Friday, August 26, 2011
I set myself a goal this week to write about Michael Hurley, Chuck Higgins and this fantastic '70s spiritual jazz LP on Folkways I recently acquired, and then the pressures and woes of daily life got to me and it all came to nought. In the meantime, in a fit of pathetic nostalgia, I did manage to revisit my Minor Threat DVD and watch all three concerts on its wares. I had the VHS version back in the '80s/'90s, which only had the June 23 1983 show at the 9:30 Club (their final show, in fact), but in 2003 it was reissued in a DVD format by Dischord w/ two extra gigs and a 1983 interview w/ Ian MacKaye. The two other shows in question are the December 1980 show at DC Space, their performance at the Unheard Music Festival; and a November 1982 show at Buff Hall in New Jersey, a HC extraveganza also featuring the likes of SS Decontrol and Agnostic Front. If you're at all partial to enjoying and perhaps over-analysing the development of hardcore punk in the US, they're mandatory viewing. In fact, you will witness its evolution. In 1980, the members were fresh out of high school (actually, Brian Baker, a mere 15 years old at the time, was still there) and the machismo which took over HC wasn't so prevalent. Hell, there are even females dancing in the audience! Things weren't so codified, and the The Kids hadn't yet taken over the scene. Older rockers from the punk/new wave scene, in bands such as The Slickee Boys and The Nurses, were still hanging in there, though I'm sure they figured their days were numbered. By 1982, HC was a national phenomenon w/ key scenes scattered throughout the country, a magnet for angry suburban kids w/ shaved heads and a chip on their shoulder. If you had half a brain in your head, Minor Threat may well have been your soundtrack at the time. Gone are the females, and in comes the head-cracking. By 1983, HC had already peaked and many of the smarter (or better) bands were exploring other musical avenues. Many others ran out of steam. If Minor Threat had stuck around - and if the history books are to be believed, all members bar MacKaye wanted to make a bid for the big time in a distinctly U2-ish direction(!!) - they would've eaten shit in a major way pretty quick, so let's all be thankful that they called it quits. For myself and many others, they remain the quintessential first-wave American HC band. As white as snow and as middle-class suburbia as it comes, they defined it. Check out the collegiate duds on Lyle Preslar in the second clip: he looks like he came straight from rugby practice. I like his (lack of) style. Older observers of HC at the time were highly critical of the then-infant Maximum Rock 'n' Roll's attempt to whip HC into a national radical movement on a par w/ the Yippies, accusing them of being far more interested in it as a social movement than a musical one, in the meantime encouraging thousands of unimaginative dweebs to dull the waters within a few years. I get the point, but that probably would've happened anyway. Within the thousands of practitioners at the time, I'd estimate there were probably 10 outfits I'd rate as brilliant and maybe another 10 I'd rate as great. The rest were scenery, but I'm sure it was fun. I wasn't around to enjoy it, or at least I wasn't old enough to enjoy it when it was fresh and new, but these clips give you some visuals to what a blast it must've been. Like the best bands of the day, MT were totally committed to the music. After all, no one would listen to them anymore if their records weren't that good. "Inventing" straight edge will only get you so far. A friend of mine - the same vintage as myself - noted the other day that he still loved MT because they "rocked", something along the lines of a lightning-paced AC/DC. Check out the riff on "Small Man Big Mouth": it sounds like it's ripped straight out of Back In Black. There are many reasons to dig this, and I guess that's one of them.