Friday, December 3, 2010
HERE IT IS, THAT PHOTO! TAKEN BY THE INFAMOUS GLEN E. FRIEDMAN.
Black Flag changed my life. And yours too, I bet
From the start of me hearing about punk rock, they seemed to be it. I bought Damaged at the start of 1982 and was so riveted by the first side that I didn’t even get to the second side until a week later. The second side was even better. That record seemed to articulate everything I was feeling, and to some extent, it still does. It is a pretty timeless recording by a timeless band.
I grew up a couple of hours away from the epicenter of all of this raging stuff in Ventura County. A few months later that same year there was some sort of write up on Black Flag in the Los Angeles Times, the big paper across all five counties in Southern California. There was this picture of them that I couldn’t get out of my mind. All five of the then existing members seemed like distinct and separate individuals, all unique characters thrown together to form a tight five fingered fist that continually smashed your face in with its presence. I didn’t know much but I soon figured that theirs was a presence to be reckoned with and twenty five or whatever years later they still are. I reckon that no one has come close. Even to this day.
I admit I was duped momentarily about punk rock. I thought that there were rules. I didn’t realize that getting the music was enough, or that enjoying this music that seemed to come from another planet was all you needed to participate. I didn’t have a uniform and didn’t see the point in having one. I wasn’t tough; I was just a dork who didn’t fit in. These five men seemed to celebrate not fitting in just by their existence and the strength of their music. They also shattered my illusions of punk rock: You didn’t have to fit in, you didn’t have to adhere to a uniform, you just had to “get it”. Back then, getting it in itself was like going through a portal. Not a lot of people did and those who did go through seemed to be connected to each other somehow. It was all so small. But with time, all legends seem to grow and take on a separate life of their own.
The first thing that seemed to stand out to me big time was Dez Cadena. Instead of some dude with a Mohawk or Sid Vicious haircut, here is this dude in a leather jacket that basically looks like Jesus: Long hair and a beard. Was this allowed? I guess it was. In fact, Greg Ginn and Chuck Biscuits also looked pretty..well, normal. Chuck Dukowski was bald. Henry Rollins was sort of off in a corner and looked like someone you didn’t really want to mess with at all. It was just five guys but that pic spoke volumes to me.
At this time, the only thing that was ever recorded by the short lived Chuck Biscuits lineup (that was released mind you) was the live track on the first RAT MUSIC FOR RAT PEOPLE record called “Scream”. I listened to that song over and over, its slow trudge like screaming two guitar squall paved the way for Henry to more or less howl like an animal in pain throughout. There didn’t even seem to be a lyrical idea to get behind, it was just one long (well four minutes) tortured dirge that made most people cringe and you know what, I think it still would. The feeling of the song seemed to be universal: pent up feelings followed by cathartic release. What was there not to love?
Since then, I bought every single thing that this band released. I loved just about all of what was released..even towards the end. I loved the previous three singers, I thought they were all distinct and great. I loved Side Two of “My War” and think that you could almost write a book about the polarizing effect that record had when it came out. I loved the Bill Stevenson/Kira Roessler lineup of the band and the “Slip It In” record. Basically, I seemed to be able to continually “get it” when it came to Black Flag. And then they seemed to lose their grip a bit. So they broke up, and it was almost in time. After they broke up, the legend started and continued to grow and grow.
These days you have people from every walk of life professing their admiration of Black Flag and what these people did and how it continues to affect them. I don’t know any of those people involved, and it was much to my naiveté to realize that after having the experience of being a part of this comet, most of the people involved have scattered far and wide. Put in this way, there is no twenty year high school reunion for those who had served. It hardly matters. In their day, Black Flag changed the world. They certainly changed mine.
And yours too, I bet.
Posted by brian walsby at 8:15 AM