Reagan Youth is an American punk rock band started by singer Dave Rubinstein (Dave Insurgent) and his friend and guitarist Paul Bakija in Queens, New York City in early 1980. They are more commonly cited as an pivotal band in introducing the style of hardcore punk to the East Coast. Their name is a word play on Hitler Youth. An important group in the New York/New Jersey hardcore scene, they performed very regularly at CBGB and toured the U.S. extensively, often with other early punk bands such as the Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains and Misfits. The Beastie Boys and Rancid, among other significant successful punk rock and alternative rock groups, have cited Reagan Youth as an influence.
Starting in 1980, they were in existence for almost ten years, but only managed to release one album during their existence as a band (in 1984): originally titled Youth Anthems for the New Order, it was rereleased as Reagan Youth (Vol. 1) by the small independent label New Red Archives in 1989. This album eventually sold 40,000 copies. A second album, titled Volume 2, recorded in 1989, 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.
Known for their use of Ku Klux Klan and Nazi Party imagery, the band expressed its strongly anti-fascist and anti-racist political views through ironically donning actual uniforms from the two hate groups. Their intention was to draw the audience's attention to the perceived parallels between the dehumanizing policies of the Ronald Reagan era administration and the Religious Right and the beliefs of the hate groups. Their songs included "Jesus Was a Communist," an interesting stab at the Christian right-wing fundamentalists in the United States who often fail to realize the aspects of Socialism Jesus practiced in his lifetime, and "New Aryans," an anti-Ronald Reagan/yuppie and also anti-racist anthem. It should be noted that Dave Rubinstein, an ethnic Jew, was well aware of the irony and shock value inherent in these images and lyrics; several close relatives were Holocaust survivors.
Musically, the band played hardcore punk, but other songs have more mellow rhythms with slower tempos, including guitar riffs and solos not seen in many other punk bands at the time.
Formed while Dave and Paul were still in high school, they quickly gained a good reputation and were soon playing the punk clubs of Manhattan. Dave's science teacher became a roadie for the group. After graduation and the release of their first album, they began touring nationally and were regulars at the Sunday-afternoon hardcore matinée shows at CBGBs.
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 Ronald Reagan left office (1989), the band split up.
By this point Dave 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 B., who supported both their drug habits by prostitution. Later that year his mother was killed in a car accident. Soon after, Dave and his girlfriend were on Houston Street looking for customers and drugs. A familiar customer in a truck hired Tiffany and the two of them disappeared. A few days later, police on Long Island stopped the same truck and discovered Tiffany'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 mother and girlfriend, Dave Rubinstein (Dave Insurgent) committed suicide in 1993. According to some sources, prior to his death, Dave left an envelope on for his father to read. His father has never opened the envelope, but friends believe it probably confessed that Dave had become infected with HIV.
A version of their song "Degenerated" was used as the theme song for "The Lone Rangers," the fictional heavy metal band portrayed in the 1994 comedy Airheads.
In 2006, the band reformed. Paul Bakija (Paul Cripple), Al Pike (bassist from "Volume One") and Javier Madriaga (Johnny Aztec) (drummer from Volume Two), along with vocalist Pat McGowen (Pat SpEd) of the New York City hardcore band Distraction, initially intended to play only a single show, after a period of silence that lasted 18 years, but "the project began to take on a life of its own". 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.
Bakija has expressed interest in writing and recording a third record "about the life and times of Dave Insurgent." In the summer of 2008, the Reagan Youth MySpace page began featuring a snippet of a new demo recording of a new song, "In the Thirsty Hour," and a reference to the possibility of this third record.