100 Greatest Songs of the 1980’s #82 Black Flag – Six Pack

Released: 1981

Michael Azerrad’s beyond essential book Our Band Could Be Your Life tells the story of how a handful of outsiders sleeping in vans and on people’s floors, often playing to audiences of twenty or thirty people a night in shared spaces, youth clubs and house parties created the American musical underground from their blood, sweat and tears. It opens with a chapter on Black Flag, arguably the most influential American hardcore band of all time and pioneers of independent control of both the product and the message.

The song itself isn’t a swipe at the beer soaked jock culture which would go on to frequently invade mosh pits, but instead at former singer Keith Morris (Latterly of the Circle Jerks) who, baulking at the group’s ferocious work ethic, left in 1979.

Six Pack also shows how far American punk – originally little more than fetishized on the East and West Coasts – had been given a tougher skin, diverging from it’s British counterpart. In contrast to the trad three chord ramalama of the mohawk and leather brigade, Six Pack is almost prog by comparison, shifting tempo, employing sawn-off riffs and a spoken word intro, hallmarks of a shared obsession with throwing off the dead weight of conformity. As Azerrad so eloquently tells us, by the time they were done rock music across the fifty states would never be the same again.

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