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Reagan Youth

Background information
Origin Forest Hills, Queens, New York City, New York, U.S.
Genres Hardcore punk, anarcho-punk
Years active 19801989
Labels R Radical
New Red Archives
LoveCat Music
Associated acts Nausea, Samhain, Heart Attack
Paul Bakija
Al Pike
Javier Madriaga
Former members
Dave Rubinstein
Andy Bryan
Charlie Bonet
Steve Weissman
Rick Griffith
Victor Dominicis
Pat McGowan

Reagan Youth is an American punk rock band formed by singer Dave Rubinstein (Dave Insurgent) and guitarist Paul Bakija (Paul Cripple) in Queens in early 1980. They served as pivotal in introducing the style of hardcore punk to the East Coast punk scene, but have also been identified as a part of the peace punk movement. As strident radical leftist anarchists, their name is an ironic word play on Hitler Youth.

An important group in the New York/New Jersey hardcore scene, they performed regularly at CBGB and toured the U.S. extensively, often with other early punk bands such as the Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, and The Misfits. The Beastie Boys and Rancid, among other significant successful punk rock and alternative rock groups, have cited Reagan Youth as an influence.



Initial career (1980–1990)

Rubinstein and Bakija attended Forest Hills High School, the same as that of the Ramones, when they formed their band. After rehearsals under the name Pus with a varying rhythm section, the group changed its name to Reagan Youth shortly before playing its first gig on August 22,1980, with bassist Andy Bryan (Andy Apathy) and drummer Charlie Bonet (Charlie Tripper). Reagan Youth quickly gained a following and were soon playing the punk clubs of Manhattan. Bakija's physics teacher Jack DePalma shaved his head and became a roadie for the group. After the band recorded a four-song demo in 1981, Bryan was replaced by Al Pike. Bonet departed soon after; after the band briefly rehearsed with Rubinstein filling in on drums, Steve Weissman joined full time. The band was signed to the R Radical imprint.

After graduation and the release of their first record, the seven-song Youth Anthems for the New Order E.P., they began touring nationally and were regulars at the Sunday afternoon hardcore matinee shows at CBGB. In 1984, prior to a significant US tour, Pike and Weissman left the group, with Pike going on to join a formative version of Glenn Danzig's group Samhain briefly around this time. They were replaced by Victor Dominicis (Vic Venom) and Rick Griffith (Rick Royale) respectively. Griffith was later replaced in 1985 by Javier Madriaga (Johnny Aztec), who had previously played drums in Lujuria, A.P.P.L.E., and the New York hardcore band Heart Attack.

By the late 1980s the extensive touring had taken its toll on the group, both physically and emotionally. Despite the many shows played and the relatively large album sales for a hardcore punk band, the members of the band continually found themselves broke. When Reagan left office, the band split up. Despite their decision to disband the group nonetheless attracted the attention of the burgeoning punk label New Red Archives, who signed Reagan Youth to a two-album deal. New Red Archives first re-released Youth Anthems for the New World Order with three additional outtakes as the Volume 1 LP. In 1990, Bakija (playing both guitar and bass), Madriaga, and Rubinstein recorded a final album, Volume 2, in 1990, after their decision to disband.

Post-breakup (1990–2006)

Bakija, Madriaga, and Rubinstein continued making music together, performing in a psychedelic rock group called House of God, but the band was quickly derailed by Rubinstein's increasing drug and health problems and failed to record. Dominicis played in the band Nausea, whose fast and metallic sound helped define the crust punk genre.

By 1990 Rubinstein had become a heroin user and occasional dealer. In a conflict with another dealer, he was severely beaten with a baseball bat, requiring weeks of hospitalization. In 1993 he began seeing a girl, Tiffany Bresciani, who supported both of their drug habits by prostitution. Later that year his mother was killed in a car accident. Soon after, Rubinstein and Bresciani were on Houston Street looking for customers and drugs. A familiar customer in a truck hired Bresciani and the two of them disappeared. A few days later, police on Long Island stopped the same truck and discovered Bresciani's body in the back. The driver was Joel Rifkin, later convicted as a serial killer responsible for the murder of several prostitutes. Despondent over his continuing drug addiction and the loss of his girlfriend and recently deceased mother, Rubinstein committed suicide shortly thereafter.

