Damaged (Black Flag album)

Studio album by Black Flag
Released December 5, 1981 (1981-12-05)
Recorded August 1981 at Unicorn Studios
Genre Hardcore punk
Length 34:58
Label SST
Producer Black Flag, Spot
Black Flag chronology
Six Pack
TV Party
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars [1]
Piero Scaruffi 8/10 stars [2]
Robert Christgau (A-) [3]

Damaged is the debut studio album by the American hardcore punk band Black Flag. It was released in December 1981 through SST Records. In 2003, the album was ranked number 340 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[4]



Black Flag had made at least two aborted attempts to record a full-length album since the release of its first extended play Nervous Breakdown, with singers Keith Morris, Ron Reyes, and Dez Cadena; some of the Reyes sessions became the Jealous Again EP, while selections from two of many Cadena sessions became the Six Pack EP and the "Louie Louie"/"Damaged I" single; other session outtakes would later comprise the Everything Went Black double album.[5] At the time of the recording, Cadena had moved to rhythm guitar (a position he had initially intended to take when Reyes was still in the band)[5] and 20-year-old Washington, DC expatriate Henry Rollins had become the band's new lead singer weeks before the sessions occurred.[6] Unlike Reyes, who had never sung in a studio before[5] and Cadena, who had not even sung at all before joining the band,[5] Rollins already had one recording credit to his name with the short-lived DC hardcore punk band State of Alert, who recorded No Policy, an EP released earlier that year on Dischord Records.[7][8]

The band recorded their backing tracks without Rollins, who overdubbed vocals with band members Greg Ginn (guitar) and Chuck Dukowski (bass) coaching him afterward.[6] The most complicated vocal tracks ended up being Dukowski's "What I See", which was supposed to have an improvised speech in the song's bridge but ended up having one written out by Dukowski when Rollins could not come up with anything that he was satisfied with, and "T.V. Party", which featured backing vocals from the entire band.

The studio that the album was recorded at Unicorn Studios, which was owned by SST Records. The band was living in another part of the building that housed Unicorn Studios prior to the sessions.[6]

Drummer Robo was wearing bracelets on his left wrist that rattled when he played; the rattling, whenever he would hit his snare drum, especially when he hit downbeats on it, became part of the sound.[6]

The version of "Rise Above" on the album was recorded at an earlier session with Rollins & was intended purely for a single release. Another version was recorded during the album sessions but the band abandoned it & decided to include the single version instead.[6]

The closing track, "Damaged I", is technically Rollins' first writing credit with the band. In his book Get in the Van, Rollins reports that he used to improvise the lyrics every night when the song was performed live. Two takes of the vocal were done, and the first was used.[6]

Cover art

The cover art, taken by punk photographer Ed Colver, features Rollins putting his fist through a mirror. The effect was made by cracking the mirror with a hammer, while the "blood" on Rollins' wrist is a mixture of red ink and coffee.[9] The photograph has been described as "iconic" in the pages of Artforum.[10]

Business disputes with Unicorn

Their distribution deal with Unicorn—which was associated with MCA Records—resulted in an initial pressing of 25,000 copies. MCA Records president Al Bergamo listened to the album prior to release & claimed that it was "anti-parent", although he never cited a specific lyric that led him to that conclusion.[11] As a result, MCA refused to distribute the already-pressed-and-packaged album which bore an MCA Distributing Corp. logo on the lower right corner of the back cover. Black Flag members had to personally visit the pressing plant and apply a sticker over the MCA logo which read, "As a parent... I found it an anti-parent record"[6][7][12]—thus essentially throwing Bergamo's words back in his face.

Longtime SST employee Joe Carducci has reported that the "anti-parent" statement was a red herring. In fact, according to Carducci, Unicorn Records was so poorly managed and so deeply in debt that MCA would lose money in distributing Damaged, regardless of its content, and was eager to sever its relationship with Unicorn by any possible pretext.[13]

SST ended up distributing Damaged on its own; as a result, Unicorn filed lawsuit against Black Flag and SST, claiming breach of contract. Black Flag were suddenly enjoined from recording any more records under their own name,[7] although SST were able to continue with its own release schedule, releasing The Minutemen's The Punch Line and the debuts of the Meat Puppets and Saccharine Trust.[9] However, Unicorn would release a single of an updated "T.V. Party" before the legal trouble started, a recording (just as ironically) commissioned by MCA for the soundtrack to the film Repo Man.[14]

The legal dispute between Black Flag and Unicorn tied the band up for almost two years, during which time they released Everything Went Black, a double album of pre-Rollins outtakes, under the names of the individual musicians and vocalists on the record.[15] Unicorn ended up filing even more legal briefs, claiming that Black Flag had violated a court injunction against releasing new records. Ginn and Dukowski ended up doing several days in Los Angeles County Jail for contempt of court, but the case fizzled out soon afterward when Unicorn went out of business, freeing Black Flag of any further obligation to the label.[6][7][9]

