick return to the baseline by 2010. The burst went from 72% to 80%, or an 11% jump. The boom-and-bust cycle is evident, but not very extreme.

The case of transplants, however, could not be more dramatic. Their burst shows up already by the 2004 survey, and does not return to baseline until 2014. Their boom lasted far longer than for natives, indeed the better part of a decade. Moreover, it was a wilder departure from the historical norm — soaring from about 64% to 80%, or a 25% jump. So the sudden burst for transplants was more than twice as great as it was for natives.

Now let's zoom in on the most heavily inflated and then heavily devastated region, the Pacific (the vertical scale is now twice is big as before):


Overall natives and transplants out West have closer rates of homeownership than back East. And it's not because of higher rates out West among transplants, but much lower rates out West among natives. It's one of the few places where natives and transplants are equally, and minimally, invested in continuing to live in their region. "San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle: Even our natives are fickle."

In any case, the boom and early bust were not so different between natives and transplants out West, although the decline has been much steeper among transplants. The major difference are the beginning and end points of the entire data series: transplants in 1985 had homeownership rates just above 40%, and despite a long detour toward 75%, they are now right back to where their counterparts started 30 years ago.

Of course, out West the white transplants played less of a role because there were hordes of Mexican transplants eager to take the unpayable mortgages that Americans just wouldn't take.

The upshot is that the housing bubble was primarily a transplant phenomenon. Natives to a region experienced a much shorter and smaller increase in homeownership rates. The ludicrous boom and bust activity was driven by transplants to a region — Mexicans out West where there were plenty nearby, or white transplants in the rest of the country where there were few Mexicans.

I don't read much economic literature, but judging from what I've been exposed to over the past seven years on the internet, this is the first look into homeownership rates over time for natives vs. transplants to a region, and the first to lay the blame more on migration in general for the effects of rootless boom-towns.

This doesn't explain why transplants were more susceptible to the boom-and-bust cycle, but it's easy to see some of the reasons. They're more likely to be strivers, for one thing, hence more willing to jump on a bandwagon.

Their main weakness in my view, though, is their ignorance of local conditions and their history. I remember right at the peak of the housing bubble, my mother said she couldn't believe how high the home prices were getting in her neighborhood, and that she didn't believe the homes were really worth that much. By that point, she'd been living there for nearly 15 years and had a long-enough history of impressions to judge from, even if she lacked a rigorous time series of real estate data.

A couple from outside the region who bought a home just across the street from her in 2007, on the other hand, didn't arrive with any lasting memories for an intuition to emerge from. As far as they knew, it was just the price of moving into that neighborhood — maybe a little high historically, but nothing really weird, and hey, maybe the neighborhood had been under-valued before, and the transplants like them were simply revealing what it was truly worth.

Sadly, they will never get out of the house what they paid for it. They would probably lose around $70-80,000 if they sold and moved, and that's with home prices having recovered and gone up somewhat since the nadir of the early 2010s.

Let that be a cautionary tale about the value of knowing a place like the back of your hand. The footloose gold-rush lifestyle will pay well for a tiny handful of lucky ones, but it will ruin most of the strivers, who simply do not know what they're getting into.

GSS variables: dwelown, year, regtrans, region, reg16, race, hispanic

39 comments:

  1. I wonder what happens to the strivers during times of rising equality. Do some of them mature, change their nature, and integrate? Or do they end up forming some kind of underclass?

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  2. "I wonder what happens to the strivers during times of rising equality."

    If for no other reason than shaming, I think quite a few of them might change their ways. It's a lot more tempting to do something when other people are already doing it.

    I think most people are highly susceptible to changes in the culture. Around 1989 a lot of actors started giving more affected/self aware performances in movies. And it wasn't just teenyboppers either; it also included actors well into middle age. That was also the year that it became evident that Hollywood (including presumably hungry young actors/directors/writers) was becoming uncomfortable with risk and imagination as is obvious from the spate of remakes and sequels that were very popular that year.

    From about 1989-1995 it became increasingly popular for everyone to goof on pre-existing culture without really forging ahead with anything new (or at least new and GOOD). And that's where we've been ever since. When cocooning starts to lift as we get closer to the 2020's we can finally leave the self aware goofiness and contrived angst behind. I mean, by about 1967 the culture of the late 30's-early 60's was seen as hopelessly dull in comparison to the excitement of contemp. culture. By the time we hit the mid 2020's I think we'll look back at the mid 90's-2010's as an embarrassment.

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  3. The burst of the housing bubble caused me to develop a great deal of respect for two groups of people: white trash Okies and Asians.

    Here in SoCal, there are still a few white trash Okies, although most of them have moved out of state. When the housing bubble was inflating, they seemed to borrow quite a bit of money. The "Inland Empire" region of SoCal (a group of desert communities about 50 miles east of the Pacific ocean where the remaining white trash residents of the Los Angeles area tend to reside) was awash in cheaply built McMansions, lifted pickup trucks, and "toy haulers" filled with ATV's and dirt bikes. It seemed as if all of the Okies were living large, redneck style, back in those days. Nothing was too excessive for them, and they seemed to spend every cent of their equity on unnecessary consumer purchases.

    But surprisingly, when the bubble popped, the Okies took it with stoicism and dignity. They weren't complaining, "fighting" foreclosure, or calling for government bailouts. They weren't' happy about the crash, but they didn't complain, they just on working and trying to deal with the situation.

    I confess that I wasn't terribly fond of the Okies before that. I looked down on them, which was unfair. But once I saw how they handled the crash, I really began to respect them. Their behavior in the good times was foolish and excessive. But they really endured the hard times with dignity and grit.

    The other group which took the bubble's burst with a surprising degree of stoicism was Asians. They leveraged up during the boom, too, but when the bust came you didn't see them complaining. They just sucked it up and made do.

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  4. Off topic, can anyone think of any movies or TV shows that really speak to Gen X audiences? The two that come to mind off the top of my head are Prison Break and Cinderella Man.

