Psychobilly is a rock music fusion genre that mixes elements of rockabilly and punk rock.[1] defines it as "loud frantic rockabilly music",[2] while according to it "takes the traditional countrified rock style known as rockabilly, ramp[ing] up its speed to a sweaty pace, and combin[ing] it with punk rock and imagery lifted from horror films and late-night sci-fi schlock,...[creating a] gritty honky tonk punk rock."[3] Dark imagery is also central to an offshoot of psychobilly known as gothabilly.

Psychobilly is often characterized by lyrical references to science fiction, horror (leading to lyrical similarities to horror punk) and exploitation films, violence, lurid sexuality, and other topics generally considered taboo, though often presented in a comedic or tongue-in-cheek fashion. Psychobilly bands and lyrics usually take an apolitical stance, a reaction to the right- and left-wing political attitudes which divided other British youth cultures.[4] It is often played with an upright double bass, instead of the electric bass which is more common in modern rock music, and the hollowbody electric guitar, rather than the solid-bodied electric guitars that predominate in rock. Many psychobilly bands are trios of electric guitar, upright bass and drums, with one of the instrumentalists doubling as vocalist.

Psychobilly has its origins in New York City's 1970s punk underground, in which The Cramps are widely given credit for being progenitors of the genre and the first psychobilly band to gain a following.[5] The music gained popularity in Europe in the early 1980s, with the UK band The Meteors, but remained underground in the United States until the late 1990s.[6][7] The second wave of psychobilly began with the 1986 release of British band Demented Are Go's debut album In Sickness & In Health.[8] The genre soon spread throughout Europe, inspiring a number of new acts such as Mad Sin (formed in Germany in 1987) and the Nekromantix (formed in Denmark in 1989), who released the album Curse of the Coffin in 1991.[9] Since then the advent of several notable psychobilly bands, such as the US band Tiger Army and the Australian band The Living End, has led to its mainstream popularity and attracted international attention to the genre.

Stylistic origins
Cultural originsLate 1970s United Kingdom
Typical instrumentsElectric guitar (often hollowbody), upright bass, drums
Derivative formsGothabilly
Regional scenes
Europe (particularly England, Germany, and Denmark), United States (particularly southern California), Japan, Brazil, Canada
Other topics
Demented Are Go's upright bassist.


The evolution of psychobilly as a genre is often described as having occurred in waves. The first wave occurred in New York City in the 1970s and reached Britain in the early 1980s, the second wave took place at the end of that decade and spread through the rest of Europe, and the third crested in the late 1990s with the genre finding international popularity.[4]


The Cramps live in Belgium, 2006
The Cramps are considered progenitors of psychobilly.

In the mid- to late 1970s, as punk rock became popular, several rockabilly and garage rock bands appeared who would influence the development of psychobilly.[4] The term "psychobilly" was first used in the lyrics to the country song "One Piece at a Time", written by Wayne Kemp for Johnny Cash, which was a Top 10 hit in the United States in 1976. The lyrics describe the construction of a "psychobilly Cadillac using stolen auto parts."[8]

The Cramps, who formed in Sacramento, California in 1972 and relocated to New York in 1975 where they became part of the city's thriving punk movement, appropriated the term from the Cash song and described their music as "psychobilly" and "rockabilly voodoo" on flyers advertising their concerts.[8] The Cramps have since rejected the idea of being a part of a psychobilly subculture, noting that "We weren't even describing the music when we put 'psychobilly' on our old fliers; we were just using carny terms to drum up business. It wasn't meant as a style of music."[8] Nevertheless, The Cramps, along with artists such as Screamin' Jay Hawkins, are considered important precursors to psychobilly.[4][8] The Cramps' music was heavily informed by the sound and attitude of 1950s American rockabilly, including Hasil Adkins, whose song "She Said" they covered on 1984's compilation album Bad Music for Bad People,[11][12] along with other songs from the Sun Records catalog. Their 1979 album Songs the Lord Taught Us is considered influential to the formation of the psychobilly genre.[9]

First wave in Britain

The Meteors live in Pordenone, Italy, 2006
The Meteors are considered the first definitive psychobilly band.

Although the Cramps have been recognized as an "early" or "pioneering" psychobilly band,[5] calls The Meteors "the first true psychobilly band," noting their blend of the "themes of horror, punk and rockabilly". They were the first band to use the term 'Psychobilly' as a description of their music.[3] Formed in South London in 1980, they are considered the first verifiable psychobilly band.[13] Their albums In Heaven (1981) and Wreckin' Crew (1983) are recognized as landmarks of the early years of the genre.[4][9] "Starting in the neo-rockabilly scene, the Meteors were quickly shunned for being too different. Excuses for exclusion from rockabilly concerts varied from the band having too extreme of a sound to their drummer having green hair."[14] The Meteors blended elements of punk rock, rockabilly, and horror film themes in their music. Another commentator argues that The Misfits' "American Nightmare" may have been the first psychobilly song.[15]

