Before Henry Rollins joined Black Flag in August, 1981, the Hermosa Beach punks had three vocalists.
Keith Morris was the band’s original singer, fronting the band during their first 12 months when they were known as Panic. He remained with the band until November 1979 and went on to form the Circle Jerks. His successor Ron Reyes’ tenure lasted for just six months, but managed to record vocals for their 1980 Jealous Again EP in that time. Next, Dez Cadena fronted the band until 1981, until he switched to rhythm guitar and was replaced by Rollins.
DevilDriver and Coal Chamber frontman Dez Fafara was a young punk fan growing up in Los Angeles. Seeing as he’s rarely pictured without his Black Flag Everything Went Black shirt – featuring the artwork to the band’s 1982 compilation – we set him the challenge of picking the band’s 10 best songs recorded before Rollins’ appointment as singer…
JEALOUS AGAIN (Jealous Again EP, 1980. Vocalist: Ron Reyes) Black Flag came along at a time in my life when I needed punk rock. It was ruling my life at that point, and Jealous Again is a track that fucking destroys. I’d just broken up with a girlfriend in my freshman year, I was pissed and the song spoke to me. It’s so quick: the beat, the lyrics, all of it. I love it.
NERVOUS BREAKDOWN (Nervous Breakdown EP, 1978. Vocalist: Keith Morris) There’s just something about the chorus on Nervous Breakdown. And I love this line: “I’m about to have a nervous breakdown, my head really hurts!” When you’re a troubled youth, lyrics like that get locked in your soul.
NO VALUES (Jealous Again EP, 1980) I always loved this song as a kid and it still holds up after all these years. The vocal attack at the end really sets this track off.
LOUIE LOUIE (Louie Louie, 1981. Vocalist: Dez Cadena) I love this cover. It just says, “Yeah, here we are, we’re fucking punk rock.” Going to punk shows used to be dangerous. You would never know what would happen or if cops would come and close it down, yet here they were busting out a cover of [The Kingsmen’s 1963 single] Louie Louie. There’s just something so in your face about that.
REVENGE (Jealous Again EP, 1980) In my youth, anger drove me. You can’t go wrong with a song like this – it’s so cutting. The track is less than a minute long and sets the standard for what I think punk is; it’s in your face, it’s to the point and wraps up quick.
AMERICAN WASTE (Six Pack EP, 1981. Vocalist: Dez Cadena) American Waste is a great social commentary. At that time in punk rock, the youth cared heavily about society and social issues. It’s still relatable to what’s going on now with the government, war and poverty and the music and Dez Cadena’s vocal till holds up to this day.
WASTED (Nervous Breakdown EP, 1978. Vocals: Keith Morris) Wasted is on fire and it’s fucking 51 seconds long! Me and my friends used to sit with our shaved heads and boots up to our knees and we’d put that song on and try and slam a beer real quick. When you’re 15 or 16 years old, that’s a very difficult thing to do! Ah, youth.
WHITE MINORITY (Jealous Again EP, 1980) White Minority is a great social commentary on anti-racism. Some people took it the opposite way. I never did, but as a kid it touched me. I lived in California and had black and Mexican friends – we were all into punk rock. I’ve always been colour blind.
I’VE HEARD IT BEFORE (Six Pack EP, 1981) This song’s definitely up there. It’s under two minutes and again, the lyrics and the song gets right to the point. I like songs like Six Pack and TV Party, but those weren’t the ones that I really fell in to. Yes, they were punk rock. Yes, they were Black Flag, but for me, that lyrical content was a little too flippant when compared to these songs.
YOU BET WE’VE GOT SOME SOMETHING PERSONAL AGAINST YOU! (Jealous Again EP, 1980) Doesn’t this song just say everything that you’ve ever wanted to say to somebody? It’s just so direct. Again, I love its poignant lyrics – that’s what punk rock is for me. I don’t want you to beat around the bush. I wanna fucking hear what you have to say right away.
_Dez Cadena was talking to Matt Stocks. _