MINUTEMEN
Minutemen
PHOTO: GLEN E. FRIEDMAN

The Minutemen were a power trio from San Pedro, California who generated more than ten records in their five years as a recording band. Guitarist Dennes "D." Boon and bassist Mike Watt starting playing together in a bedroom at age 13, and went on to play in cover bands throughout the 1970's. While bands like the intellectual Steely Dan and populist rockers Creedence Clearwater Revival kept them plugged into music, they didn't even attempt to write an orginal song until they heard punk rock. The song "History Lesson pt. 2" describes their discovery of punk in the days when they were "fucking corndogs." They joined up with drummer George Hurley, who was more of a jock than the geeky Watt and Boon, but had a place to practice. The three found common ground in music as well as similar working class upbringings. They started playing out as the Reactionaries but soon became the Minutemen. The name doesn't refer to the length of their songs, but to the historical soldiers, who they found aesthetically pleasing. In 1980 the band put out their first 7" Paranoid Time on Greg Ginn's SST label, and their sound was already amazingly tight and utterly unique. D's guitar was abrasive and trebly - Watt and Hurley ran circles around each other; because the songs didn't really have choruses, it often sounds like the guitar (if not all three instruments) is soloing through entire songs. D. sang the majority of the songs, his lyrics were short bursts, like most of the tunes themselves. Most of the songs were blatantly political, dealing with issues of Cold War paranoia. The Minutemen lost no time before putting out a second EP, this time on their own label, New Alliance. The next year their explosive first 12" The Punch Line came out, with a cover painting by D. Boon. Unlike many early punkers, they were already accomplished musicians, and their noise sounded like nothing else: blending elements of funk, rock, jazz, and pure rage.

Minutemen
PHOTO: GLEN E. FRIEDMAN
A principle ethic behind the Minutemen was the idea of "econo." This meant simply not wasting time or money when it wasn't necessary. It's fairly close to what hardcores today mean by "DIY": set up your own tours, drive your own van, play every night, record cheaply, etc. Even the band's 45 song double LP masterpiece Double Nickels on the Dime was recorded for only $1200. The opposite of "econo" was "mersh," or commercialism. To them, making music for commercial value was the lowest common demoninator. Although Watt worried about becoming a sloganeering band, Boon had a knack for catchy political outbursts. While their songs lacked the kind of drawn out choruses that hardcore bands relied on, songs like "Fanatics" or "This Ain't No Picnic" grew from the same call-response tradition. The Dylanesque protest songs were balanced by Watt's more obscure experiments, as well as many intimate, almost nostalgic tunes like "History Lesson pt. 2" and "Corona" which are on par with CCR's best working class anthems. Both in their music and lyrics, the Minutemen were able to look at things from a variety of different angles. At one point, the band even recruited Brother A. West, a performence artist known for working with Frank Zappa, to perform his mock-fundamentalist sermons with them to outraged punk audiences.

The Minutemen were one of the most prolific punk bands of all time, releasing amazing records every year and contributing tracks to an endless stream of compilation tapes and albums. A few of their records are anthlogies of this scattered material. They are probably best known for 1984's Double Nickels on the Dime, - part of which was written in response to the news that label mates Hüsker Dü were about to release a double album. Project Mersh, the follow-up record that found the Minutemen experimenting in verse-chorus, over two minute, faded-out songs, was a much more modest commercial success. It wasn't long, however, before they had something new out. Nothing, it seemed, could stop the Minutemen. This was a band that continued to tour even when Watt was suffering from chronic diarreah. He simply tucked his pants into his shoes and sloshed onward.

On December 22nd, 1985 D. Boon was deleriously ill and riding home in the back of the band's van when his girlfriend fell asleep at the wheel. The van crashed and D. fell out the back, broke his neck, and died instantly. He was 27 years old. The last Minutmen album "Ballot Result," a collection of live songs chosen by tallying fan votes, came out two years later. Mike Watt and George Hurley continued playing with a new guitarist in the band fIREHOSE. Although D. Boon's death came tragically early, the legacy he left in the Minutemen discography stands out as a totally unique acheivement in the history of not only punk, but music in general. SST keeps the primary Minutemen records in print on vinyl, and everything else is available through three compilation CD's entititled Post Mersh. The Minutemen were also given a chapter in (as well as used for the title of) the recent book about 80's underground rock Our Band Could Be Your Life.
DISCOGRAPHY

Releases

PARANOID TIME 7" (SST, 1980)

JOY 7" (New Alliance, 1981)

THE PUNCH LINE 12" (SST, 1981)

BEAN SPILL 7" (Thermador, 1982)

WHAT MAKES A MAN START FIRES? LP (SST, 1983)

BUZZ OR HOWL UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF HEAT 12" (SST, 1983)

POLITICS OF TIME LP (New Alliance, 1984)

DOUBLE NICKELS ON THE DIME 2LP (SST, 1984)

MY FIRST BELLS tape (SST, has all songs from 1980-83)

PROJECT MERSH 12" (SST, 1985)

TOUR SPIEL 7" (Reflex, 1985)

3-WAY TIE (FOR LAST) 12" (SST, 1985)

BALLOT RESULT 2LP (SST, 1987)


Reissues

POST-MERSH vol. 1 (SST, has The Punch Line and What Makes a Man...?)

POST-MERSH vol. 2 (SST, has Buzz or Howl... and Project Mersh)

POST-MERSH vol. 3 (SST, has the 4 7"s)

INTRODUCING THE MINUTEMEN CD (SST, "best of" collection released in 1998)


Compilations

CRACKS IN THE SIDEWALK 12" (New Alliance, 1980) "9:30 May 2"

CHUNKS LP (New Alliance, 1981) "Clocks"

THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT AHEAD tape (Posh Boy/SST, 1981)

RODNEY ON THE ROQ vol. 2 LP (Posh Boy, 1981) "Search"

LIFE IS UGLY SO WHY NOT KILL YOURSELF? LP (New Underground, 1982) "Shit You Hear at Parties", "Maternal Rite"

AMERICAN YOUTH REPORT LP (Bomp, 1982) "Working Men Are Pissed"

MEATHOUSE tape (Version Sound, 1982) "Split Red", "Base King", "Prelude"

THE BLASTING CONCEPT LP (SST, 1983) "Paranoid Chant", "The Maze", "Boiling", "Games"

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL SO WHY NOT EAT HEALTH FOODS? LP (New Underground, 1983) "Prelude"

BANG ZOOM #5 tape (Bang Zoom, 1983) "Fake Contest" (live)

WE GOT POWER LP (Mystic, 1983) "Party With Me Punker"

LIFE IS BORING SO WHY NOT STEAL THIS RECORD? LP (New Underground, 1983)

HELL COMES TO YOUR HOUSE vol. 2 LP (Bemisbrain/Enigma, 1983) "Corona"

RAT MUSIC FOR RAT PEOPLE vol. 2 LP (CD Presents, 1984)

MYSTIC SAMPLER #1 LP (Mystic, 1984)

THE BLASTING CONCEPT vol. 2 LP (SST, 1986)


INFO

Interview from Flipside #46
A really great interview (I'd imagine most Minutemen interviews are good...) with Mike Watt from sometime in 1985.

Interview from Suburban Voice #17
Al Quint interviews the Minutemen in 1985, on their last tour. Find this interview on this site, with scans of the original photos and other good stuff.

Mike Watt's HootPage
This is Mike Watt's homepage. There's a wealth of information and photos, both old and current. Check out the interviews and weird animations...

Minutemen/fIREHOSE/Watt Discography Website
A very thorough Minutemen and related projects site.



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