The Meteors also articulated psychobilly's apolitical stance, a reaction to the right- and left-wing political attitudes which divided other British youth cultures.[4] Fans of The Meteors, known as "the Crazies", are often attributed with inventing the style of slam dancing known as "wrecking", which became synonymous with the psychobilly movement.[8] The short-lived Sharks, formed in Bristol in 1980, followed closely behind The Meteors with their influential album Phantom Rockers.[4][16] Demented Are Go are a Welsh psychobilly band that was formed around 1982 in Cardiff. They were one of the earliest in the initial wave of bands to mix punk rock with rockabilly, and as a result, are considered to be highly influential to the psychobilly scene. Another significant British band were the Guana Batz, formed in Feltham, Middlesex in 1983.[16] Their first album, 1985's Held Down to Vinyl at Last, has been described by Tiger Army frontman Nick 13 as "the most important release since the Meteors' first two albums."[4]

The Klub Foot nightclub, opened in 1982 at the Clarendon Hotel in Hammersmith, served as a center for Britain's emerging psychobilly movement and hosted many bands associated with the style. Johnny Bowler of the Guana Batz describes the club as "the focal point for the whole psychobilly scene. You'd get people from all over at those gigs. It built the scene." Representatives from record labels such as Nervous used the Klub Foot as a recruiting ground to sign up new bands.[4] A live compilation album entitled Stomping at the Klub Foot was released in 1984, documenting the club's scene and the bands who played there.[4][9] At the same time psychobilly bands were forming elsewhere in Europe, such as Batmobile who emerged in the Netherlands in 1983, released their debut album in 1985, and soon began headlining at psychobilly festivals and at the Klub Foot.[17]

Second wave in Europe

The second wave of psychobilly is noted as having begun with the 1986 release of British band Demented Are Go's debut album In Sickness & In Health.[8] The genre soon spread throughout Europe, inspiring a number of new acts such as Mad Sin (formed in Germany in 1987) and the Nekromantix (formed in Denmark in 1989), who released the album Curse of the Coffin in 1991.[9] The Quakes formed in Buffalo, New York in 1986, but had such difficulty building a following in their hometown that they moved to London the following year, where they released the album Voice of America in 1990.[4][8][9][16] Another significant release of this era was the compilation album Rockabilly Psychosis and the Garage Disease, which acknowledged the genre's roots in rockabilly and garage rock.[9]

Dementedarego 1
Demented Are Go's singer's stage blood make-up is an example of the horror-film schtick some psychobilly bands adopted.
Mad Sin - Ilosaarirock 2008
The influential German band Mad Sin in 2008. From a psychobilly fashion perspective, note the bassist's red-dyed pompadour and the guitarist on the right's crop cut sides.

The second-wave bands broadened the music's scope, with the introduction of new and diverse musical influences into the sound.[8] Record labels such as Nervous and Crazy Love helped the genre to expand, although it still remained largely unnoticed in the United States, where the albums were poorly distributed and most psychobilly bands preferred to play weekenders than to tour.[8] Nick 13 states that while other British youth trends such as scooter riding, the skinhead subculture, and 2 Tone ska crossed over to the United States during the 1980s, psychobilly did not.[8]

However, one American act that emulated the style was The Reverend Horton Heat, formed in Dallas, Texas in 1985. Their 1990 single "Psychobilly Freakout" helped introduce American audiences to the genre. The band was heavily inspired by The Cramps, and original Cramps members Lux Interior and Poison Ivy have both identified The Reverend Horton Heat as the latter-day rockabilly/psychobilly band most closely resembling the style and tone of The Cramps.[18] Horton Heat noted that the lack of audience awareness of the band was in some ways a benefit: "Somehow, as a band, we continue[d] to fly just below the radar of the whole music business. Which means we g[o]t to concentrate on being [touring] musicians, not recording artists."[19]

Third wave internationally

July Stuff 032
Tiger Army, shown here performing on the 2007 Warped Tour, are one of the most significant American psychobilly acts.

The third wave of psychobilly began in the mid-1990s, with many acts incorporating influences from genres such as: hardcore punk, indie rock, heavy metal, new wave, goth rock, surf rock, country, and ska.[8] Psychobilly became popular in the United States, particularly in southern California, where punk rock had thrived and remained popular since the 1970s. The area's large Latino community, which revered early rock and roll icons, also played a part, as did the popularity of bands like the horror-influenced Misfits and country/rockabilly-inspired Social Distortion, as well as a celebration of hot rod and motorcycle culture.[8] In the mid to late 1990s European bands Demented Are Go, Godless Wicked Creeps and The Hangmen each played their own US live tours, motivating the fledgling US scene.[20]

Reverend Horton Heat
Reverend Horton Heat playing in 2010

Tiger Army, formed in Berkeley in 1996, became the dominant American psychobilly act following the release of their 1999 self-titled debut.[9] Their touring in support of the album helped to establish a foothold for psychobilly across the United States.[4] Los Angeles-based Hellcat Records, run by Rancid's Tim Armstrong, became home to many psychobilly acts, including Tiger Army, Devil's Brigade and the Danish groups Nekromantix and HorrorPops, both of whom relocated to southern California in the early 2000s.[8]

Guana Batz members Pip Hancox and Johnny Bowler relocated there as well, moving to San Diego where they sometimes perform with Slim Jim Phantom of the Stray Cats under the name Guana Cats.[16] Another notable California psychobilly band formed in the 1990s was The Chop Tops. They have toured with bands like German psychobillies Mad Sin and the Nekromantix, and have opened for the Dead Kennedys, Suicidal Tendencies, Dick Dale, John Lee Hooker, and Chuck Berry.[21]

The genre remained vital in Europe, where new acts continued to appear. Asmodeus formed in Amsterdam in 1992, the same year the Kryptonix emerged in France, the Godless Wicked Creeps formed in Denmark the following year,[8][22] The Sharks re-formed in Britain, releasing the album Recreational Killer,[16] The Snakes formed in Italy in 2004. Psychobilly also expended to new continents Battle of Ninjamanz formed in Japan in 1994 and Os Catalepticos formed in Brazil in 1996.[22]

In the UK however most bands had split up, The Hangmen - who had formed after the first and second waves - became reliant on live events that did not specifically cater to the much depreciated Psychobilly audiences, resulting in the genre being introduced to a wider audience and the band acquiring a more diverse following that included punks and bikers.[20]


Psychobilly also spread to Canada.[23] Stylistically, Déjà Voodoo (who sometimes described themselves as "sludgeabilly") and Condition, both from Montreal, might be considered early forerunners of the genre. As early as 1983, both bands issued recordings that displayed the rockabilly and garage punk influences of psychobilly, as well as a lyrical tendency towards horror and dark themes, often presented with humour. Although it was not acknowledged as such at the time, Montreal's Mongols likely came closest to true psychobilly. From the somber Cramps-ish original title track to the covers of deranged rockabilly (Hasil Adkins), fifties rhythm 'n' blues (via psychobilly forefathers The Sonics), sixties garage rock by Quebec teenage sensations Les Lutins, and obscure, off-kilter instrumentals (one by The Nautiloids), their mini-LP Sleepwalk (1986) runs the gamut of all the musical bases of the genre. In addition, a few years later, The Mongols had their only other recording, "Bébé Cadavre" (Cadaver Baby), included on the Lachés Lousses compilation (1990). Edmonton's Dusty Chaps might also be seen as an early exponent of the style with the inclusion of their sinister "Psychopath of Love" on Nervous Records' compilation Boppin' In Canada (1991). Following in those tracks, in the mid-nineties, were Vancouver's Deadcats. Their guitarist, Mike Dennis, had previously played in hardcore punk bands The Bill Of Rights and Forbidden Beat. Besides his own band, Dennis also issued early recordings by Montreal psychobillies The Alley Dukes, and Bloodshot Bill - who is also sometimes associated with the genre - on his Flying Saucer Records label. The Gutter Demons were a band formed in 2002 in Montreal, Quebec, who became one of the most recognizable Canadian psychobilly bands,[24] their live debut came supporting The Hangmen from the UK on their Canadian Tour of that year.[25] The Brains[26] is a band from Montreal. The Creepshow is a band from Burlington, Ontario, Canada.[27] which formed in 2005; they write the majority of their songs about horror films. The Switchblade Valentines are a Canadian psychobilly band from Victoria.[28] Big John Bates is known as "one of Vancouver's most notorious musicians" (Globe & Mail - Toronto). The band re-branded in 2011 as "Americana Noir" (a rustic offshoot of the dark cabaret genre)[29] when the Gretsch-endorsed[30] Bates was joined by Montana's Brandy Bones on Hofner upright bass and cello.[31] Lauren Spike[32] is a band from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, who have played many large shows such as Amnesia Rockfest.[33]

The Creepshow - Psychobilly band - Live at Star & Garter, Manchester, United Kingdom - August 7th 2012
Canadian psychobilly band The Creepshow playing in Manchester in 2012

Musical style

Musically, psychobilly is rooted primarily in two genres: late 1970s punk rock and 1950s American rockabilly. Tiger Army frontman Nick 13 explains: "The number-one misconception people have is that psychobilly is the same thing as rockabilly. Rockabilly is on the family tree, but it's a totally different sound and attitude."[4] Psychobilly progenitors The Cramps acknowledge their music's deep roots in American blues, rhythm and blues, and traditional rock and roll.[8][18] Alternative Press writer Ryan Downey notes that contemporary psychobilly also draws from other rock genres and subgenres: "Driven by the rhythmic pounding of a stand-up bass, the music swings with the snarl of punk rock while sometimes thrashing alongside speed metal or crashing headlong into country icon Hank Williams."[4]

Bloodsucking Zombies From Outer Space Club Sin 2009
The Bloodsucking Zombies from Outer Space show the use of horror-film stage costumes and the decoration of the upright bass.

Craig Brackenridge lists other sources of inspiration: 1960s garage punk, glam rock, revival rock 'n' roll, and heavy metal.[34] Nate Katz states that "[w]hile traces of glam, metal, and punk can be found in psychobilly, at its core, psychobilly emerged from rockabilly, particularly the neo-rockabilly movement [in] London during the late 1970's".[14] Katz states that "The Sharks brought in elements of new wave music to their sound." Moreover, "[i]n the song "Take a Razor to Your Head," they clearly seek out those breaking away from neo-rockabilly into psychobilly".[14]

Downey acknowledges that contemporary psychobilly's roots extend into 2 Tone ska, garage rock, hardcore punk, street punk and Oi!.[4][8][22] Hilary Okun, publicist for Epitaph and Hellcat Records, notes: "The music appeals to fans of punk, indie, metal, new wave, goth, rockabilly, surf, [and] country."[8] The influence of heavy metal on the psychobilly style resulted in the Nekromantix's 1994 album Brought Back to Life being nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of "Best Heavy Metal Album."[35]

Psychobilly is commonly played with a simple guitar/bass/drum/vocal arrangement, with many bands consisting of only three members. Often the guitarist or bassist will be the lead vocalist, with few acts having a dedicated singer (Mad Sin being one of the examples with a dedicated singer).

