By Mark Kemp
D. Boon was a towering figure on the early Southern California punk scene. As guitarist, singer, and songwriter for powerhouse trio the Minutemen, the big man with a guitar in his hands brought an urgency to his lyrics, and the band brought a funky element to hardcore punk that later would be taken into the mainstream by acts like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against the Machine.
But no band sounded like the Minutemen, and no punk rocker but D. Boon carried the messages of acoustic protest folk singers such as Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs into the American punk realm so seamlessly. Watch how Boon, bassist Mike Watt (also on acoustic guitar here), and percussionist George Hurley perform in an acoustic context long after the coffeehouse folk scene of the ’60s and ’70s and before the MTV Unplugged years that would inspire the modern acoustic folk scene. Most importantly, watch how Boon and Watt were able to naturally transform their normally spiky electric riffs into gentle accompaniment for them to tell their story in the song “History Lesson Part II.” And the song doesn’t just tell their story, it tells the story of any budding musician with dreams of being heard.
Dennes Dale Boon was born on April 1, 1958, and would have been 58 today. Sadly, he died at 27 on on December 22, 1985, when the band’s van crashed in Arizona. Watt went on to form Firehose and continues to perform with a variety of projects, most notably as bassist for the reformed Iggy Pop and the Stooges several years ago. There’s a good chance that today D. Boon would be wielding an acoustic guitar and still singing songs of social justice.
For his birthday, AG is remembering Boon with this acoustic clip from the documentary We Jam Econo. The rare acoustic performance is introduced by Boon’s former bandmate Watt, driving a truck, talking about his late buddy. The performance was taped for public TV in 1985 and is a fairly rough, public-access TV recording, but Minutemen fans and fans of the ’80s DIY aesthetic will find it just right.
Happy birthday, D.