Black Flag

Growing up in Western Australia in the 1970s there was still pretty much a huge British Influence on our culture. In fact the first place in the world outside of England for skinheads was Australia in the 1960s, thanks to Australia’s “Five Pound Pommy” immigration policy where any British man who had a trade (Electrician, Plumber etc) could move his whole family out if he had five Pounds to his name, entire streets moved out to Australia. So anyways most of the punk rockers I knew in the late 70s early 80s were either Brits or 2nd generation Brits..out side of the Ramones the general consensus with all of them is “You cannot be Punk and American” – Nuts right? But that was the general thought of the time.
I was a skateboarder (still am) at the time and read Skateboarder magazine every month. By 1977 their music section started covering the early LA Punk scene. I started to follow what was going on their and started seeing names like The Circle Jerks and Black Flag mentioned.

I remember as clear as yesterday once cutting school and going to every record store in the city looking for Black Flag records…one store (not even the best Indie Stores in the city that honor would go to Dadas or 78s records) had a white label 12″ which he told me was Black Flag with the singer of the circle jerks doing vocals – I asked him if it was any good and since he had just got it he said he didn’t know. Forever whatever reason it was more than we would normal pay for an import record so I thought screw it I will pass. Of course I did not know at the time that Keith was the first singer for BF before leaving to form the Circle Jerks..god knows what that white label would be worth today! Oh well easy come easy go.

Anyways some how (no clue how) I got a flyer or little mail order catalog from the DOA guys …I remember even showing my mum the records I wanted to order (DOA’s “Hardcore 81” and Black Flag’s “Damaged”) My mum said “don’t get that one its DAMAGED” ha ha had to explain it was the name of the record, so I sent away for both albums and weeks later they arrived back in Australia (no instant digital download in those days kids) I forget if I had the unicorn or the first SST pressing of the record but I do know for a fact I had the one with the “as a parent I found this an anti parent record” priceless!! That’s what you want to see on a record when you are a snot nosed kid ha ha

So needless to say I played Black Flag “Damaged” every day for 5 years – no lie- I had plenty of pen friends in LA and my bedroom wall’s were covered in Raymond Pettibon’s seminal artwork/flyers. ( when I moved out of home I tore them all down – years later I have seen originals sell on ebay for $100 of dollars.

There was a long wait for the 2nd album (due to their legal problems) and friends in LA warned me after seeing the band play live they were now “heavy metal” and had long hair (big no no for punks at the time) Someone mailed me a live cassette and you know what ..I liked it…some old school LA punkers argue that Black Flag went down hill when Henry (Garfield) Rollins joined the band , playing smaller and smaller places (from packing out 5000 capacity arenas with Dez) and ever decreasing record sales. For the record I loved every record that BF did..all the way to the end, I never got to see the band live but have seen Rollins numerous times and caught Greg Ginns instrumental band (Gone?) once in London. If there was ever a band that was more like a cult then a band ..it was Black Flag – they sure don’t make bands like them anymore.

Oh yeah – years later I used to talk to Chuck from Black Flag/ SST on the phone all the time, I mentioned to him I owned a cassette years ago that had two unreleased songs on it “What can you believe” and “Yes, I know” and that they should one day release them. approx one month later I was in the best Indie record store in England (Selectadisc) and there was a new Black Flag cd with those 2 songs on it ..wow I thought great, one problem though it was 1 day to pay day I will come back the next day and pick it up…of course as all record collectors know the next day it was gone…no worries because only later did I find out it was a slick bootleg cd. maybe one day eh Chuck?