Psychobilly guitarists often play rockabilly-style hollowbody archtop guitars with f-holes and a tremolo bar. Guitarists may play punk-style power chords one moment, and then shift into rockabilly-style fingerpicking and rockabilly guitar-style seventh chords.With a heavy focus on minor chords and palm muting. Notes are often bent, either by pulling the string down or by using the tremolo bar. Gretsch hollowbody guitars are a popular choice. Guitarists often use 1950s-style tube amplifiers such as by makers such as Fender and it is common to see stacks of two speaker cabinets. As with rockabilly guitarists, the overdrive tone usually comes from what is produced naturally by overdriving the tube amp, rather than by plugging into a distortion pedal.

An upright double bass is often used instead of the electric bass found in most rock bands. The use of the upright bass is influenced by 1950s rockabilly and rock and roll musicians, particularly in the use of walking bass lines and the use of slapping. The bass is often played in the slap style, in which the player snaps the string by pulling it until it hits the fingerboard, or hits the strings against the fingerboard, which adds a high-pitched percussive "clack" or "slap" sound to the low-pitched notes. Kim Nekroman and Geoff Kresge are two examples of psychobilly bassists who have developed a rapid, percussive slap bass technique. This live Nekromantix song showcases Kim's rapid percussive slapping. This live Tiger Army song shows Kresge's rapid slap bass technique.

Psychobilly bassists often use gut strings, to get the deep, low 1950s tone. Like rockabilly bassists, psychobilly bassists often use both a bridge pickup and a fingerboard pickup, with the latter being used to pick up slapping and percussive sounds. Psychobilly bassists often decorate their basses by painting them with retro pin-up style images or designs or by putting stickers on them.

HorrorPops live 03
HorrorPops frontwoman Patricia Day plays an elaborately decorated double bass, a common instrument in psychobilly.

Some acts have made their upright bass the centerpiece of their stage shows; some psychobilly musicians elaborately decorate their upright bass, such as Nekromantix frontman Kim Nekroman, whose "coffinbass" is in the shape of a coffin, with a headstock in the shape of a cross. Nekroman created his original "coffinbass" from an actual child-sized coffin, and has since designed new models to achieve better acoustics, as well as collapsibility for easier transportation.[36] Another notable act to use a coffin-shaped bass is the Brazilian psychobilly band Os Catalepticos.[22] HorrorPops frontwoman Patricia Day also uses an elaborately painted and decorated double bass.

The Cramps performed without a bass player in their early career, using two guitars instead. They did not add a bass guitar to their arrangement until 1986, and have used an electric bass since that time. Cramps guitarist/bassist Poison Ivy sees this as one of the distinctions that separate the band from the psychobilly movement: "I think psychobilly has evolved into a gamut of things... It seems to involve upright bass and playing songs extremely fast. That's certainly not what we do."[8]

Samantha Von Trash's history of psychobilly lists 13 essential albums for people new to psychobilly: The Cramps: Songs the Lord Taught Us; Reverend Horton Heat: Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em; The Misfits: Static Age; Social Distortion: Mommy's Little Monster; The Essential Johnny Cash; Cult of the Psychic Fetus: Funeral Home Sessions; Cult of the Psychic Fetus: She Devil; Demented Are Go: Satan's Rejects; 7 Shot Screamers: Keep the Flame Alive; Nekromantix: Curse of the Coffin; "Rockabilly Riot!" compilation; Thee Merry Widows' self-titled EP; Stray Cats: either Built For Speed or Rock This Town.

Stage shows

The Living End demonstrate psychobilly stage antics; in this photo, the guitarist is standing on top of the upright bass.

The performance style in psychobilly concerts emphasizes high energy and a lot of interactions between the band members and with the audience. The HorrorPops sometimes switch instruments for fun, and Kim Nekroman does stunts such as playing the fingerboard of his Coffinbass with his tongue. Demented are Go are known for their wild stage show, which included simulated on-stage sex with a vacuum cleaner. The Australian band Zombie Ghost Train were known for appearing on stage in "zombified" clothes, featuring rips and bloodstains, and zombie make up, complete with fake stitches across the face.

Gibson ES-335 sunburst
Psychobilly guitarists often play 1950s-style hollowbody guitars.

The Phenomenauts are known for their inventive and fun-filled live shows, which often include smoke machines, the Streamerator 2000, and various on-stage theatrics. Big John Bates was banned in one venue due to concerns about their overly risque stage antics. Deadbolt is known for its use of power tools during their live sets, and it is customary for the audience to be showered with sparks of red-hot metal during their live shows. King Kurt, a 1980s band, was known for its infamous "food fight" gigs, in which eggs and bags of flour were thrown around on and off stage and audience members were given free haircuts. "King Kurt had a bad reputation for doing things that would make people question the band's stability. These included going on stage in dresses, dressed as Zulus, and playing drinking games on stage. Tabloids often accused them of mixing drugs ...into whatever they made people drink on stage, tossing dead animals into the crowds, and rampant sex occurring as they played."[14]

"At any psychobilly show, you might see some dancing… only, it's not your average dancing. That would be what's called "wrecking". According to, wrecking is more like a demented hybrid of "slam-dancing and freestyle wrestling". It's basically the semi-official psycho happy-dance, hence the Nekromantix song, "Struck By a Wrecking Ball"."[37] "Originally, the dancing was known as 'going mental'- this type of dancing eventually became known as 'stomping', and then finally took on its official name: 'wrecking'".[14] One definition of "wrecking" is "a strange form of dance that can best be described as a combination of slam dancing, swing dancing, and fistfights."[14]

Lyrical style

Lyrically, psychobilly bands tend to favor topics and imagery drawn from horror, science fiction and exploitation films, violence, lurid sexuality, and other taboo topics, usually presented in a comedic or tongue-in-cheek fashion reminiscent of the camp aesthetic. Shawn McIntosh and Marc Leverette note that while rockabilly and punk scenes took their retro "nostalgia very seriously, striving for authenticity", in the psychobilly scene, the "aesthetics of kitsch, camp and cheese" are openly embraced.[38]

Psychobilly bands drew on "all eras of horror, from Gothic novels and classic films to schlocky cold war flicks to psychological thrillers and splatter films."[38] Psychobilly songs make reference to slashers (The Meteor's Michael Myers) and serial killers (e.g., The Frantic Flintstone's Jack the Ripper).[38] Most acts avoid "serious" subjects such as politics. Original psychobilly act The Meteors articulated a very apolitical stance to the scene, a reaction to the right- and left-wing political attitudes dividing British youth cultures of the late 1970s and early 1980s.[4] This attitude has carried through later generations of psychobilly. Nekromantix frontman Kim Nekroman describes: "We are all different people and have different political views. Psychobilly is all about having fun. Politics is not fun and therefore has nothing to do with psychobilly!"[8] Nate Katz explains the rationale for psychobilly's apolitical stance as follows:[14]

1980 was an important year for Britain. Recently elected Margaret Thatcher's policies led to a drastic decline in employment, especially among the blue collared and youth (Kim, 2005). A year later, there were five race riots within the London area... On a political level, London was incredibly tense. Fans of psychobilly (known as psychos) wanted none of this, or at the very least a break from the stress created by the political world. By establishing an unwritten rule that the music was to be apolitical, psychobilly music became a method of escape from the real world.

Katz notes that at the "same time [in the 1980s], the revival of the B-movie, particularly the return of horror movies, occurred...[,] such as The Howling, The Shining, a remake of The Thing, Friday the 13th, and An American Werewolf in London (All 80s Movies). Psychos gravitated towards these movies due to their lack of seriousness, mindless gore, and enjoyed the throwback to the original B-movies of the 1950's."[14]

Fashion and subculture

Nekromantix 2011-08-13 06
The Nekromantix, shown here in a 2011 show, illustrate several aspects of psychobilly fashion, including shaved heads, pompadour hairstyles, and prominent tattoos.

In "its early days, Psychobilly relied almost entirely on word of mouth to be spread throughout London (p. 53). If your friends did not know of it [a band or gig], the odds were that you did not either...The then manager of The Meteors, Nick Garrard, produced a magazine called 'Cat Talk' which was heavy on Meteors content & their new style of Psychobilly music. One of the bands original fans (Proff) produced gig flyers with a heavy horror/Frankenstein theme. Roy Williams of Nervous Records created a newsletter that would be passed around known as "Zorch News" allowing fans to keep up with psychobilly news that specifically related to bands involved with Nervous Records."[14] "Despite being starved of the oxygen of mainstream music press attention for more than 25 years, psychobilly has thrived in the underground[,] building a network of fiercely loyal followers and producing a huge number of bands who each peddle their own brand of the genre."[34] Fanzines are one of the ways the psychobilly scene created a social network, with Deathrow being the "...only long running psychobilly fanzine."[39]

Psychobilly musicians and fans, who are sometimes called "psychos" or just "Psychobillies," often dress in styles that borrow from 1950s rockabilly and rock and roll, as well as 1970s punk fashions. Long "Old Mans" overcoats, army trousers, bleached jeans & Dr Martin Boots were all part of the early "Psycho" uniform along with band logo T-shirts. Heavily painted & studded leather jackets were also worn. This was topped off by a 1950s style quiff or flat-top, often bleached with shaved back & sides. Psychobilly band members of both sexes often have prominent tattoos, often with a vintage theme.[4] Psychobilly "tattoos followed the same general notions as band designs, being highly influenced by the same movies. Common tattoos were images of the macabre nature such as bats, skulls, gravestones, as well as the occasional pin-up doll and band logo."[14] The goal of the psychobilly scene member is to "live fast, die young, and leave a (not so) beautiful corpse."[38]

Other aesthetic later influences include the scooterboy and skinhead subcultures, although not all performers or fans choose to dress in these styles.[4] Scooterboy fashion includes flight jackets, mechanic's jackets, and motorcycle jackets. "Skinheads brought in things such as Doc Martens and pilot jackets ... [and] Punks brought in clothes such as the leather jacket and tighter clothing[;] Beneath the jacket was often a band T-shirt or a tartan shirt taken from rockabillies"[14] Psychos often cut the arms off of their leather jackets, converting them into vests, and decorate the jackets with horror imagery or band logos.

Men often wear brothel creepers or Dr. Martens boots and shave their heads into high wedge-shaped pompadours or quiffs, military-style crops, or mohawks.[4] The Sharks song "Take a Razor to Your Head" articulated the early psychobilly scene's code of dress, which was a reaction to the earlier British Teddy Boy movement:[4] Teddy boys had long, strongly-moulded greased-up hair with a quiff at the front and the side combed back to form a duck's arse at the rear. The Shark's song said: "When your Mom says you look really nice / When you're dressed up like a Ted / It's time to follow this cat's advice / Take a razor to your head".[40] "Like most hairstyles of the 1980s, things were taken to the extreme. People [in the psychobilly scene] tried to get their hair as tall as possible and brought in streaks of strange colors."[14]

Creepers shoes
A pair of "double sole" creepers shoes often worn as the fashion of psychobilly musicians.

Lucky-13 "is an American hot rod clothing company proudly servicing pinup, rockabilly, psychobilly, rock n' roll, and punk rock guys and gals for over 15 years"[41] Inked Fashion calls itself "the rockabilly shop for petticoat, psychobilly and rockabilly clothing."[42] Paper Doll Productions sells what it calls the "...boldest psychobilly designs on the market today, fantastic for anyone who has a love of vintage style and classic horror. Inspired by rockabilly fashion, psychobilly has the same influences of 40's and 50's clothing but features a far greater modern flair, incorporating bold colours and horror themed designs to create an entirely unique genre of clothing."[43]

See also


  1. ^ "Definition: Psychobilly". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved September 7, 2013.
  2. ^ "Definition of Psychobilly". The Free Retrieved September 7, 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Psychobilly". Archived from the original on March 21, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Downey, p.77.
  5. ^ a b Remington, Alexander F. (February 6, 2009). "Lux Interior, 62 - Co-Founder of the Cramps, An Early Psychobilly Band". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 23, 2017. Lux Interior ... was lead singer and co-founder of the pioneering psychobilly band the Cramps, ... which formed in the early 1970s, [and] were the first band to gain a following in psychobilly ....
  6. ^ Downey, p.77. "Before Tiger Army started touring in support of their 1999 debut, the psycho scene in the U.S. was practically nonexistent. There were fans in a few towns who hung with the rockabillies or punks, but psycho was their little imported secret."
  7. ^ Downey, p.78. "European record labels like Nervous (U.K.) and Crazy Love (Germany) were crucial as psychobilly continued to be virtually unnoticed in the U.S."
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Downey, p.78.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Downey, p.80.
  10. ^ Spitz, Marc; Mullen, Brendan (2001). We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk (1st ed.). New York City: Three Rivers Press. pp. 34–35. ISBN 0-609-80774-9. Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  11. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Bad Music for Bad People - The Cramps". AllMusic. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  12. ^ "The Cramps | Similar Artists, Influenced By, Followers". AllMusic. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  13. ^ Marcus, Andrew (March 2009). "No, Seriously, Ask That Guy: The Meteors". Alternative Press. No. 248. Cleveland, Ohio. p. 118.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Katz, Nate (February 2012). "The Dawn of Psychobilly". Perfect Sound Forever. Retrieved October 20, 2013.
  15. ^ "History of Psychobilly". Keep Tahoe Emo. Archived from the original on January 4, 2016. Retrieved September 7, 2013.
  16. ^ a b c d e Downey, p.81. "Another London band The Ricochets were the first band after The Meteors to call their music psychobilly. Their debut album Made In The Shade from 1982 is another influential psychobilly album."
  17. ^ "Batmobile". Myspace. Retrieved July 23, 2008.
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  34. ^ a b Brackenridge, Craig (2007). Hells Bent On Rockin': A History of Psychobilly. Cherry Red Books. ISBN 1901447804.
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  38. ^ a b c d Leverette, Marc; McIntosh, Shawn (2008). Zombie Culture: Autopsies of the Living Dead. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0810860430.
  39. ^ Wilson, Alan (October 1, 2006). Deathrow: The Chronicles of Psychobilly: The Very Best of Britain's Essential Psycho Fanzine Issues 1-38. London: Cherry Red Books. ISBN 978-1-90144-755-2. Archived from the original on August 15, 2016. Retrieved September 7, 2013 – via
  40. ^ Phantom Rockers (CD). The Sharks. Nervous Records. 1980.CS1 maint: others (link)
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  • Downey, Ryan J. (November 2004). "Psyched to Be Here". Alternative Press. pp. 76–82.

Further reading

  • Brackenridge, Craig . Hells Bent On Rockin': A History of Psychobilly. Published January 1, 2007 by Cherry Red Books.
  • Polhumus, Ted. Streetstyle: From Sidewalk to Catwalk.(New York, Thames, 1994). (it contains a history of psychobilly up until the early 1990s)
  • "Psychobilly Meltdown." (1988, October 9). Melody Maker, 64, 12.
  • Wilson, Alan. Deathrow: The Chronicles of Psychobilly: The Very Best of Britain's Essential Psycho Fanzine Issues 1-38. Published October 1, 2006 by Cherry Red Books.
Demented Are Go

Demented Are Go (DAG aka Demented Are Go!) are a Welsh psychobilly band that was formed around 1982 in Cardiff, Wales. They were one of the earliest in the initial wave of bands to mix punk rock with rockabilly, and as a result, are considered to be highly influential to the psychobilly scene.

The band often claims their name originated from the phrase "Demon teds are go!" as an adaptation of the phrase "Thunderbirds are go!" from the Thunderbirds TV series. Psychobilly is often associated with horror.

