MJ, D. Boon and the pop loving punks

26 06 2009

I went to a show at the UCLA Ackerman Grand Ballroom on March 2nd 1985. There were 5 bands playing that night; Husker Du, Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Saccharine Trust and SWA. This was a stop on the SST Records series of shows dubbed “The Tour”. It was a great opportunity to see these great bands during what today would probably be described as their “heyday”. My friends and I arrived early and made our way right up to the front of the stage. Soon after the place began to fill up with some of the wildest looking punk rockers I had ever seen and I started to get a little worried. At the time I was a clean cut preppy looking kid attending college 40 miles south in Orange County. So needless to say, my buddies and I looked a little out of place among this crowd of mohawks, safety pins and boots. We kept to ourselves and waited patiently for the show to start.

Finally they put some music on the PA to warm up the crowd, and lo and behold, it was Michael Jackson? Blasting through the speakers began the unmistakable opening beat of “Billie Jean” and the room erupted. All these menacing looking punks suddenly began to pump their fists in the air in unison to the beat and it was one of the most surreal things I have ever seen. Some of these folks were not being sincere and were just making fun of the song, but most of the people were genuinely into the music. I was astounded by that, because “Billie Jean” seemed about a million miles away from where most of these people lived musically. That punk rockers could enjoy a song from “Thriller” seemed unfathomable, but here they all were, smiling and bopping along to the beat. I think that is a testament to how much of a reach Michael had as an artist and how he was able to cross over and reach people in all walks of life. Even anti-establishment types who hated popular music liked his stuff; the man could do no wrong.

The bands eventually took the stage and played and it was a great night of music. We held our ground front and center of the stage until the moshing got too intense and we had to bail out over the front barricade. Seeing the late D. Boon of the Minutemen bound around the stage was amazing, he was such an incredible performer. Husker Du also was great to see in all their buzz rock glory (until someone hit Grant Hart in the head with a bottle and they abruptly halted their performance). All these years later, it is the punks grooving to Michael Jackson that I remember the most. Sad and ironic that 24 years later he would be pronounced dead a block away on this very same UCLA campus.

R.I.P. Michael

mj punk