Black Flag’s Final Tour: The Movie

Detail of a 1986 show flierfrom <A HREF="http://www.splitred.com/secrethistory/2006/10/">Secret History of Cedar Valley</A>

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


Black Flag’s grueling tours are the stuff of legend. The band spent months at a time on the road, booking shows as it went, with certain band members reportedly eating dog food because they were that broke.

While front man Henry Rollins documented the rigors of touring with one of punk’s best-known bands (Get in the Van), filmmaker David Markey captured the band’s final, six-month trip across North America in 1986. Though the film, Reality 86’d, carries a 1991 copyright, Black Flag founder/guitarist and SST label owner Greg Ginn never gave permission for it to be released. The doc is legendary within certain circles, but not even bootleg VHS copies could be had.

Markey says, “I decided after 20 years just because one man [Ginn] doesn’t want the world to see something doesn’t make it right.”

Earlier this month, using the power of the internet to slip around Ginn’s notoriously tight fist, Markey posted his film on his vimeo page. As a cultural document, it’s pretty cool. It recollects a particularly awkward moment in the history of punk, with the luminaries of the first ten years (Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Black Flag, Minor Threat) winding down or long gone and the next big wave (Green Day, Nirvana, Fugazi) still in its gestation stage.

As a movie, though, it leaves a bit to be desired. There’s no real narrative or structure. Just jumping in a van with a bunch of guys, capturing the tedium, bad inside jokes, reactions of fans and passersby, philosophical conversations, and plenty of live footage. It’s very meandering, not unlike The Rolling Stones’ 1972 tour doc Cocksucker Blues—minus the groupies, planes, and copious drugs. And like Cocksucker Blues, it’s cool to see—at least once anyway. 

UPDATE: Greg Ginn has since gotten the movie pulled from Vimeo.

Click here for more music features from Mother Jones.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.