    Prison Break is probably the most Gen X show I've ever seen. No Boomer could possibly come up with it. All of the characters have the attitudes and demeanor of Gen X'ers, albeit idealized versions of Gen X'ers.

    There is also a great movie called "In Good Company," starring Dennis Quiad and Topher Grace, which deals with how late Boomers and Gen X'ers relate to one another in the workplace. It's really interesting because the Gen X character, played by Topher Grace, is written correctly. He winds up becoming the boss of Dennis Quaid. While a typical workplace comedy would treat that situation as humorous, and have the clueless hotshot young executive get schooled by the grizzled middle manager, the movie handles the situation very realistically. Grace's character is humane and wise beyond his years and he treats Dennis Quaid with sympathy and dignity. In the real world Gen X'ers know all about hard times because most of us have worked at temp jobs and/or been laid off, we know how to handle those situations. The whole movie is very interesting and very good.

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  5. "But they really endured the hard times with dignity and grit."

    I don't know about the Okies in particular, but if they're like the Scotch-Irish hillbillies back East, they're part of a whole big clan.

    (Within 24 hours of my mother mentioning on Facebook that she's moving back to her home state, over 50 of her cousins / extended family came out of the woodwork and started planning a family reunion for Labor Day to welcome her back home.)

    That makes it much easier on the individual to weather the storm. Imagine being on a capsized boat all by yourself, plus at most a small nuclear family. Good luck making it back to land.

    I'd like to think that the Okies had cultivated Stoic fortitude at the individual level, but realtalk the Scotch-Irish have some of the shortest fuses you'll ever meet, and plenty of borderline personalities. If they're better than other white Californians about not letting the weight of the world get to them, it's because they're plugged into a secure clan network, while most whites that far out West are deracinated and isolated.

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  6. Prop 13 continues to have a lingering and powerful effect on the California housing market, allowing for much higher prices than would otherwise be affordable if the property tax rate was allowed align with market fluctuations. Another example of the "I got mine" mentality when Californians voted overwhelming for it in 1978.

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  7. Sorry to go off topic, but this is right up our alley:
    http://www.unz.com/isteve/was-1991-really-the-most-important-year-in-pop-music-history/#comments

    Some of the more interesting comments (written by Gen X-ers presumably, not the navel gazing Boomers stinking up this thread with 60's gushing)

    "I still don’t like their methodology, but maybe they are on to something with 1991. As a club DJ, I will often do a bunch of 1989-2000 and later retro songs in a row, getting faster from “Here Comes The Hotstepper” to “Be My Lover”. I also play 80s retro like Michael Jackson, A Flock Of Seagulls or the “Ghostbusters” theme, but I tend to keep the two eras pretty separate, with a big division falling around 1989 – “Can’t Touch This” always goes with the 90s stuff. If the 1991 revolution was mostly the rise of rap, “Can’t Touch This” was one of its early revolutionary victories.

    I also remember reading somewhere that in 1991, the band which sold the most singles globally was the KLF. I’m not sure how credible that is, or if that was just among “bands” and they were outsold by solo artists, but they were big for a year. They were all over MTV, though they then were quickly forgotten by almost everybody – but they wanted to be, and they got their wish. There was a big revolution around the time, though. Technotronic, Snap! and C&C Music Factory had their big hits around 1989-1990, then later we got Eurodance.

    So, around that time house and also rap did go mainstream – not just gangsta rap like NWA but also commercial rap like MC Hammer, Gerardo, Heavy D, Vanilla Ice and Marky Mark. Both remain mainstream to this day. 1989-1991 really was the time of a big shift."

    "It’s interesting that we can both quantitatively (soundscan/billboard changes) and qualitatively discuss 1991. If I recall correctly, 1991 was the year that the the mainstream finally started to catch up with all the interesting stuff that had been going on in the underground at the end of the 80s.

    As far as the pop charts go, the first 3/4 of 1991 were indistinguishable from 1990 or 1989 (divas, glam metal, cheesy rappers). Sure, rap was charting a little higher in the Top 40, but the whole grunge/alt rock thing didn’t really happen until the tail end of 1991. Nirvana was touring, but still playing smallish dive bars through that summer. Pearl Jam released Ten and Alice in Chains released Facelift in August, Nirvana released Nevermind and the Red Hot Chili Peppers released Blood Sugar Sex Magik in September, and Soundgarden released Badmotorfinger in October.

    Also, 1991 was the first year for the Lallapalooza festival with Jane’s Addiction, Nine Inch Nails, Ice T, etc. This was kind of a game changer with non-Top- 40 bands putting together a successful tour package. The only bands who were affiliated with the whole alt rock movement that had Top 40 hits in 1991 were one-hit-wonders (EMF, KLF, Jesus Jones, Divinyls) and REM.

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  8. Sailer plays the "most 80's groups were one MTV hit wonders" card in the thread and true to his dorky tastes, he says that early 90's rock was preferable to most 80's music. As you've pointed out before Agnostic, nerds just don't like the 80's especially because so much of the music was intended to literally move you.

    He's said before that ZZ Top were unusually skilled with videos for a 70's band, thus explaining their 80's popularity. That's part of it, but the 70's artists who were able to transition (like Journey, Robert Plant, and Rush as well) did so because they were able to write and perform catchy, unpretentious, and relatively bouncy music that people wanted to hear in the 80's. Even Kool & the Gang, if memory serves, had hits well into the mid 80's.

    The 70's groups who got left behind largely deserved to be ignored when their was so much exciting music being made. I think too that a lot of 70's disco, soul, and AOR groups crashed in the 80's simply because they had run out of material and couldn't compete with newer groups. Or they panicked and did ill-advised experiments with styles they weren't comfortable with. Whereas a group like Rush had been gradually making their music more melodic and synthy as the 70's went on. So by the 80's, they were well prepared to take advantage of the changing climate.

    I think also that there's something to be said for 60's and 70's births weeding out the weaker 70's artists by the time MTV appeared. Hey, a lot of the 70's stuff listened to by early Boomers just wasn't that great.

