* The first song I ever heard that I fell in love with was "A Horse With No Name" by America.
I was five, the year I was molested by a nurse while in the hospital having my tonsils taken out.
* Seeing the Beatles play "Hey Jude" on the David Frost show in a documentary, at 12, and suddenly Kiss Alive II became in my hand like a limp dick. I was hungry for something real.
I was also hungry for something that would scare the shit out of me—into what? Awareness? Freedom? Fearlessness? In the midst of the Beatles, Stones, The Who, Floyd, I was also a risk-taker, looking for that SOUND. 13, it was "Hey Hey My My", which I used to dream of playing at a junior high dance, and blowing the windows out of the school basement.
*In the midst of mundane, demeaning high school, spring 1982, I took a chance on two cassettes whose covers oddly turned me on: Live At Hammersmith and Kick Out the Jams. I had been let down because of such blind erotic hope before: Led Zeppelin II, great as it was, did not deliver the shredding that the cover promised, and Black Sabbath's first record seemed more horror movie than horror. I, thought of as a quiet geek who was probably listening to Bach while masturbating at night, was suddenly a worse threat; I had NEWS, news that there was something out there heavier, louder, more radical than Ozzie or Led Zep. The few kids I let borrow the Motorhead returned it speechless, about it and, now, about me. Aha; music was a way to speak up for myself, even if I couldn't. And the louder and more real the music, the closer I could come to being more real.
* We Jam Econo is a documentary that celebrates both that moment in time when Punk was liberating people like me, and when The Minutemen walked the earth reassuring us the change was real if we only held our ground. Poignant and funny, the doc is driven by interviews with Watt and Hurley, as well as a comforting gathering of aging punks. From Richard Hell and John Doe, to Keith Morris and Dez Cadena, nothing is more uplifting than the reminder not only of what these guys did, but the fact that they are still defiantly themselves. It proves that Punk was dedication, not style. Highlights include Watt's comments on some of the songs, especially "Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs" and on the classic 1984 record Double Nickels on the Dime, which apparently was a joking slap at Sammy Hagar, for his then-popular ode to lame rebellion, "I Can't Drive 55". Comments by current stars Flea and David Rees, writer of the comic strip Get Your War On as well as the fawning DVD liner notes—all attest to the lasting influence. They merged Punk and Funk long before The Chilis, and wore all our hearts on their sleeve. They were for the working man, and for those afraid get to work. As they sang, and lived: "No Hope! See? That's what gives me guts!"
* The real meat, though, is on the second disc, which features three complete shows in all their ragged glory. Shows from 1981 and 1984 illustrate the growth of both their chops and their vision. An acoustic set from 1985 is revelatory: intimate, reflective and driven as much by friendship as by instruments, this set gives off the feel of a few guys off in the corner at a party, playing while the quiet ones slowly drift over to listen in.
* I came to The Minutemen late, with Buzz or Howl. I read a review of it in Creem, the limp-dick analogy again, this time even for Iron Maiden's latest. I would prowl the record bins, just looking at the Punk records, letting just the covers and the titles point me to the idea that I it was ok to admit that I wasn't alone, that here was a way to put to death the kid whose balls were busted in school everyday because he didn't fight back. Punk was both Ammo and Hope. Just the words of the review, and of the song titles, pointed to something needed, real, human.
* But it wasn't until Double Nickels that the floodgates opened to the kind of music that I needed and wanted. Watt's bass is all the voice he needed; it is like the fat opera singer providing running commentary of the miraculous. D. Boon was the kid who fought back, with words no one to refute. He spoke truth to power, and vulnerable personal truth. Amen. Black Flag And Bad Brains provided catharsis and an outlet for anger; minutemen made it ok to have other emotions, feel them, and rave on.
* Have you ever noticed that, in film or in books, the best to describe the Punk/Hardcore era has always been through oral histories, interviews? Real people made it, real people had been waiting for way to speak for years, and the music gave finally came, and they've never stopped talking since. Pete Townsend once said that he had invented Punk Rock in his head so many times before it broke. I had invented punk rock, for myself, in a hospital room at five.
* With The Minutemen, at least, you believed that we were all family. They only wore the uniform of true punks—whatever they felt like wearing. I took them to Boston during an aborted attempt at graduate school. I made a tape of just "History Lesson" and "Take Five, D" and walked around Boston for hours. For once I wasn't just walking around brooding, but feeling. And I wasn't looking up at buildings anymore: I was wondering who was inside them, and what they were saying. Pretty soon I was interrupting the music often, stopping to talk to whoever. They were part of the music, part of the history lesson, part of giving D. a rest.
* I published a small lit mag in the early 90's, and my column each issue was called "shit from old notebooks, " a song from Double Nickels. It was also inspired by a poet friend of mine, Richard, who also published a xeroxed lit mag. Poetry and The Minutemen kept us going back then. We Jam Econo is a movie that can belong to everyone, and it speaks to what makes us all really real, as Van Morrison once said. So I'll make it my own here: This movie is dedicated by me to Richard Seffron, huge Minutemen fan who killed himself in 1992, and to the kid I was at five, who moved onward an upward thanks in part to Punk, and to D. Boon and Mike Watt playing guitar.
Mike Wood ia a novelist and painter, and is currently teaching at a homeles shelter and reviewing music for a few online magazines.