The Proletariat

This article is about a punk rock band. For the working class, see Proletariat.
The Proletariat

The Proletariat. From left to right are Tom McKnight, Frank Michaels, Peter Bevilacqua, and Richard Brown.
Background information
Origin Fall River, Massachusetts, United States
Years active 19801985, 2016[4][5][6]
Associated acts
  • Churn
  • The Lumen Band[7]
  • Idle Rich
  • Richard Brown
  • Peter Bevilacqua
  • Tom McKnight
  • Don Sanders
Past members
  • Frank Michaels
  • Laurel Ann Bowman
  • Steve Welch

The Proletariat are 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[8][9][10] in their fractured guitar sound[11] and Marxist-themed lyrics.[11][12][13][14]


The Proletariat gained notice in the 1980s hardcore scene with obscene Sex Pistols covers, eventually melding the styles of their heroes, the Pistols and Gang of Four.[13] In 1982, they self-released a limited edition seven-song cassette tape EP they called Distortion,[9] 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.[12][13] and Unsafe at Any Speed[15] compilations that were put out by the Modern Method label.

"The Proletariat played offbeat post-Punk with Hardcore intensity and a radical twist. Frontman Richard Brown wrote oblique lyrics, part Ginsberg, part Mao ... 1983's Soma Holiday LP ... came off light years ahead of its time..."[nb 1]

The Proletariat "Bread and Circus" (1983)
"Bread and Circus" excerpt, from Soma Holiday.

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Formed in early 1980,[16][17][18] the band was made up of the British-sounding American singer Richard Brown, guitarist Frank Michaels, bassist Peter Bevilacqua, and drummer Tom McKnight. 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-danceable they had that serious marching beat down. They were given the Hardcore tag because they wrote short songs and kinda fit in."
Edward "Shred" Jacobs, former DJ at Boston's WERS and WBCN radio stations[1]

The 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.[19] Named for the drug in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World,[10] the album demonstrates the band's art punk 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.[12]

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

On June 30, 1984, the Proletariat performed their last show with their original lineup at Chet's Last Call in Boston, sharing the bill with Sorry, and the Volcano Suns.[18][20]


In late 1984, before their second album, Indifference, was completed, Brown and McKnight quit the band.[17] They were replaced by singer Laurel Ann Bowman[7][13] and drummer Steve Welch,[17][21] who both contributed on two songs on the new album.[13][22] This lineup, however, would prove short-lived, as the band would break up shortly after performing only two more shows,[17][21] both held on July 1, 1985 at the Living Room[18] in Providence, Rhode Island, sharing the bill with the Italian band Raw Power, and the popular local act Rash of Stabbings,[23][24] respectively.[20]

The Proletariat "An Uneasy Peace" (1985)
"An Uneasy Peace" excerpt, with Roger Miller on keyboards, from Indifference.

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Released in 1985 on Homestead Records, the Proletariat's last album, Indifference, which was preceded by a lead single titled "Marketplace", 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", and featuring Bowman's soft-toned voice, which sharply contrasted with Brown's.

Churn (1995-1997)

In early 1995, after 10-year absence, Brown, Bevilacqua, and Michaels, with a new drummer, Jack Prascovics,[25] formed a new band called Churn.[17][21][26][27] In mid-1996, McKnight joined them to replace the previous drummer, with the result that all the original members of the Proletariat got reunited in Churn,[28] albeit for a short time. In 1997, after continued lineup problems,[17] the group broke up,[21][27] having only released a five-song CD titled Heated Couplings in the Sun in 1995.[8][17][21][26][28][29][30]

In 1998, all recorded Proletariat material were compiled on Voodoo Economics and Other American Tragedies, a double CD collection released on Taang! Records.[9][13]


In 2016, after three-decade hiatus, the Proletariat reformed for a series of shows in the fall of this year.[4][5][6][10] Original members Richard Brown, Peter Bevilacqua and Tom McKnight were joined by guitarist Don Sanders,[31] from the early Providence hardcore punk band Idle Rich.[5][24] The band's return coincided with the vinyl reissue, on Sacramento-based label Ss Records, of their debut 1983 album, Soma Holiday.[4][5][6][10][11][32] The Proletariat are planning further shows and festival appearances in 2017.[5][33]



The 2CD compilation Voodoo Economics and Other American Tragedies (Taang!, 1998) contains all their recorded work, including the previously unreleased tracks "10 Years", "Abstain", "Choice" and "It's More Than Soil".

