Published by: Temple University Press
262 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 x 20.00 mm, 5 line drawings, 9 halftones
- ISBN: 9781439918609
- Published: June 2020
“I got 1-2-3-4 psychobilly DNA”—Norm and the Nightmarez
Call it punk rockabilly with science-fiction horror lyrics. The outsider musical genre known as psychobilly, which began in 1980s Britain, fuses punk, heavy metal, new wave, and shock rock with carnivalesque elements. The participants in this underground scene sport coffin tattoos and 1950s fashions. Bands such as The Meteors, Nekromantix, and Demented Are Go play with a wild energy and a fast tempo. Sometimes fake blood runs down a performer’s mouth.
Psychobilly is ethnomusicologist Kimberly Kattari’s fascinating, decade-long study of this little-known anti-mainstream genre. She provides a history and introduces readers to the core aspects of the music as she interviews passionate performers and fans. Kattari seeks to understand how psychobilly so strongly affects—and reflects—its participants’ lives and identities so strongly. She observes that it provides not only a sense of belonging but a response to feelings and experiences of socio-economic marginalization and stigmatization.
Psychobilly shows how this subculture organized around music furnishes an outlet for members to resist normative expectations and survive; they adhere to their own rules by having a good time while going through a hard time.
“Kim Kattari’s outstanding study gives psychobilly its justly deserved attention—not only as a historical genre rooted in dissatisfaction and rebellion, but as a complex, living subculture positioned deep on the musical margins. Kattari’s fieldwork brings together dozens of interviews to illuminate the scene, and then she sharpens her analytical gaze on psychobilly’s transgressive performative properties. Steeped in horror, shock, and dark, campy humor, psychobilly emerges in Kattari’s book as an immersive style that relishes the power of taboo. Psychobilly is the definitive study of this fascinating subculture.”—Theo Cateforis, Associate Professor of Music History & Cultures at Syracuse University and author of Are We Not New Wave?: Modern Pop at the Turn of the 1980s