Stop Eleven On The Rockabilly Roadtrip

Psycho-Rock-And-Roll All Over The World


Well, last week we talked about the fallout of rockabilly and the birth of psychobilly. An interesting topic in itself and one which deservedly got a whole article to itself. Today, however, I’m here to tell you that psychobilly has a longer a much richer history than was presented last week. In fact, after the early work put in by the first wave of British psychobilly bands, a whole new generation took up the torch and brought psychotic rock and roll to all corners of the globe. These are the bands today’s article will be focussing on; bands like Mad Sin, HorrorPops, Nekromantix, The Reverend Horton Heat, Tiger Army, and Demented Are Go.

As a matter of fact, Demented Are Go will be the first band I’m going to talk about to today primarily due to the fact that they are creditied with kicking off the whole second wave of psychobilly with the release of their debut album In Sickness And In Health.

The band themselves formed in Cardiff, Wales in the year 1982 and were one of the original group of psychobilly bands that were performing in Britain during the early eighties, but it was their debut album that really set them apart from the other bands playing at the time. The album was recorded in less than twenty-four hours and is primarily composed of first take recordings, which gave the music and incredbily raw and spontaneous feel. Here’s a little example of the kind of music that came out of the record:

Transvestite Blues – Demeted Are Go

Another reason that this album is particularly noteworthy is the fact that it was one of the earlier psychobilly records to incorporate a sense of ironic horror morbidity, and characteristic that has now become a mainstay of the genre. Recurring lyrical themes such as zombies, murder, death, and destruction and a gory stage presence. Here’s a little look at the shlock horror persona that grew up around Demented Are Go and the later psychobillies. (Note: the track is not actually from In Sickness And In Health, but it is still a good exemplar)

Bodies In The Basement – Demented Are Go

The legacy of this band and their influential recordings, however, is not so much to be found in the music itself, but rather in the fact that it’s popularity and the band’s tours through Europe led to the formation of a whole host of new bands. This is really where the second wave of psychobilly begins.

Mad Sin, for instance, formed in Germany in 1987, a mere year after the release of In Sickness And In Health, and have been particularly influential in the progress of psychobilly music both in that they were one of the first bands apart from Demented Are Go to bring an ironic sense of horror morbidity to the stage and in that they were one of the first bands to branch further out from a mere mixing of punk and rockabilly. This next track, for example, shows a distinct country bent as well as being another great example of the horror schtick.

Nine Lives – Mad Sin

From this point onwards many new psychobilly bands began to crop up all over Europe, and throughout the rest of the world: Nekromantix formed in Denmark, Go-Katz and Klingonz formed in Britain, and The Quakes and Elvis Hitler formed in the United States. Here is a little bit of the music that they were playing at the time:

Gargoyles Over Copenhagen – Nekromantix

Nightmare – Go-Katz

Live Fast, Die Young – Elvis Hitler

It is interesting to note, however, that, while psychobilly was gaining its foothold in Europe and some bands were beginning to pop up in the States, the popularity of psychobilly was not large over in the Land of The Free. One of the early artists who did take up the style, however, was a young man from Corpus Christi, Texas who went by the name Reverend Horton Heat.

The Reverend is of particular interest to the timeline of psychobilly mainly due to the fact that not only did he realize the potential of the exciting genre, but also because he transformed it and brought a distinclty American sound to it. Much more based on traditional rockabilly, but with a lot of punk madness thrown into the mix, this is what American psychobilly sounded like.

Psychobilly Freakout – Reverend Horton Heat

After this second wave of psychobilly swept the world yet another generation latched on to the exciting sound, and a third wave was born. Bands like Tiger Army formed in the U.S.A, HorrorPops formed in Denmark with the help of Kim Nekroman from Nekromantix, and a whole range of other bands appeared around the world.

Some of the bands kept with the more hardcore sounds of the early bands, and kept the music to its psychotic roots. Hellbillys, for instance, are a good example of the continuing underground sound that some bands were taking.

Surf Zombies – Hellbillys

Go Go Go – The Fireballs

Other bands, however, looked to Horton Heat for inspiration and kept the flame of roots rockabilly alive while still maintaining their punk attitudes.

Cupid’s Victim – Tiger Army

Graveyard Queen – Zombie Ghost Train

And others looked more towards pop music for their inspiration and pioneered a new style of psychobilly that was much more accessible to audiences who had never hear much of the music.

Miss Take – HorrorPops

Prisoner Of Society – The Living End

And that, my friends, is a very brief description of the various paths that psychobilly music took after its formation in the early eighties. This is by no means a complete history or list of bands, and it would be near impossibly to actually provide that here. I’d actually have to write a book if I wanted to even get close to writing a full account of psychobilly (and I might do so one day).

But, for the moment I will leave you with this and hope that it provides you with some small insight into the fascinating world of psychobilly music.

Join me next week, however, as the Rockabilly Roadtrip continues on the its final stop: What Happens Now?


3 thoughts on “Stop Eleven On The Rockabilly Roadtrip

  1. Pingback: Stop Twelve On The Rockabilly Roadtrip | Lachlan J. Faces The Music

  2. Pingback: Big Beat from Badsville – The Cramps | Lachlan J. Faces The Music

  3. Pingback: Break My Ears | Alice Unchained

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