Thursday, February 10, 2005

I feel my power?

Download: BLACK FLAG "I Love You (demo)"

Sorry to not have posted yet this week -- am super busy. This song is for you, baby, in honor of St. Valentine, who is of course the saint who invented greeting cards, and red candy.

I doubt you'll be blown away when I tell you that in the early '80s, Black Flag were one of the most weird, powerful (l-o-u-d) bands around, especially live. But they just seem either taken for granted or seen as macho prigs today (how DID Kendra manage to stay in that band, anyway?) Getting hair-whipped by Greg Ginn was a rite of passage for all geeks -- and anyone within five feet of the stage would get drenched by the paranoid pothead's sweat as it flew from his locks. This song is from the '82 demo, the time when the group was land-locked by a bad record deal and forced to wait years to re-record and release the same material. I think that experience kind of made everyone in the band insane.

I used to have a cassette that was totally high generation of this material, but this doesn't sound too bad. You can't hear Dez too well on this version, and that's not good -- when Dez Cadena and Greg Ginn both played twin leads in this band, it approached the zig-zaggin' free jazz hardcore Marquee Moon of your dreams. He gets a lot of flack, but Henry was a really good front dude for the first few years -- he was obviously really smart and could yell very well. He had not yet become a tool, is what I'm saying. Listening to this stuff for the first time in years, Henry's lyrics seem so weirdly self-actualized they coulda been written by Stuart Smalley in a fit. At the time they sounded so intense; now they just sound silly. That's probably my own age showing more than anything, though...

I once witnessed Henry be rather sweet, humbled even, in front of my friend the Chairman, about a year after this song was recorded. The Chairman was in his late 30s or early 40s, bearded, big, and spoke slowly. He sounded kind of like Tom Waits and dressed in Hawaiian shirts he got at thrift stores and flea markets, and he knew a lot about music. When the Chariman entered the record store I worked at and spent all my free time in, Yardbird Records, whoever was sitting in the shop's sole chair would get up and let him sit in it... I just realized this is not a very good story at all, but so Black Flag were in town and the promoter for the club they were playing at (Richard Shelter for Flynn's) was driving Hank around. They came into the store and Henry all coolly asked if we had this one particular John Lee Hooker record (maybe it was one of the ones he made with the Groundhogs?) and the Chairman schooled him for twenty minutes on John Lee Hooker, like, just flat-out schooled him. It was beautiful. I told you it was a lame story! Nils has the best Henry story, anyway.

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