Black Flag – Damaged: #620 of best 1,000 albums ever!

Black Flag - Damaged

So why is Black Flag’s Damaged on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

I think “TV Party” was the first Black Flag song I ever heard. My roommate Joe (a cop in New York these days) during my senior year of college at Binghamton Univesity was a huge Henry Rollins and Black Flag fan, and I must have borrowed his copy of Damaged while crafting a mix tape at some point.

“TV Party” is a silly, raucous song – at least on the surface – that caught my attention then (and now) because it’s pretty funny. But what sustained my attention is that there’s really smart intent involved that speaks directly to the band’s DIY and punk rock ethos. The satire is at a level that Devo would surely admire. Well, maybe they’re a little more explicit than Devo, really.

I wouldn’t be without my TV for a day
Or even a minute
Don’t even bother to use my brain any more
There’s nothing left in it

All these years later, an unintended bonus is that we get a snapshot of some of television’s most popular shows circa 1981: Saturday Night Live, That’s Incredible, and Dallas among them.

These days, my favorite song on Damaged is “Rise Above,” an absolute blast of hardcore punk with a classic Black Flag singalong chant/chorus: “Rise above, we gotta rise above!

“Damaged I” is one of the best examples of Black Flag innovating along the lines of a slower, sludge-ier hardcore sound. It’s not my favorite stuff that they do but “Damaged I” has a grimy, intense appeal.

For pure hardcore punk thrash, give me “Thirsty and Miserable.” Pretty fantastic. Also: I can’t help thinking that the Red Hot Chili Peppers, uh… borrowed the rhythm of this song on “Catholic School Girls Rule”?

Personal stuff that’s somehow related to Black Flag’s Damaged

Get in the Van
I’ve always been impressed with Henry Rollins as a multi-talented artist: musician, performer, actor, and writer. Get in the Van is a legendary book that Rollins wrote that’s a compilation of his diary entries while on the road with Black Flag circa 1981 to 1986.

You get the visceral feeling of the relentless grind of sleeping on floors, tightly packing into a falling apart and dirty van with your band mates, letting it all hang out on stage (often while being taunted, spit on, and even punched by members of the audience)… and then doing the same over and over and over again.

For more Henry Rollins-y goodness, check out: Rollins Band – Get Some Go Again: #655 of best 1,000 albums ever.

Get in the… Barber Shop?
When I first moved to my current neighborhood of West Seattle, I went on the hunt for someone to cut my hair, as one is wont to do. After a few semi-disastrous experiments, I found someone who did a great job.

She was… eccentric. And it wasn’t the punk rock vibe and tattoos. It was the numerous and frankly astonishing stories that she would tell, with many minutes typically going by before I would have any opportunity to even say something like, “oh wow” or “there you go” or, in channeling the brilliant Nathan Fielder: “oh okay.”

The astonishing stories involved celebrities – many celebrities – and had just enough of a throughline that it’s honestly possible that everything she told me is completely true. Part of the plausibility, for what it’s worth, related to the fact that she apparently would fly back and forth to Los Angeles, where she claimed to live and work half the time.

There’s a group of stories that involves her handling money as a road manager for bands ranging from Johnny Cash to the Wu-Tang Clan (there’s a story about almost getting robbed at gunpoint involving the latter).

The other group of stories involve celebrities who she dated. Jeffrey Dean Morgan came up at one point, best known currently as one of the stars of The Walking Dead.

And then… you guessed it, Henry Rollins would come up. A lot. She claimed that she was in an ongoing relationship with Rollins that extended back a decade or more. She also claimed that he would hang out at her barber shop when he was in Seattle. I’ll be honest: I would idly wonder if old Hank himself would be lounging around the hair salon upon my arrival. Never happened though.  

If you’re reading this and asking, “Why do you seem so incredulous, maybe all this stuff is true?” You could be totally right. But there’s other stuff, too, that impacts my take on the situation. For example, she would often claim to have very unsettling interactions with people who would wander into her shop. It’s a very nice neighborhood but, again, Seattle is a city full of all kinds of people, so who knows.

One day, I was walking near her shop with my wife (we live about a 10-15 walk away) and passed her on the street. I said hello and she seemed to look through me or past me, like she had no idea who I was.

While all of this was going on I continued to go to her to get my hair cut because her stories were entertaining enough and, man, she did a really good job on my hair. But then one day she casually made an antisemitic remark and that’s the last time I paid for her services.

Nervous Breakdown
A quick non-Rollins aside: my overall favorite Black Flag song pre-dates the Henry Rollins era (sorry Hank!). It’s “Nervous Breakdown,” off the EP with the same name from 1979.

Pop culture stuff that’s somehow related to Black Flag’s Damaged

There’s a shouted, kind of throwaway line at the end of “Six Pack” where Rollins says, “What do they know about partying or anything else?” Which, as someone who listened to the Beastie Boys’ Ill Communication album around 1,000 times in high school, caught my ear when I heard the line on Damaged while doing research for the best 1,000 albums project.

At the end of the tongue in cheek hardcore punk assault, “Heart Attack Man,” there’s the line, “Oh what do we know about partying or anything else?” I’d have to think this is an homage to Black Flag by the Boys who, of course, started out as a hardcore punk band themselves in New York City.  

Some stats & info about Black Flag – Damaged

Black Flag’s Damaged on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from Black Flag’s Damaged that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

We are tired of your excuse. Try to stop us – it’s no use!

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.