Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Black Flag

I had to share my Black Flag collection eventually, so here it is. If there's one way to describe this band, it's "iconic", at least for part of their career. Whether it be the classic Damaged, the teeth-clenched My War, songs like "Nervous Breakdown", the band's very interesting history, or the "bars" logo which is recognizable to people who don't even listen to the band (and which I admittedly have embedded in my skin), Black Flag are one of punk rock's flagships and icons.

Trying to start an introduction on the band's history in no easy task. They've got a very long and rich history that's documented in a ton of great sources (The Decline Of Western Civilization, Get In The Van, and many, many more) which do a much better job than I ever could. Basically, Black Flag began in Hermosa Beach, California under the name Panic in 1976 by the band's sole continuos member, guitarist Greg Ginn, whose label SST also released the band's material. Aside from him, the band had a revolving door of members that I could not even begin to get into details about. In the band's early days, the other most noteworthy member was bassist Chuck Dukowski, who stayed with them until '83. Black Flag also went through three singers, the first being Keith Morris. He later formed the Circle Jerks, OFF!, and stayed very active in the punk community to this day. He also currently fronts Flag, but we'll get to that. Besides a bunch of demos, he only appeared on the band's debut EP, Nervous Breakdown, which is considered to be one of the first, if not the first, hardcore punk release ever. It's been infinitely influential to this day. Their second vocalist, Ron Reyes, appeared on Jealous Again and came back to sing on 2013's What The..., which is quite aptly titled, but we'll also get to that later. Their third vocalist was Dez Cadena, whose guttural shouts brought the band into an angrier, noisier territory. The main material these three guys put out with Black Flag is all included on The First Four Years, which is a punk rock essential. The demos and outtakes from this era appear on Everything Went Black, which is a really interesting listen to hear each vocalist's take on the early songs.

Hardcore '81. Cadena's vocal chords were being shredded to hell (check out some live stuff from him, you'll see why), and the band was in need of a new vocalist, since Cadena wanted to play rhythm guitar. This guy from DC had been playing in this band called State Of Alert and managing the local Haagen Daz. After going up to see Black Flag play in New York, he hopped onstage with them to perform "Clocked In", since he had to drive back to DC to scoop ice cream the next day. A few days later, he gets a call inviting him up to audition for the band's new vocalist. And just like that, Henry Garfield becomes Henry Rollins, and the rest is history. Sort of. The band's "classic" line-up was now fully formed, featuring Rollins on vocals, Ginn on guitar, Cadena on rhythm guitar, Dukowski on bass, and Robo (also of The Misfits) on drums. They recorded their first full-length album, Damaged, which featured Rollins punching a mirror on the cover, which is a pretty accurate representation of the music on it. Some of the angriest, noisiest, and most intense hardcore of the time is found right here, from the Reagan-era anthem "Rise Above" to the distressed stream of consciousness "Damaged I". The album is highly regarded, and for good reason.

Damaged was meant to be distributed by Unicorn Records, a subsidiary of MCA at that time, who pulled back on their distribution deal after hearing the album. SST and the band said fuck it and distributed it themselves, which lead to a lawsuit that lasted for the next few years. During this time, the band recorded a handful of demos with drummer Chuck Biscuits (who was in D.O.A. and later Danzig), which are really damn good. They were finally able to release proper records again in 1984, after putting together a ton of material in the years prior. 1984 saw the release of three Black Flag full-lengths and a live album, with a new line-up featuring Rollins and Ginn, as well as bassist Kira Roessler and drummer Bill Stevenson (from the Descendents). My War came first, which featured a slowed-down, metal-inspired sound, which alienated a lot of fans waiting for another Nervous Breakdown. Especially the second side of the album, which was three long, slow songs completely consumed with anger.  As the years went on, it became an influence on grunge and sludge metal, and now held in higher regard as the phenomenal album that it is. Following that was Family Man, which was split into two parts. The first half featured Rollins' spoken word, and the second half featured the experimental jazz and punk fusion that Ginn would continue to explore on The Process Of Weeding Out and his other project Gone. One song, "Armageddon Man", is a combination of both sides, which makes for a demented yet intriguing listen. The end of 1984 resulted in a great live album, Live '84, and another full-length Slip It In, which is a slew of diverse but continuously good material.

