Our band could be your life
real names'll be proof
me and Mike Watt
we played for years
punk rock changed our lives
The me, of course, being D. Boon, painter, author, and descendant of the legendary Daniel Boone. When he, Mike Watt, and George Hurley first saw punk rock in 1980, they went home and talked their parents into loaning them the money to buy the equipment that same night. Thus the birth of the Minutemen, one of the most influential hardcore/post-punk/funk/what-the-hell-ever-it's-amazing bands in the too brief American modern rock annals.
We learned punk rock in Hollywood
drove up from Pedro
we were fucking corndogs
we'd go drink and pogo
Coming from the rather redneck town of San Pedro, and choosing a name used by a right-wing extremist group, the band's first shows were filled with hate and vitriol. But their music won them over, won them all over. 50 songs in 45 minutes, noise, spaz, punk, hooks, screams - it was all a caustic dream, a harmonious cacophony, a place in the sun for all the world. The band played on, releasing records, first Paranoid Time on SST, then What Makes A Man Start Fires?, The Politics Of Time, and finally Double Nickels On The Dime in 1984, featuring "History Lesson (Part II)". Four years of non-stop playing, touring, living.
This is Bob Dylan to me
my story could be his songs
I'm his soldier child
our band is scientist rock
"We call ourselves scientist rock because we're always discovering new things," Boon said. He was a big fan of Bob Dylan, but mostly, his father was a big fan of Dylan. His father also disapproved of his music. His father simply hadn't made the connection. The sadness in the punk had always been there: anomie, complacency, distrust. Boon's lyrics were rarely non-political, but they often had a sly sense of humor about them, as noted in "If Reagan Played Disco."
but I was E Bloom
then Richard Hell
and John Doe
The order of these four stalwarts of punk in the song could not be overemphasized. Eric Bloom's Blue Oyster Cult had been a starting point for the band, with their political songs about drug use and heavy metal tactics. Bloom was wild and unpredictable, and BOC was only a few short steps away from punk. The Minutemen got their start as a speed-metal/punk band.
Their evolution to art-punk was a speedy one, and a band like Television was a great example to follow. Richard Hell's ability to take a bass guitar and put it places it hadn't been before - more sonics than technique, more snarl than finesse. He was cool, wearing sunglasses on stage all the time, and he was angry, telling the crowd to "shut the fuck up" at virtually every show. From their influential Marquee Moon, which took all of the bombast and whine out of rock music and turned it into an introspective adventure, Television served as the stepping stage for The Minutemen's powerful, incisive and thoughtful lyrics. Television added energy to intelligence like never before.
Joe Strummer and The Clash lent even more credo to punk rock, discovering the working class, empowering them, inciting them, agitating them, educating them. From the self-titled debut to Sandinista! to their coup de grace London Calling, the band successfully integrated reggae and pop into their sound. The Minutemen, too, began to mature as songwriters, turning inwards with songs like "History Lesson..." adding hooks and melodies to their songs, fleshing out 50 second noise spurts into 2 minute numbers; eventually they culminated in The Project Mersh EP ("Mersh" being slang for commercial), a set of hit pop songs a la U2 and Bruce Springsteen, which successfully chronicled that particular experience of a band growing up and getting that mature, quieter sound. The Clash's own ability to use music beyond punk rock was a big influence on The Minutemen's growth.
Finally, John Doe and X provided a silent rootsy elegance to punk rock, and they are one of the first bands known for creating cowpunk, inspiring bands everywhere, from The Replacements to R.E.M. to modern groups like Bastard Sons Of Johnny Cash and The Feelies. They didn't use anger as much as commentary; they were willing to discuss things civilly in their songs. X was still a fiery live show, but they were a well-tempered sword. John Doe's post-X career has been almost exclusively country music.
While the words and thoughts stayed the same throughout, The Minutemen evolved - from punk metal to art-punk to punk-pop and finally to roots punk.
me and Mike Watt
On a snowy night in the Arizona desert in December of 1985, D. Boon was thrown from a van in a car accident and died. He was 27 years old.