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In many ways, Black Flag was the definitive Los Angeles hardcore punk band. Although their music flirted withheavymetalandexperimentalnoise and jazz more than that of most hardcore bands, they defined the image andtheaesthetic. Throughtheir ceaselesstouring, the bandcultivated the American underground punk scene; every year,BlackFlag played in everyarea of the U.S., influencingcountless numbers ofbands. Although their recording career washamperedby a draining lawsuit,which was followed by a seemingly endlessstream of independentlyreleased records,the band wasunquestionably one of themost influ ...read more
In many ways, Black Flag was the definitive Los Angeles hardcore punk band. Although their music flirted withheavymetalandexperimentalnoise and jazz more than that of most hardcore bands, they defined the image andtheaesthetic. Throughtheir ceaselesstouring, the bandcultivated the American underground punk scene; every year,BlackFlag played in everyarea of the U.S., influencingcountless numbers ofbands. Although their recording career washamperedby a draining lawsuit,which was followed by a seemingly endlessstream of independentlyreleased records,the band wasunquestionably one of themost influential American post-punk bands. A full decadeand a half before thefusionof punk andmetal became popular, BlackFlag created a ferocious, edgy, and ironic amalgam ofundergroundaesthetics and gut-poundingmetal.Their lyrics alluded tosocial criticism and a political viewpoint, but itwas all conveyed as seething,cynical angst,which was occasionallyveryfunny. Furthermore, Black Flag demonstratedan affection for bohemia -- both in terms ofmusicalexperimentation and afondness forpoetry -- that reiterated theband's underground roots and prevented it frombecoming nothing but aheavymetal group. And it didn't matterwhowas in the band -- throughout the years, the lineupchanged numerous times --because theBlack 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 with bassistChuckDukowski;the pairsoonadded drummer Brian Migdol and vocalist Keith Morris. At the same time, Ginn andDukowskiformed anindependent record label, SST,whichreleased the band's first EP, Nervous Breakdown, in 1978. MorrisandMigdol departedthe following year -- Morris went on to form theCircleJerks -- and they were respectively replacedwithChavo Pederast andRobo. By the release of 1980's Jealous Again, Black Flag hadbegun totour the U.S.relentlessly,building up a small, butdedicated, following of fans. After the release of Jealous Again, Pederast left thegroupandwasreplaced by Dez Cadena.However, Cadena preferred to play guitar, and his transition to that instrument in 1981gavethegroup a heaviersound; hisreplacement on vocals was Henry Rollins, a Washington, D.C., fan who jumped on-stageto sing with the 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 musicastoodangerous and vulgar.Undaunted, Ginnreleased the album on his own SST Records. Upon its release, thealbumreceivedconsiderable critical acclaim. Soon afterit appeared on theshelves, Unicorn sued Black Flag and SST overtherelease ofDamaged. For the next two years, the band was preventedfrom using the nameBlack Flag or their logo onanyrecords.During that time, the group continued to tour, and surreptitiously releasedEverything Went Black,adouble-albumretrospective that contained no mention of the band, although it listed the names of the members onthefront cover.Thedisputeended in 1983, when Unicorn went bankrupt and the rights to the Black Flag name and logoreverted back 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, its thirdofficialalbum of 1984. In addition to thosethree albums, Black Flagreleased thecassette-only Live '84 and the compilation The First FourYears in1984, as well asreissuing Everything WentBlack with all theproper credits restored. The group's touring and recording pace didn'tslowin 1985;they released threerecords: Loose Nut,The Process of Weeding Out, and In My Head. By the end of the year,AnthonyMartinezreplacedStevenson on drums.
After Black Flag released the live album Who's Got the 10½? in early 1986, Greg Ginn broke up the band. Ginnrecordedtwoalbums withthemore experimental Gone, but he primarily concentrated on running SST Records, whichhad become oneof themost importantAmericanindependent labels of the era. By the time Black Flag broke up, SSThad already releasedalbums bysuch bands as Hüsker Dü,theMinutemen, Meat Puppets, and Sonic Youth. For most ofthe late '80s, Ginn retiredfromperforming, choosing to operate SSTRecordsinstead; during this time, the labelreleased the first recordings from bandslikeSoundgarden, Dinosaur Jr., and Screaming Trees.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 released musicrecordedwiththe RollinsBandon a variety of independent labels, as well as solo spoken-word recordings. In the early'90s, Rollinsbecameone of the mostrecognizablefigures of alternative music. « hide
Similar Bands: Minutemen, Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks, Bad Religion
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