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

Ryan Moore
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 1, 2009 0814757480 978-0814757482

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


“Moore's strength is his obvious admiration for the bands and genres he highlights. He is a first-class music journalist and historian and when he delves into a particular subculture like the "econo" ethos of the Minutemen, the Dickies use of "snortcore" or Minor Threat's creation of straightedge, the reader is richly rewarded.̶


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


“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

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

"In his book Sells Like Teen Spirit: Music Youth Culture and Social Crisis, Ryan Moore brilliantly situates the histories of several musical styles within the political, economic, and social changes that lead to the development of an assortment of rock subgenres. Moore's engaging book is for scholars of youth culture, pop culture, and any who are interested in music history."
-Douglas N. Evans,Journal of Youth and Adolescence

About the Author

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

Product Details

  • Paperback: 286 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press (December 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814757480
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814757482
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #973,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sells Like Teen Spirit May 14, 2012
By cteague
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Excellent approach to applying sociological research of key geographic regions and how it has impacted the genres of Punk Rock, Heavy Metal, and Alternative music.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Ryan Moore's excellent book covers a wide range of "youth culture and crisis" in the US, and does so with aplomb. Like a good sociologist, he demonstrates in clear prose the connection between the economic crises and the manifestations of those crises in the domains of music culture. Like a good fan, he communicates the thrill of what music can mean to American adolescents.

As he notes in the first chapter, "rock music and the hippie counterculture were shaped by a rebellion against the qualitative consequences of Fordism and embedded liberalism, and ... punk was the signal that these movements were exhausted and co-opted in the new social context of the 1970s." It's a mouthful, for sure, but he provides enough structure for the undergraduate or lay reader to make sense of a nuanced argument, and engages a rich variety of sources to hold the interest of cultural scholars, too.

The usual suspects -- The Ramones, Lester Bangs -- make appearances, but South Park's Mr. Hanky Poo (perhaps the punkest character on South Park) and Black Flag's Chuck Dubowski are given their due, too. The text is a fine example of cultural materialism, includes a smart and sensitive ethnography of the San Diego "scene" of the mid-late 1990s, and offers a smart, smart survey of the alternative scene and its re-presentation and integration by the culture industry.

For the scholarly types: Adorno and Benjamin make their obligatory appearances at the end, and Moore breathes new life into that long-standing argument.

A must-have if you were there, and a must-have for anyone who wants to understand (the use value and exchange value of) Teen Spirit.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read November 11, 2011
Ryan Moore has written a book which both analyzes and contextualizes the current situation of youth subculture. Being a huge fan of punk rock I enjoyed this book because it recognizes the impact that this and other genres have on a individual during their formative years. This book also takes a critical look at capitalism and the effects of pop culture as an industry on society. This book is successful putting what the average American youth is confronted with and explains where the roots of certain subculture lies lie. This is the story of my youth explained to me intelligently.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great January 16, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This was equipped reading for a college course for my son. He recommended it to me. I enjoyed it as we'll. insightful read.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Are You Kidding Me?!! September 16, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am a 52 year old educated woman who is finishing up her grad school degree and this was the worst book I was required to read. The author is so full of himself and speaks strictly in lofty academic-speak so that only his own peers could possibly understand him...even my professor said that he wrote it for his own ego! I hope other grad students are not forced to read this for was truly frustrating!
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