Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What is Psychobilly?

So I've gotten a lot of questions from acquaintances and even some friends regarding the subject of psychobilly. Especially because I use the term "psychobilly" to describe the majority of my clothing and accessory designs. So, I'm going to provide a VERY brief (believe me, I could write 20 pages on the subject) explanation for the regular Joes of this world.

First to understand what psychobilly is, you have to comprehend the concept of rockabilly, in which the term branched off of. Rockabilly is one of the earliest styles of  rock and roll music, dating to the early 1950's. The name "rockabilly" is a combination of "rock" and "hillbilly (or later known as country)", that strongly influenced the genres's development. The big artists of early rockabilly were: Johnny Burnette, Carl Perkins, Bill Haley, Bill Flagg, Wanda Jackson, Roy Orbinson,  Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, and of course, Elvis Presley.


Following the early music genre, modern rockabilly fashion/style is highly influenced by the clothing of the 1950's. Poodles skirts, full, natural-waisted dresses, button up shirts and cardigans, paired up with prints such as: polka dots, cherries, florals, gingham, and leopard, brings back the hottest elements of the clothing from that time period. Also, pin-ups like Bettie Page and Marilyn Monroe, have effected the evolution of the rockabilly style. Mixing the infamous "Bettie Bangs" with the hot red lipstick and confidence of Marilyn Monroe, rockabilly women try to emulate the beauty and glamour of the 50's, with a pinch of a rebellious nature.

As years go by, the popularity of rockabilly starts to dwindle. Other music genres like psychedelic rock, beat, folk rock, and pop rock, started to take over the rock and roll community. Then with Elvis Presley's 1968 comeback special, acts such as Don McLean and Linda Ronstadt, the movie American Graffiti, and the television show Happy Days, a curiosity about the real music of the 1950's was created. This started the rockabilly revival scene. The most successful early product of the scene was Dave Edmunds, who joined up with songwriter Nick Lowe to form a band called Rockpile in 1975. Also, this was a time of the early development of punk rock music with bands such as New York Dolls and The Stooges. The term "punk" was first used in relation to rock music by some American critics in the early 1970s, to describe garage bands and their devotees.

Even with the beginnings of the rockabilly revival scene, in 1977, punk rock music started to explode. Bands such as Ramones, Clash, and Sex Pistols were recognized as the leaders of a new musical movement. Also festering at CBGB's punk environs were The Cramps, who combined primitive and wild rockabilly sounds with lyrics inspired by old drive-in horror movies in songs like "Human Fly" and "I Was a Teenage Werewolf". Punk rock became an expression of youthful rebellion with an anti-government/anarchic philosophy.

Alongside the growth of the punk rock movement, rockabilly bands like Polecats and Stray Cats make way for themselves in the late 70's and early 80's. The Stray Cats were the most commercially successful of the new rockabilly artists. Drawing only a little attention in New York, Stray Cats decided to fly to London in 1980, where they heard there was an active rockabilly scene. Later on, The Stray Cats had three UK Top Ten singles to their credit and two bestselling albums.

So, gradually from the 70's and 80's the punk rock scene and rockabilly scene started to blend with one another. With the influences of the bands The Polecats and The Cramps, the psychobilly genre was born. The Cramps described their music as "psychobilly" and "rockabilly voodoo" on flyers advertising their concerts. Then, the band The Meteors formed in South London in 1980, and are considered the first verifiable psychobilly band. Their albums In Heaven (1981) and Wreckin' Crew(1983) are recognized as landmarks of the early years of the genre. The Meteors blended elements of punk rock, rockabilly, and horror film themes in their music. Which is now, the exact definition of psychobilly music. Following the advancement of the genre, great bands like Batmobile, Guana Batz, Demented Are Go, Mad Sin, and Nekromantix start to release albums.

Zombie pinup #119

Now that you know that "Psychobilly" is the musical genre that is a fusion of punk rock and rockabilly with horror cinema, gore, and punk attitude, being big components, fashion and style soon flourish thereafter. Still being influenced by aspects of 50's fashion, it is combined with punk rock outlook and the love of everything horror. A psychobilly chick might rock out the 50's pin-up makeup and hairstyle while wearing a high-waisted dress with Halloween-like features for an everyday look. While a psychobilly guy will lean towards the "greaser" look, with punk straight-legged pants and a wicked leather jacket.

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