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Minor Threat
September 2, 2012 3:08 PM   Subscribe

Minor Threat, Winnepeg 1983
Minor Threat, Los Angeles 1983 (Hotter audio mix)
Minor Threat, Washington DC 1980 (very briefly) & 1983
Ian MacKaye, Artist's House Music Interview:
[The song "Straight Edge" was] "a song about my life, about the way that I look at things, and my decisions. And, it was essentially inspired by a song by Jimi Hendrix, of all people, and a song called 'If Six Were Nine' [sic], and in that song, he's singing about being a freak. And he says, "I'm the one who has to die when it's time for me to die, so let me live my life the way I want to." And those words, when I was a kid hearing those words, it just blew my mind. So, essentially, 'Straight Edge' was the same message: "It's my life, so don't give me a hard time for my decisions to not engage in, like, what everybody seems to do all the time."
posted by OmieWise (55 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
Man - my first exposure to punk was my friend, Elaine. She gave me a few unlabeled tapes, and somehow I figured out that one set of songs were Black Flag (in particular, the album In My Head). But there was one particular screamy group that I really liked and never knew who they were for the longest time, but I loved them so much, and of course it was Minor Threat. So much raw aggression and power.
posted by symbioid at 3:35 PM on September 2, 2012


I think my favorite MacKaye project was Embrace, even better than Fugazi.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:35 PM on September 2, 2012


Yeah, I love Embrace. I think he calls it a "crashing plane of a band" or something like that in the interview.
posted by OmieWise at 3:44 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


During High School in the 80s a friend of mine wore some pants to school on which he'd mistakenly scrawled 'Minor Treat!' I'd pretty sure there's a band by that name.
posted by PHINC at 4:01 PM on September 2, 2012


I find it hilarious that Ian MacKaye had to correct the improper use of the subjunctive in that Jimi Hendrix song title.
posted by jonp72 at 4:48 PM on September 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


I AIN'T GOT THE STRAIGHT EDGE!



NEVR____SOBR
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:51 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I took it that [sic] to be refering to what McKaye said.
But despite that, Minor Threat is about* the only hardcore band of my youth that I still have on heavy rotation. The songs are solid and the band actually knew how to play. Wish I'd seen them live; had to wait until 1992 when I saw them as Fugazi, which of course was absolutely shattering.
posted by Flashman at 5:02 PM on September 2, 2012




"Guilty (of Being White)"

No thanks.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:36 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Minor Threat's song "Guilty of Being White" led to some accusations of racism, but MacKaye has strongly denied such intentions and said that some listeners misinterpreted his words. He claims that his experiences attending Wilson High School, whose student population was 70 percent black, inspired the song. There, many students bullied MacKaye and his friends.

In an interview, MacKaye stated that he was offended that some perceived racist overtones in the lyrics, saying, "To me, at the time and now, it seemed clear it's an anti-racist song. Of course, it didn't occur to me at the time I wrote it that anybody outside of my twenty or thirty friends who I was singing to would ever have to actually ponder the lyrics or even consider them."

posted by dunkadunc at 5:47 PM on September 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


They came to NY to play Great Gildersleeves but it was just them and The Mob, a band I had already seen a hundred times, so I stayed home. At the time a lot of big hardcore bands toured together so spending $10 for just one out-of-state band seemed like a lot of money. DC wasn't that far away from NY so I rationalized that they would just come back another time. Unfortunately that would be their second to last show.
posted by cazoo at 5:56 PM on September 2, 2012


"Guilty (of Being White)"

No thanks.


That song gets brought up seemingly every time anyone talks about Minor Threat (and rightly so!), and MacKaye's highly questionable rebuttal is well-known, so I'll only say this: I am convinced that the appalling lines "You blame me for slavery / A hundred years before I was born" were the inspiration for one of the greatest opening couplets in all of rock'n'roll:
I'm not talking about a Beatles song
Written a hundred years before I was born.
- "N-Sub Ulysses," The Nation of Ulysses
I can only think of one greater repurposing of lines in a rock song, "I'd rather see you dead, little girl / Than to be with another man" in The Beatles' "Run for Your Life," stolen, of course, from "Let's Play House" by the king (which, come to think of it, is also the source of the third best repurposing of lines in a rock song, "I've been to college, I've been to school / I've met the people that you read about in books," from "Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town" by The Talking Heads).