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  9. Heh, way off topic, but I'll jump in. It's not for nothing that the tour documentary featuring Sonic Youth and Nirvana was called 1991: The Year Punk Broke. It really was the year "that the the mainstream finally started to catch up with all the interesting stuff that had been going on in the underground at the end of the 80s," as the commenter on that thread correctly wrote. 1989 was the actual musical seismic shift in the underground (seminal and in many cases first albums by Nirvana, Soundgarden, Melvins, NWA, Jane's Addiction, Pixies, Beastie Boys, Nine Inch Nails, De La Soul, the list goes on and on), but by '91, people not tuned in to the underground started to take notice. The first Lollapalooza Festival was a big part of that. I attended the one in Mountain View that year, it was like all the freaks from the area converged in one place for the first time, and it felt great. It also felt like the party was over, and it was for those of us who'd been slogging it out during the 80s. The meatheads were coming!

    It was the year I started getting into electronic music, probably because that scene was nascent and fun, and the music wasn't so angst-ridden. Some huge electronic albums came out in '91, most notably Massive Attack's Blue Lines. And like you mentioned, house music was seeping into the charts, kicked off by the ubiquitous Groove Is In The Heart, released the year before. So yeah, I'd have to agree that 1991 was a watershed year overall.

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  10. "Hey, a lot of the 70's stuff listened to by early Boomers just wasn't that great.

    Pop music in the 70s mostly sucked. But every other genre in that decade was unbelievable. Ask a musician and most of them will tell you the 70s was the pinnacle for Western popular music post 1950, including me. We're still riding, quite literally in the case of sampling, on the 70s coattails and what was invented during that time, mostly funk, punk and hip-hop, in chronological order. The level of musicianship during the 70s remains unmatched, with many musicians coming from rigorous jazz and classical studies and bringing that virtuosity into pop music. And then of course punk and hip-hop reclaimed not just music, but popular culture in general, for amateurism, for better or worse.

    The 70s was an astoundingly dynamic and diverse decade. And I agree, Sailer's musical taste is silly.

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  11. Music always seemed like an excellent way to define cultural periods, and notice changes between different periods.

    Going by the article Steve Sailer linked to, we can see that culturally a different period began around 1983. Perhaps that is when inequality began in earnest, or the crime rate slowed down.

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  12. "Note that this definition of "transplant" is not merely someone from the 'burbs moving to the nearest city, but someone who hails from a completely different region of the country — say, raised in New England but living along the Pacific."

    Yes, because even if you move to the big city, you're still staying in the general area. Some people can only realize their potential in a city with more opportunities - for instance a whiz kid leaving their small town for the big university in the city. Real transplants, as you said, leave the area they were born into.

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  13. "We're still riding, quite literally in the case of sampling, on the 70s coattails and what was invented during that time, mostly funk, punk and hip-hop, in chronological order. The level of musicianship during the 70s remains unmatched, with many musicians coming from rigorous jazz and classical studies and bringing that virtuosity into pop music. And then of course punk and hip-hop reclaimed not just music, but popular culture in general, for amateurism, for better or worse."

    Seems like you've got a thing for "black music" (I know, there were whites in 70's R&B). But blacks are lazy. With the advent of sequencers and samplers in the 80's blacks no longer had to bother playing music.

    That being said, whether one plays an instrument or not doesn't change the fact that blacks made a lot of great pop in the 80's. In the 90's and thereafter, blacks have completely given up on both melody and instruments. So they make crap now.

    Musicianship has declined heavily because audiences these days are too boring to appreciate things like solos. The art of cocooning periods tends to be lacking in details like solos or melodic hooks. The guitar work in popular 80's rock is often excellent especially in metal which saw a competition between guitar shredders.

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  14. WRT punk: Punk has always been dead in America. Who has it influenced? From Layne Staley's Wiki page:"Staley approached music through his parents' collection, listening to Black Sabbath (regarded by him as his first influence) and Deep Purple.[10] Other favourite bands include hard rock and metal bands like Anthrax, Judas Priest, Saxon, Rainbow, Mercyful Fate,[11] Twisted Sister, Van Halen[12] and industrial/new wave acts such as Ministry, The Lords of the New Church and Skinny Puppy."

    Kurt Cobain said he didn't care about Black Flag's punk stuff but he did enjoy the heavy and sludgier sound they had in the mid 80's. Indeed, it might seem sacrilegious but by the mid 80's Black Flag were trying to create something that would honor their classic rock heroes like Sabbath.

    The nerdy establisment always downplays "macho" rock groups because they grew up getting stuffed into lockers and will always be bitter about it. Thus, the romanticizing of a creepy and rather Semitic NY group like the Ramones while taking cheap shots at Styx and Journey. You know, the guys who played sports and got laid even before they were stars.

    Heavy metal and melodic arena rock groups have been far more popular in America than punk. Punk was big in mid 70's England. By 1979, people had realized what a non-starter the genre was and Brit kids began turning to either New wave/New romantic synth pop or the New wave of Brit. heavy metal. Both genres were partly inspired by the exuberance of punk but had much greater levels of sophistication. Also, both genres (synth pop especially) were more conducive to camaraderie and having fun. Judas Priest's Breaking the Law ('80) and Depeche Mode's Just Can't Get Enough ('81) are way more fun than anything by the Sex Pistols. Yeah I know, 80's music is so "cheesy". Who cares if it's fun?

    The reality is that nerds overrate punk because it supposedly killed off 70's AOR/prog. and Disco. But melodic hard rock and dance music didn't die; it just turned into hair metal and New Wave. Punk sold abysmally, especially in America. And Brits didn't care by the 80's. The alt rock of the 90's made a much bigger dent than 70's punk, but judging from record sales, people were more excited by metal and melodic hard rock.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_albums

    Of the top 32 albums, You've got AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, and GNR to go with Nirvana. Further down the list are Bon Jovi (2 albums) and Linkin Park. As well as Def Leppard and Boston.

