Sells like Teen Spirit: Music, Youth Culture, and Social Crisis

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Music has always been central to the cultures that young people create, follow, and embrace. In the 1960s, young hippie kids sang along about peace with the likes of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez and tried to change the world. In the 1970s, many young people ended up coming home in body bags from Vietnam, and the music scene changed, embracing punk and bands like The Sex Pistols. In Sells Like Teen Spirit, Ryan Moore tells the story of how music and youth culture have changed along with the economic, political, and cultural transformations of American society in the last four decades. By attending concerts, hanging out in dance clubs and after-hour bars, and examining the do-it-yourself music scene, Moore gives a riveting, first-hand account of the sights, sounds, and smells of “teen spirit.”

Moore traces the histories of punk, hardcore, heavy metal, glam, thrash, alternative rock, grunge, and riot grrrl music, and relates them to wider social changes that have taken place. Alongside the thirty images of concert photos, zines, flyers, and album covers in the book, Moore offers original interpretations of the music of a wide range of bands including Black Sabbath, Black Flag, Metallica, Nirvana, and Sleater-Kinney. Written in a lively, engaging, and witty style, Sells Like Teen Spirit suggests a more hopeful attitude about the ways that music can be used as a counter to an overly commercialized culture, showcasing recent musical innovations by youth that emphasize democratic participation and creative self-expression—even at the cost of potential copyright infringement.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Sells Like Teen Spirit combines a fascinating ethnography of San Diego’s punk subculture with a profound rumination on the exhaustion of social movements and the emptiness of consumer culture in our society. Moore helps us see how large changes in economics and social relations manifest themselves in seemingly small sites and practices in our everyday lives.”

-George Lipsitz,author of Footsteps in the Dark: The Hidden Histories of Popular Music

“With endearing authenticity and proper reverence, Moore skillfully articulates the brutal social truths that compel young people to create meaning and subculture out of chaos and anomie. Somewhere, Walter Benjamin and the Ramones are slamming through another brilliant set shouting, ‘Hey ho, let’s go!!’ ”
-Donna Gaines,author of A Misfit’s Manifesto: The Sociological Memoir of a Rock & Roll Heart

“Moore’s deeply personal take on the historical significance of heavy metal is also a refreshing addition to the independent music canon.”


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814757482
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 286
  • Sales rank: 753,208
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Ryan Moore is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Florida Atlantic University.

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Table of Contents

1 Anarchy in the USA
2 Reagan Youth
3 Hell Awaits
4 Young, Gifted, and Slack
5 Retro Punks and Pin-Up Girls
6 The Work of Rock in the Age of Digital Reproduction
About the Author
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  • Posted November 28, 2009

    The Professor and the Punk.

    What a well written book. I am truly impressed by Moore's ability to take the reader on a journey through generations of musical prominence, accuracy portraying the feelings ad emotions not only of the acts and talent associated with them, but the fans and general scene around these bands. Like Jimmy Buffets Parrot heads or Tech N9nes army of face painted moshers, it is possible for a fan base to become synonymous with a group and gain a lore of there own. Such is the punk scene, as Moore beautifully illustrates. He brings alive the fan base struggling for a voice that popular music of the time was not giving them, with a great quotes use of quotes from the fans themselves as well as popular acts, he has the power to paint a picture for people who knew nothing about this subculture before picking up the book. The Author seems to be having fun talking to his own personal sources, people who started out as fans and decided that they too could make it in the fledgling industry they were begging to love. More than anything Moore is able to show why music has become such a flash in the pan industry and so few bands have the staying power, as some bands from generations past may enjoy. He captures the single voice of the loud passionate masses, who are looking to break out of a prison yet can't seem to find the walls. This book is a guaranteed conversation starter, whether you want to relive those days of putting on the glitter and eye liner and heading out to a twisted sister show, or you still wear flannel that you picked up at a Seattle thrift store, or you want to talk about the industry in general and how pop culture is often shaped with music at the center. On a side note, try to imagine while reading a professor at a nationally recognized university trying to keep a straight face while interviewing a girl with green hair still sporting a safety pin through her nose, and remember just how fun life can be.

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