There are several sub genres of rockabilly – they include trashabilly, punkabilly, surfabilly and gothabilly, but its Psychobilly that managed to cut through and receive an international following. So what exactly is Psychobilly?
It’s pretty much a mixture of rockabilly and punk.
While it seems to be an unlikely fusion it came together as a subculture in the early 1980s first gaining underground popularity in Europe, most notably in London, before spreading to the United States during the 1990s.
The very early days of rockabilly with its angry, thumping beat and in your face sexuality was in tune with punk’s spirit of raw rebellion. The punks added their own stylistic extremes and layered it with fetishistic trashiness.
The first truly pyschobilly band was The Meteors. They formed in South London in 1980, blending punk, rockabilly and horror film themes in their music. Their fans were known as “the Crazies” and have been attributed with bringing about slam dancing, also known as “wrecking”, which became synonymous with the psychobilly movement. By 1982, with the opening of Klub Foot in West London, psychobilly had started to become more than a group of people following a cult band.
At that time the style was termed “mutant rockabilly” thanks to their cartoon quiffs, studded belts, Doc Martens, shredded jeans and leather jackets painted with post-nuclear-holocaust imagery.
By 1986 a second wave of psychobilly was taking off in Europe, especially in Germany, Italy and Spain along with a dedicated allegiance in Japan. This new group of bands began to broaden out the music’s scope, and expand the genre.
It wasn’t until one American band decided to take on psychobilly that the subculture gained any attention in the United States. The Reverend Horton Heat formed in Dallas, Texas in 1985. Their single “Psychobilly Freakout” released in 1990, helped introduce American audiences to the style.
By the mid 1990s psychobilly became popular in the United States, especially in southern California where punk rock had thrived and remained popular since the 1970s. In 1995 Tiger Army formed in San Francisco and became the dominant American psychobilly band, taking their act on the road, helping to establish a foothold for psychobilly across the United States.
In the early eighties, the most popular bands were The Meteors, The Polecats, The Stingrays, Restless, and Batmobile. In the early nineties American psychobilly bands were starting to form, with the most successful of those being The Reverend Horton Heat, Los Gatos Locos, Tiger Army, and Barnyard Ballers.