    So what did the much lauded 90's alternative revolution produce? Just 1 very popular album. There you have it. I guess the masses were too stupid to want to buy more of the albums. Either that or they didn't want music that would make them slit their wrists.

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  15. "Seems like you've got a thing for 'black music'"

    My musical tastes are pretty catholic, I like a little something from lots of genres. A lot of black music certainly was awesome in the 70s, like Stevie Wonder, Parliament/Funkadelic, James Brown at his peak, Al Green, I mean christ, it's an embarrassment of riches. Black artists were doing foundational, top level work in the 70s that continues to influence artists. So yeah, I have a thing for some of that music.

    I also have a thing for a lot of white music from that period. Electronic music pioneers like Can, Kraftwerk, Neu!, etc. I was nowhere near cool enough to stumble upon that genre until my 20s, but "krautrock" has been hugely influential to all kinds of music, starting with hip-hop, with Afrika Bambatta's Planet Rock.

    Some of the best country music came from the 70s, mostly "outlaw" and the Bakersfield sound. People like Buck Owens, Willie Nelson, Wayon Jennings, Porter Waggoner and Dolly Parton. Hell, even Kenny Rogers, great pop country. Absolutely the last time Nashville-based country music was any good.

    Hard rock reached it's peak with Zeppelin, Aerosmith, AC/DC's albums with Bon Scott (as stripped down and perfectly written and performed as anything), The Rolling Stones at their absolute peak, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton. I mean christ on a crutch, that shit is top, top level music, and HUGELY influential to any rock band since. Influential doesn't even cover it, it's essential to what came after.

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  16. on a sidenote, I think that MC Hammer should be classed with the 80s, or at the least the late 80s/early 90s R&B revival a la Boyz to Men, much more than the 90s and 00s gangsta rap.

    That stuff is probably my own favorite period of music - late 80s to early 90s, elminating Nirvana and early grunge. I liked that stuff as a 13-year old but it seems too melodramatic now.

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  17. And yeah, punk rock. You can certainly dislike that music, but you can't deny it's impact and influence on popular culture in general. Again, for better or worse. I happen to really like a lot of punk, and the stuff I still listen to almost exclusively comes from the 70s, the decade punk was invented (and perfected, to my taste). Starting with The Stooges albums and into Iggy Pop's essential 70s stuff. The Clash (eminently tuneful, exciting and expert musical alchemists), all the great 2nd wave ska (The Specials, Madness, The Selector, English Beat, just really fun dance music with a punk edge), and yeah, the Ramones. To their own admittance, just sped up girl group/Beach Boys, but man it still sounds refreshing and energetic.

    And then there's the more arty punks like Blondie (pop bliss), Talking Heads, Television (highly underrated band), and on and on. All that stuff happened in the 70s, still sounds great (to my ears) and has been highly influential to countless artists across many genres. David Bowie was doing genius work in the 70s and ridiculously influential. Check out how great the Kinks were in the early 70s. I mean I could go on for days.

    "Kurt Cobain said he didn't care about Black Flag's punk stuff but he did enjoy the heavy and sludgier sound they had in the mid 80's. Indeed, it might seem sacrilegious but by the mid 80's Black Flag were trying to create something that would honor their classic rock heroes like Sabbath.

    The nerdy establisment always downplays "macho" rock groups because they grew up getting stuffed into lockers and will always be bitter about it. Thus, the romanticizing of a creepy and rather Semitic NY group like the Ramones while taking cheap shots at Styx and Journey. You know, the guys who played sports and got laid even before they were stars."


    Firstly, Alice in Chains was a straight up hard rock group, and a really good one. Not punk at all, and who cares anyway? Cobain did say he liked later Black Flag and idolized Black Sabbath. He loved the Vaselines, The Raincoats, David Bowie, etc. Grunge was basically punk-tinged metal, or vice versa. Highly influenced by both genres.

    I think your perception of the "nerdy establishment" is mostly informed by 80s teenage movies. By the time I was in high school, there were two factions that were into underground music: the heshers (metal heads) and the punks. There were actual punks vs. heshers fights during my high school tenure, and nobody was stuffing members of either group in the trashcan, I can assure you. And anyway, most punks back then, myself included, also liked some metal. Our continued enjoyment and advocacy of punk rock and other forms of alternative music has fuck all to do with jocks picking on us. And by the 90s, the jocks liked most of that stuff as well.

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  18. Almost forgot to mention disco. Much maligned but insistently influential to all dance music since, of course, but also a lot of pop. Looking back, the best disco still sounds great. The BeeGees music from Saturday Night Fever is sublime, top level pop music. I can remember as a kid listening to Donna Summer's album Bad Girls on road trips with my parents. Check it out, so much fun and basically disco. Combine krautrock with disco and you have 100% of dance music since (and really, disco was just the krautrock "motorik" beat combined with R&B).

    So yeah, that's the 70s, to my mind. With the 80s, you got a lot of fun synth-pop, punk leveling off, hardcore and thrash emerging, rap exploding, and then some deeper underground stuff.

    "Judas Priest's Breaking the Law ('80) and Depeche Mode's Just Can't Get Enough ('81) are way more fun than anything by the Sex Pistols."

    I can't argue with you there, both really great songs. Of course, ask members of both bands who they listened to and were influenced by, and you'd get a list of 70s hard rock and punk/new wave bands, respectively. 80s metal could be a lot of fun, and yeah, it's where technical proficiency on an instrument was still important, albeit in an increasingly robotic fashion, and taken to the logical conclusion of someone like Yngvie Malmsteen. Ugh.

    It seems you're a fan of some good synth pop. I'm sure you know all those guys cut their teeth in punk rock, and were big fans of bands like Suicide, who took nihilism in both sound and attitude almost to the limit. Where would Depeche Mode be without punk rock? Well, they wouldn't have existed.