Devils Brigade (band)

Devils Brigade is an American rock band formed as a side project by Rancid bassist Matt Freeman in 2000. In Devils Brigade Freeman performs a mix of punk rock and psychobilly styles, singing lead vocals and playing a double bass in contrast to the backing vocals and bass guitar he performs in Rancid. He was backed by his Rancid bandmates for singles released in 2003 and 2005, and recruited X drummer DJ Bonebrake to play on Devils Brigade's eponymous debut album in 2010.


Gothabilly (sometimes hellbilly) is an offshoot of psychobilly influenced by the goth subculture. The name is a portmanteau word that combines gothic and rockabilly, first used by the Cramps in the late 1970s to describe their somber blend of rockabilly and punk rock. Since then the term has come to describe a fashion style influenced by gothic fashion, as seen in its use of black silks, satins, lace and velvet, corsets, top hats, antique jewellery, PVC, and leather.

Hasil Adkins

Hasil Adkins (April 29, 1937 – April 26, 2005) was an American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. His genres include rock and roll, country, blues and more commonly rockabilly, and because of his unusual playing and singing style, he is often cited as an example of outsider music. He generally performed as a one-man band, playing guitar and drums at the same time.

Adkins was born during the Depression and grew up in poverty. His spirited, unusual lifestyle is reflected in his music. His songs, which he began recording and distributing locally in the mid-1950s, explored an affinity for chicken, sexual intercourse, and decapitation, and were obscure outside of West Virginia until the 1980s. The newfound popularity secured him a cult following, spawned the Norton Records label, and helped usher in the genre known as psychobilly.


HorrorPops are a Danish punk band that formed in 1996. The band's sound is rooted in psychobilly, rockabilly, and punk rock.

List of psychobilly bands

This is a list of notable psychobilly bands and artists. Psychobilly is a fusion genre of rock music that mixes elements of punk rock, rockabilly, and other genres. It is one of several subgenres of rockabilly which also include thrashabilly, punkabilly, surfabilly and gothabilly.

Mad Sin

Mad Sin is a German psychobilly group that began in 1987. Their style is not "...constrained by the psychobilly tag but veer[s] into punk, country and metal influences too."

Mohawk hairstyle

The mohawk (also referred to as a mohican) is a hairstyle in which, in the most common variety, both sides of the head are shaven, leaving a strip of noticeably longer hair in the center. The mohawk is also sometimes referred to as an iro in reference to the Iroquois (who include the Mohawk people), from whom the hairstyle is supposedly derived – though historically the hair was plucked out rather than shaved. Additionally, hairstyles bearing these names more closely resemble those worn by the Pawnee, rather than the Mohawk, Mohican/Mahican, Mohegan, or other groups whose names are phonetically similar. The red-haired Clonycavan Man bog body found in Ireland is notable for having a well-preserved Mohawk hairstyle, dated to between 392 BCE and 201 BCE. It is today worn as an emblem of non-conformity. The world record for the tallest mohawk goes to Kazuhiro Watanabe, who has a 1.13 meters tall mohawk.

Mojo Nixon

Mojo Nixon (born Neill Kirby McMillan, Jr.; August 2, 1957) is an American psychobilly musician. He has officially retired from playing live and recording, though he does host several radio shows on Sirius Satellite Radio and has come out of retirement for one-time events, such as an event to support fellow musician Kinky Friedman's candidacy for Texas governor.

Nashville Pussy

Nashville Pussy is an American rock & roll band from Atlanta, Georgia. Their musical style has been variously described as psychobilly, Southern rock, hard rock and cowpunk, as well as "sleaze rock". The band's lyrical themes mostly revolve around sex, drugs, drinking, fighting, and rock 'n' roll. Initially called Hell's Half-Acre, the band's name comes from Ted Nugent's introduction to "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang" on the Double Live Gonzo album.Following the initial 1997 breakup of Kentucky cowpunk band Nine Pound Hammer, guitarist Blaine Cartwright formed Nashville Pussy where he would take up vocal duties in addition to guitar. The core lineup of Nashville Pussy consists of husband-and-wife duo Blaine Cartwright and Ruyter Suys (pronounced "Rider Sighs"), and drummer Jeremy Thompson, formerly of Austin, Texas' Phantom Creeps. Original drummer Adam Neal (Nine Pound Hammer) left to form the Hookers. Original bassist Corey Parks (sister of former NBA basketball player Cherokee Parks) quit one month after the release of the album High as Hell, and later joined Die Hunns. Tracy Almazan a.k.a. Tracy Kickass formerly of NYC's the Wives, and Helldorado was enlisted to replace Parks mid-tour. Nashville Pussy recorded Say Something Nasty with Almazan on bass only to be replaced by Katielyn Campbell (of the band Famous Monsters). Katie Lynn's image is on the album Say Something Nasty. Campbell was subsequently replaced by Karen Cuda for the album Get Some. Karen Cuda also appeared as bassist on the album "From Hell To Texas", and in the live DVD Live in Hollywood.

Nashville Pussy have released six full-length studio albums, one EP and two live DVDs.


The Nekromantix is a Danish-American psychobilly band founded in 1989 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Their lyrics are generally structured around monster and horror themes. A central icon of the band's image is founder and frontman Kim Nekroman's "coffinbass", a custom-built double bass with a body in the shape of a coffin and a headstock the shape of a cross. Nekroman has been the sole constant member of the band. The current lineup consists of guitarist Francisco Mesa and drummer Rene "Delamuerte" Garcia, known as a guitarist and singer of the Canadian band "The Brains".