On preview: There it is!
posted by DaDaDaDave at 5:57 PM on September 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Egg Shen: "That violence-oriented punk rock music that does nothing but reinforce all those bad feelings!"

Hahaha -- I was going to use the "YOU'RE THE KILLERS!" sample in a song a few years ago.
posted by symbioid at 5:59 PM on September 2, 2012


Great stuff, thanks for posting!
posted by carter at 6:20 PM on September 2, 2012


I don't know how the entire straight edge kid movement missed the part in "Out Of Step" where Ian explicitly says "listen, there's no set of rules, I'm not telling you what to do..." etc.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:27 PM on September 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


PS re: "Guilty Of Being White": the guy was 19 and grew up in DC. I mean, give him a break. Yeah he should have repudiated it by now but it's not like it's really that big a deal, you know? Bad Brains were going around telling people to "burn in hell faggot" at the same time, and no one seems to give them a hard time about it anymore (which they should, because it was and is bullshit).
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:30 PM on September 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think my favorite MacKaye project was Embrace, even better than Fugazi.

I actually like all the precursor bands better than Fugazi, and I like Fugazi a lot. Rites Of Spring and One Last Wish were both great as well. I wish that sound had caught on more... it was really only around for that one year in DC, then people who heard it went on to do emocore which became a different thing entirely.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:36 PM on September 2, 2012


I don't know how the entire straight edge kid movement missed the part in "Out Of Step" where Ian explicitly says "listen, there's no set of rules, I'm not telling you what to do..." etc.

Maybe all of those kids only ever heard the original version from the In My Eyes EP, which doesn't have the spoken part. Or maybe they were/are a bunch of dumb-ass teenagers eager for any reason to feel superior to other people.
posted by DaDaDaDave at 6:45 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Guilty (of Being White)"

No thanks.


Seriously? I don't want to be an asshole, but can you point me to the huge impact in actions and commitments your projects and engagements have wrought? Because in terms of progressive politics, and actual, you know, impact for those politics, Ian ranks pretty far up there for people of his generation. It seems weird, and frankly either uninformed or willfully ignorant, to hold one teenage attempt (and failure) to come to terms with one of the most complex issues in American society against him.
posted by OmieWise at 6:47 PM on September 2, 2012 [27 favorites]


OmieWise, that was awesome.

*stage dives*
posted by scratch at 6:59 PM on September 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ooba dooba, I never saw that Quincy punk stuff. They confuse hippie with punk with 50's JD and then - pulling a knife in a mosh pit? In hundreds of pits I never saw anything remotely like that.
posted by telstar at 7:22 PM on September 2, 2012


To be a bit more measured: I grew up in DC, started listening to DC punk rock in the Eighties, and credit Minor Threat and other DC punk bands with helping me to develop my (very) progressive politics. They espoused and embodied not only a lived progressive politics, but a commitment to critical thinking and a personal ethic of self-examination. Anyone who knows anything about punk rock knows that the major critique of DC punk since the 80s has been that it has an overweening sense of political engagement and self-righteousness. (I disagree with that assessment, but pick up any back issue of Maximum Rock 'n Roll from the era to see the argument rage.) It's completely baffling to suggest in a one-off, un-argued comment, that Minor Threat is actually some sort of crypto-Skinhead core band. It betrays, as I said above, either a complete lack of understanding of the issues involved, or a willfull ignorance, and it's egregious enough to be offensive.

Of course it's fine to think Minor Threat sucks, but it's idiotic to write them off for "Guilty of Being White," precisely because it's so anomalous.
posted by OmieWise at 7:28 PM on September 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


OmieWise: those MMR arguments about the preachy politics of DC punk are precisely what made me rabidly seek it out. It's proven to be one of the best things I ever did for my musical education.

The thing that ultimately sold me on Ian and Minor Threat specifically was seeing Another State of Mind. I had a VHS of it that eventually wore out sometime in the early nineties, but I still remember how awesomely Ian and the other DC guys contrasted with the California drunks they were touring with. It taught me a lot about the tolerance showed by those original straight edgers, and the DIY ethos of those DC bands has hugely influenced me ever since.

