Dennes Boon was born in San Pedro California in 1958, and spent his early years in an old barracks building that used to belong to the Army. When he was 13 he and Mike Watt crossed paths, when Boon fell out of a tree in a nearby park and almost fell right on Watt. Friendship between the two blossomed and many teenage hours were spent dreaming of rock and roll. After a brief formation called the Bright Orange Band, in 1976 the legendary Minutemen became a band. D. Boon played guitar and sang, Mike Watt played bass, and George Hurley played drums, and they got their name from their very short songs. They were just in time for the LA punk scene in its early stages.
In Los Angeles, two different musical worlds were carrying on at the same time. The big-name clubs on Sunset Strip were featuring hard rock and other dinosaurs of the day, but out on the edge there were small dives that new bands were playing. These bands were inspired by the nascent punk rock coming from the East coast (the Ramones and Patti Smith) and from England’s burgeoning punk scene. California is a different place, however, and Cali hardcore punk had a different look and sound. The bands looked like their fans – no spandex or platforms – and they sounded like no one else, because they believed that energy and attitude were more important than virtuosity.
The guiding vision of punk became do it yourself – DIY. Anyone who had the drive and the creativity could start a band – just like the Minutemen. They fairly quickly were brought on board by SST Records, the only label to be on in those days. Frugality was the name of the game as the band would rehearse their original songs and be ready for after-midnight sessions because they were cheaper, even using old tape and laying down tracks in the order they would appear on the album. Their recorded legacy began in 1980 and continued through 1985.
The econo approach carried over to gigging, which the Minutemen did all over the place while working at day jobs. They would drive themselves to shows, unpack and set up their own equipment, play the show, tear down and get back home or to the next gig on their own. This way of building a following was very effective, but the exact opposite of the rich rock star style that was common downtown.
The band was an anomaly, though, even within the subculture of hardcore punk. Their songs reflected influences from jazz, R&B, funk, and mainstream rock bands, while their sound featured clean, undistorted guitar and Watt’s virtuoso and muscular bass melded with Hurley’s dynamic and highly structured drumming. The double album that cemented their reputation was called Double Nickels On the Dime, and it has been recognized as one of the greatest rock records of all time. Their willingness to experiment and their attitude of eclecticism was a huge influence on the genre of alternative rock, waiting around the corner in time.
But time ran out for the Minutemen in late 1985 when D. Boon tragically met his death at 27 in the Arizona desert. The fatal accident stopped the band in its tracks, and all that remains is the recordings, a documentary, and Mike Watt, who carries on the DIY approach in his work and life. D. Boon was his best friend, and he still refers to himself as D. Boon’s bass player while he continues to jam econo.
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