The Ongoing History of New Music, episode 896: A history of moshing

I do not dance. I’m far too self-aware of my awkwardness. I know we’re all supposed to dance like no one is watching, but when it comes to me, people will look. And point. And judge.

My wife realizes this. Since we were married, she’s had to be content with the fact that she got to dance at our wedding and that’s pretty much it.

I can feel the judgement. Stop it. Would it help if I told you that my wife isn’t much into dancing, either?

This doesn’t mean that music doesn’t move me. I get that involuntary need to move when the music is great. And I don’t mean tapping a toe or nodding my head, although that’s where it starts. And then it can escalate quickly.

Put it this way: I’ve done my time in the pit.

I’ve been elbowed, kneed, kicked, head-butted, burned with cigarettes and joints, and doused with various liquids. And I’ve been okay with that most times because it’s all of the pit experience. You go in, you gotta expect this sort of thing. The one thing I’ve never done is stage dove or crowd-surfed–probably just out of courtesy for my fellow gig-goer.

Here’s a question: Why is there a pit in the first place? Who came up with this idea? How did it spread? And is it the same everywhere>

I think these are important anthropological questions because we’re dealing with a near-universal type of human behavior in the presence of a specific type of art. I think we need a history of moshing.

Songs heard on this show:

  • Circle Jerks, Red Tape
  • Sex Pistols, God Save the Queen
  • The Weirdos, Destroy All Music
  • Fear, Let’s Have a War
  • Scream, Total Mash
  • Bad Brains, Leaving Babylon
  • Anthrax, Caught in a Mosh
  • Cranberries, Zombie
  • Consolidated, The Men’s Movement
  • Reel Big Fish, Thank You For Not Mosing
  • Smashing Pumpkins, Zero
  • Vivian’s Hamster, Moshing.

Need a playlist? Here you go from Eric Wilhite.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

3 thoughts on “The Ongoing History of New Music, episode 896: A history of moshing

  • October 23, 2020 at 8:16 am

    Even Debbie Gibson stage dove… at a Circle Jerks show at CBGBs… after singing I Wanna Destroy You with them. Video evidence on YouTube.

  • October 23, 2020 at 7:14 pm

    Thanks, Dave S for posting about that. That takes some guts. I have to respect her for giving it a go. And that is one very punk rock (the spirit not the music) crowd that they just said, ‘come on, we got you’ and didn’t pull some ‘punker than thou’ BS. I was lucky for the most part where I grew up but I got a LOT of that attitude because I was very new wave.

    I’m like you Alan, I, generally speaking do not dance. Tore myself up for decades over it because I wanted to so desperately. I have this huge disconnect between my brain and the rest of my body. I have rhythm but it doesn’t translate. I can make fun or do a minute or so of faking a dance but nothing extended. Begged people at clubs whose style I liked to help or teach me but it never worked. It’s just not how I’m wired and I accept it now. And for ALL those people that say, nobody is watching, I’m with you…people are. Watching *and* judging. Not necessarily good or bad but they are. I was one of ’em. (I wasn’t a cruel person in that respect. If I was talking smack about you, you wouldn’t know it unless you were rude to me or mine. I was also a lot nicer back then.)

    I like the periphery of the mosh pit. Where you are close enough to get battered about but you’re not going to get (short and petite) an elbow in the eye accidentally or something. I love that feeling. Leaving a show, on that lovely high and you’re sweaty and exhausted and your clothes are in all manner of disarray and you just fall into the nearest chair and guzzle as much water as you can without a care because you are just so wrecked and it’s the best feeling in the world.

    I’ve also crowd surfed at a Siouxsie show once. Someone I didn’t know standing next to me decided that I was going up and he boosted me up into the crowd’s waiting arms and they rolled me around for a short bit. Because I was already very close to the front and center, it didn’t last long and soon it was me going over the barrier and straight into the waiting arms of crowd control, head first of course! They were kind enough to reorient me and to slip me back into my spot and not kick me out. It was a wonderful once in a lifetime experience.

  • October 28, 2020 at 11:24 am

    …the most aggressive pit I was ever in was a bunch of 40-somethings to see Ned’s Atomic Dustbin in London 7 years ago. Got kicked in the head several times, and took two pints to the back of the head. Worth it to finally see my childhood favourite band from the front row 🙂

    My financee and I actually got pushed to the front when they heard we’d travelled from Canada to see them.


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