Written by Zoe
“The vast majority of hardcore and straight edge kids now are really cool, really open-minded and really open to other kinds of music. It’s amazing. We meet kids, straight edge kids, who love all kinds of music. It was never like that before. You listened to hardcore, and that was it” –Richie Birkenhead (Underdog/Youth of Today), as quoted in “All Ages” by Beth Lahickey
I was introduced to straight edge through the magic of the internet. It wasn’t one of those things where I picked up a Minor Threat LP and the lyrics made me want to claim edge. I didn’t borrow my friend’s Youth of Today tape and suddenly gain an understanding of straight edge. I saw straight edge mentioned in someone’s livejournal, and I googled it. In place of the 1980s hardcore kids informative straight edge fanzines, I, the 21st century teenager, had Wikipedia to arm me with the knowledge that inspired me to claim edge.
While I knew from the start that straight edge had a strong link to hardcore music, sXe music has never been a part of my straight edge identity. I respect hardcore and understand its importance to sXe, which is why I bought some of the important and influential straight edge music—just to listen to it and hear the connection for myself. But on my ITunes most played list, Minor Threat’s complete discography ranks pretty low.
But as kids like me who prefer Taking Back Sunday to Judge start to claim edge, it leaves me wondering…can straight edge exist without the music?
“While the music, in a sense, was the spark for straight edge or the catalyst for straight edge, and it’s obviously a really important part of straight edge, even today, and most [straight edge] people are into straight edge music, there’s a lot of people who don’t like the music and they still call themselves straight edge,” says Robert Wood, author of Straight Edge Youth: Complexity and Contradictions of a Subculture. “You know they recognize the music [as] an important part of the movement or the subculture, but personally, they just don’t listen to it. I think the movement could exist without the music, potentially.”
But is it a good thing for straight edge to exist without the music? As I said before, I’m not exactly Hardcore Helen. But I hate to think sXe is beginning to exist without the music, because it’s such an amazing part of straight edge. With plastic Top 40 popstars selling out arenas, the connection between the straight edge bands and the kids and the lifestyle becomes ever rarer, and all the more special.
When a straight edge kid doesn’t know who Minor Threat is, I don’t necessarily think it makes them a poser; after all, if sXe is truly about abstaining from the poisons of our culture, what’s in your CD player shouldn’t matter. But our music is our history, and hopefully someone can take that kid aside and kindly explain the relevance. When we forget our past, we endanger our future, and I want the future of straight edge to be as bright as it can.