Punks are Misunderstood


One late Saturday night in 1986, I was home flipping through the channels when I stopped on the USA Network. Night Flight was on! If you’re not familiar with the classic cult show, it ran from 1981 to 1996, in one incarnation or another, and featured documentaries, music videos, B movies and stand up comedians. On this particular night, they were playing a film called Another State of Mind, a 1982 documentary following two young punk rock bands Social Disortion and Youth Brigade as they embark on their first international tour. In their travels, they meet up with Washington, DC-based straight edge punk band Minor Threat and spend a week at the Dischord house, owned by the band’s label. They play 25 shows and live on $10 a day. The tour bus breaks down often and smells like ass daily. The guys face discrimination from the locals and get ripped off by club owners. And, at the end of the tour everyone is pretty sick of each other. By the time the film was over, I decided to shave parts of my head and dye the remaining hair pink.
The bands all look about 16 years old but pontificate on how punkers are so misunderstood. In one of my favorite scenes, a young Mike Ness (lead singer of Social D) explains his reasons for why he does his hair and eye make up a certain way. Very deep stuff. Very “natural. ” It’s also fun to see him, pre-head-to-toe tats.

Mike Ness does look a little bit older these days. He was only 19 when the movie was shot. Today, he’s 50…FIFTY!
Social D is on their seventh album, but their first one, 1983’s Mommy’s Little Monster, will always be a total classic. “Her eyes are a deeper blue, she likes her hair that color too. She can’t even wear a dress, that doesn’t mean she’ll ever confess. She’s mommy’s little monster.” Poetry…sheer poetry! 🙂 It would be funny if I was being sarcastic, but I’m not! In the early ’90s, Mike got married to Christine Marie and they have two sons, Julian and Johnny. The band, and Ness as a solo artist, have played with Bruce Springsteen, Brian Setzer and Royal Crown Revue, as well as having played at Woodstock 99.

Youth Brigade was formed in 1980 by three brothers from Los Angeles, Mark, Adam, and Shawn Stern. Lead singer Shawn is interviewed throughout the film talking about how hard it is to be a punk rocker. In one scene, the bands enter a diner in Montreal and are faced with a scared waitress that won’t acknowledge the guys. She ends up calling the police to have them removed. They haven’t done anything, she’s just obviously a Def Leppard fan.
Youth Brigade is still around and are still down with the positivity. They are reportedly working on a new album, their first since 1996’s To Sell the Truth.

Next to Social D, Minor Threat was one of my favorite bands. They lasted from 1980 to 1983, but went on to become Fugazi…also known as total band perfection, at least to me anyway. Fugazi playing The Anthrax (an amazing punk rock club in Norwalk, Connecticut where I spent nearly every weekend of my teenage years) was a huge event in my life. A 16-year old me, being 4 feet away from Ian MacKaye was a big deal.
Some interesting Minor Threat trivia: In 2005, Nike created an ad for a skateboarding tour they were sponsoring called Major Threat and “borrowed” heavily from Minor Threat’s First Two 7″s on a 12 LP cover art. It’s, ummm, basically the same image. Nike altered the band’s logo and featured Nike’s rather than combat boots. Fans began writing complaint letters to Nike, and MacKaye issued a statement condemning the use of their imagery. Nike apologized and stopped using the poster. In the real Minor Threat LP cover, the bald-headed punk is actually Ian MacKaye’s younger brother Alec.
Today, Ian is 49 and married to fellow musician Amy Farina. The couple is in a band together called The Evens and have a son named Carmine Francis Farina MacKaye. Ian is co-founder and owner of Dischord Records. I have fond memories of him stopping the band mid-song to yell at some aggressive dancers during shows. 🙂


3 responses »

  1. I was never a “punk” fan. That being said, I did grow up in a house with a fan. I compare punk bands to that guy walking through the park in “Sleepless in Seattle”. Tom Hanks sees him and yells, “Call your father…”. Also the Sid Vicious movie. It has that famous line: “Sid, Sid… What about the farewell drugs!” Gee, I guess I do know some stuff. Anyway, with todays “Lady GaGa” and “Lil Wayne” driving our current youth, was punk really that bad? It is good to see that at least these guys are still strong and going and haven’t ended up on VH1’s “Where Are They Now”.

  2. I never saw the movie, but if Ian is in it please tell me there’s an appearance Henry Rollins and/or Black Flag. Either way, this was an enjoyable read.

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