Later, I was blown away by Fugazi. Honestly, I was never a huge fan of Fugazi's records (still great, but I much prefer all of Ian's earlier bands), but the politics and the way they expressed them were a bright light in the hardcore scene of the time. They were HUGE, and always kept tickets under $5 and the shows were always all-ages. It was beautiful and inspiring.

Also, my neighbor and one of my best friends is a gruff 36 year old male with a hilarious Out Of Step tattoo on his lower back. Even Minor Threat tramp stamps kick ass!
posted by broadway bill at 8:03 PM on September 2, 2012


PS: great post!
posted by broadway bill at 8:05 PM on September 2, 2012


You are not what you own. Awesome post, thanks.
posted by ostranenie at 8:12 PM on September 2, 2012


I smell a Fugazi post in the making...



...please...
posted by alex_skazat at 8:17 PM on September 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mefi and Fugazi seem to have something in common. It's funny I never realized it before: "Here's your $5 back - now TAKE IT AND GET OUT OF MY SHOW/THREAD! WE DON'T NEED THAT KIND OF BULLSHIT HERE!"

Of course, it's only seldom that Mefi hands the asshole back their five bucks, while with Fugazi it became part of the show, an expected (and delivered) piece of theater that happened pretty much every time I saw them.

I remember seeing Fugazi live for the last time in around 2002 and thinking how much their show reminded me of the concert by the bloated corpse of the Who I'd seen a few years earlier. In particular were the "hey guys, let's break it allllll down" segments that felt as if they were from the same playbook - in the Who's 'My Generation' and in Fugazi's 'Waiting Room'. Both songs were (more or less) the respective groups' calling card played with an added segment where the tempo was slowed down, everything but the bass and drums dropped out, and the bands attempted to make everything extra grooooooovy, ya dig, as each vocalists ranted about something or another: Ian probably about Bush or 9/11 or vegetables and Rodger about god know what - maybe plastic surgery or tax sheltering or how to maintain a fleet of luxury automobiles. The similarities were comical, to say they least. Probably a good thing Fugazi called it a day shortly after that. Wish the same could've been said for the Who 40 years ago.
posted by item at 9:02 PM on September 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


No thanks.

You do not have sufficient data to imply what you are implying. Let me throw some Patti Smith lyrics at you with no context and see you make a similar ruling. How about

But still, Ian was a challenging person to be around back then. At some show I went to where the GI's opened for Black Flag's roadies who opened for the Meat Puppets who opened for Black Flag, a urinal came off the wall and landed on my friends feet while he was using it.

Ian was concerned when he heard the breaking porcelain. I think this was the first time that venue had let anything like a harDCore show happen there, and Ian goes charging into the men's room screaming about this is why we can't have nice things and book shows like this at places like this and we just stood there with flecks of his spittle on our face, stammering that we didn't do it.

It was the only time in my life that somebody has screamed at someone like that and I could tell that violence was not the next item on the agenda. He was bigger, 3-4 years older and I could tell because it was Ian and not that guy from Black Flag.

Thanks for the post. Haven't thought about that show in a long time.

Here's some ammo for the Fugazi post: http://jimsaah.com/the-archives/dc-punk/
posted by Mr. Yuck at 9:10 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


"How about" was supposed to be followed by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_and_Roll_Nigger
posted by Mr. Yuck at 9:13 PM on September 2, 2012


You do not have sufficient data to imply what you are implying.
V: What does "Guilty Of Being White" mean? That's a song that can be mis-construed.

