Few people in underground music retain the unvarnished status as a leader for chance and change, and remain dedicated to musical honesty like Mike Watt does. His relationship to comrade D. Boon extends back to 1973, when the Californians formed the Bright Orange Band, then re-grouped as the Reactionaries, then settled in as the Minutemen by 1980. Considered poet-cum-punks, the San Pedro natives, deftly fused impeccable writing with artful punk music.
When D. Boon died in 1986, Watt briefly contributed songs to Sonic Youth for Evol and soon planted his feet with fIREHOSE and has gone on to play with several other bands, including Dos, Porno for Pyros, and the Missing Men. Watt could be called the hardest working man in punk rock if it didn't seem like such an insincere cliche.
Mike Watt is one of our favorite musicians of all time. Today he turns 59 and to celebrate we've put together some of our favorite songs from a range of his bands.
Minutemen - Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing
A personal favorite of Watt’s, this tom-tom thumping track honors his lyrical forays, which are driven by ideas surrounding basic human rights and action, Walt Whitman candor, Woody Guthrie-style anti-fascism, and self-refletion addressing both the band and self.
Minutemen - Little Man With a Gun in His Hand
"Little Man With a Gun In His Hand" is the most traditional rock song on the Buzz or Howl Under the Influence of Heat album, but it's one of the most intense songs they ever made.
fIRHOSE - Relation' Dudes to Jazz
This fIRHOSE track came less than a year after Minutemen suffered the death of D. Boon. Watt returned in full form with the skittering guitar work of Ed Crawford, and his ex-wife and collaborator Kira Roessler. It's sporadic, filled with stop and start playing, and heady lyrics; the perfect blend of Watt's abstract and familiar song-writing.
Mike Watt - Against the 70's
The track’s potent power easily transcends the confines of the mid-1990s. The song’s underlying guts and romp are soaked in pure Watt ideology. As defender of the DIY faith, Watt injects his lyrics with jabs at empty nostalgia for stadium rock embodied by parts of the grunge rock movement.
Minutemen - Anchor
"The Anchor" was the first time they played over two minutes. It's a song about a dream, and is trippy. Watt wrote the music to "The Anchor," but Georgie wrote the words, which he would do at work, on the laze, so semi-conscious. That why hey'd be surreal.
Mike Watt - Big Train
"Big Train" was the first single from the Ball-Hog or Tugboat? album and one of only two songs Watt sang lead vocal on (the other being the closing track, "Coincidence Is Either Hit Or Miss".)
Mike Watt - The Bluejacket's Manual
The actual Bluejacket’s Manual is the U.S. Navy’s basic handbook, but the song deftly works a parallel narrative, capturing both the drills of boot camp maritime service and pogo pits of early era punk. This well-oiled song is fierce and frenetic.
Minutemen - This Ain't No Picnic
This song targets a racist boss who Minutemen guitarist, D. Boon, worked for at an auto parts store. Boon asked if he could tune the store's radio to a funk station, but his boss refused, calling the station "African-American excrement." This song also spawned Minutemen's first ever music video. The video, which cost just $600 to make, incorporates footage from a public domain war film of a young Ronald Reagan piloting a military aircraft. Reagan is made to look like he bombs a defiant Minutemen, who are performing in a desolate field below him.
Minutemen -Anxious Mofo
Georgie wrote the words to this song and Watt ended up calling it Anxious Mo-Fo and wrote the music, which were directly inspired by Gerogie's words. For Watt it was like Georgie was commenting on their band, which was something he could always do: self-reflect.