Legendary punk label SST (home to early Sonic Youth, Minutemen, Black Flag, and others) turns 30 this year, and The Guardian UK has a pretty lengthy write-up of the label’s history up on their website. The story traces SST’s beginnings as a radio parts sales shop, the business practices of founder Greg Ginn, and ascendance to the head of the underground rock vanguard. Here’s a taste:
“The shit – or more precisely, U2 – first hit the fan in 1991, when SST faced a huge bill from Island Records for Negativland’s parody of I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. SST’s ensuing battle with Negativland saw the dominos fall one by one: Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr and Meat Puppets all reclaimed their back catalogues through taking legal action.
No one from SST’s glory days seems to have a good word to say about founder Greg Ginn, who expanded his radio parts operation Solid State Tuners in 1978 so he could put out a record, Nervous Breakdown, by his band Black Flag. Turning on its head the preconception that making a record was an unattainable holy grail, he found a pressing plant in the phonebook and used his brother Raymond Pettibon’s acerbic comic strip artwork for the cover.
While using the same PO box address, SST was forced to move from district to district to evade the cops, who apparently believed the label was a front for drug dealing. Black Flag’s Police Story – "We’re fighting a war we can’t win/They hate us, we hate them …" – which first appeared on the definitive hardcore punk album Damaged featuring Henry Rollins on vocals, summed up the harassment doled out by the LAPD. SST gigs were banned and the label’s shop put under surveillance. Business was often conducted in phone kiosks on the street, while musicians earned enough to eat by helping Ginn build radios out of salvaged second world war parts for his radio clientele.”
To read the full story, go here.