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Why Be Something That You're Not: Detroit Hardcore 1979-1985
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Why Be Something That You're Not: Detroit Hardcore 1979-1985

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  107 ratings  ·  17 reviews
In the early 70s, Detroit was the musical hub of America, but by the early eighties, it was a wasteland. It took a group of skateboarders, a teacher and a census clerk to wake the city up and start one of the first hardcore punk scenes in America. Why Be Something That You're Not chronicles the first wave of Detroit hardcore from its origins in the late 70s to its demise i ...more
Paperback, 239 pages
Published July 6th 2010 by Revelation Records
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3.79  · 
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 ·  107 ratings  ·  17 reviews

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Dr. Detroit
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great book but I never quite “got,” appreciated, or even remotely understood hardcore punk. Maybe, as is suggested over and over again by the interview subjects here, I was – at the ripe old age of 22 or 23 – just too old at the time. Imagine that. Barely old enough to buy booze, dismissed and cast on the scrapheap for an abiding love of hooks, melody, and a 4/4 beat. What was I thinking? Hell, I should have just put on a wifebeater and resigned myself to a life of Hamburger Helper and lottery s ...more
Mar 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Why Be Something That You're Not? is an intriguing look at the local Hardcore Punk scene in Detroit, Michigan, during the late 1970s to the mid 1980s.

Tony Rettman, with the help of notorious Detroit scene gadflies like John Brannon, Corey Rusk and Tesco Vee tell the short but very interesting story of Detroit Hardcore, from its strange roots as a bunch of suburban kids driving to the dregs of Downtown Detroit at the time, Cass Corridor, where the legendary "Detroit Freezer" venue was located to
Feb 27, 2011 rated it liked it
A nice document of a scene neglected by legend. I could've done with more oral history and less poorly-written narrative. This book helps backup the banality of punk, especially when read after Please Kill Me. Most of these dudes come off as vacuous characters who work really hard at standing for nothing. There are some positive takeaways, though. Seeing the importance of the Touch and Go zine was cool. The young-versus-old dynamic was interesting, too. Punks project nonconformist values, but th ...more
Tom Schulte
Jul 02, 2011 rated it liked it
A fun and easy read mostly made of of quoted recolletions from scenesters, flyer reprints, etc. It seems to end up in about the very month I began my own humble sojourn into the Detroit punk and hardcore scene, so it sets context to my own memories.
Feb 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
useful, if a bit brief, of early detroit US hardcore. negative approach and the fix content should be more than enough reason to check this one out
Forest Juziuk
Dec 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Easy read, breezy oral history. And a history not so sprawling that it's impossible to lose the thread.
Brendan Pelto
Apr 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Fun collection of oral histories of Detroit's hardcore punk scene. Not super useful, but there are some great interviews and photos.
Chris Herdt
Aug 30, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Rabid fans of midwest punk/hardcore
This book is the story of the rise and demise (or evolution) of a music scene in Michigan (and surrounding areas), focusing primarily on acts such as The Fix, The Necros, Negative Approach, and the Meatmen.

The book is poorly edited and given to hyperbole. Each short chapter contains numerous pull-quotes from the era's musicians and scenesters, which does give it a certain appeal as a local history of narrow scope, but in many ways it feels self-congratulatory and unnecessary. The book tries to m
Mar 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: i-own
A great oral history of an under-reported part of hardcore punk history. Most books focus on the west coast, especially socal, and the influence Black Flag and the Circle Jerks played, or race across flyover country to DC and the Minor Threat/Bad Brains axis. But as Clinton Heylin pointed out in "From the Velvets to the Voidoids" many years ago, many of the best ideas in music start in the Midwest and filter outward, not the other way around. Detroit's hardcore bands, much like Chicago's and Cle ...more
Jun 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
I thought this book was pretty interesting and informative. It appeals to me on a couple different levels. One being that I am from Michigan and it is sweet hearing about all these locations that I know and what they were like back in the early 80's and another being that I love hardcore music and music history in general. The book is pretty much all interviews with members of the local hardcore scene in the early 80s with the author narrating the direction of the book here and there. The book m ...more
Fred Tred
Aug 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book starts out in a confusing whirlwind, where names and quotes are thrown at you without any kind of cohesion. A little bit better of an intro would be great.

Having said that, the book does come together and make more sense once you are used to the band members and their names as their quotes are used throughout the book. The pictures, flyers, and zine cutouts are super interesting and add to the narrative in a big way. You find out how impassioned and split the scene was - from the skinh
Sep 01, 2010 rated it liked it
This is an oral history of an overlooked scene that's particularly interesting to me, because I live in Michigan and also because of what Touch and Go Records grew into from such DIY beginnings.
It's not as engaging as, say, "Our Band Could be Your Life" or "Please Kill Me," but it does the job. Amazing extras include press clippings about gangs of wild slam dancers from the Detroit Free Press, an extensive gallery of gig posters, and an attempt at an exhaustive show/gig/disc/venue-ography.
Gerry LaFemina
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
A surprisingly quick read, this book connects the dots between the Michigan bands and DC and LA, which is a lot of fun, but loses sight of some bands (where was The State?), and maintains a somewhat narrow focus. Still, the number of flyers and photographs in the book, make it a real artifact, which made it all the more fun to read because it really gave a sense of the DIY ethic of the time.
Hazril Wan
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Amazing. An easy reading that go in-depth to what really happening to the obscure scene such as Detroit. People keep talking about california or DC scene, but hell yeah, bands like Negative Approach, and Necros or zine like Touch And Go really need a big credit of their great hardcore scene.
Dan Lactose
Oct 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Appreciated the Bill Danforth anecdotes. I never knew the extent of his involvement with the early Detroit HC scene.
Andrea Cardinal
Jan 11, 2016 rated it liked it
It's a sausage fest! Wish I wasn't a baby when all this went down.
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Tony Rettman is a freelance music journalist whose work has appeared in The Village Voice, Vice, The Wire, Philadelphia Weekly, Cleveland Scene, Arthur, Swindle, Signal to Noise, Mean, and Thrasher. At age 14 in the 1980s, he was the editor of Common Sense zine. He has provided liner notes for such artists as Hackamore Brick, Bored Youth, Beyond and many more. He is a contributing editor to Double ...more