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Music / Minutemen

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"Our band could be your life!"
The Minutemen, "History Lesson, Pt. II"

Minutemen were a punk rock band from San Pedro, California.

One of the well known bands from the US underground rock scene of the 1980s. A Rock 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 various other styles that reflected their DIY ethic.

They were active from 1980 to 1985, when their frontman D. Boon died in a van crash in Arizona. In 1986, Watt and Hurley formed a new band, fIREHOSE, with new lead singer and guitarist Ed Crawford. That band played together until 1994, after which Watt embarked on a solo career.

Studio releases

  • Paranoid Time EP (1980)
  • Joy EP (1981)
  • The Punch Line (1981)
  • Bean Spill EP (1982)
  • What Makes a Man Start Fires? (1983)
  • Buzz or Howl Under Influence of Heat EP (1983)
  • Double Nickels on the Dime (1984)
  • Tour-Spiel EP (1984)
  • Project: Mersh EP (1984)
  • 3-Way Tie for Last (1985)
  • Minuteflag EP (1986, with Black Flag)

Double Tropes on the Dime:

  • Acrofatic: D. Boon was known for constantly jumping around and energetically dancing onstage, despite his weight.
  • The Band Minus the Face: Watt and Hurley occasionally perform Minutemen songs together in duo concerts. The two have refused to replace D. Boon with another guitarist for these performances, and instead have rearranged the songs for bass and drums only.
  • Beige Prose: "Take 5, D", due to its lyrics being taken verbatim from a brief 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".
  • Big Fun: D. Boon
  • 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!".
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Boon and Watt were first learning their instruments, they didn't really understand the concept of "tuning up", considering it a matter of personal taste ('Yeah, I like my strings loose, man') and figured that as long as they sounded okay playing together, then it was fine. On the other hand, this probably helped them develop their ears to a greater degree than bands that relied on electronic tuners.
  • Cover Version: "Don't Look Now", "The Red and the Black", "Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love", "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?", "Going to Bermuda", and "Dr. Wu".
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: Of a sort. For instance, "Dream Told by Moto" doesn't have its vocals enter until almost a minute in. That doesn't sound too extreme, but the song isn't even two minutes long. (The vocals only last for about twenty seconds, beyond that.)
  • Epic Rocking: They had a few songs that exceeded six minutes, such as the Ballot Result versions of "No One (remix)" (6:33), "Mr. Robot's Holy Orders" (7:47), and "Hell (second take)" (7:06). Overall, it was extremely rare for a song of theirs to exceed even the three-minute mark, though.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Some of their songs were named this way, such as "Shit from an Old Notebook" and "Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing."
    • "Spoken Word Piece" is, well, a spoken word piece.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Little Man with a Gun in His Hand" fades out completely before a bit of Studio Chatter and then one final chord.
  • Genre Mashup: Their usual style was a mixture of punk rock, funk, and jazz, though they also venture into other genres.
  • Hardcore Punk: Albeit a somewhat unusual example.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Watt and Boon. To the point where, as told in the band's career retrospective documentary We Jam Econo, Watt eerily felt sick the exact minute that Boon was killed.
    • According to Mike Watt's hootpage and a couple interviews, when people ask what kind of bassist he is, he still gives the answer, "I'm D. Boon's bass player."
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Instead of having sides labeled A through D or 1 through 4, Double Nickels On The Dime has three sides named after the three members, and the last side called "Side Chaff" - the band members had picked songs for their sides in the manner of a sports team draft, and "Side Chaff" was made up of all the songs no one had picked.
  • In Name Only: "History Lesson - Part II" is musically and lyrically unrelated to "History Lesson."
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: A lot of their songs have titles like "The Roar of the Masses Could Be Farts", "Do You Want New Wave Or Do You Want the Truth?" and "Mr. Robot's Holy Orders".
  • In the Style of: They did funk/punk covers of Van Halen, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Steely Dan, and several others.
  • 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.
  • Lead Singer Plays Lead Guitar: Lead vocalist D. Boon is acclaimed for his lead guitar talents.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Protest songs set to funky, energetic backing music.
  • Meaningful Name: Contrary to popular belief, The Minutemen were not named for the shortness of their songs. They were instead named after the 18th Century militia group. The name was also a reference to, and a lampooning of, the right-wing reactionary group of the same name that was founded in the 1960s.
  • Miniscule Rocking: Their signature style. "Tension", the longest song on The Punch Line, is 1 minute and 18 seconds long. The shortest song on the album is an instrumental called "Song for El Salvador", which is 31 seconds long. As originally released, Double Nickels on the Dime had 45 songs on it.
  • 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.
  • Post-Hardcore: One of the first examples. While hardcore punk was the primary component of their sound, they weren't afraid to dabble in elements from other music genres.
  • Protest Song
  • Pun-Based Title: "The Toe Jam".
  • Quirky Curls: George's hairstyle near the end which he called "The Unit".
  • 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.
  • Rock Trio
  • Rockumentary: We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen.
  • 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 that the song wasn't terribly 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 Öyster Cult, a band they often covered and referenced in songs like "History Lesson - Part II" and "Tour Spiel".
    • The title of "Spillage" is a shout out to Descendents, a punk band fond of making their song titles end in "-age" ("Bikeage", "Myage" and "Marriage" for example).
  • The Something Song: "Song for El Salvador", "#1 Hit Song", "Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing", and "Untitled Song for Latin America".
  • Spiritual Successor: fIREHOSE
    • 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.
  • Take That!: Lyrically, "#1 Hit Song" is a parody of bland chart-topping love songs. "Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs" is a weird case, because while it parodies Bob Dylan's early lyrical style, it also pays tribute to him, especially since Dylan is one of Mike Watt's heroes.
    • 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 a rare 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.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: The Punch Line is this turned up to eleven. The songs had a very stripped down style with no choruses or guitar solos, making the 18 songs on the album over in only 15 minutes.
  • Title-Only Chorus:
    • "This Ain't No Picnic", "Nature Without Man", arguably "Little Man With a Gun in His Hand".
  • Trope Maker: Arguably one of these for Post-Hardcore, along with Big Black, Hüsker Dü, Meat Puppets and Naked Raygun.
  • 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.


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Alternative Title(s): The Minutemen



The opening sequence for the first season of Jackass, with the series' theme song being "Corona" by Minutemen.

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