Album #543 – Double Nickels on the Dime
Double Nickels on the Dime was an amazing and eyeopening listening experience. Captain Beefheart meets Funkadelic. I had only heard of the Minutemen and one of their songs, The Cheerleaders from the Project: Mersh EP, before listening to Double Nickles. I knew of Mike Watt through a great book by Sue Carpenter called 40 Watts from Nowhere, in which Carpenter moves to Silver Lake, just outside L.A., to start her own pirate music radio station. Mike Watt was one of the DJs. But, I really didn’t know too much about this trio from San Pedro. I just assumed they were another hardcore band. Boy, was I wrong!!! Mike Watt and D. Boon met when they were kids and developed a bond that you don’t see in most bands. Both could tell what the other was thinking and they were in sync musically. Musical brothers, if you will. In order to keep him off the street, Dennes’ mother let him and Mike practice playing loud music together in her house. Mike had NO choice but to play bass. Mrs. Boon wanted it that way. D. was the guitar player and also a painter. Boon and Watt’s mom’s were encouraging and supported them every step of the way. Something you don’t always see in rock n’ roll. For the first few years, they were awful and learned as they went along. But, all the practicing paid off and eventually Minutemen became a tour de force in hardcore. Drummer George Hurley joined by fluke after being in another band with D. and Mike. George vowed he would never play with them again. Glad he didn’t keep that promise!!! By the time Double Nickels was released, Minutemen were in fine form. The title is making fun of Sammy Hagar’s song, I Can’t Drive 55. The band felt that they would rather be rebellious in their music, than driving. The album was recorded using the Econo method: short songs but with funny or political lyrics. It is DIY at its finest and yet, all three members are amazing musicians. Each brings their own style and sound to the group. D. Boon is one of the best guitarists I have ever heard. He can also sing very well which is something very RARE for hardcore bands. Mike Watt is also a great player who applies funk to the bands sound. Actually, in the doc We Jam Econo, one of their friends said that Watt and Boon’s sounds were polar opposites to provide the complete range of sound. Watt’s bass was strong and low while Boon’s guitar had huge high treble. Let’s not forget about George Hurley. One of the best drummers of all time. His drumming added so much to the sound. He did things many drummers can’t do and yet it sounded amazing. Yet, he will be the first to tell you that he didn’t feel he was all that good at the time. The band takes on various styles on the double album. Punk, funk. country, rock and jazz are all explored here. Nothing was off limits. Some songs are political, some are personal. There was even a song on this album in which the lyrics came from a note a landlord left on the door of one of the band’s friend’s apartment, talking about his leaky shower. The album is a double album and is intended as a response to Husker Du’s Zen Arcade, also a double album. The first three sides are each named after a band member while the fourth side called Chaff, were all the leftovers. The idea to have sides named after band members comes from Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma. As you can see, Minutemen loved and respected rock from the past. They cover CCR, Steely Dan and Van Halen on the album. They never bashed it like many of their contemporaries. Classic rock songs were the first tunes Boon and Watt ever learned how to play. They never forgot their roots. They were just great guys who loved good music. Hardcore was their way of expressing themselves. If anything, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have the Minutemen to thank. They are the biggest influence on the Chili Peppers’ sound. If anything, the Chili’s ripped them off. It was disappointing to find that out, but also exhilarating. If you want to find out more about this amazing band, check out the doc We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen. An amazing look into a phenomenal band. Sadly, it all came to an end just over 30 years ago, when D. Boon died in a car accident. Thankfully, Watt and Hurley continued to make music in fiREHOSE and one of that band’s albums is on the list. I can’t wait to listen to it. Double Nickels on the Dime and many other Minutemen albums will now have a place in my collection. Highlights include: Anxious Mo Fo, Viet Nam, One Reporter’s Opinion, Political Song For Michael Jackson To Sing, Maybe Partying Will Help, Corona (also known as the theme to Jackass), Take 5, D., History Lesson – Part II (my fav track on the album that talks about the history and musical values of the band), #1 Hit Song, D.’s Car Jam, Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want The Truth, Cohesion, The Glory of Man and This Ain’t No Picnic. Overall, I give Double Nickels on the Dime, 5 out of 5.
Next: Rattlesnakes by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions