Art Rock

Ronald Reagan: Biggest Punk Icon Of The '80s

Forget names like Henry Rollins, Jello Biafra, Joe Strummer, Sid Vicious or even Joey Ramone. The most iconic figure of the '80s punk and hardcore scenes wasn't a dude with liberty spikes or a three-inch gash in his forehead. It was the retired film actor, father of five, former governor of California, and two-term President of the United States, Ronald Reagan.

The Gipper, who passed away in June 2004 after a long battle with Alzheimer's, would have been 100 years old Sunday. His funeral was a massive affair, including every living luminary he came in contact with during his life. The image of his wife Nancy kissing his coffin was the most tender moment of the service, along with his children sending him off as the sun set on that mountain in California.

Sure, you can scoff and say that cops, parents, and the Man were the main fuel to the fire of all things fast, loud and out of control in the Me Decade, but it was Reagan who incited more vitriol and angst, and made it onto to more flyers and album art then any one woman could.

Even before he became president in 1981, Reagan was pissing of young people and liberals alike during his eight-year tenure as governor of California before began seeking the highest office in the land in the mid-'70s. Soon every punk from coast to coast would be angry about the Gipper's political practices.

It's still hard to tell if punks and hardcore heads were actually dissatisfied with Reagan - considered, along with Barry Goldwater, one of the primary architects of modern conservatism - and his administration or if it was a buzzword and a fad like the anarchy symbol or skinny ties.

Houston's own D.R.I wrote "Reaganomics" for 1982's Dirty Rotten LP, proving that even down in the South, we weren't immune to Reagan's empire. New York's Reagan Youth would end up influencing the early hardcore scrawls of the Beastie Boys. Funnily enough, the Beasties made a lot of money off suburban kids whose parents who voted for Reagan in the '80s.

For awhile in the mid-'00s, George W. Bush was getting the Reagan treatment for his Iraq war dealings and a whole trove of monumental shit, but he was getting it from all sides - punk, hip-hop, metal, folk and pop. Thankfully, Reagan only had to contend with rabid rappers, punks and Jesse Jackson.

To celebrate Ronnie's centennial, here is some of the best anti-Reagan punk artwork from the '80s.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty