BLACK FLAG IS GOING TO SELL THIS DAMN ALBUM NO MATTER WHAT
Black Flag’s debut album Damaged is generally regarded to be one of the best hardcore punk albums of all time, coming to define their sound and launching the career of singer, spoken word performer, and playable character in “Def Jam: Fight For NY” Henry Rollins. The third and finally successful attempt by Black Flag to record a full-length album after shuffling through a number of different vocalists and guitarists, Damaged reached the penultimate state of distribution—25,000 copies pressed, labels printed, the whole shebang warehoused and ready to ship out when MCA Records president Al Bergamo made the foolish mistake of listening to the record. Declaring that “as a parent… I found it an anti-parent record,” Bergamo refused to distribute the album to stores.
Rightfully incensed, Black Flag drove out to the warehouse where they either sweet-talked, threatened, or kicked the doors down to where they could grab their own already-packaged albums and distribute them personally. To do so, the band formed the now-legendary punk label SST and simply slapped an SST sticker (accompanied by Bergamo’s infamous quote) down over the MCA copyright.
Of course, MCA and Unicorn (the imprint MCA was ostensibly going to release the album under) had a little bit to say about that. Black Flag found itself legally prohibited from releasing any music under that name for the next two years of legal hell, occasionally resulting in jail terms for contempt of court, until finally Unicorn folded.
In later years, Black Flag members and SST employees have come to question the “anti-parent” story after doing a bit of research into the Unicorn’s finances; they discovered that Unicorn’s books were in such a shambles that MCA stood to lose money on the release of Damaged no matter how well it sold. As it turned out, an album that everybody thought was screwed over because of priggish censorship issues was in fact screwed over by corrupt businessmen and bloodless accountants, making Damaged even more punk rock than it was previously (if such a thing is possible).