    You also always come back to what was selling. That is one way of looking at music, but a more interesting and impactful way, in my opinion, is looking at the continuum of styles and how they influence each other, as I've tried to do a little in the last few comments. How did we get here again? Ha. Fun diversion.

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  19. OK a few more 70s bands I forgot to mention:

    Black Sabbath - basically invented heavy metal, with apologies to The Kinks' "You Really Got Me"

    Roxy Music - great theatrical pop music and early glam rockers, still sound great and yeah yeah, "highly influential" as well

    Brian Eno - love him or hate him, the dude's 70s albums have had a MASSIVE impact on music, and what even constitutes music

    Queen - I mean jeez, how fantastically bombastic can you get while still being fun and rocking hard? (but oh no, Freddie Mercury was a fag!)

    Fleetwood Mac - pop perfection at their best (and hey, they sold a lot of records too!)

    Abba - if you don't enjoy (even secretly) their best stuff, then I just don't know

    Prog rock - if you're a fan of pure musicianship, it's hard to beat 70s prog rock, unless you're talking about jazz

    Speaking of which, about the only popular form of music that didn't peak or wasn't invented in the 70s was jazz, which peaked in the 60s. Miles Davis did a few interesting (and highly influential!) albums in the early 70s, then disappeared. Bands like Weather Report were jazz, I guess and stupidly great musicians, but I wouldn't say it was jazz at its best. Just an observation.

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  20. Hard rock reached it's peak with Zeppelin, Aerosmith, AC/DC's albums with Bon Scott (as stripped down and perfectly written and performed as anything), The Rolling Stones at their absolute peak, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton. I mean christ on a crutch, that shit is top, top level music, and HUGELY influential to any rock band since. Influential doesn't even cover it, it's essential to what came after.

    I find that stuff made before about '76 tends to be too uh, polite for it's own good. I dig The Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin, but I find a lot of their other stuff to be too indulgent or clammy for my comfort.

    The hard rock/AOR made from about '76-'82 I find quite enjoyable, whether it's AC/DC, Rush, Journey, or hell, Billy Squier. Then from about '83-'91 you saw the hair bands take this sound and amplify it, for better or worse. Dokken and White Lion are probably my two favorite groups of this era. There are certain songs by Quiet Riot, Motley Crue, Ratt etc. that I enjoy but i wouldn't listen to whole albums by them. Then you've got groups that are somewhere between 70's hard rock and 80's metal like the Scorpions and Whitesnake who did some cool stuff.

    Some obscure 80's rock groups that I like: Saga, went from being an alright 70's prog group to a new wavey pop band in the 80's, while still managing to retain their playing skills. Similar to Rush, but Saga's singer is much better.

    Kick Axe; Only really had one good album (Vices from '84) but it's worth tracking down if you like 80's hard rock.

    TNT: Really high energy, galloping nordic stuff with piercing American vocals. Their '87 album is the only one I have so far but it's supposed to be one of the better ones.

    Crimson Glory: Sort of a high strung, trippy and gothic prog metal band. The singing is very high but quite strong, he can sound menacing but also romantic.

    I dunno if it's the lack of energy, or maybe the relatively flat vocals, but a lot of 60's and even 70's stuff can sound a bit samey too me. I get that a lot of it was quite technical but it just doesn't grab me the way 80's and very early 90's stuff does.

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  21. What people respond to in music always fascinates me, as a musician especially. The stuff you mention here, I'm familiar with most of it, it's a certain kind of teutonic and what I call logical music. By that, I mean that if such a band wants energy, they'll play faster and louder. If they want musicianship, they'll play more notes. If they want vocals, they'll sing higher and more operatic. If they want to shock, they'll sing about Satan. It's all very genuine and logical and kind of child-like. I really can't judge it because honestly, I hate that kind of music, but that's just my opinion and I totally get that tons of people like it. I personally get nothing from the music and even less from the lyrics, but again, who am I, anyway?

    I don't know about music from the 60s and 70s lacking energy. Fast and loud doesn't necessarily equal energetic. Athletic displays of endurance and speed on an instrument doesn't equal musicality, to my ears.

    Anyway, fun discussion. I could yak about music all day long.

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  22. "It seems you're a fan of some good synth pop. I'm sure you know all those guys cut their teeth in punk rock, and were big fans of bands like Suicide, who took nihilism in both sound and attitude almost to the limit. Where would Depeche Mode be without punk rock? Well, they wouldn't have existed."

    I love Star Wars but that doesn't necessarily mean I'd enjoy Flash Gordon serials from the 40's. Like I say, I like some stuff from the late 70's but often 70's stuff strikes me as being too smug or too slow to rile. Some of it sounds like a dry run for bigger and better 80's stuff. In terms of Depeche Mode, I see them as talented composers with good ears for hooks and a capable singer. Few punk bands had those traits which is why it never was popular outside of a brief period in mid 70's Britain. The characteristics of good pop music have been there for the taking all along; punk didn't invent them. Joe Strummer might've had a grasp of craftsmanship, but he couldn't sing if his life depended on it. That goes for Bob Dylan too. The punk ethos says that giftedness is secondary to expression of, something I guess. Bullshit. You need to have at least some power in you lungs to sell a song. Axl Rose's voice is just above the floor of acceptable vocal power and range. The Clash's best song, Rock the Casbah, is so infectiously arranged and performed that even Strummer's vocals don't kill it. Of course, being that the song is from '82, Strummer's vocals have better range than his 70's performances. Tellingly, his wiki article does not make one comment on his vocal ability.

    Megadeth could've been the equal of Metallica if Mustaine would've drafted a real singer. I've seen him with a Dead Kennedy's shirt on; even Jello's voice is about 30 times more powerful than Mustaine's.

    As it turns out, Mustaine, Dylan, and Strummer were all Jewish (very distantly in Strummer's case). And both Dylan and Strummer didn't even use their real names in spite of the 70's culture of authenticity. Then again, I think Gen X-ers are most annoyed by a lack of authenticity regardless of Boomer posturing.

    Note to whiny Jews; nobody wants to hear your caterwauling.

