Psychobilly : imagining and realizing a "culture of survival" through mutant rockabilly
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Identifying simultaneously with the cool 1950s greaser, the punk rebel, and the zombies, murderers, and monsters of horror lore, psychobillies (“psychos”) cobble together an identity that expresses their subcultural subjectivity. They construct and cultivate an alternative present, a participatory culture that offers multiple strategies for relieving the pressures of working-class life, for experiencing pleasure despite hardship. As one research participant put it, “psychobilly is a culture of survival.” This dissertation explores the interwoven, multiple reasons why musicians and fans identify with this alternative, underground culture, tracing the integral role it plays in their lives and the ways in which psychobillies creatively reconstitute aspects of the cultural past in the present. I focus on the advantages that a tight-knit social community confers and on the ways in which various fantasies and lived practices provide transcendental escape as well as feelings of control and power. My research draws both from a long line of cultural studies and from more recent trends in popular music scholarship that focus on musical meaning in everyday life. Accordingly, I employ an ethnographic writing style that privileges the multiple voices and identities of my research associates.