Minutemen were a punk rock band from San Pedro, California.Active from 1980 to 1985, when their frontman D. Boon died in a van crash in Arizona. One of the well known bands from the US underground rock scene of the 1980s. A Power Trio consisting of guitarist D. Boon, bassist Mike Watt and drummer George Hurley, they started out creating very short, simple punk songs, usually with a political theme. Unusually they incorporated jazz influences as well other other styles that reflected their DIY ethic.
"Double Tropes on the Dime":
Acrofatic: D. Boon was constantly jumping around and energetically dancing onstage despite his weight.
Badass Beard: Mike Watt (though he alternated between having one and being clean shaven).
Beige Prose: "Take 5, D", due to it's lyrics being taken verbatim from a note a friend received from his landlady about a leaky shower. This was Mike Watt's playful response to D. Boon complaining that the original lyrics were "too spacey".
Breakup Breakout: After the band disbanded, Mike Watt experienced a bit of success in other bands, such as playing bass for The Stooges and recording with Sonic Youth for their Ciccone Youth album (his voice is also heard on Sonic Youth's "Providence"). He's even played bass for more popular acts such as Kelly Clarkson.
Watt and Hurley were heartbroken after the death of Boon and both planned to never play music again. However, a Minutemen fan from Ohio, Ed Crawforddrove to California to convince Watt and Hurley not to do so. The three soon formed fIREHOSE, a band whose albums sold very well (for albums in the early years of Alternative Rock), scored a big rock radio hit ("Time With You") and even wound up getting signed to a major label before splitting in the early 90's.
Breathless Non Sequitur: According to Mike Watt, most of his lyrics were like this due to his obliviousness about the nature of most song lyrics, hence moments like the "Big fucking shit" in "It's Expected I'm Gone."
Cluster F-Bomb: Being a punk band, they naturally break this out in their more political-driven songs. Lampshaded in "Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing" with the line "If we heard mortar shells we'd cuss more in our songs."
The version of "Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love" featured on the compilation The Blasting Concept Volume II changes the lyric "I got no time to mess around" to "I got no time to fuck around - FUCK YOU!".
It Is Pronounced Tro Pay: D. Boon pronounces "measure" as "may-sure." Mike Watt admits this is a large part of the reason why he used the word in some of their lyrics.
Lead Bassist: While D. Boon receives a lot of acclaim as a guitarist and was usually the lead singer, Mike Watt tends to get at least as much praise for his distinctive bass lines. The fact that he wrote (or at least co-wrote) a majority of the band's music and had a bit of a Breakup Breakout certainly helps as well.
Meaningful Name: When they first started making music, their average song length was a minute or less. Even if they occasionally moved away from that, their songs still tended to be short.
New Sound Album: Each of their studio albums to a certain degree, although 3-Way Tie (For Last) is the most markedly different, featuring more effects on D. Boon's guitar, more songs with acoustic guitars, longer songs, a more rock-oriented sound with only a couple punk songs, etc.
Non-Appearing Title: It would probably be easier to list their songs whose titles do appear in the lyrics than those that don't.
Not Christian Rock: "Jesus and Tequila" is a song that talks about Jesus in a somewhat positive light and "God Bows to Math" references God and Enoch from The Bible in a non-hostile manner (despite the title). Also, in some pictures and videos of the band, drummer George Hurley is seen wearing a Christian cross necklace. Despite this, however, they have enough songs with Cluster F-Bomb lyrics to avoid being remotely categorized as Christian Rock.
Record Producer: All their material up until Double Nickels was recorded by SST Records' in-house producer, Glen "Spot" Lockett. Starting with Nickels they switched to former Blue Cheer keyboardist Ethan James.
Rule of Funny: Mike Watt admits he only wrote the line "Big fucking shit" in "It's Expected I'm Gone" because he thought it'd be something funny to hear D. Boon say. Some of their other lyrics and song titles also appear to follow this rule.
Self-Backing Vocalist: Their cover of "Dr. Wu" had Mike Watt do two tracks of vocals. In one, he sings the lines and in the other, he speaks the lyrics amelodically.
Self-Deprecation: "One Reporter's Opinion" is a song whose lyrics make fun of bassist Mike Watt, who wrote the song.
Shout-Out: The title of Double Nickels on the Dime alone has a few. Double Nickels is trucker slang for 55 miles per hour (if you look at the dashboard on the album art, you'll notice the speedometer reads 55). The Dime is a nickname for California Interstate 10.
According to Mike Watt, "on the dime" means "on the spot." They thought it would be funny to make the album's title a response to "I Can't Drive 55" by Sammy Hagar — they thought the idea being the song wasn't rebellious, so they decided to mock it in the title of the album.
Watt, about Hagar's song title: Okay, we'll drive 55, but we'll make crazy music!
Double Nickels also had a solo song for every member ("Cohesion" was D. Boon's, "Take 5, D." was Mike Watt's, and "You Need the Glory" was George Hurley's), which was inspired by Pink Floyd's Ummagumma.
"History Lesson - Part II" lists several of the band's influences like Joe Strummer and Richard Hell.
D. Boon stylized his shtick of going by his first initial and last name after E. Bloom of Blue Oyster Cult, a band they often covered and referenced in songs like "History Lesson - Part II" and "Tour Spiel."
The title of "Spillage" was meant as a shout out to Descendents, a punk band who were fond of making their song titles end in "-age" ("Bikeage", "Myage" and "Marriage" for example).
The Minutemen, themselves, were a spiritual successor to The Reactionaries, a shortlived band with Watt, Boon, and Hurley on their usual instruments, along with their friend Martin Tamburovich serving as their lead singer.
While Mike Watt's solo album, Hyphenated-Man is lyrically different than what the Minutemen wrote songs about, the Miniscule Rocking format of the album's music was inspired by Mike Watt listening to the Minutemen for the first time since D. Boon's death and returning to the straightforward style.
Step Up to the Microphone: D. Boon did vocals on most songs, but Mike Watt did vocals every now and then. George Hurley also did vocals on two songs: the "speech" during "Ruins" and the scat singing in his solo song, "You Need the Glory."
Studio Chatter: At the beginning of "Joe McCarthy's Ghost," there's a brief conversation between Mike Watt and the rest of the band, in which he tells them to "just keep saying "Joe McCarthy" for the song's outro.
The liner notes of Double Nickels on the Dime reads, "Take that Hüskers!" According to Mike Watt, he wrote that to give them credit for giving the Minutemen the idea to record a double album (Hüsker Dü's double album, Zen Arcade was in the same year as Double Nickels), in an odd case where a Take That doubles as a friendly Shout-Out.
The origin of the title, though, is less friendly. The band said it was a mockery of Sammy Hagar's "I Can't Drive 55", and their feeling that protesting the national speed limit wasn't a terribly rebellious thing to do.
Also "Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing" and "This Ain't No Picnic," the latter targeted at a racist auto parts store owner who wouldn't let Boon play jazz on the radio.
Title Only Chorus: "This Ain't No Picnic," "Nature Without Man," arguably "Little Man With a Gun in His Hand."
"BOB! DYLAN! WROTE PROPAGANDA SONGS!"
Vitriolic Best Buds: In We Jam Econo, it's revealed that neighbors didn't really complain about the band practicing too loudly; instead, they complained about Mike Watt and D. Boon cursing and yelling at each other.
This trope is also referenced in "Tour-Spiel" with the line, "We'd fight at practice then jam econo." It was also the inspiration behind the the cover art◊ to the EP Buzz or Howl Under the Influence of Heat.