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  23. "The stuff you mention here, I'm familiar with most of it, it's a certain kind of teutonic and what I call logical music."

    I've got some metal review books written by a Canadian named Martin Popoff who loves the German aesthetic. He thinks it fits metal perfectly. Considering the likes of:

    Accept - Fast as a Shark ('82) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTeXBTStek0

    he probably is right.

    I don't think I'm weird for liking energetic music. There's got to be a reason that late 70's, 80's, and early 90's movies spawned so many memorable hit songs. What do we do these days for movie soundtracks? Just recycle 70's and 80's songs. It's like we've given up even trying to make cool songs. Cripes, just about anyone over 30 instantly recognizes songs from Rocky, Top Gun, and Saturday Night Fever. Some people snicker at how "cheesy" those songs were but why do they suppose they remain so vivid decades later?

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  24. "Joe Strummer might've had a grasp of craftsmanship, but he couldn't sing if his life depended on it. That goes for Bob Dylan too. The punk ethos says that giftedness is secondary to expression of, something I guess. Bullshit. You need to have at least some power in you lungs to sell a song. Axl Rose's voice is just above the floor of acceptable vocal power and range. The Clash's best song, Rock the Casbah, is so infectiously arranged and performed that even Strummer's vocals don't kill it. Of course, being that the song is from '82, Strummer's vocals have better range than his 70's performances. Tellingly, his wiki article does not make one comment on his vocal ability."

    I couldn't disagree more with this. That "something" you can't identify is soul, truth, emotion, connection, etc. There's a (probably apocryphal) story about Sam Cooke, possessor of one of the most technically beautiful voices of all time, being asked about Bob Dylan. He is reported to have said that "from now on, it’s not going to be about how pretty the voice is. It’s going to be about believing that the voice is telling the truth.” It doesn't have to be Bob Dylan, but there are any number of singers who don't have technically "good" voices but nonetheless convey an emotion or human truth 1000 times more effectively than, say, the guy from Nickelback. It's admittedly a subjective and somewhat ephemeral metric, but there it is.

    I find it hard to believe that someone can enjoy and be fulfilled by "Danger Zone" by Kenny Loggins from the Top Gun soundtrack more than, say, a Tom Petty song, simply because Petty "can't sing." But I know those people exist, and there's just nothing we can say to each other about music. Or hell, about life, really, because we obviously experience and process life so differently. If, in 20 years when maybe you're married and have kids and have been through some of life's ups and downs, and you continue to get something out of the music you mention, then more power to you, seriously.

    "And both Dylan and Strummer didn't even use their real names in spite of the 70's culture of authenticity. Then again, I think Gen X-ers are most annoyed by a lack of authenticity regardless of Boomer posturing."

    Punk wasn't interested in authenticity. You do know members of the Ramones weren't really brothers, right? And that Johnny Rotten made up his name too? But I will agree with you that during the grunge area, Gen Xers were terrible concerned about "authenticity" until the point where most of us grew up and realized that's a sucker's game. Check out the book "Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity" to see how far back and deep the authenticity pose goes in American music.

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  25. Guys, let's just re-classify decades and all agree that 1975 to 1984 was the Greatest Fucking Decade Ever.

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  26. I'm almost with you on that assessment, ha.

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  27. My analysis of the Billboard Hot 100 showed two peaks in artfulness or musicianship -- 1975 and 1983. Rising during the '60, '70s, and '80s, declining since, but those were the two clear peaks.

    The era of one-hit wonders was such a breath of fresh air -- no longer was all the popular music made by two or three bands a la Elvis-mania, Beatlemania, Katy Perry-mania, and Taylor Swift-mania.

    The '80s saw the peak of successful movies by independent studios. In the music world, anybody who had enough talent for a great song could get a contract and airplay. Truly an age of letting a thousand flowers bloom.

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    1. Billboard charts are interesting to demographers and sociologists, but are meaningless when analyzing the formation and evolution of musical styles. Most if not all musical innovation happens outside the Top 100 list. I don't understand the citing of these kinds of charts when discussing the actual music.

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  28. The biggest change starting around 1990 was the decline in ornamentation and complexity. A hit song from the '80s might have had a 30-second intro and outro, verse, chorus, bridge, and instrumental solo, with several riffs ("ostinato") on different instruments throughout. And people sang rather than spoke.

    Pop music has become more bland and minimalist since then. The only sub-cycles are between a more austere and a more bombastic form of minimalism -- austere in the early-mid '90s, bombastic in the 2010s.

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  29. "You do know members of the Ramones weren't really brothers, right? And that Johnny Rotten made up his name too? But I will agree with you that during the grunge area, Gen Xers were terrible concerned about "authenticity"

    Yes, I know the punk scene made a big deal out of fake names which I think came out of Boomer brattiness and also as a tribute to Iggy Pop I suppose. Gen X-er artists have been less likely to assume gimmicky names. Rob Zombie is the only one that comes to mind, whereas Millennials like Lady Ga Ga and the aforementioned Boomers seem to think this posturing is cute.

    Dylan's name change is obvious; like so many other Jews he was trying to throw people off his Jewish scent. Nice try Bobby.

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  30. It doesn't have to be Bob Dylan, but there are any number of singers who don't have technically "good" voices but nonetheless convey an emotion or human truth 1000 times more effectively than, say, the guy from Nickelback. It's admittedly a subjective and somewhat ephemeral metric, but there it is."

    Well, volume and clarity are indeed objective. A gifted/well trained singer projects their voice with more consistent volume and tone. Have you heard Megadeth live? Mustaine struggles to be heard (in spite of heroic efforts by whoever is manning the soundboard) above the music. I don't find the soul in that, but to each his own.

    If you've got some semblance of vocal training, the Cobain type screeching gets very grating quickly. I've never been able to get into Nirvana's heavier songs because Cobain is such an amateur. It is possible to overcome poor tone and control by just projecting a certain force (like 80's James Hetfield did, Strummer tries to do this but fails, Cobain is somewhere between) but even that seem to be beyond the worst singers.

