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Appears in Collections:Literature and Languages Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: We Sing for Change: Straight Edge Punk and Social Change
Authors: Stewart, Francis
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Keywords: Straight Edge
Social change
oral traditions
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: United Academics Journal of Social Science
Citation: Stewart F (2012) We Sing for Change: Straight Edge Punk and Social Change, United Academics Journal of Social Science, 2 (12), Art. No.: 3, pp. 38-53.
Abstract: “With hope in our hearts and bricks in our hands, we sing for change”[1] With genuine feeling and at the tops of their voices almost 1,000 people sang this together in Glasgow’s Garage in 2006. Stranger’s leaning into one another, arms wrapped around shoulders and fists raised high to yell the lyric as a united voice. Underneath this impromptu display of comradeship and solidarity lies the key fundamental to understanding the power and potency of hardcore punk both as a musical genre and as a subculture. This song, Bricks, is not one of Rise Against’s singles from this album, it has not been played on MTV or radio stations and it was not listed in music magazines as a song to check out / recommend, yet it is the song that elicited the greatest response that evening. The reason for this response? These lyrics outline the both the purpose and concern of hardcore punk, change, specifically social change of one sort or another. Social change that is largely wrought and / or articulated through musical expression. Understanding this statement requires a brief insight into punk as a musical genre and as a social movement. The research presented within this paper is based on field work which took place in San Francisco and the Bay Area in 2009, throughout the UK in 2010, and in Chicago in 2011. It is also draws on the experiences and insights of the researcher, a long time adherent to Straight Edge. The interviewees, informants and participants for this study ranged in age from 25 to 58. In total 83 interviews[2] and extended conversations[3] were carried out: 29 in San Francisco and the Bay Area, 7 in Chicago, and 47 in the UK (specifically, in Glasgow, Durham, Newcastle, Dundee, Edinburgh, Belfast, Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester). [1] ‘Bricks’ by Rise Against, from the album The Sufferer and The Witness, 2006, Geffen Records. [2] Each participant was explicitly asked to take part in an interview and gave their consent. Typically, the interview took place immediately following consent and lasted between one and two hours. On 9 occasions a pre-arranged date and venue was chosen, with the participant knowing they were arriving for an in-depth interview which would last over four hours. Two interviews in the UK were conducted over a number of meetings with the participant, each totalling over 9 hours of interview material. 5 individuals in total were interviewed via email, due to issues such as band tours and inaccessibility of location within the time scale. All interviewees were given a choice as to how they wanted to be named within the research: they could use their first name, their initials, or a pseudonym of my choice (which I based on names within my family). Pseudonyms are indicated through the use of single quotation marks. All interviews were recorded and transcribed, then shown to the interviewee for final consensus before being utilised in written form for research. [3]Typically, and not unusually within the subculture, I would be approached, due to the clothes I was wearing or my tattoos. A conversation would ensue and as it developed I would explain my research. In a number of instances the individual or group would then want to contribute their ideas as a natural part of the conversation, but they did not want to give a formal interview. In these instances, the conversations were not digitally recorded, but I did ask and receive permission to make notes on them, and had each of the participants sign the notes to acknowledge that they had seen them and gave permission for me to use them for research purposes. On average these conversations would last between 20 minutes and an hour. (In Berkeley it was not uncommon for the conversation to continue when I next encountered the same people, either on the street or at shows.) All written and signed notes have been retained by the researcher.
Type: Journal Article
Rights: This journal is open-access. Open access publishing allows free access to and distribution of published articles where the author retains copyright of their work by employing a Creative Commons attribution licence. Proper attribution of authorship and correct citation details should be given
Affiliation: University of Stirling

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