A version of their song "Degenerated" was used as a song performed by "The Lone Rangers", the fictional rock band portrayed in the 1994 comedy Airheads. This same year, New Red Archives issued A Collection of Pop Classics, which collected both Volume 1 and Volume 2 on a single CD.

In 1998, New Red Archives released Live and Rare, a CD compiling highlights from NYC-area Reagan Youth sets from the early '80s with the Pike/Weinstein lineup, along with tracks from the band's initial demo and a brief experimental demo for Volume 2. Pike and New Red Archives owner Nicky Garratt, also the guitarist for the British band the UK Subs, contributed liner notes for this release.

In 2002, plans for a reunion set at CBGB featuring Bakija and Bryan were shattered by Bryan's sudden, fatal heart attack.

Reformation (2006–present)

In 2006, Reagan Youth reformed around Bakija, Pike, Madriaga and new vocalist Pat McGowen (Pat SpEd), also of the New York City hardcore band Distraction. They initially intended only to play a single show, but opted to continue after the project "took on a life of its own."[1] The group played several additional local and regional tours, and embarked on the "Resurrection Tour" in August 2007, with Boston hardcore band Mouth Sewn Shut.

The band has expressed interest in writing and recording a third record, and has suggested that it would be about the life and times of Dave Insurgent.[2] In 2008, the Reagan Youth MySpace page debuted a snippet of a demo recording of a new song, "In the Thirsty Hour". The band continued to tour extensively.

In late 2009, McGowen left the group after the band determined they could not work with him on new material. The band stated its intention to continue live performances and work on a third record with a new singer.


Lyrical content

Reagan Youth is an aggressively anarchist, socialist, and anti-racist band, and often utilized Ku Klux Klan and Nazi Party imagery for satirical effect, much in the way of the Dead Kennedys on the West Coast. Their intention was to draw the audience's attention to the perceived parallels between the policies of Ronald Reagan and the Christian Right and the beliefs of the hate groups. The band expressed its left-wing politics through irony, using images from hate groups for their album/CD covers. Their songs included "Jesus Was a Communist," and "New Aryans," an anti-conservative/yuppie and also anti-racist anthem. It should be noted that both of Dave Rubinstein's parents were Holocaust survivors.

Musical style

Musically, the band was firmly rooted in the early hardcore/punk crossover tradition, but moved deeper into waters uncharted by their punk rock contemporaries as their career progressed. While their 1983 debut is an accomplished work squarely in keeping with hardcore punk convention, their 1990 followup features dense guitar work replete with solos and overdubs, diversified tempos and several sonic experiments, leading it to draw comparisons to Black Sabbath and 1970s album-oriented rock.

Band members

Current members

  • Paul Bakija – guitar (1980–1990, 2006–present)
  • Al Pike – bass (1981–1984, 2006–present)
  • Javier Madriaga – drums (1985–1990, 2006–present)

Past members

  • Dave Rubinstein (deceased) – vocals (1980–1990)
  • Andy Bryan (deceased) – bass (1980–1981)
  • Charlie Bonet – drums (1980–1981, 1982)
  • Steve Weissman – drums (1982–1984)
  • Victor Dominicis – bass (1984–1990)
  • Rick Griffith – drums (1984–1985)
  • Pat McGowan – vocals (2006–2009)


Reagan Youth released only one album during their existence as a band (in 1984); originally titled Youth Anthems for the New Order, it was re-released as Reagan Youth (Volume 1) by the small independent label New Red Archives in 1989. This album eventually sold 40,000 copies. A second album, titled Volume 2, was completed and released in 1990, after the official breakup of the band. Both are still available on vinyl, as well as a CD titled A Collection of Pop Classics that combines both records. A collection of live recordings was issued in 1998 as Live and Rare.

Compact discs and vinyl


  • Live At CBGBs August 7, 1982
  • Live At CBGBs November 20, 1982 (Ratcage Records Benefit) [1]
  • Live At CBGBs Vol. One 7" [2]


  1. ^ Reagan Youth official web site, History page
  2. ^ History page

External links

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