I’m in the midst of a MINUTEMEN bender the last couple of weeks. Here’s a knockout comp track of theirs, “Base King” from the New Underground series of early 80s LA punk/art comps.
(Originally published on Agony Shorthand in 2005)
“WE JAM ECONO: THE STORY OF THE MINUTEMEN”
“We Jam Econo : The Story of The Minutemen” is screening all week in San Francisco as we speak; I was fortunate enough to find a scalper on the sold-out opening night last Friday kind enough to sell me her extra with no markup. Yeah, the legend has grown, no doubt about it, but I remember even back in the early/mid 80s – those people who were into THE MINUTEMEN were really into The Minutemen. In high school I tried in vain to convince some friends to go to Palo Alto (!) with me to see the SST tour (known as “The Tour”) featuring the Minutemen, HUSKER DU, MEAT PUPPETS, SACCHARINE TRUST and – wait for it – SWA. Missed it, and later that year when D. Boon died – and I had just really fallen hard for the band’s back catalog – I kicked myself up & down the dorm room for not being a brave 17-year-old & hoofing it there by myself. It was very small penance to have seen several of the earliest fIREHOSE shows that next year, but because I did, I at least got to experience many of SST’s best & worst either opening or headlining, from the DIVINE HORSEMEN to GONE. But jesus, enough about me – how was the friggin’ film??
It’s great. The two guys who put it together obviously passionately did so on a shoestring, an irony not lost on them, doubtless, given The Minutemen’s admirable overall working man, “econo” ethos. They gathered footage from about 5 different shows spanning the band’s career, and feathered it in liberally between dozens & dozens of testimonials from scene celebs of the day. A few things struck me watching folks like Jack Brewer, J. Mascis, Ian Mackaye, Kira Roessler, Dez Cadena, Byron Coley & many many others talk up the band – first, this band touched a ton of hearts in a way that most bands never will. It may be in small part to the Minutemen’s tragic end, but I’m certain it’s far more attributable to what an incredible trio of guys they were – intelligent, funny, down-to-earth, dedicated to spreading the good word about art & music, and about as non-condescending to the audience as any band’s ever been. I mean the Minutemen talked about having shows that started at 7pm & in the suburbs or blue-collar outlying towns “so the working man can get to the shows”. As a working man, though I doubt they meant me, this would have been fantastic, and would probably have cost the band a significant amount of hipster points. Like they cared. They also took the meathead 1981-82 punk rock scene head-on, and quite literally challenged the jocks with abstract, crazy, bullrushing jazz lines woven into the fabric of of traditional punk. They played softly, or flat-out jammed improvisationally when opening for Black Flag in Huntington Beach or wherever. The name “Beefheart” comes up often in this documentary, and little wonder. These guys didn’t expand the punk rock canvas, they exploded it in a way that slid under the radar of virtually everyone but the musos. (They’re well represented here, too, in the persons of Joe Baiza, the Urinals/100 Flowers guys, the Slovenly folks etc.). Watt mentions his then-love for WIRE and the POP GROUP, and that makes a whole heck of a lot of sense as well.
Another thing I noticed, just because it’s impossible to escape for all of us, is how old everyone is now. Far more time has passed between the Minutemen’s untimely end & this documentary’s release – 20 years – than I thought could truly be possible. The 28-year olds of 1985 are the 48-year-olds of today, with lots of hard drinking and overall heavy lifting having taken their tolls. Say what you will about such a superficial observation, but it was jarring nonetheless, recognizing of course that I myself am well on the same path. The documentary is held together by two intertwined MIKE WATT interviews, who naturally serves as the defacto narrator and key historian. I was gonna get really pissed about the initial overdose of D. Boon/Mike Watt play and the lack of George Hurley recognition when the film sort of turned and devoted about 5 minutes to Hurley’s genius drumming. I didn’t used to vote him #1 drummer in the Flipside poll every year for nothing! As great as Boon & Watt were, without Hurley’s bebop-infused, rimshot pounding and cymbal manipulations, this band wouldn’t have been half the champions they ended up being. Still probably my all-time favorite drummer in rock and roll, and a total unlikely drumming lunatic – a toiling-class surfer & initial drummer-for-hire who sort of stumbled onto the Minutemen (then called The Reactionaries) and learned punk rock from them via near-osmosis.
“We Jam Econo” is an excellent documentary about a very special band. The fact that I feel more so about the band than I have in years means the film did its job quite well. I recommend it with a man-falling-out-of-chair if it happens to hit your town on the film tour now underway. Oh hey – one more thing. We got to ask the filmmakers a bunch of questions after the screening, and they said that a 2xDVD set is in the works, a set that will contain the film, tons of extra interviews, and four complete Minutemen shows, the ones that were all over this documentary. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, punker!