The gravitation towards heavy metal continued into 1985 with Loose Nut, which only continued to alienate their fanbase. Black Flag have always had their share of opposition, whether it be the LAPD in their early days, or their own fans later on, they managed to continue on. By now they were more than used to being attacked at shows, particularly Rollins who became the scapegoat to blame for the band's changing sound. By 1985, he was the fully-formed muscled-out, tatted-up, short-short wearing long-haired beast that he's most iconic for in his Black Flag days. Check out their live stuff from this era, it's incredibly intense. When it came to the records though, Loose Nut isn't exactly their most critically-lauded or fan favourite from the band, though I still think it's a great album that has a ton of gems and some standout tracks which could almost be described as catchy (just listen to the chorus on "Bastard In Love"). The heavy metal inspiration peaked on the band's last album (as far as I'm concerned), which was In My Head. Again, it's not the most recognized of Black Flag's material, but it's a solid album front-to-back nonetheless.

By 1986 the band had begun to dissolve. Stevenson and Roessler had left the band, and tensions from the band's vigorous touring schedule and continued experimentation had really started to take a toll on the remaining members. The legendary Black Flag ended in a phone call from Ginn to Rollins, and that was it. All its members went their separate ways and got involved in a bunch of other projects, leaving the bars behind. A handful of members have gotten together on occasion post-2000 to perform some songs, but that's about it.

If there really is a benevolent god, he is not a fan of Black Flag. In 2013, Greg Ginn and Ron Reyes got together under the Black Flag name to play shows and record a new album. The result was What The..., which is as aptly titled as they come. Putting the name and awful cover art aside, it's an incredibly average punk album, which doesn't carry any of the raw energy that they did in their earliest days. It's basically a bastardization of the name, which resulted in even more revolt than My War did years ago. This didn't last long though, since Reyes was kicked out and replaced by skater Mike Vallely. Reyes just can't seem to catch a break with the Black Flag name. when he quit back in 1980, he was credited as "Chavo Pederast" (basically saying he's a pedophile) on Jealous Again as "revenge", and now after coming back years later he gets the boot once again. This incarnation of Black Flag (if you want to call it that) was done by the end of 2014. At the same time, another form of the band sprung up, this one going under the name Flag. It features Morris, Dukowski, Stevenson, Cadena and the Descendents' guitarist Stephen Egerton, and it is definitely the more respectable tribute to the original band, though there's no denying that Greg Ginn IS Black Flag.

Personally, they were a huge influence on me musically. They weren't really my introduction to punk, but they (along with a few others) were definitely my introduction into hardcore, and the wonderful world of the 80's American underground rock, which I still think contains some of the best music ever put out, whether it be Black Flag, Sonic Youth, Mission Of Burma, Rites Of Spring, you name it. I remember watching "Depression" from The Decline Of Western Civilization and thinking "holy fuck", because I had never "got" music like that before, and it's kind of stuck with me ever since. But enough self-indulgence, get into this band. At least The First Four Years, Damaged, and My War, because those are the absolute essentials, and I question your sanity if you don't give them a listen. Enjoy.

1. No Values
2. White Minority
3. I Don't Care
4. Gimme Gimme Gimme
5. Wasted
6. I Don't Care
7. Instrumental
8. I Don't Care (2)

1. Nervous Breakdown
2. Fix Me
3. I've Had It
4. Wasted

1. Jealous Again
2. Revenge
3. White Minority
4. No Values
5. You Bet We've Got Something Personal Against You

1. Six Pack
2. I've Heard It Before
3. American Waste

1. Louie Louie
2. Damaged I

1. White Minority (Live)
2. Depression (Live)
3. Revenge (Live)

1. Thirsty And Miserable
2. Life Of Pain

1. Rise Above
2. Spray Paint (The Walls)
3. Six Pack
4. What I See
5. TV Party
6. Thirsty And Miserable
7. Police Story
8. Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie
9. Depression
10. Room 13
11. Damaged II
12. No More
13. Padded Cell
14. Life Of Pain
15. Damaged I

