Reviews & suggestions for punk rock fans.

Five Black Flag Books You Should Check Out

Biographies and Autobiographies on the Legendary Punk Rock Band, Black Flag

Beyond the trailblazing originals, like the Sex Pistols or the Ramones, Black Flag is one of those bands everyone knows, no matter if you are a diehard punk or everyday Joe. During the 1980s, Black Flag plagued this nation surfing couches and playing venues. Through revolutionary DIY techniques, they networked with other bands helping spread the message of punk into the minds of misfits across our nation.

Formed in Hermosa Beach, California, in 1976, for eight brutal years, Black Flag made and played brilliant, ugly, no-holds-barred music on a self-appointed touring circuit of America’s clubs, squats, and community halls. They fought with everybody: the police, the record industry, and even their own fans. They toured overseas on pennies a day and did it in beat-up trucks and vans.

Greg Ginn, who formed the band, remained the only constant during the band’s tenure. Multiple singers, including the legendary Keith Morris and Henry Rollins, have sung for the band. Mike Valley, a pro-skater, has been one of the most recent singers (pictured above). Drummers like Bill Stevenson, who is also the drummer for the Descendents, was a Black Flag member for a bit. And even one of the most well-known women bass players in all of punk – Kira Roessler – was part of the Black Flag ensemble for a period of time.

The band’s music is characterized by its fast and intense sound, often incorporating elements of hardcore punk, punk rock, and even heavy metal. Black Flag’s lyrics often touch on social and political issues, as well as personal introspection.

Some of their most notable songs include “Rise Above,” “TV Party,” and “Nervous Breakdown.” Their debut album, Damaged, released in 1981, is considered a punk rock classic.

Over the years, Black Flag has had a significant influence on the punk and alternative music scenes, and their DIY approach has inspired countless bands around the world. Though they have experienced periods of inactivity and hiatuses, their impact on the punk rock genre continues to be felt today.

The details of Black Flag’s history can be dark and erratic. Personalities clashed, arguments ensued, yet despite all of it, their tale is, without a doubt, one of the most important in punk rock history. And that is why I recommend any of the books below to fill your noggin on the story and brutality that is Black Flag.

Spray Paint the Walls: The Story of Black Flag

By Stevie Chick

Hands down probably the best biography for the band Black Flag, Spray Paint the Walls: The Story of Black Flag tells the history through interviews with members of the band, those who were around during their height, and the bands who label them as influence. You discover details on how Greg Ginn turned his electronic company into one of the most notorious record labels in punk rock, how a lucky fan turned iconic frontman with Henry Rollins, how the band went from three-chords to free jazz, and plenty more. 

Get in the Van : On the Road With Black Flag

By Henry Rollins

The book everyone knows. Seriously, if I bring up that I enjoy punk rock books, people always mention this Get in the Van: On the Road With Black Flag by Henry Rollins. It’s good, no doubt. From a Black Flag fan perspective, it’s cool to read from Henry Rollin’s diaries and persepective about life on the road. You will dig the cool quotes and historic moments, and devour the stories of vicious cops, fights, and carnage.

Barred for Life: How Black Flag’s Iconic Logo became Punk Rock’s Secret Handshake

By Stewart Dean Ebersole

One thing that set Black Flag apart from other bands was their logo. Barred for Life: How Black Flag’s Iconic Logo Became Punk Rock Secret’s Handshake shows the tale of all the fans who wear the iconic logo and helped spread the message of Black Flag. You will get more than interviews, stellar stories, and sweet photographs. With this book, Author Stewart Ebersole shares the importance punk rock had in his life and how the band helped a generation of misfits. 

What I See: The Black Flag Photographs of Glen E. Friedman

By Glen E. Friedman

Glen E. Friedman photographed them all – Fugazi, Dead Kennedys, Misfits, Bad Brains, and Black Flag. For a full compilation of his work in regards of Black Flag (from 1980 to 1983), you need to check out What I See: The Black Flag Photographs of Glen E. Friedman. Hundreds of photos never seen before line the pages, showcasing the history of the iconic band. There is even a foreword by Chuck Dukowski, the bass player for Black Flag, that is certainly worth the read. 

Thirsty and Miserable: A Critical Analysis of the Music of Black Flag

By Tim Murr

It’s cool when a fan gets the balls to write about their favorite bands. I believe that’s what you will find with Tim Murr’s Thirsty and Miserable: A Critical Analysis of the Music of Black Flag, a book written by a fan with incredible analysis of the entire discography of Black Flag. You can feel his passion for the band while not holding back on criticism. And it comes across as you are having a conversation with another fan more so than some snooping critic who could give a shit about Black Flag.

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