New Alliance record ad for the outstanding “Chunks” compilation, 1981.
THE REACTIONARIES, 1979. 3/4th of the band were better known a year later as The Minutemen.
New show with a stunning array of berserk musical acts from about 1973 to the present – it’s Dynamite Hemorrhage Radio #38, and I hope you choose to listen to it. The first track, a newer-than-new, skittering one-minute spastic artpunk jam from Northwest Indiana’s CCTV, will have you hooked for another hour – on this you shall mark my words.
Other new bands in the mix this time include BATTY, HLEP, EASTLINK, GOOD THROB, PARQUET COURTS and DARK TIMES; I’ve also got some new reissues/unearthings from The Spies, X__X, Jack Ruby and Dadamah, plus a bunch of library material from the likes of The Minutemen, Clinic, Solger, Half Japanese (pictured), Union Carbide Productions and more. And if for some reason you enjoy this show, you’ll find comfort in the fact that there are 37 additional hours of Dynamite Hemorrhage programming that you’re free to download as well.
Download Dynamite Hemorrhage Radio #38.
Stream or download Dynamite Hemorrhage Radio #38 on Soundcloud.
Subscribe to the show on iTunes.
CCTV – Mind Control
HLEP – Drunk Cop
OPPOSITE SEX – La Rat
THE MINUTEMEN – Afternoons
CLINIC – IPC Subeditors Dictate Our Youth
THE SPIES – Egyptian Bird Song
PARQUET COURTS – Sunbathing Animal
THE SPITS – Get Our Kicks
THE BEGUILED – Fire Rock (That Nagging Voice)
GOOD THROB – Acid House
X__X – No No
DADAMAH – Violet Stains Red
BATTY – Summoning Call
UNION CARBIDE PRODUCTIONS – Financial Declaration
JACK RUBY – Bored Stiff
½ JAPANESE – Hey Laurie
WHITE FENCE – Growing Faith
DARK TIMES – Girl Hate
CRISIS – PC 1984
SOLGER – A Man
HECTOR – Wired Up
EASTLINK – What A Silly Day (Australia Day)
Some past shows:
Dynamite Hemorrhage #37 (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #36 (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #35 (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #34 (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #33 (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #32 (playlist)
“…they’re all wonderfully celebratory herks & jerks in the patented blink-and-you-missed style.” – J Hinman
DISTURBED #2 1995 (page 17), ROBERT PLANTE, Editor
- Last month we celebrated JIMMY JOHNSON as Fuckin’ Record Reviews’ inaugural UNSUNG HERO OF ROCKNROLL WRITING. There was a Forced Exposure discography at the end of the Jimmy Johnson interview in which Byron Coley tossed off comments about each release, with Disturbed editor Robert Plante adding unauthorized liftage from other sources.
- The Minutemen review above does not appear to include Coley commentary, but instead swipes an equally sharp JAY HINMAN review from Superdope #7 (1994).
It’s been a few weeks – how about another DYNAMITE HEMORRHAGE RADIO PODCAST, what do you say? This is the nineteenth edition (#19), and this time around I’ve got some stunning new stuff from RUBY PINS, THE AR-KAICS, SIMPLE CIRCUIT, SKINNY GIRL DIET and CONSTANT MONGREL. It’s about an hour, all told. The older material includes a lot of daffy, developmentally-delayed rocknroll this time around, including messed-up sideways punk from The Silver, The Panics, Art Phag, The Keggs and The Riptoids. Then there’s stuff from Black Flag, SPK, The Bristols, Winterbrief, and Kitchen and the Plastic Spoons, too – so maybe that’s more your thing.
Parents may find it somewhat challenging trying to explain this music to children, so please share this with the utmost in caution. There are 18 other episodes to download as well – you’ll find those all below the playlist.
THE RIPTOIDS – I’m Wired
RUBY PINS – Chariot
THE PLAYTHINGS – Sit Down (Stand Up)
WINTERBRIEF – Love Seat Sofa Charade
BUTTER UTTER – Soho
THE SILVER – Do You Wanna Dance
THE AR-KAICS – She Does Those Things To Me
KEGGS – To Find Out
THE BRISTOLS – The Way I Feel About You
RIGHT ON – Buried Alive
ART PHAG – A Boy and His Gun
JACKKNIFE – Teen Dance Debbie
CONSTANT MONGREL – In The Courts
THE DWARVES – Eat You To Survive
THE PANICS – I Wanna Kill My Mom
SIMPLE CIRCUIT – SOS
THE MINUTEMEN – History Lesson
BLACK FLAG – Clocked In
KITCHEN AND THE PLASTIC SPOONS – Blatta
SPK – No More
THE FUSE! – All Across The World
ERASE ERRATA – Harvester
NUMBERS – Drunk With Pain
SKINNY GIRL DIET – Homesick