The Minutemen said it best, “Our band could be your life". Indeed! Back in 1982 they certainly changed mine. I first heard their music blasting out of the sound system of Pier Records in Newport Beach. Every so often I’d jump on my bike and pedal out to my pal Rodney’s house. We’d take the bus and make a pilgrimage out to Newport to soak up the scene. Pier had all of the good stuff.
They had English imports of The Damned, Sham 69 and The Jam as well as the latest from our California heroes like Black Flag and The Circle Jerks. It was on one of these trips that I heard “Tension" from the album “The Punchline". I was hooked at an instant. I’d never heard anything like it. Jerky brittle blasts of guitar, thumping funk bass strings and the wild kaleidoscope drumming. I don’t know if it was the individual parts or the overall impact they created but some how I knew exactly what they sounded like. They sounded like freedom.
In a couple of years it was all over. D. boon had died in an utterly tragic car accident and The Minutemen were no more. I suppose that it’s not really the amount of years in a life that counts but more the amount of life in one’s years but losing D. boon was an enormous tragedy. just before the end, The Minutemen released the album that would become the soundtrack to my college years, “Double Nickels on the Dime". This huge album is simply greatness personified. So, of course, it is with pleasure that I sat down to watch the recently released DVD, “We Jam Econo:The Story of The Minutemen" (Plexifilm).
This 2 disc set does an amazing job of conveying just why this band was so special. The frame-device is Mike Watt driving around San Pedro talking about the band and their lives. Along the way we are treated to impressions by most of the people who moved through their circle, including Dez Cadena, Fleas, John Dee, Henry Rollins, Spot, Keith Morris, Thurston Moore and too many others to mention. Interview segments are alternated with clips of the band playing at all of the classic 1980’s punk venues. The second disc is all performances. THere are 62 songs played at The Starwood, The 9:30 Club and most amazing of all, an entire acoustic gig. There is so much rich material here to enjoy. This documentary conjures up a time when it seemed as though a fissure had opened up in reality. If one had some conviction it was possible, even in Reagan era America, to jump into that fissure and conjure up something truly original.
To me The Minutemen are untouchable. D. boon is not dead. His legacy casts a large shadow still. It was the light of ideas that came to me through their music that helped lead me on my way to the Peace Corps in Africa. It was their commitment to music that led my pal Rodney to continue pursuing music and eventually form the band Sugar Ray. ‘We Jam Econo" is an amazing film. The concert footage alone makes it vital. I think it should be required viewing for anyone forming a band, or anyone who simply loves music.
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