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Why Hasn’t Rockabilly Come Back Around?
The reasons people complain about things are usually the same reasons they like those things. One of the defining characteristics of any scene or subculture is a bunch of people within that scene complaining that it’s just a bunch of poseurs. If this complaint isn’t made about a subculture, the subculture probably doesn’t exist at all.
Subcultures are driven by a universal human need for acceptance; that’s also how they end up full of poseurs. We want to package ourselves. We want to be capable of being known. We want to be welcomed. We find that we can often guarantee a welcome by imitating the structures of a pre-existing community. A subculture is a dance diagram for being loved: follow these simple steps and here’s a home.
Rockabilly is a musical hybrid of two things that already heavily influence each other. In some ways its two parents seem too incestuously close to allow offspring. A mashup of rock ‘n’ roll, and country music (“hillbilly music”), it’s a revival scene already on its second or third revival. Country and blues music began combining with some form of rock ‘n’ roll as early as the 1930s. Elvis is of course the reference point here, spanning country and rock ‘n’ roll, and defining rockabilly to the cultural imagination.
In the ’90s and early ’00s, rockabilly enjoyed yet another revival. It nostalgically styled the American 1950s in all their high-maintenance greaser kitsch: Girls in bullet bras and bright red lipstick, boys with greasy hair and tight jeans, cigarettes rolled in their sleeves. It also spawned a lot of bands, Social Distortion probably being the best-known representative, who enjoyed legitimate musical success. For a while tattoos and greaser hair and classic cars all pointed toward a particular fusion of country and blues with raucous, danceable, old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.

But today few, if any, of those artists are known outside of rockabilly scenes, and few rockabilly scenes still exist outside of very specific locales. Many other subcultures seem to have come back around quite recently — goth and rave scenes enjoy their own revivals currently, and punk is always enjoying a revival, in that it never exactly dies. But rockabilly doesn’t seem to have come back around with them.