1. Police Story
2. Nervous Breakdown
3. Depression
4. I've Heard It Before
5. You Bet We've Got Something Personal Against You

Note: Live bootleg

1. TV Party
2. I've Got To Run
3. My Rules

1. Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie
2. I Don't Care
3. White Minority
4. No Values
5. Revenge
6. Depression
7. Clocked In
8. Police Story
9. Wasted
10. Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie
11. Depression
12. Police Story
13. Clocked In
14. My Rules
15. Jealous Again
16. Police Story
17. Damaged I
18. Louie Louie
19. No More
20. Room 13
21. Depression
22. Damaged II
23. Padded Cell
24. Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie
25. Crass Commercialism

1. What Can You Believe?
2. Yes I Know
3. Slip It In
4. Modern Man
5. My War
6. Black Coffee
7. Beat My Head Against The Wall
8. I Can't Decide
9. I Love You
10. Nothing Left Inside
11. I Love You
12. My War
13. Interview Session
14. Swinging Man

1. What Can You Believe?
2. Modern Man
3. Slip It In

1. Nervous Breakdown
2. Fix Me
3. I've Had It
4. Wasted
5. Jealous Again
6. Revenge
7. White Minority
8. No Values
9. You Bet We've Got Something Personal Against You
10. Clocked In
11. Six Pack
12. I've Heard It Before
13. American Waste
14. Machine
15. Louie Louie
16. Damaged I

1. I Love You
2. My War
3. Swinging Man
4. Interview Rado Tokyo 1984

1. My War
2. Can't Decide
3. Beat My Head Against The Wall
4. I Love You
5. Forever Time
6. Swinging Man
7. Nothing Left Inside
8. Three Nights
9. Scream

1. Family Man
2. Salt On A Slug
3. Hollywood Diary
4. Let Your Fingers Do The Walking
5. Shed Reading (Rattus Norvegicus)
6. No Deposit, No Return
7. Armageddon Man
8. Long Lost Dog Of It
9. I Won't Stick Any Of You Unless And Until I Can Stick All Of You!
10. Account For What?
11. The Pups Are Doggin' It

1. Slip It In
2. Black Coffee
3. Wound Up
4. Rat's Eyes
5. Obliteration
6. The Bars
7. My Ghetto
8. You're Not Evil

1. The Process of Weeding Out
2. Nervous Breakdown
3. Can't Decide
4. Slip It In
5. My Ghetto
6. Black Coffee
7. I Won't Stick Any Of You Until and Unless I Stick All Of You!
8. Forever Time
9. Fix Me
10. Six Pack
11. My War
12. Jealous Again
13. I Love You
14. Swinging Man
15. Three Nights
16. Nothing Left Inside
17. Wound Up
18. Rat's Eyes
19. The Bars

1. 01

Note: One file, bunch of live tracks

1. Loose Nut
2. Bastard In Love
3. Annihilate This Week
4. Best One Yet
5. Modern Man
6. This Is Good
7. I'm The One
8. Sinking
9. Now She's Black

1. Your Last Affront
2. Screw The Law
3. The Process Of Weeding Out
4. Southern Rise

1. Paralyzed
2. The Crazy Love
3. Black Love
4. White Hot
5. In My Head
6. Out Of This world
7. I Can See You
8. Drinking And Driving
9. Retired At 21
10. Society's Tease
11. It's All Up To You
12. You Let Me Down

1. Loose Nut
2. I'm The One
3. Annihilate This Week
4. Wasted
5. Bastard In Love
6. Modern Man
7. This Is Good
8. In My Head
9. Sinking
10. Jam
11. Best One Yet
12. My War
13. Slip It In/Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie
14. Drinking And Driving
15. Louie, Louie

