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December 08, 1986 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1986-12-08

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The Michigan Daily - Monday, December 8, 1986 - Page 7

Everything went Black

By Beth Fertig and Julie
An era has come to a close. As
of mid-November, Black Flag- the
most notorious representative of the
American post punk movement-
decided to call it quits, breaking up
after a decade-long existence.
Black Flag started it all back in
October 1976, playing live gigs
around L.A. as a trio featuring
guitarist Greg Ginn. They and-
others initiated the hardcore scene,
the West coast's answer to the punk
movement in England and the East
coast. The band recorded their first
singles in 1978 on Ginn's own
SST Records, which subsequently
grew to become one of the most
important independent rock labels
in America.
In the years which followed,
Black Flag released many, many,
many records despite their many,
many, many line-up changes. There
were lots. But that's what the Flag
did best - kept things shaken up.
It was their mission. "I'd rather
shake things up on a continuous
basis," Ginn once said. The band
evolved into its most influential
shape with the coming of Henry
Rollins - a grimacing, writhing,
tattoo-covered, Perrier-swilling, lead
singer whose commanding stage
presence caused many critics to
liken him to the late Jim Morrison.
Their first record with Rollins,
Damaged, sold a phenomenal
80,000 copies (an astounding figure
for an indie rock record, especially
in 1981) and, with their antagon -
istic paranoia, effectively won over
the youth of America. Junior-league
skin-heads everywhere were soon
invoking lines like "Give me your
hand, I'll bite it off." With a sense
of humor, of course. That's also
what the Flag did best.
For Black Flag, prolific was a
,way of life. Although their records
have won rave reviews in pub -
lications as diverse as SPIN and
The. New York Times, many
skeptics have felt that the band
often sacrificed quality in the name
of quantity, at times churning out
-as many as three records or cassettes
a year. But that's the way they did
things, and if you don't like it,
thank you very much. After all,
they're not Elton John. Black Flag
were never the world's biggest
-capitalists, and money from record

sales was more likely to be spent
on endless touring than on Heather
Locklear-types; and they were
always big admirers of the Grateful
That's SST for you, as well.
"We don't ask our artists to kiss
anyone's ass," Ginn told The Daily
last year, adding, "If they want to,
that's fine, too. We chose that way.
It's not financially viable, not
proven so, but maybe it's not
because it's not real." Ginn and
company's vehemently independent
philosophy has good reason. A
couple of years back, Black Flag
had a run-in when the MCA
subsidiary, Unicorn Records, con -
tracted them, only to realize upon
completing their first record that the
company's president had thought
they were "anti-parent." A dispute
over their contract resulted in the
loss of their name for this sole
Unicorn release (but the four bar
logo remained), and a costly legal
battle to regain their independence.
Meanwhile, SST continued to
grow, and today they can claim
paving the way for artists such as
Husker Du (now on Warner Bros.),
Meat Puppets, and the now-defunct
Minutemen, who have since picked
up the pieces and become Firehose.
This year they contracted a host of
additional bands, including New
York's Sonic Youth. Still, the Flag
continued to burn, tearing through
America for seven months straight
this year, nearing the end of their
road in Ann Arbor's own Nectarine
But the Flag schtick was getting
old, older than some of their
audience members. The band was

moving on; Greg Ginn was spend -
ing more and more time with his
instrumental trio, Gone, and Henry
Rollins was contemplating movie
offers in between extensive spoken
word tours. The group decided to
disband shortly after their tenth
The ten year span of the Flag
neatly corresponds with another
anniversary - the ten years since
the punk explosion. This leads one
to question the supposedly nihil -
istic, disposable element of that
musical genre, and its subsequent
outgrowths. The Flag must have
stood for something else comparing
their lifespan with that of many of
their contemporaries. Maybe they
just stood for committment - to
independent music, to their and -
ience, and to themselves.
But who are we to say? Who
knows what the Flag was, really?
If you do happen to know the
names of every member of Black
Flag over the past ten years - and
years in which they partook in the
Flag experience (years, months,
days, if possible), submit your list
of personnel to the Michigan
Daily's Arts office by 6:00 tonight.
The person with the best
approximations will win a fab
prize. We really wish we could offer
you a Henry Rollins coloring book,
complete with tattoos; but all
we've got is a $10 gift certificate to
Schoolkids' Records.
A defense
against cancer can be
cooked up in your kitchen.
Call us.




Black Flag, the most notorious purveyors of the American post punk movements, have finally turned in the
towel after ten ferocious years. Pictured above is the band's last incarnation: (left to right) Cel Reveulta,
Greg Ginn (who survived longer than any other member), Anthony Martinez, and Henry Rollins.

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