Category: Black Flag

Black Flag – My War

ARTIST: Black Flag

TITLE: My War

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES : Yeah…no.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: My War,

LINEUP: Henry Rollins, Greg Ginn, Bill Stevenson. Ginn played bass as “Dale Nixon”

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After finally being rid of the Unicorn Record legal shitshow, Ginn and Black Flag unleash a polarizing and brilliant record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is the tale of two sides. Side one features the punk rock Black Flag as many fans then knew. With six slabs of punk, including the classic “My War” and other classic favorites that had been demoed in 1982 when they were a quintet. There were some wrinkles thrown in there, with tempo changes, guitar solos that were more jazz than punk, and introspective lyrics. Then the punk rock fans flipped the record over.

Instead of the typical six to eight songs on punk rock records, there were only three. All of them over six minutes long. And they were SLOGS. This was punk rock meeting Black Sabbath and developing a style which was quite influential on grunge and what was to become emo, but to many in the hardcore fan base, it was anathema.

“Nothing Left Inside” was the standout of the second side, and it was especially powerful live. The only misfire in my ears was the final track, which was the only one of the slow songs not co-written by Henry Rollins.

Listening to it now, you understand what they were trying to do, and in context of Black Flag, Henry Rollins, and alternative and punk rock, it doesn’t sound horribly out of place. But then, well, that was a different thing.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Bill Stevenson had to work hard to slow his drumming down on the songs for the second side. Also, Chuck Dukowski left or was fired, leaving Ginn to play the bass.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but the 1982 demos are available that cover songs that were going to be on this record and the next few studio albums.

GRADE A-:  It’s probably still polarizing, and that second side is something I need to be in an exact mood for, but I get what they were getting at. Even then, punk rock was stifling, and Ginn and the band impelled it forward.   

Black Flag – Everything Went Black

ARTIST: Black Flag                                                      Black_Flag_-_Everything_Went_Black_cover

TITLE: Everything Went Black

YEAR RELEASED: 1982

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: All of their early singles are here in multiple versions.

LINEUP: Greg Ginn, Chuck Dukoswki, Brian Migdol, Robo, Keith Morris, Ron Reyes, Dez Cadena

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A collection of recordings made by the early incarnations of Black Flag, released as a holdover until their legal problems cleared up.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Due to the fact that they were temporarily banned from recording and releasing new material, Black Flag did something innovative and took a bunch of demos and other recordings featuring each of their previous singers, and released them to their fans, anonymously. 3293922

What you get are multiple versions of many Black Flag classics, including songs that would be made famous by other versions featuring the other vocalists. Keith Morris got an entire side, Dez Cadena got a side and a half, and Ron Reyes got half of one side. You can definitely compare and contrast how each of them treats each song.

The final side was a long compilation of all the radio ads recorded for various gigs and some other shenanigans they did in the studio. That’s an interesting listen, once.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Reyes was called Chavo Pederast and Morris was listed as Johnny Bob Goldstein.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B-:  It’s kind of a novelty and wears you out, but hearing each vocalist is interesting.

Black Flag – Damaged

ARTIST: Black Flag 220px-Black_Flag_-_Damaged_cover

TITLE:  Damaged

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Six Pack and TV Party were singles (using different versions)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Rise Above, Depression, Police Story, Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie

LINEUP: Henry Rollins, Greg Ginn, Dez Cadena, Chuck Dukowski, Robo

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First full-length album that the band actually completed, and it’s a seminal punk rock album that is brought down some by repetitiveness and production issues.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Black Flag finally found a vocalist who melded well with the nihilistic, angry lyrics in Henry Rollins. The story of how he joined the band is incredible in its own right. This allowed Dez Cadena to move to rhythm guitar and gave Greg Ginn an opportunity to solo and go wild without sacrificing the song structure.

The songs are mostly powerful rants about society, with some other rants about culture thrown in there for good measure. They also have a sense of humor at times which was and still is a rarity in many hardcore circles.

For me, the album fizzles out at the end. The sequencing is a little off so that similar songs are placed together, and ending it with “Damaged I”, which is a long dirge, breaks the momentum. The production also adds to the grim nature of the closing songs.

It is one of the most important statements of rock-and-roll, though, and a must for any comprehensive collection.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was originally released on Unicorn, a subsidiary of MCA, and the saga of THAT relationship and all of the lawsuits is pretty amazing as well. Basically, Black Flag were out of the record making business for a couple of years.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: The sound and fury for the first 2/3 of the record is great. It’s the end that wears me out.

Black Flag – The First Four Years

ARTIST: Black Flag 220px-Black_Flag_-_The_First_Four_Years_cover

TITLE:  The First Four Years

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Lead tracks on the releases: Nervous Breakdown, Jealous Again, Six Pack, Louie Louie

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW:  Wasted, White Minority, Damaged I

LINEUP: Greg Ginn, Chuck Dukowski, Robo on twelve tracks, Dez Cadena on seven, Keith Morris on four, Ron Reyes on four, Bran Migdol on four. 220px-Black_Flag_-_Nervous_Breakdown_cover

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Seminal West Coast punk rock releases a compilation of their first three EPs, a single and two compilation tracks. Classic.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Black Flag’s route to being signed by a major (yeah, they were for about a minute, more later when I get to that record) was rocky. From the start they were faced with personnel changes, the inability to find places to play, the cops, and all of those who thought punk destroyed society.220px-Black_Flag_-_Jealous_Again_cover

It’s reflected in these songs. All 16 of them have an energy, an edge, that only comes when your backs are against the wall and you don’t give a fuck. They played these songs like it was going to be the last track they recorded.

Yes, the sound quality is meh, and yes a few songs aren’t up to par with “Jealous Again” or “Nervous Breakdown”, and yeah Dez as a singer ain’t so great melodically. But the heck with it. Buy this and learn what LA punk was in the late 70’s.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Two of these tracks were on their first proper album, a220px-Black_Flag_-_Six_Pack_covernd many are featured on live recordings.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: A-. If nothing else, for “Six Pack” and the other lead tracks.220px-Black_Flag_-_Louie_Louie_cover