The Proletariat

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This article is about a punk rock band. For the working class, see Proletariat.
The Proletariat
The Proletariat. From left to right: Tom McKnight, Frank Michaels, Peter Bevilacqua, and Richard Brown. Photo by Phil In Phlash.
Background information
Origin Fall River, Massachusetts, United States
Genres Post-punk
Hardcore punk
Years active 1980–1985
Labels Non-U, Modern Method, Homestead
Associated acts Churn
Past members Richard Brown
Frank Michaels
Peter Bevilacqua
Tom McKnight
Laurel Bowman
Steve Welch

The Proletariat was a punk rock band from Fall River, Massachusetts. They were active during the 1980s in the Boston Hardcore scene, despite their recorded output having a decidedly non-hardcore sound; the Proletariat show more strongly the musical influences of bands such as Wire, and Gang of Four in their angular guitar sound[clarification needed] and Marxist-themed lyrics.


The Proletariat gained notice in the 80s hardcore scene with obscene Sex Pistols covers, eventually melding the styles of their heroes, the Pistols and Gang of Four. In 1982 they released a 7-song demo tape they called Distortion, which became popular with DJs and critics. Several songs from Distortion would end up on their first LP, and they gained wider exposure to the hardcore audience on the This is Boston, Not L.A. and Unsafe at Any Speed compilations that were put out by the Modern Method label.

"Bread and Circus" excerpt, from Soma Holiday.

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The Proletariat played vicious Hardcore fused with a jagged Gang of Four/Killing Joke edge. Frontman Richard Brown wrote poetically oblique lyrics with a distinct Marxist bent - part Burroughs, part Mao. Soma Holiday, their '83 LP, was way ahead of its time.

— Steven Blush, American Hardcore[1]

The band was made up of the British-sounding American singer Richard Brown, bassist Peter Bevilacqua, drummer Tom McKnight, and guitarist Frank Michaels. Their sound was characterized by drums holding a militaristic steadiness while guitars alternated between jarring upstrokes and overdriven chords.

The Proletariat were a Hardcore band that had a backbeat you could dance to, the most slam-dancable—they had that serious marching beat down. They were given the hardcore tag because they wrote short songs and kinda fit in.

— SHRED[1]

The 1983 release of their first LP Soma Holiday was hailed by Robert Christgau as "The hardcore debut of 1983" even as Christgau noted their sound was not hardcore per se.[2] Named for the drug in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, the album demonstrates the band's artpunk roots, with lyrics examining social issues from Brown's distant, Marxist perspective, critiquing capitalism without embracing determinist revolutionary dogma. The band itself were actually members of the working class, most of whom dropped out of college to drive trucks and work elsewhere.

In 1984, the band contributed with an early version of "An Uneasy Peace" on the International P.E.A.C.E. Benefit Compilation, a hardcore punk collection released by R Radical Records.

"An Uneasy Peace" excerpt, with Roger Miller on keyboards, from Indifference.

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In 1985, the band released the 7-inch single "Marketplace" and a second full-length LP. Indifference, on Homestead Records, showed the band's softer side, including the layering of melodies onto the songs, with an appearance by Roger Miller of Mission of Burma playing piano on an updated version of "An Uneasy Peace." They also brought in Laurel Bowman,[3] whose soft-toned voice contrasted with Brown's (she would later find himself taking over vocals completely in a late, unrecorded incarnation of the band).

After a hiatus, Richard, Peter, and Frank, with a new drummer, formed a new band called Churn, which disbanded in 1997. [4] All recorded Proletariat material has been compiled on a double CD collection on Taang! Records.[5]



The 2CD compilation Voodoo Economics and Other American Tragedies (Taang!, 1997) contains all their recorded work, including the previously unreleased tracks "10 Years", "Abstain", "Choice" and "It's More Than Soil".

Compilation appearances


  1. ^ a b Steven Blush (2001) American Hardcore: A Tribal History Feral House, NY
  2. ^ Christgau, Robert (1984). "Consumer Guide Feb. 21, 1984". Retrieved 2008-04-06. The hardcore debut of 1983 doesn't sound very hardcore [...] [T]his is like a more rigorous, less cosmic PIL. ... B+ 
  3. ^ Laurel Bowman, obituary. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
  4. ^ "Official Homepage of Churn". Retrieved 2008-04-06. 
  5. ^ The Proletariat, Voodoo Economics and Other American Tragedies. Retrieved April 23, 2016.

External links[edit]

Official sites
Other resources
  • Hubbard, Chris (2004). "The Proletariat Page". Kill From The Heart. Retrieved 2008-04-06.  – fan page with links to other articles and interviews