Known outtakes and alternate versions

In addition to the known unreleased version of "Rise Above" recorded during the album sessions and the alternate take of "Damaged I", a version of Black Flag's arrangement of "Louie Louie" was also recorded. According to Rollins in Get in the Van, this version featured the band going into "a strange jam at the end until the tape ran out;" It was never mixed down in any form.[6] As of July 2006, it was unknown if the master tapes to these outtakes were still in existence. Henry Rollins later stated on his radio show's blog that alternate versions of "What I See" and "at least one other song that I can't remember" also came out of the Damaged sessions, and that other outtakes from Black Flag's other albums also exist.[16]

According to Black Flag's engineer and live sound man Spot, a nearly complete version of Damaged was recorded at Golden Age Studios with Dez Cadena doing vocal duties. This session is where the tracks for the Six Pack EP came from. No official version of the remainder of this recording session has ever been released, although pirated copies have circulated in tape trading circles for years. A comparison of the unreleased Dez Cadena sessions with the released LP suggests that the vocal cadence and presentation of the Cadena sessions were used as a reference by the band prior to recording the final album.

A version of "Depression" was recorded to be the b-side of the "Rise Above" single.[6]

Release variations

  • A 1982 European release issued by Roadrunner Records' RoadRacer imprint substitutes the later single version of "T.V. Party" for the album version on side one, and adds the Dez Cadena-led single version of "Louie Louie" to the end of side two.[17]
  • The initial CD reissue of Damaged, for some unknown reason, appended the Jealous Again EP. All subsequent versions contain the original album only.[15][18]

Track listing

This listing is for the album as originally released and sequenced for vinyl and cassette. For other variations, see Release variations above.

All songs written and composed by Greg Ginn, except where noted. 

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Rise Above"   2:26
2. "Spray Paint" (written by Chuck Dukowski, Ginn) 0:34
3. "Six Pack"   2:20
4. "What I See" (written by Dukowski) 1:56
5. "TV Party"   3:31
6. "Thirsty and Miserable" (written by Dez Cadena, Medea, Robo) 2:06
7. "Police Story"   1:30
8. "Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie"   1:47
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "Depression"   2:28
2. "Room 13" (written by Ginn, Medea) 2:04
3. "Damaged II"   3:23
4. "No More" (written by Dukowski) 2:25
5. "Padded Cell" (written by Dukowski, Ginn) 1:47
6. "Life of Pain"   2:50
7. "Damaged I" (written by Ginn, Henry Rollins) 3:50
Total length:


Additional musicians

  • Mugger – backing vocals



  1. ^ Dougan, John. Damaged (Black Flag album) at Allmusic. Retrieved 2011-07-01.
  2. ^ Piero Scaruffi: Black Flag
  3. ^ Robert Christgau: Black Flag reviews
  4. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. 18 November 2003. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/500-greatest-albums-of-all-time-19691231/damaged-black-flag-19691231. Retrieved 6 March 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c d Spot with Chuck Dukowski, Liner notes of Everything Went Black, SST Records, 1983
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Henry Rollins, Get In The Van: On The Road With Black Flag, 2.13.61 Publications, 1994
  7. ^ a b c d Michael Azzerad, Our Band Could Be Your Life, Little Brown, 2001
  8. ^ Henry Rollins, Unwanted Songs 1981–1991, 2.13.61 Publications, 2002
  9. ^ a b c James Parker, Henry Rollins: Turned On, Orion Books, 2001
  10. ^ Lauren O'Neill-Butler, "'Quiet Politics'", Artforum, November 2008, p. 351.
  11. ^ Coincidentally, one of Rollins' ad-libbed lyrics on "Damaged I" seems to refer to some rather hardcore military-like discipline that he had endured from his estranged ultra-conservative father.
  12. ^ Al Bergamo (uncredited), sticker applied to back cover of original pressing of Damaged, SST Records/Unicorn Records, 1981
  13. ^ Joe Carducci, Rock and the Pop Narcotic, 2.13.61 Publications, 1993
  14. ^ Henry Rollins, Broken Summers, 2.13.61 Publications, 2003
  15. ^ a b Black Flag entry on Trouser Press Online Record Guide
  16. ^ Henry Rollins, HarmonyInMyHead.com, annotated playlist for July 11, 2006 show, accessed July 17, 2006.
  17. ^ Liner notes of European release of Damaged, RoadRacer/Roadrunner Records, 1982
  18. ^ SST Records mail order catalog, 1990

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