I: Not at all, I don't think. But I'll explain it. I live in Washington, D.C., which is 75% black. My junior high was 90% black. My high school was 80% black, and throughout my entire life, I've been brought up in this whole thing where the white man was shit because of slavery. So I go to class and we do history, and for 3/4 of the year slavery is all we hear about. It's all we hear about. We will race through the Revolutionary War or the founding of America; we'd race through all that junk. It's just straight education. We race through everything, and when we'd get to slavery, they'd drag it all the way out. Then everything has to do with slavery or black people. You get to the 1950's, they don't talk about nothing except the black people. Even WWII, they talk about the black regiments. In English, we don't read all the novelists, we read all the black novelists. Every week is African King's Week. And after a while, I would come out of a history class, and this has happened to me many times, like in junior high school, and you know that kids are belligerent in junior high, and these kids would jack my ass up and say, "What the fuck, man, why are you putting me in slavery?" To me, racism is never going to end until people get off this whole thing. It's going flim-flam, back and forth. When people will just get off the whole guilt trip... First, all the white people were like "Fuck the niggers", and all of a sudden, it's "The black man is great. We love him. We're going to do everything for him," all the time. It's never going to get anywhere, because one generation it'll be the KKK, the next generation it'll be the Black Panthers. Now we see the KKK come back in again, more popular. I think the best way we're going to have to deal with it is that if I am able to say "nigger" without everyone gasping, and if I'm able to say that word, because I don't have any problems with that word. I say "bitch", and that means a girl asshole. I might say "jock", which means an athletic asshole. But you say "nigger", which means black asshole, everyone flies off the handle. That's where the racism thing is kind of fucked. That's where the whole thing gets out of hand. I think it'd be great if people could come down form that. I'm sure you know about the racism thing.
It goes on, and does not get better.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:19 PM on September 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's Winnipeg, not Winnepeg.
posted by oulipian at 9:20 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I disagree with Sys Req's interpretation of that interview, but no matter your position on Guilty of Being White, it's an interesting read. Makes me long for the old MMR.
posted by broadway bill at 9:59 PM on September 2, 2012


From what I can see in this thread, Sys Rq's interpretation of that interview is that it elicits a "no thank you" about that song and the manner it might reflect on the band. In light of all the recent gender discussion on mefi, this seems like a pretty reasonable interpretation. Ian's response in the MMR interview basically amounts to "if you want an equal playing field, than you need to take a more pleasant tone and start blaming your problems on historical forces outside of my control, not on the current power structures", which hits a little close to the current crop of MRA bullshit.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 10:13 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fuck "Guilty Of Being White", that whole straight edge movement they started/inspired is cryptofascist as hell with its denial of pleasure and veneration of being pure. Anybody who is anti-drugs, anti-alcohol, anti-sex is on the fascists' side.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:03 PM on September 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


fuck you, you fucking fascists! ANARCHY

also you gotta feel shitty as a white dude. i learned that from the enlightened white people of metafilter
posted by Snyder at 11:50 PM on September 2, 2012


Anybody who is anti-drugs, anti-alcohol, anti-sex is on the fascists' side.

Honestly can't tell if this is supposed to be some kind of weird joke or if it's serious.
posted by dogwalker at 1:55 AM on September 3, 2012


Seriously? I don't want to be an asshole, but can you point me to the huge impact in actions and commitments your projects and engagements have wrought?

You're right though. It is a bit of an asshole move to insist that in order for somebody to be able to point out or highlight somebody's pretty explicit racism, they first have to list their personal contribution to any particular movement/charity/whatever.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:14 AM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would really hate for my friends on MetaFilter to judge the entirety of my life by stupid shit I said in 1983.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:42 AM on September 3, 2012 [15 favorites]


I spent most of the summer of '84 bedridden after a particularly nasty skateboard accident and attendant surgery. A great friend lent me his copy of Out of Step, and I listened to it constantly. The whole thing is still stuck in my head.
posted by Gotanda at 2:57 AM on September 3, 2012


It goes on, and does not get better.

Yeah, it's stupid. It screams of defensiveness and poor thought. It was from 1983.
posted by OmieWise at 4:15 AM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Early fumbles at establishing an identity/poorly thought out attempts to deal with the sins of ones possible ancestors aside, MT and Fugazi (and the Evens) have the best time changes, use of negative space and general on beat/off beat warbling. I am a patient boy...
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:51 AM on September 3, 2012


I would really hate for my friends on MetaFilter to judge the entirety of my life by stupid shit I said in 1983.

