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Black Flag

In many ways, Black Flag was the definitive Los Angeles hardcore punk band. Although their music flirted withheavymetalandexperimental noise and jazz more than that of most hardcore bands, they defined the image andtheaesthetic. Throughtheir ceaselesstouring, the band cultivated the American underground punk scene; every year,BlackFlag played in everyarea of the U.S., influencingcountless numbers of bands. Although their recording career washamperedby a draining lawsuit,which was followed by a seemingly endlessstream of independently released records,the band wasunquestionably one of themo ...read more

In many ways, Black Flag was the definitive Los Angeles hardcore punk band. Although their music flirted withheavymetalandexperimental noise and jazz more than that of most hardcore bands, they defined the image andtheaesthetic. Throughtheir ceaselesstouring, the band cultivated the American underground punk scene; every year,BlackFlag played in everyarea of the U.S., influencingcountless numbers of bands. Although their recording career washamperedby a draining lawsuit,which was followed by a seemingly endlessstream of independently released records,the band wasunquestionably one of themost influential American post-punk bands. A full decadeand a half before thefusion of 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 occasionally veryfunny. Furthermore, Black Flag demonstratedan affection for bohemia -- both in terms ofmusicalexperimentation and afondness for poetry -- that reiterated theband's underground roots and prevented it frombecoming nothing but aheavymetal group. And it didn't matter whowas in the band -- throughout the years, the lineupchanged numerous times --because theBlack Flag name and four-bar logo became punk institutions.

Black Flag was formed in 1977 by guitarist Greg Ginn, a graduate of UCLA. Ginn formed the band with bassistChuckDukowski;the pairsoon added drummer Brian Migdol and vocalist Keith Morris. At the same time, Ginn andDukowskiformed anindependent record label, SST,which released the band's first EP, Nervous Breakdown, in 1978. MorrisandMigdol departedthe following year -- Morris went on to form theCircle Jerks -- and they were respectively replacedwithChavo Pederast andRobo. By the release of 1980's Jealous Again, Black Flag hadbegun to tour the U.S.relentlessly,building up a small, butdedicated, following of fans. After the release of Jealous Again, Pederast left thegroupand wasreplaced by Dez Cadena.However, Cadena preferred to play guitar, and his transition to that instrument in 1981gavethegroup a heavier sound; hisreplacement on vocals was Henry Rollins, a Washington, D.C., fan who jumped on-stageto sing with the bandduring a NewYork performance.

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, Ginn released the album on his own SST Records. Upon its release, thealbumreceivedconsiderable critical acclaim. Soon afterit appeared on the shelves, Unicorn sued Black Flag and SST overtherelease ofDamaged. For the next two years, the band was preventedfrom using the name Black 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.Thedispute ended in 1983, when Unicorn went bankrupt and the rights to the Black Flag name and logoreverted back totheband(by this time, Cadena had left 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 -- recordedthe albums My War and Family Man. After those two albums wererecorded, the groupadded bassistKira Roessler and cut Slip It In, its thirdofficial album of 1984. In addition to thosethree albums, Black Flagreleased thecassette-only Live '84 and the compilation The First FourYears in 1984, 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,AnthonyMartinez replacedStevenson on drums.

After Black Flag released the live album Who's Got the 10½? in early 1986, Greg Ginn broke up the band. Ginnrecordedtwoalbums with themore experimental Gone, but he primarily concentrated on running SST Records, whichhad become oneof themost important Americanindependent 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 SST Recordsinstead; 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 RollinsBand on a variety of independent labels, as well as solo spoken-word recordings. In the early'90s, Rollinsbecameone of the mostrecognizable figures of alternative music. « hide

Similar Bands: Minutemen, Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks

LPs
What The...
11/05/2013

1.3
117 Votes
In My Head
1985

3.5
191 Votes
Loose Nut
1985

3.2
177 Votes
Slip It In
1984

3.6
320 Votes
Family Man
1984

2.8
240 Votes
My War
1984

4
661 Votes
Damaged
1981

4.2
1,243 Votes
EPs
I Can See You
1989

2.8
33 Votes
Annihilate This Week
1987

2.7
26 Votes
The Process of Weeding Out
1985

3.5
61 Votes
TV Party
1982

3.7
60 Votes
Six Pack
1981

3.7
95 Votes
Jealous Again
1980

3.9
127 Votes
Nervous Breakdown
1978

4.4
390 Votes
Live Albums
Who's Got the 10 1/2?
1986

3.8
44 Votes
Live '84
1984

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

3.7
29 Votes
Wasted... Again
1987

3.8
26 Votes
The First Four Years
1984

4.2
249 Votes
Everything Went Black
1982

4
97 Votes

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