Roadrunner Records - Slipknot's hard-hitting, aggressive metal anthems are getting…
- Posted on Dec 18th 2009 5:00PM by James Sullivan
They learned to play instruments by covering classic rock by bands like Alice Cooper and Blue Oyster Cult. When they discovered punk rock and realized they could invent their own brand of music, they put a local surfer named George Hurley behind the drums and named themselves the Minutemen. They liked the name for its Revolutionary War connotation and because it was used by a group of '60s factionalists. The band's emerging style -- a jazzy, jagged-edge kind of funk-punk with songs that rarely exceeded two minutes, and often were less than one -- would lead many fans to assume another reason behind the name.
In a socially conscious band that would become well-known for its sloganeering, the Minutemen's unofficial motto was "Punk is whatever we make it to be." Signed to the new SST label, home of hardcore pioneers Black Flag, the Minutemen were like no other band -- certainly like no other punk band. They ranted about social politics, wrote songs around absurdly danceable riffs and worshiped Creedence Clearwater Revival's meat-and-potatoes rock. But commercially successful rock 'n' roll (in Minutemen jargon, "mersh") was unfathomable to the band. When they named an album 'Double Nickels on the Dime,' it was a cryptic reaction to Sammy Hagar's hit 'I Can't Drive 55.' If Sammy Hagar was such a reckless speed demon, as Watt explained to author Michael Azerrad, then the Minutemen would declare themselves precise followers of the speed limit.
D. Boon, as he called himself, was the band's righteous hardliner, intellectually omnivorous and deeply committed to his working-class roots. When the band's story was featured in an acclaimed documentary, it was named for their vow of near-poverty: 'We Jam Econo.'
In late December 1985, the Minutemen were home in San Pedro after a tour as R.E.M.'s opening act. (True to their insular world, they hadn't been aware of R.E.M.'s music when they signed on.) On Dec. 22, Boon was headed to Arizona to visit his girlfriend's family for the holidays. Sick with a fever, he was sleeping on the floor in the back of the tour van while his girlfriend drove.
Mike Watt, Boon's best friend, was driving home from a show when he passed a street sign that said "Willoughby." He shuddered; it made him think of an old 'Twilight Zone' episode in which a passenger jumps off a train at a stop called Willoughby and dies.
Around that time, D. Boon's girlfriend was falling asleep at the wheel in Arizona. The van flipped, and Boon was thrown out of the back. He died instantly. He was 27, the age when so many great musicians inexplicably seem to die. In 'Our Band Could Be Your Life,' Azerrad's book about the origins of indie rock -- named for a Minutemen line -- Watt tells the author he had a dream his friend was looking at a huge psychedelic painting of multiple Abe Lincolns. And he had to tell D. Boon – "such a f---ing fierce dude" -- he was dead.