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Black Flag

In many ways, Black Flag was the definitive Los Angeles hardcore punk band. Although their musicflirtedwithheavymetalandexperimentalnoise and jazz more than that of most hardcore bands, they defined the imageandtheaesthetic.Throughtheir ceaselesstouring, the bandcultivated the American underground punk scene; every year,BlackFlag played ineveryarea of theU.S., influencingcountless numbers ofbands. Although their recording career washamperedby a draining lawsuit,which wasfollowed by aseemingly endlessstream of independentlyreleased records,the band wasunquestionably one of themost influenti ...read more

In many ways, Black Flag was the definitive Los Angeles hardcore punk band. Although their musicflirtedwithheavymetalandexperimentalnoise and jazz more than that of most hardcore bands, they defined the imageandtheaesthetic.Throughtheir ceaselesstouring, the bandcultivated the American underground punk scene; every year,BlackFlag played ineveryarea of theU.S., influencingcountless numbers ofbands. Although their recording career washamperedby a draining lawsuit,which wasfollowed by aseemingly endlessstream of independentlyreleased records,the band wasunquestionably one of themost influential Americanpost-punkbands. A full decadeand a half before thefusionof punk andmetal became popular, BlackFlag created a ferocious, edgy, and ironicamalgamofundergroundaesthetics and gut-poundingmetal.Their lyrics alluded tosocial criticism and a political viewpoint, but itwas allconveyed asseething,cynical angst,which was occasionallyveryfunny. Furthermore, Black Flag demonstratedan affection for bohemia -- bothin termsofmusicalexperimentation and afondness forpoetry -- that reiterated theband's underground roots and prevented it frombecomingnothingbut aheavymetal group. And it didn't matterwhowas in the band -- throughout the years, the lineupchanged numerous times --becausetheBlack Flag name and four-bar logo becamepunk institutions.

Black Flag was formed in 1977 by guitarist Greg Ginn, a graduate of UCLA. Ginn formed the band withbassistChuckDukowski;thepairsoonadded drummer Brian Migdol and vocalist Keith Morris. At the same time, Ginn andDukowskiformedanindependent record label,SST,whichreleased the band's first EP, Nervous Breakdown, in 1978. MorrisandMigdol departedthe following year-- Morris went on to formtheCircleJerks -- and they were respectively replacedwithChavo Pederast andRobo. By the release of 1980's JealousAgain, Black Flaghadbegun totour the U.S.relentlessly,building up a small, butdedicated, following of fans. After the release of Jealous Again,Pederast leftthegroupandwasreplaced by Dez Cadena.However, Cadena preferred to play guitar, and his transition to that instrumentin1981gavethegroup a heaviersound; hisreplacement on vocals was Henry Rollins, a Washington, D.C., fan who jumped on-stageto singwiththe bandduring a NewYorkperformance.

Early in 1981, Black Flag signed a record contract with Unicorn Records, a subsidiary of MCA. The band deliveredtheirfirstfull-lengthalbum,Damaged, to Unicorn; the label refused to release the record, citing the content of the musicastoodangerousandvulgar.Undaunted, Ginnreleased the album on his own SST Records. Upon its release, thealbumreceivedconsiderable critical acclaim.Soonafterit appeared on theshelves, Unicorn sued Black Flag and SST overtherelease ofDamaged. For the next two years, the bandwaspreventedfrom using the nameBlack Flag or their logo onanyrecords.During that time, the group continued to tour, andsurreptitiouslyreleasedEverything Went Black,adouble-albumretrospective that contained no mention of the band, although it listed thenames of themembers onthefront cover.Thedisputeended in 1983, when Unicorn went bankrupt and the rights to the Black Flag name andlogorevertedback totheband(by this time, Cadena hadleft to form his own group).

As if to make up for lost time, Black Flag became impossibly prolific when it returned to recording in 1984. A newversionofthe group --featuring Ginn on guitar and bass (the latter was credited to the pseudonym Dale Nixon),Rollins, anddrummer BillStevenson --recordedthealbums My War and Family Man. After those two albums wererecorded, the groupadded bassistKira Roessler and cut Slip It In,itsthirdofficialalbum of 1984. In addition to thosethree albums, Black Flagreleased thecassette-only Live '84 and the compilation TheFirstFourYears in1984, as well asreissuing Everything WentBlack with all theproper credits restored. The group's touring and recordingpacedidn'tslowin 1985;they released threerecords: Loose Nut,The Process of Weeding Out, and In My Head. By the end oftheyear,AnthonyMartinezreplacedStevenson on drums.

After Black Flag released the live album Who's Got the 10½? in early 1986, Greg Ginn broke up the band.Ginnrecordedtwoalbumswiththemore experimental Gone, but he primarily concentrated on running SST Records, whichhad become oneofthemostimportantAmericanindependent labels of the era. By the time Black Flag broke up, SSThad already releasedalbums bysuch bands asHüskerDü,theMinutemen, Meat Puppets, and Sonic Youth. For most ofthe late '80s, Ginn retiredfromperforming, choosing tooperateSSTRecordsinstead; during this time, the labelreleased the first recordings from bandslikeSoundgarden, Dinosaur Jr., andScreamingTrees.Ginnreturned to musicin 1993, releasing a solo album on his newrecordlabel, Cruz.

Following Black Flag's breakup, Henry Rollins formed the Rollins Band. For the rest of the '80s, he releasedmusicrecordedwiththeRollinsBandon a variety of independent labels, as well as solo spoken-word recordings. In the early'90s,Rollinsbecameone of themostrecognizablefigures of alternative music. « hide

Similar Bands: Minutemen, Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks, Saccharine Trust, Bad Religion

LPs
What The...
11/05/2013

1.2
229 Votes
In My Head
1985

3.4
239 Votes
Loose Nut
1985

3.2
231 Votes
Slip It In
1984

3.6
428 Votes
Family Man
1984

2.7
325 Votes
My War
1984

4
893 Votes
Damaged
1981

4.2
1,527 Votes
EPs
I Can See You
1989

2.7
41 Votes
Annihilate This Week
1987

2.6
31 Votes
The Process of Weeding Out
1985

3.4
79 Votes
TV Party
1982

3.7
70 Votes
Six Pack
1981

3.7
119 Votes
Jealous Again
1980

3.8
165 Votes
Nervous Breakdown
1978

4.3
503 Votes
Live Albums
Who's Got the 10 1/2?
1986

3.8
51 Votes
Live '84
1984

3.3
49 Votes
Compilations
The Complete 1982 Demos Plus More!
1996

3.7
37 Votes
Wasted... Again
1987

3.7
29 Votes
The First Four Years
1984

4.2
285 Votes
Everything Went Black
1982

4
114 Votes

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