The Nekromantix released five albums on various European record labels during their first decade, then crossed over to American audiences in the early 2000s by signing to Los Angeles-based Hellcat Records, through which they have released three albums since 2002. Their eighth studio album, What Happens in Hell, Stays in Hell, was released in August 2011.

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em (The Reverend Horton Heat album)

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em is the first album by psychobilly trio The Reverend Horton Heat. It was released in November 1990 on Sub Pop. An early version of the album had been recorded in the traditional manner (instruments and vocals recorded separately, then mixed in the studio). However, the band and the label decided that it did not fit with their vision, so it was re-recorded "live in the studio" direct to two-track, with the exception of "Love Whip."

The phrase "Smoke 'em if You Got 'em" or "Smoke if You Got 'em" predates this album and is slang for "do what you want, if you have the means." The first phrase was popular during World War II meaning to take a break. Officers would say "Smoke 'em if you got 'em" allowing the soldiers to take a break and smoke their cigarettes. [Vic Morrow - Combat! ABC television series October 1962]

It is occasionally used by live performers as part of a repartee bidding goodnight to an audience or introducing the last or next to last song of the night.

The song 'Psychobilly Freakout' was covered by WaveGroup Cover Studios for Activision's Guitar Hero II video game.

The Cramps

The Cramps were an American punk rock band formed in 1976 and active until 2009. The band split after the death of lead singer Lux Interior. Their line-up rotated frequently during their existence, with the husband-and-wife duo of Interior and lead guitarist and occasional bass guitarist Poison Ivy comprising the only ever-present members. The addition of guitarist Bryan Gregory and drummer Pam Balam resulted in the first complete lineup in April 1976.

They were part of the early CBGB punk rock movement that had emerged in New York. The Cramps were one of the first punk bands, and also widely recognized as one of the prime innovators of psychobilly.

The Gun Club

The Gun Club were a highly influential post-punk/ blues band from Los Angeles, California that existed from 1979 to 1996. Created and led by talented maverick singer guitarist and songwriter Jeffrey Lee Pierce, they merged the contemporary genre of punk rock with the more traditional genres of rockabilly and country music along with X, the Flesh Eaters and the Blasters. The Gun Club has been called a "tribal psychobilly blues" band and initiators of the U.S. wave of Cowpunk

The Meteors

The Meteors are an English psychobilly band formed in 1980. Originally from London, England, they are often credited with giving the psychobilly subgenre—which fuses punk rock with rockabilly—its distinctive sound and style. Though the origins of psychobilly are debated, The Meteors are the first band to self-identify as psychobilly, and are often credited with the distinction of being the only "pure" psychobilly band among fans of the subgenre.

Fans of the band (known as the World Wide Wrecking Crew) are known to use the slogan "Only The Meteors are Pure Psychobilly", (often shortened to "OTMAPP") calls the Meteors "the first true psychobilly band," noting their blend of the "themes of horror, punk and rockabilly". They were the first band to use the term 'Psychobilly' as a description of their music. Formed in South London in 1980, they are considered the first verifiable psychobilly band. Their albums In Heaven (1981) and Wreckin' Crew (1983) are considered landmarks of the early years of the genre. "Starting in the neo-rockabilly scene, the Meteors were initially shunned for being too different. Excuses for exclusion from rockabilly concerts varied from the band having too extreme of a sound to their drummer having green hair." The Meteors blended elements of punk rock, rockabilly, and horror film themes in their music. The Meteors articulated psychobilly's apolitical stance, a reaction to the right- and left-wing political attitudes which divided other British youth cultures. Fans of the Meteors, known as "the Crazies", are often attributed with inventing the style of slam dancing known as "wrecking", which became synonymous with the psychobilly.

The Quakes

The Quakes are a psychobilly band from Buffalo, NY. They were formed in 1986. When the band began in the late 1980s, there was no scene to speak of in the United States. The Quakes moved to London to try to find an audience.

The Reverend Horton Heat

The Reverend Horton Heat is the stage name of American musician Jim Heath (born 1959) as well as the name of his Dallas, Texas-based psychobilly trio. Heath is a singer, songwriter and guitarist. A Prick magazine reviewer called Heath the "godfather of modern rockabilly and psychobilly".The group formed in 1986, playing its first gigs in Dallas's Deep Ellum neighborhood. Its current members are Jim "Reverend Horton" Heath on guitar and lead vocals and Jimbo Wallace on the upright bass. The band signed to Victory Records on November 27, 2012, and released its 11th studio album, REV, on January 21, 2014.

The band describes itself as rock and roll that's influenced by 50s rockabilly, punk, country, surf and jazz standards. The band mixes country, surf, punk, big band, swing and rockabilly into loud, energetic songs with often-humorous lyrics. Video games, cartoons and commercials have used the band's songs, giving The Reverend Horton Heat mainstream exposure.

The Young Werewolves

The Young Werewolves are a Philadelphia rock band formed in 2002. The trio have been labeled rockabilly, psychobilly, punk, garage, and surf by publications such as Allmusic, Fangoria, The Village Voice, Maximum RocknRoll, assorted Horror, Tattoo, Hot Rod magazines,

several alternative weeklies and international fanzines. The band is distributed through Cargo Music.

Tiger Army

Tiger Army is an American psychobilly band based in Los Angeles, California. The group was formed in 1996 in Berkeley, California, and its only constant member and lead songwriter is singer/guitarist Nick 13. The band has released five studio albums and one EP.

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