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Everything Went Black - A Profile of Black Flag

By

Everything Went Black - A Profile of Black Flag

Formed:


California, 1976
(As Panic, the name was changed to Black Flag in 1978)

Original Lineup::


Greg Ginn - Guitar
Keith Morris – Vocals 1976-1979
Raymond Pettibon – Bass 1976
David Horvitz – Drums 1976

Later Members:


Ron “Chavo Pederast” Reyes – Vocals 1979-1980
Dez Cadena – Vocals 1980-1981, 2003, Rhythm Guitar 1981-1983
Henry Rollins – Vocals 1981-1986
Spot – Bass 1976-1977
Chuck Dukowski – Bass 1977-1983
Kira Roessler – Bass 1983-1985
C'el Revuelta – Bass 1986, 2003
Brian Migdol – Drums 1977-1978
ROBO – Drums 1978-1981, 2003
Emil Johnson – Drums 1982
Chuck Biscuits – Drums 1982
Bill Stevenson – Drums 1983-1985
Anthony Martinez – Drums 1985-1986

The Conspicuous Emblem:

Black Flag’s logo is one of the more conspicuous emblems in punk rock. Raymond Pettibon, Greg Ginn’s brother and the original Black Flag bassist, designed it. The emblem, and the band’s name, was based on Pettibon’s idea that, if a white flag represented surrender, a black flag stood for anarchy.

Hardcore Is Born:

Black Flag’s West Coast take on punk rock was drastically different from the Ramones in New York. While the Ramones were playing fast punk with friendly vocals, Black Flag was heavier and often slower. They drew from metal influences, and their lyrics (predominantly written by Ginn) were much darker.

Black Flag was the brainchild of guitarist Greg Ginn (the only member to stay with the band throughout its lifetime). He and vocalist Keith Morris had a hard time cementing a lineup, and it wasn’t until late 1977 that they were able to perform with a semi-permanent lineup consisting of Ginn, Morris, Dukowski and Migdol.

The Band's Life :

The band's lineup changed a lot, but the best known era for the band took place with Henry Rollins on vocals. This is partly due to the fact that this was when Black Flag recorded all of its full-length album (five of six in 1984 and 1985 alone!), and partly due to the intensity as a performer that Rollins brought to the group.

While Black Flag would be known for their intensity, DIY ethic and relentless recording and touring, these attributes would also lead to infighting and burnout. The band parted ways in 1986 after a show in Detroit, reuniting for three shows in 2003 (where Mike Vallely sang guest vocals).

Legacy:

Black Flag has left an impact on virtually every punk band in the U.S. (and much of the world). They influenced hardcore, DIY record distribution and touring, and as can be expected in such an influential band with such a storied lineup, its members spread all over the punk world.

Most Notably:
Keith Morris went on to form The Circle Jerks.
Henry Rollins went on to be, well, Henry Rollins.
Greg Ginn owns SST records, and has recorded several solo albums and with a handful of groups.
ROBO was part of The Misfits
Dez Cadena is now in Osaka Popstar.
Bill Stevenson was the drummer for the Descendents and ALL.
Kira Roessler was married to Mike Watt of the Minutemen from 1987-1984, and contributed material to the Minutemen, fiREHOSE and Watt’s solo work.
Chuck Biscuits has drummed for a ton of punk bands, including D.O.A. (pre-Black Flag), Circle Jerks, Descendents, Danzig and Social Distortion.

Essential Album:

This is an inherently loaded question, as each era of the band boasts different aspects of the band's appeal. As a copout, and to suggest the record that is an easy introduction the range of the band, 1987's Wasted... Again is a good jumping off point. Essentially a "best-of" album (although I don't believe that it has all of their best work), it features tracks from every singer of Black Flag.

Avoiding the easy way out with a greatest hits album, you should really seek out both 1983's The First Four Years, a compilation of of Morris's work with the band, and 1981's Damaged, Rollins's first album with the Black Flag.

Selected Album Discography:

Studio Albums

Damaged (1981)
My War (1984)
Family Man (1984)
Slip It In (1984)
Loose Nut (1985)
In My Head (1985)

Compilation Albums

Everything Went Black (1983)
The First Four Years (1983)
Wasted... Again (1987)

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