1. Minutemen & Black Flag - Fetch The Water
2. Minutemen & Black Flag - Power Failure
3. Minutemen & Black Flag - Friends
4. Minutemen & Black Flag - Candy Rush

1. Wasted
2. TV Party
3. Six Pack
4. I Don't Care
5. I've Had It
6. Jealous Again
7. Slip It In
8. Annihilate This Week
9. Loose Nut
10. Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie
11. Louie Louie
12. Drinking And Driving

1. Annihilate This Week
2. Best One Yet
3. Sinking

1. I Can See You
2. Kickin' & Stickin'
3. Out Of This World
4. You Let Me Down

Disc 1
1. No Martyrs
2. I've Heard It Before
3. Room 13
4. Depression
5. I Can't Decide
6. Nervous Breakdown
7. Jealous Again
8. Scream
9. Six Pack
10. No Values
11. I've Had It
12. My Life
13. I've Got To Run
14. My Rules
15. Modern Man
16. Beat My Head Against The Wall
17. Fix Me
18. Rise Above
19. TV Party
20. Wasted
21. Revenge

Disc 2
1. Band Intros/Scream
2. Jazz Poetry
3. Revenge
4. I've Gotta Run
5. My Rules
6. I've Heard It Before
7. Room 13
8. Depression
9. I've Had It
10. Nervous Breakdown
11. Jealous Again
12. My Life

1. My Heart's Pumping
2. Down In The Dirt
3. Blood And Ashes
4. Now Is The Time
5. Wallow And Despair
6. Slow Your Ass Down
7. It's So Absurd
8. Shut Up
9. This Is Hell
10. Go Away
11. The Bitter End
12. The Chase
13. I'm Sick
14. It's Not My Time To Go-Go
15. Lies
16. Get Out Of My Way
17. Outside
18. No Teeth
19. To Hell And Back
20. Give Me All Your Dough
21. You Gotta Be Joking
22. Off My Shoulders


  1. honestly man you deserve some kind of recognition for the quality content you share. not only for the downloads but your write-ups are incredible. beautiful blog. all i can do is thank you infinitely

  2. Fantastic as always! Any chance of a Descendents post ahead of the new album?

  3. thanks for the Great Post. Love Black Flag and i'm always very happy when i find new stuff like the one you share here. So Again Thank
    ps any possibility that you can share some slovenly stuff in the future?

  4. This wins the day! Thanks much

  5. Getting SmartScreen filter warnings for these downloads, just an fyi.

  6. So Cool! The CBC rip is my rip. I recorded that in my bedroom with my fm stereo dialed all the way down to the low end to pick up the shortwave. It was recorded in Port Huron, Michigan.
    ...can I ask where you found it? I posted it on piratebay forever ago but quit seeding very shortly afterward.

    1. Hey! That's really cool that it's yours, thanks for putting it out there. As for where I got it, I wish I could remember. It could have been thepiratebay, or maybe some other blog that's been dead for a long time ago, I'm really not sure, sorry!

    2. I just like seeing it out there! Glad you enjoyed it!

  7. many thx for the effort! keen to hear the live and demo gear

  8. Awesome, thanks for the great article and for uploading the stuff!!!!

  9. been looking for this 82 broadway record forever, thx man!

  10. That Police Story Live in 1982 thing is not Rollins. Listen carefully it's Dez. Therefore it had to be 1981 or 80. Not your fault, but whoever made the bootleg got it wrong. Rollins really copied Dez so it's hard to tell the difference but listen to that and another live Black Flag from that era and it's real apparent. -MBB

  11. First time on your site, and found exactly what I was looking for and soooo much more! Very nicely set up and curated, and really looking forward to poking around some more and filling in the holes in my collection. Keep up the good work!!

  12. Amazing post!!! Thanks for this

  13. Dude thanks so much!!! This whole page just blows my mind, While we get to relive memories at the same time. And yes im drinking all night to this!