Thursday, February 07, 2008
The first two Black Flag records I ever owned were Damaged and The First Four Years, which both seem to be the starting points for most Flag fans in general. They are after all, the most "accessible" of Ginn's creations, in that they basically follow the punk formula of short, angry and loud.
When I was in the 9th grade an older friend gave me a cassette tape of their Live '84 record, which, since that day has held a spot on the short list of recordings that changed my life. I had never heard anything so angry and tight before; I didn't realize that sound was even possible! The transitions between songs were brilliant. I clicked with Black Flag like I clicked with the Clash; I could have been in that band; I was meant to be into them. They were for ME.
I became obsessed with that tape and soon wore it down. The drum beat never relented and it powered an hour and 15 minutes of aggression and release. I related to Rollins' lyrics on a level I had never experienced. Paranoia, fury and impatience. It was like when I discovered Holden Caulfield, only MUCH better. After all, my entire class read The Catcher In The Rye, but Flag was mine.
Songs like "Can't Decide," "My War," "Slip It In," "Black Coffee" and "Wound Up" became my "Here Comes The Sun," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Strawberry Fields Forever." I had found my Beatles.
Black Flag was a whole different beast live than on studio albums, and their bootlegs are the reason I'll always defend Rollins as Flag's best frontman. Live '84, Who's Got the 10 1/2? and the Annihilate This Week EP are some of the greatest live punk recordings ever. So heavy. So original. So influential. And somehow, so underrated.