Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Even though I haven't owned a record player since 1994, I still own a couple records, and for some reason I still own this, one of the first I ever bought. I bought it in either 1988 or '89; I was either 13 or 14 years old. In case you can't tell, it's Everything Went Black by Black Flag. The flag bars and every instance of the band name on the sleeve and on the record label itself have been rubbed out.

The yellow sticker is the price tag. I paid 1200 drachma for it, which I think at 1989 rates would be about US$7.50. I lived in Athens, Greece, at the time, and Eddie Barnes and I had found a series of record shops down near Monastiraki Plaza. Of course, it's more than 20 years later, so I could be misremembering this shit, and if it wasn't Monastiraki or nearabouts, it was a neighborhood just as old. We had our skateboards, and the streets were so narrowly and unevenly paved we couldn't ride 'em.

I might've been 13 when some older kid I used to skate with, an older, cooler kid with a bleached skater-flip hairdo who lived in the international student boarding house, gave me a tape with the Dead Kennedys on one side and the Descendents on the other.

The cassette-tape label was a rectangular oval sticker with graph-paper lines, and instead of writing "Dead Kennedys," the kid had drawn the DK symbol. It was the first time I'd ever heard punk rock, and Jello Biafra's crazy voice, the ominous scraping guitars and vibrating bass sound and above all the pure goddamned anger blew my mind.

Still, no one had anger like Black Flag, and the crackle of vinyl only made it more apocalyptic. Discovering Black Flag was discovering a sonic thermonuclear meltdown. This suited me fine, because at the time I was absolutely furious, just filled with a vast, black anger so much of the time.

I definitely didn't know why then, and I'm still not entirely sure why now: hormones, family trauma and abuse, insecurity and fear, poor choice in friends and poor company, negative attitude, ignorance for what I put in my body ... maybe some, maybe all. We get "anger" from an Old Norse word that also implies grief and sorrow, so maybe there was grief and sorrow there, too.

There were the typical Black Flag crowd-pleasers like Keith Morris' "T.V. Party" and "Jealous Again," which I thought were great, but I really went in for the Dez Cadena hammers like "Depression," "Damaged II," and "Padded Cell."

Black Flag is one of those bands I can't really listen to anymore. They're wedded very tightly to a time, place and emotion that's hard to casually revisit, yet is no less part of me now — the choices I make, from the mental attitudes I adopt to the emotions I share.

Man, just looking at the cover again, with those shears ... that is some scary shit right there.