Infobox Music genre
name = Psychobilly
color = white
bgcolor = crimson
stylistic_origins = Blues, garage rock, rhythm and blues, punk rock, rockabilly, rock and roll
cultural_origins = Late 1970s England
instruments = Guitar, double bass, drums
popularity = Popular in England and Europe in the 1980s. Gained popularity in the United States in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
regional_scenes = Europe (particularly England, Germany, and Denmark), United States (particularly southern California), Japan, Brazil
subgenrelist =
subgenres =
other_topics = Timeline of alternative rock
List of psychobilly bands

Psychobilly is a genre of rock music that mixes elements of punk rock, rockabilly, and other genres. It is often characterized by lyrical references to science fiction, horror and exploitation films, violence, lurid sexuality, and other topics generally considered taboo, though often presented in a comedic or tongue-in-cheek fashion. Psychobilly music is often played with an upright double bass instead of the electric bass more common in modern rock music. Psychobilly gained underground popularity in Europe beginning in the early 1980s, but remained largely unknown in the United States until the late 1990s. Since then the success of several notable psychobilly bands has led to its mainstream popularity and attracted international attention to the genre.


The evolution of psychobilly as a genre is often described as having occurred in waves. The first wave occurred in 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.Downey, 77.]


" is considered influential to the formation of the psychobilly genre.Downey, 80.]

First wave in Britain

as "the most important release since the Meteors' first two albums."

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. Record labels like Nervous were there, signing bands all the time." 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. 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.cite web
last =
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title =Batmobile
work =Myspace
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accessdate =2008-07-23

econd 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". 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), whose 1991 album "Curse of the Coffin" is also considered a landmark of this era. The Quakes became the premier American psychobilly act after forming 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 influential album "Voice of America" in 1990. 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.

The second-wave bands broadened the music's scope, with an "anything goes" attitude that included bringing new and diverse musical influences into the sound. 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. Nick 13 notes that, while other European trends such as scooter riding, the skinhead movement, and two-tone ska crossed over to America during the 1980s, psychobilly did not: "Why psychobilly is the only [import] that didn't come over here [back then] , I really don't know." One American act that did emulate the style, however, 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.Downey, 79.]

Third wave internationally


and share much the same fanbase.



multi-listen item|filename=HorrorPops - MissFit.ogg|title="MissFit" by the HorrorPops|description=The HorrorPops blend elements of 1980s new wave, pop, and goth to their style. They are also notable for being a female-fronted act, a rarity in psychobilly which the lyrics of "MissFit" partially address.Citation
last = Wade
first = Kevin
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title = Review: "Kiss Kiss Kill Kill"
journal = Alternative Press
volume =
issue = 236.2
pages = 134
date = March
year = 2008
url =
doi =
id =
] From the album "Kiss Kiss Kill Kill" (2008).|format=Ogg
sample box endMusically, psychobilly is rooted primarily in two genres: late 1970s punk rock and 1950s American rockabilly. Tiger Army frontman Nick 13 has described how the style is based in rockabilly, yet distinct from it: "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." Psychobilly progenitors The Cramps acknowledge their music's deep roots in American blues, rhythm and blues, and traditional rock and roll. Critics have noted that present-day psychobilly also draws from a number of other rock genres and subgenres. "Alternative Press" writer Ryan Downey describes the sound as a mix of styles: "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." Downey also acknowledges that modern psychobilly's roots extend into two-tone ska, garage rock, and the punk subgenres hardcore punk, street punk, and oi!. Hilary Okun, publicist for Epitaph and Hellcat Records, notes that "The music appeals to fans of punk, indie, metal, new wave, goth, rockabilly, surf, [and] country." 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."cite web
last =
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title =Nekromantix
work =Starkult Promotion
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accessdate =2007-07-17

. Nekroman created his original "coffinbass" from an actual child-sized coffin, and has since designed new models to achieve better acoustics and collapsibility for easier transportation.cite web
last =Thursby
first =Erin
authorlink =
coauthors =
title =On the Lighter Side of Death: Interview With Nekromantix
work =EU Jacksonville
publisher =
date =April 26,2007
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accessdate =2007-08-10
] Another notable act to use a coffin-shaped bass is the Brazilian psychobilly band Os Catalepticos. HorrorPops frontwoman Patricia Day also uses an elaborately painted and decorated double bass which reflects the visual style of her band. Not all groups use the upright bass, however. 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 which separates the band from the psychobilly movement: "I think psychobilly has evolved into a gamut of things, but I don't think of what people think of, as psychobilly doesn't describe what we do. It seems to involve upright bass and playing songs extremely fast. That's certainly not what we do."

Lyrically, psychobilly bands tend to favor topics and imagery drawn from horror 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. 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. 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!"


Psychobilly musicians and fans often dress in styles that borrow equally from 1950s rock and roll and 1970s punk fashions as well as other influences. Men often wear brothel creepers and Dr. Martens boots and shave their heads into high wedge-shaped pompadours or quiffs, military-style crops, or mohawks. The Sharks song "Take a Razor to Your Head" articulated the early psychobilly scene's code of dress, which was a reaction to the British Teddy Boy movement: "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".cite album-notes
title = Phantom Rockers
albumlink = Phantom Rockers
bandname = The Sharks
year = 1980
notestitle =
url =
first =
last =
pages =
format = CD
publisher = Nervous Records
publisherid =
location =
mbid = 9c37c045-1a7d-4d2c-b531-f69b0a7cc426
] Women of the psychobilly movement frequently model their fashions after B-grade horror films and hot rod culture. Tattoos are common among both sexes. Overall, psychobilly fashion mixes aesthetics from the scooter boy, skinhead, punk, and rockabilly subcultures, though not all performers or fans choose to dress in these styles.

ee also

*Timeline of alternative rock
*List of psychobilly bands


General references

*Downey, Ryan J. "Psyched to Be Here." "Alternative Press", November 2004, 76–82.


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