Minutemen I live sweat, but I dream light-years.
I am the tide, the rise and the fall.
(The reality soldier, the laugh child.
The one of the many, the flame child.)

— Minutemen,
"The Glory of Man"

Minutemen AlbumsMe and Mike WattMike Watt's Hoot Page

Everybody has a certain band or singer that you grab onto during your teenage years, whose music guides you through the process of growing up and seems to become a part of you for the rest of your life. For me, that band was, and is, the Minutemen.

Minutemen Guitarist/vocalist D. Boon, bassist Mike Watt and drummer George Hurley formed this monumental early '80s punk rock power trio from San Pedro, California. I had never liked any punk bands before, until the time I first heard the song "This Ain't No Picnic" (as an MTV video, oddly enough). My friend Ruffin let me borrow his Minutemen cassette tapes, and I was hooked. The Minutemen's sound was startlingly original, using a deconstructionist, stripped-down "jam econo" approach: no verse-chorus-verse format, no traditional guitar solos, bass and drums sharing the lead role, few rhyming lyrics, a whole lot of honest anger and passion tempered by a sense of humor, and their famously brief and succinct songs.

Most early Minutemen tunes clocked at about a minute, and people often think that's how the band got its name. But instead, Watt has explained they were actually inspired by the American Revolution's minutemen, who were just average dudes ready to grab their guns and go to war at a minute's notice. That's always first and foremost what the Minutemen were: just average dudes.

Growing up as best friends, Boon and Watt learned to play by covering FM radio bands like Blue Oyster Cult and Creedence Clearwater Revival. When punk rock came along, they were overwhelmed by the do-it-yourself possibilities that suddenly opened up. For the first time, they realized they could write their own own songs, since these other "lame dudes" in punk bands were out there doing it. Boon and Watt were influenced by seminal punk legends Richard Hell, the Germs, the Clash, and especially Wire, a British band whose short, unconventional songs gave the Minutemen the original template for their modus operandi.

The Minutemen were one of the first bands signed to SST Records, a revered independent music label founded by members of Black Flag. The band released a large number of albums and EP's over the brief span of its career, although the Minutemen always viewed their recordings as little more than ads for their gigs. Playing live was what really counted to them. Even so, in 1984 the Minutemen recorded an ultimate masterpiece: Double Nickels on the Dime, a double album with 45 songs that encompass a mind-blowing epic scope of styles, themes and emotions, including such classic tracks as "Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing," "The Roar of the Masses Could Be Farts," and "There Ain't Shit on T.V. Tonight." Double Nickels is universally regarded as the band's finest work. I believe it's the best album in the history of rock.

D. Boon Tragically, D. Boon was killed in an automobile accident in December 1985. The Minutemen were finished, long before they could reach their fullest potential or get the recognition they deserved. Mike Watt thought his music career was over. He had always thought of himself as "D. Boon's bass player." The idea of playing in a band without him was inconceivable.

A Minutemen fan from Ohio named Ed Crawford had the balls to drive out to Pedro and ask the grieving Watt if he could audition to start a new band with the surviving Minutemen. Watt initially turned him down, but then the kid's spirit and determination won him over. Such were the unlikely circumstances that led Watt, Hurley and Crawford to form fIREHOSE in 1986. fIREHOSE could never be as great as the Minutemen, but they were still pretty darn good, and their live shows always fucking incredible to behold.

Me and Mike Watt I never got the chance to see the Minutemen live, but I went to about a dozen fIREHOSE gigs at the Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill. Watt is famous for hanging out with the fans and personally selling his tour T-shirts at shows, and when I got to shake his hand at my first fIREHOSE show, I was so nervous and thrilled I could barely speak a word. Over the years I've talked with him a lot, and a couple of times he's even let me help him pick the set list. I also got him to autograph my vinyl double album of Double Nickels on the Dime. Aside from being a punk rock hero and the ultimate master of the thunder broom, Watt is one hell of a nice guy. I feel like I can truthfully call him my friend.

After a seven-year run, Watt broke up fIREHOSE in 1994 because he felt the band had lost its passion and was coasting along on cruise-control. Hurley and Crawford have each gone on to play in several bands, while Watt has earned acclaim as a solo artist. Watt's solo debut was a mixed bag of collaborations with an all-star roster of "alternative rock" heavyweights, including Eddie Vedder, who brought Watt major attention from the MTV crowd by touring unbilled with the bassman in 1995. Watt's follow-up album, a "punk-rock opera" metaphorically telling the life stories of both his father and the Minutemen, was his most powerful and accomplished work since D. Boon's passing. Watt has also recorded and toured with his wife Kira, formerly Black Flag's bassist, as a duo called Dos (two basses, nothing else).

In early 2000, Mike Watt contracted a severe internal infection and nearly died. Fortunately, he's now back in good health, although he ended up taking a lengthy seven-year layoff from recording new material because of his convalesence followed by his touring as an honorary member of the Stooges. Watt returned with a second punk-rock opera in 2004 called The Secondman's Middle Stand, which documents the harrowing orderal of his sicknes. For this project he created a new kind of power trio, composed of bass, drums and organ.

To find out more about the Minutemen, do yourself a favor and buy a copy of Double Nickels on the Dime. It's essential listening for anyone with a true appreciation of good music, and is quite possibly the finest creative achievement in human history. I'm serious as a heart attack. It makes me feel this way. There's no device to measure, no words can define... I mean, what I'm trying to say, is how can I express let alone possess how goddamn incredibly great this album is?

Minutemen Albums

Paranoid Time (1980)
The Punch Line (1981)
What Makes a Man Start Fires? (1982)
Buzz or Howl Under the Influence of Heat (1983)
Double Nickels on the Dime (1984)
The Politics of Time (1984)
Project: Mersh (1985)
3-Way Tie (For Last) (1985)
Ballot Result (1986)

fIREHOSE Albums

Ragin', Full-On (1986)
If'n (1987)
fROMOHIO (1989)
Flyin' the Flannel (1991)
The Live Totem Pole EP (1992)
Mr. Machinery Operator (1993)

Dos Albums

Dos (1986)
Numero Dos EP (1989)
Justamente Tres (1995)
Dos y Dos (2012)

Mike Watt Albums

Ball-Hog or Tugboat? (1995)
Contemplating the Engine Room (1997)
The Secondman's Middle Stand (2004)
Hyphenated-Man (2011)

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