Judging a person not by a lifetime of character and decent acts, but by one stupid incident from his/her twenties. It's what we at Metafilter do best.
posted by spoobnooble II: electric bugaboo at 5:15 AM on September 3, 2012


the best time changes, use of negative space and general on beat/off beat warbling

Don't forget the underrated funky bass ala Lally.
posted by ostranenie at 6:00 AM on September 3, 2012


Indeed, funky as hell.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:28 AM on September 3, 2012


Hey Ian MacKaye! Remember how you spent your late teens and early 20s building an indie record label from scratch and nurturing the local music scene in a city often overlooked by the mainstream music industry? And how you founded a band that, in addition to being one of the most innovative rock bands of the 1990s, put on concerts legendary for their all-ages no-machismo inclusiveness and affordability and sensitivity to local music scenes? And remember how you engaged your band in all manner of local and national and international protest movements and played protest shows and free concerts and local benefit shows in DC year after year? How you wrote a funky, hard-rocking tune about civic politics and urban renewal of all things? How you refused to up the cost for your shows and records to the industry norm and served as the political awakening on everything from American imperialism to corporate corruption to gender bias for god knows how many young confused punks? How you were basically the hardcore-punk pilot project for a great swath of what is now near and dear to progressive politics?

You remember all that, right? Well, when you were 19 you wrote a confused and insensitive song about race and no real punk rocker or true progressive is confused and insensitive at the age of 19 so never mind all that, you suck. Okay?

Goddam. This is the "you didn't build that" meme of Ian Mackaye conversations going on here.
posted by gompa at 6:47 AM on September 3, 2012 [16 favorites]


I'm happy to hear that none of you have ever said done or thought any dumb racist shit in your lives, especially when you were young and didn't know any better. I mean, come on. Every single person alive has said or thought something just as bad as "Guilty Of Being White", they just weren't in a hugely influential hardcore band when they said/thought it.
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:39 AM on September 3, 2012


Goddam. This is the "you didn't build that" meme of Ian Mackaye conversations going on here.

Needs bigger letters.
posted by jeffen at 10:06 AM on September 3, 2012


Thanks so much for this thread. As a townie I snuck into an early Fugazi show at Wesleyan and even tho Ian was doing battle with drunk college kids intent on not listening or giving a shit, just watching the band load their own equipment, and Ian being so gracious with my early teenage star-fuckery broadened my view about what is possible, and redefined cool for me. Later learning that Public Enemy was a big influence on the interplay between Ian and Guy was pretty awesome too.

Ian's pretty much done no wrong in my book. I even like Pailhead and Egg Hunt. And I have to defend Fugazi's output. They are a rare band in that they found and aesthetic and evolved while sticking with it at the same time. In their long careers, they made no crazy turns, every record was the logical next step. Few bands equal that consistency over so many records and so many years. I recommend anyone who is stuck on "Waiting Room" to check out later gems like The Argument's "Ex-Spectator" with their second drummer Jerry Busher, or "Guilford Falls" from End Hits.

And The Evens two records are brilliant. It's The Mamas and the Papas dipped in punk sauce.
posted by mcgordonliddy at 11:41 AM on September 3, 2012


and no real punk rocker or true progressive is confused and insensitive at the age of 19
Also known as the "no true frontman" fallacy.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 1:41 PM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hey Ian MacKaye!

I misread this as Hey, I'm Ian MacKaye! and thought this is gonna be good. Oh well.
posted by ersatz at 4:47 PM on September 3, 2012


On the "Guilty of Being White" thing: my understanding is that song was written directly in response to frequent, racially motivated abuses he and other friends experienced attending a minority white school in D.C. Ian MacKaye was a high school kid trying to rebuke racially motivated hate being directed at him and his other white friends. Maybe he didn't do that very eloquently or self-reflectively in that song, but he's obviously done a lot of soul searching and maturing since high school, so I figure I'll cut the guy some slack on this one.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:15 PM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Probably a good thing Fugazi called it a day shortly after that.

Man, fuck that. I wanna see Fugazi!
posted by saul wright at 9:25 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


If anyone can find anything indicating that Ian Mackaye has ever once admitted that that song was even a little misguided, I'll gladly forgive and forget. (It doesn't even have to be an admission that it's completely racist as fuck; anything along the lines of "in retrospect, that's kind of embarrassing" would do.) Until then, I have absolutely no qualms about holding a grudge.

Omitting that song from future repressings couldn't hurt, either. Plus, I don't think I'd miss the "kill the faggot!" cover of 12XU.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:39 PM on September 4, 2012


I thought that 12XU cover was a Dag Nasty tune...?
posted by saulgoodman at 8:39 AM on September 5, 2012



http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/150230/

http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/42988/

http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/3530822107858551845/

I'm still reading the comment threads, interesting.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 10:09 AM on September 5, 2012


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