Friday, June 8 was the birthday of Black Flag guitarist and SST Records founder Greg Ginn. There’s so much that has been written about Ginn over the years and not all of it flattering. And there’s a good amount that is unflattering that’s also just true. But that’s hardly the point of this post. Nor is the point to shout out and say “Happy Birthday, Greg!” as if he would ever actually read this. Like almost anything else I post this is really, you know, about me.
I first discovered Black Flag in 1984 at a small record shop in North Miami Beach, FL named Open Books and Records. [Side note, the space it was in, 44 167th Street, North Miami, FL, is now occupied by a place named Universal Windows and Doors]. Anyway, I used to ride my bike all over 163rd and 167th street because they were only a mile or so from my house and I was always riding around with my Walkman playing whatever cassettes I had been able to get my hands on. So, one day I happen upon this place and there’s a huge poster advertising Black Flag’s My War in the window and, given it’s artwork (weird hand-puppet thing holding a knife) I had a gut feeling that this was a place I wasn’t supposed to go into. Event though, generally speaking, I
was a pretty good kid, I went in anyway.
I bought the record that had sorta frightened me in the window. (To give you an idea of where my head was at the time I also purchased The Go-Go’s Beauty And The Beat).
So was I an instant convert? No. Not at all. The album was noisy, scary, doom-laden and all in all not something I related to instantly. Still, I felt cool owning such a scary looking record and when you’re young and not really ever feeling cool about anything something as simple as that is enough. And it was.
So, I wound up moving to Georgia in the fall of 1984 and that’s when this record came out again.
Suddenly, it seemed, lyrics like My war/You’re one of them/you say/that you’re my friend/but you’re one of them were exactly what I needed (non-existent child psychologists might disagree). At any rate, they were what I wanted.
So, long story short, kept buying Black Flag records until I had them all. They split in 1986.
Ginns mighty SST was one of the essential labels of this time and it released a whole lot of crap but a whole lot of killer, too. (My third favorite band of all-time Husker Du is a case in point.)
When Greg Ginn came to Athens in 1994 he took me out for coffee and gave me a great interview for my then-‘zine The Atomic Ballroom. Even though the climate surrounding Ginn had been soiled permanently by his brutal screwing over of Negativland I was nervous as a kid asking for his first date doing this interview. That’s just the way it was.
I dunno. Greg Ginn will always be someone I have some degree of heavy admiration for. If for nothing else providing the soundtrack to many a lonely moment (both in adolescence and adulthood), killer car rides with my best friend Brendan, etc. His work certainly altered the course of my life. And how many people can really say that they did that for someone, huh?
(Oh, yeah, look here for an account of Henry Rollins visiting the aforementioned Open Books And Records in 1985. That store was so great.)
Probable essential viewing:
Black Flag-Detroit-March 16,1983-six songs in 8 minutes. Damn.