After two well-received EPs, a lot of good press and regular violence at their gigs -- the punk rock equivalent of a standing ovation -- the band was on something of a roll by the time their debut album, Damaged, was set to be released. Then their label boss Al Bergamo actually decided to listen to it. It wasn't quite what he was expecting. In fact, he thought it was an "immoral" and "anti-parent" record and that the band had no "redeeming social value."
Dixon Coulbourn, Idle Times
He didn't even care that they had the third sweatiest frontman in entertainment.
Bergamo decided to shelve the album at the last minute. And we mean at the very last minute -- it had already been pressed and packaged. Literally the only thing left to do was ship it to record stores. So that decision left 25,000 copies of the record sitting in a warehouse uselessly offending no one.
The band wasn't happy, and they planned to do something about it. Two things, actually. First, they had a go at Bergamo and his morals by breaking into the pressing plant where the record was and putting stickers saying "As a parent ... I found it an anti-parent record" over the MCA label on the album cover.
Never Ending Game
With that done, they then ignored their distribution deal with Unicorn Records and released the album through Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn's label SST instead. Now you'd think that, given what Bergamo had said about one of America's first hardcore punk acts, MCA would be happy to be rid of them and not let the label's name be sullied by such a morally bankrupt group of musicians. Record labels, however, generally deal in more tangible sorts of things than the less spendable notion of morals. The band was sued for breach of contract. They were prevented from releasing anything for two years while legal proceedings rumbled along.
The group made do with putting out pre-Rollins-era Black Flag records under their own surnames, but even this wasn't enough for the label, who issued more legal documents against the band saying that they'd violated a court injunction against releasing any new material. Two of the band members even wound up in jail for contempt of court. The case might have gone on for another few years had it not been for a nice bit of karma seeing Unicorn Records, the MCA subsidiary that the album was to be released through, go out of business in 1983.
SST, on the other hand, continues to this day and has been home to the likes of Sonic Youth, Husker Du and Dinosaur Jr. over the years. Suck it, corporate America.
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