    Tom petty does have a limited voice, but he knows how to use it within the context of a song. Even Mustaine managed that on a few songs. But your Bob Dylans have such hopelessly shot before their time throats that I can't find pleasure in it under any circumstance.

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  31. "Well, volume and clarity are indeed objective. A gifted/well trained singer projects their voice with more consistent volume and tone. Have you heard Megadeth live? Mustaine struggles to be heard (in spite of heroic efforts by whoever is manning the soundboard) above the music. I don't find the soul in that, but to each his own."

    So by that metric, Sammy Hagar is the better singer for Van Halen because he has a greater range and cleaner/clearer tone than David Lee Roth? Patti Smythe is better than Chrissie Hynde. Mariah Carey is better than Billie Holiday. Etc. Focusing strictly on vocal tone and projection ignores almost everything that makes good music good. It ignores phrasing, inflection, emotion, attitude. And it ignores the band itself. Cobain struggled in a lot of songs, but Jesus, the songs themselves and the way the band played them were phenomenal. Dylan on an album like Highway 61 Revisited was performing with an amazing band doing incredible songs.

    Adam Carolla has a great theory he calls the "yummy phase." He applies it to food and how some people can't get past the yummy phase, and so crave sweets and other foods that give a quick blast of obvious pleasure, while others grow into more subtle tastes like some good stinky cheese, or bourbon (as opposed to flavored alcohol). I think this theory can be applied to music as well. Singers who simply belt it out with no attention to phrasing or feeling and musicians who focus on faster/louder are the yummy phase. I mean, who can argue that chocolate doesn't taste good, or that playing lots of fast notes on the guitar isn't hard to do? While more refined sounds like Elvis Costello, who sings his amazing lyrics and sublime songs in a raspy voice, is like an aged bourbon. It's not conventionally pretty or yummy, but man is it fulfilling. Like any acquired taste, it pays dividends down the road as you age.

    I don't know man, musical taste is a personal thing, but it also says a lot about a person. I don't know a single person who approaches music, or art in general, from an angle of what a work of art has to say about the human condition, rather than how faithfully it reproduces or represents "reality" or a certain codified standard of beauty, that can also make blanket statements about wide swaths of humanity. I think if you can find the beauty and humanity in many different forms and from many different artists, it becomes hard to discount a group of people. Your approach to music seems very stifling to me. But like you say, to each their own.

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  32. "Most if not all musical innovation happens outside the Top 100 list."

    You'd be surprised who's been in the Hot 100.

    If you want to look at a specific genre like rock, they have a mainstream and modern/alternative chart -- just about any significant band made it in the top 100 on those charts, often scoring a #1.

    "Jane Says" hit #6 on the mod rock charts in 1988, way before alternative went mainstream. In 1990, two singles by Jane's Addiction hit #1 on the mod rock charts -- "Stop!" and "Been Caught Stealing".

    Since the authors of that study are looking at pop music as a whole, it makes sense to zoom in no further than the Hot 100, although the same approach would work to studying sub-developments within sub-genres of rock (or R&B, country, rap, etc.) by zooming into genre-specific charts.

    The idea that there's all this cool, avant-garde stuff going on outside of what is a hit with audiences -- and that is actually good (lyrics, musicianship, composition, delivery, whatever) -- is mostly a fiction for pop music.

    If you are looking at smaller-scale developments, say within rock, then you have to use rock-oriented charts that describe what rock-oriented audiences are buying and listening to on the rock-oriented radio stations.

    You may also have to look at a different country where the bands / movement originated. New wave scored plenty of hits over here in America, but it was huge on the UK charts. So was heavy metal. So was punk, to a lesser degree.

    Any chart-based approach would relegate punk to the background, but that's as it should be. There was nothing musical about punk music, and its devoted fans are the most tone-deaf and body-numb listeners out there. There's no there there in stripped-down minimalism. All it had was raw energy, but that's not music -- that's attitude, delivery, stage presence, etc., that any performer could channel (stand-up comic, "slam" poet, actor, etc.).

    You might make punk significant to the extent that it influenced new wave, which did have a punk-y attitude (but also had a stronger New Romantic side). Still, who's to say that that wouldn't have developed without punk?

    I think there was just something in the air in the late '70s and early '80s that was more of a don't-give-a-fuck attitude. Given that it showed up in various performance media ("edgy" or "anarchic" stand-up comics, for one), we don't need to trace it all back to punk rock.

    Rather, punk was just one of the many variations on that theme -- exaggerated in importance by professional rock critics because they don't resonate with any kind of dance music. Punk was anti-disco, while new wave was heavily influenced by disco. For the cerebral critic, it was a no-brainer which one to emphasize.

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  33. there was a formidable punk revival in the 90s in skater culture, centered around the warped tour. I wonder what that was all about.

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  34. "You'd be surprised who's been in the Hot 100."

    I know who's been on those charts, some good stuff, and then a lot of crap, just like anywhere else. But innovation typically doesn't happen there, it bubble up from more obscure bands until some producer or artist notices it and borrows from it, or the times simply match up with an innovative band or artist and they happen to chart early in their career, like your example with Jane's Addiction. It is interesting to look at the types of music that reach the Top 100 lists, and the regional and periodic differences. But the discussion with Feryl was focused on the music itself, the types if qualities that make music "good" or "bad." To my mind, charts don't have anything to do with that kind of discussion.

    We'll just have to agree to disagree about punk. Of course it was an aspect and product of the times, and up until Green Day hit big, punk proper was never popular. But I, and many others, believe it's influence far outweighs it's popularity. I don't care either way, it's not like I have stock in punk rock, I just think I can connect the dots and make a good case for it's importance in popular music.

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  35. "there was a formidable punk revival in the 90s in skater culture, centered around the warped tour. I wonder what that was all about."

    "Of course it was an aspect and product of the times, and up until Green Day hit big, punk proper was never popular."