Compilation appearances


  1. As originally worded, in the first edition of American Hardcore: A Tribal History, this paragraph read: "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..."[14]


  1. 1 2 3 4 Blush, Steven (2001). American Hardcore: A Tribal History. Second ed., 2010. Feral House. ISBN 9781932595895. p. 187.
  2. 1 2 3 Sheppard, Oliver (October 5, 2016). "An interview with The Proletariat on their "Soma Holiday" reissue". Cvlt Nation. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  3. Sheppard, Oliver (September 10, 2012). "Pioneers of Postpunk". Souciant. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
  4. 1 2 3 Marotta, Michael (August 12, 2016). "Anti-Indifference: Hardcore punk band The Proletariat return after three-decade hiatus". Vanyaland. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Jones, AJ "Phink" (August 19, 2016). "The Proletariat Reform and Announce First Reunion Shows". ThePunkSite. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
  6. 1 2 3 Sperry-Fromm, Rob (September 8, 2016). "The Proletariat reissuing debut, going on reunion tour; Gang Green playing shows too". BrooklynVegan. Retrieved September 15, 2016.
  7. 1 2 "Laurel Ann Bowman" (obituary). Whittier-Porter Funeral Home. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
  8. 1 2 Shirley, David (November 1996). Churn, Heated Couplings in the Sun, review. Option.
  9. 1 2 3 Anderson, Rick. "Voodoo Economics and Other American Tragedies: AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson". AllMusic. Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  10. 1 2 3 4 Carnes, Aaron (October 25, 2016). "The Return of Boston Hardcore Anomaly, The Proletariat" (interview). Noisey. Retrieved October 27, 2016.
  11. 1 2 3 Scott, Tim (September 4, 2016). "How The Proletariat Became One Of the Most Incendiary Bands in Reagan’s America" (interview). Noisey. Retrieved September 15, 2016.
  12. 1 2 3 Millman, Joyce (August 24, 1982). "Cellars by starlight - The dictatorship of the Proletariat". The Boston Phoenix.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Suburban Voice (ca. 2000). "The Proletariat: Voodoo Economics and Other American Tragedies (Taang! Dbl CD)" (review). Suburban Voice (43).
  14. 1 2 Blush, Steven (2001). American Hardcore: A Tribal History. Feral House. ISBN 9780922915712. p. 168.
  15. Quint, Al (1982). "Various Artists: Unsafe at Any Speed (Modern Method)". Suburban Punk (1).
  16. Sheena (September 1982). "The Proletariat: From Each According to His Ability". Boston Rock (32).
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "The Proletariat: Biography". Official Website of the Proletariat and Churn. Retrieved October 11, 2016.
  18. 1 2 3 Baylies, Eric (September 1, 2016). "The Proletariat" (interview). The Noise. Retrieved October 12, 2016.
  19. 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+
  20. 1 2 "The Proletariat: Show List". Official Website of the Proletariat and Churn. Retrieved October 11, 2016.
  21. 1 2 3 4 5 Foley, Ryan. "The Proletariat". The Music Museum of New England. Retrieved October 11, 2016.
  22. Eddy, Chuck (September 9, 1986). "The Proletariat: RIch Men Poor Men". The Village Voice XXXI (36).
  23. "Rash of Stabbings" (profile). Rhode Island Rocks. Retrieved October 12, 2016.
  24. 1 2 Blush, Steven (2001). American Hardcore: A Tribal History. Second ed., 2010. Feral House. ISBN 9781932595895. pp. 280-281.
  25. Caito, Michael (March 24, 1995). "Rare Air - Churn: Live at Babyhead, Providence, RI 3/18/95". The Providence Phoenix.
  26. 1 2 Suburban Voice (ca. 1995). "Churn: Heated Couplings in the Sun (Earmark, EP)" (review). Suburban Voice (39).
  27. 1 2 "Official Home Page of Churn". Official Website of the Proletariat and Churn. Retrieved October 12, 2016.
  28. 1 2 Milano, Brett (July 18, 1996). "New grooves - Reunion (almost)". The Boston Phoenix. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  29. "Churn: Heated Couplings in the Sun". Official Website of the Proletariat and Churn. Retrieved September 28, 2016.
  30. Milano, Brett (April 18, 1996). "Churn: Heated Couplings in the Sun (Earmark)" (review). The Boston Phoenix. Retrieved September 28, 2016.
  31. Milano, Brett (October 28, 2016). "Return of the working-man band". Boston Herald. Retrieved October 29, 2016.
  32. "The Proletariat - Soma Holiday LP". Ss Records - Sol Re Sol Records. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  33. Jones, AJ "Phink" (September 13, 2016). "The Proletariat Confirm Further Reunion Tour Dates". ThePunkSite. Retrieved September 15, 2016.

Further reading

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