    This pop punk stuff was often more pop and/or metal than proper 70's Brit punk or 80's American hard core. The Offspring covered 1 "real" punk song on their breakthrough '93 album and it sounded quite different than the rest of the album, especially the hit songs. Gotta Get Away is more grunge than punk. Come Out and Play is more punkish; but interestingly, the punk band that inspired it (Agent Orange) denied being a punk band in the early 80's.

    "Some fellow Californian punk rock musicians criticized the allegation. Frank Agnew, guitarist of fellow Fullerton band the Adolescents, remarked "I don't see how you can call that plagiarism; all it is is an Arabic scale. It just reeks to me [as if] people are after a piece of the pie. If the Offspring did a guitar solo that was reminiscent of one of my guitar solos, I'd be honored, not [antagonized]. I think it's real petty."[4] The Vandals, who were signed to Holland's label Nitro Records, released the song "Aging Orange" on their 1996 album The Quickening, with lyrics by bassist Joe Escalante mocking Palm's claim to ownership of a style rooted in ancient Middle Eastern music:["

    Agent Orange were actually as inspired by 60's music as 70's Brit punk. Indeed, the use of Arabic scales that began in the 60's would be more of an inspiration for metal than punk. Whatever punk is, it isn't trippy like 60's surf rock, 70's prog, or metal of all eras.

    As for Green Day, When I come Around is more stop/start 90's alt. hard rock than punk. It should also be noted that Green Day and the Offspring had reasonably tuneful singers and both could write melodic hooks. Billie Joe Armstrong is like a higher register and higher IQ version of Joe Strummer.

    The 90's pop punk scene seemed to get popular on account many of the bands being decent musicians who could write catchy tunes. A lot of the stuff by Pennywise and the other bands blows 70's punk out of the water which I think has a lot to do with bands competing with each other in terms of musicianship. For that matter, some American 80's/late 70's groups like the Dead Kennedy's annihilate the British stuff in terms of both catchy songwriting and tight musicianship. The Dead Kennedy's, unlike the Brit posers, made their stuff so chaotically wild, unpredictable, and lyrically irreverent that there's no way most of their stuff would have ever gotten on the radio. To be fair, most of the Brit groups didn't have the chops to pull off the gut wrenching starts and stops that the DK's could do. Biafra was also a versatile singer. I guess the Brits did push one of their songs up the charts, nearly leading to the band playing the song (Too drunk to fuck) on the BBC!

    There's a reason 90's pop punk charted fairly well in America while 70's Brit punk was DOA outside of a couple of dancy 80's songs by The Clash.

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  36. I'm surprised you appreciate the Dead Kennedys, I didn't even mention them because I thought it would be a non-starter. They were my first show, when I was 15, and yeah, they were wildly creative and amazing musicians to boot. Probably the best pure punk band ever, certainly one of my favorites. Amped up surf music, really, with political lyrics. X is another incredible punk band, both creatively and as musicians, I almost included them but their first album came out in 1980.

    "There's a reason 90's pop punk charted fairly well in America while 70's Brit punk was DOA outside of a couple of dancy 80's songs by The Clash."

    The main reason is that punk had wound its way through the collective consciousness enough that the typical punk sound was palatable by then, and the groups that did break through were, as you mention, quite pop with hooky melodies, which is why they're called pop punk. Green Day is an interesting example, because they very much came up ensconced in the East Bay underground punk scene of the late 80s. I saw them many times during that period and even then, everyone knew they'd be huge. Super catchy melodies from the get-go. Fun band. But, my point is that the mainstream was ready for whatever was left of punk when Green Day hit.

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  37. "I'm surprised you appreciate the Dead Kennedys, I didn't even mention them because I thought it would be a non-starter."

    In my P2P days (which are firmly over, having bricked a computer and all) I heard a lot of 80's speed metal and punk. I'd already heard stuff like Metallica and Megadeth since the radio played it and friends/family owned the more popular stuff. I did buy some CD's when I could actually find them (In the case of Anthrax and Slayer, not too hard).

    Dead Kennedy's really stood out over the often sloppy and lazy (and vocally mush mouthed) competitors. They also seemed to be about the only "punk" band (maybe Black Flag too) who wanted to experiment and didn't care what people thought. Their first album has keyboards on it at one point; go figure. What the America(n West coast) scene did was for the most part an improvement on what the Ramones and Sex Pistols started. It seems like attitude was good enough out East but the West coast bands put a more effort into you know, learning how to write and play. And guys like Biafra, Keith Morris, and Rollins (I know he's from the east coast, but he joined an L.A. band) were just more cool than geeky Joey Ramone, preachy Joe Strummer, and troll Johnny Rotten (talk about a poser, the Pistols were a contrived joke that opened the door to life long undeserved fame). I can respect all of the artists we've brought up on the basis of sincerity if not necessarily talent, but not the Pistols.

    One other thing about the Pistols; I really don't care about them but Steve Sailer once brought up how the Anglosphere establishment was clueless about Rotten. Rotten hated contemp. England because he was Irish. It had little to do with class or any particular issue. But nobody seemed to notice.

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  38. The thing about punk is it originally was very musically diverse. The first wave bands in '74 and '74 in America like the Ramones, Television, Talking Heads, Voivods, Blondie, Dictators, Pere Ubu all sounded very different from each other. The LA bands a year or two later were similarly diverse. UK punk was a bit more codified and fashion-centric, but even their first wave was pretty diverse. It wasn't until the 2nd wave hardcore bands that punk suddenly became rigid and the now stereotypical punk sound and look was solidified.

    Sex Pistols were a mess, musically, but as performance art, they were scintillating and scathing at the time. Much more fully formed and intentional, due mostly to their "manager" Malcolm Maclaren, than a lot of the American bands. The British were more overtly political and class-conscious and that came out in their version of punk. To me, it's all fascinating. If you want a really thorough and intellectually rigorous assessment of punk in general, check out the book "England's Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond" by Jon Savage. At the very least, it has a great discography in the back.

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