Bassist Mike Watt, guitarist D. Boon, and drummer George Hurley got together as the Minutemen in January 1980 in their hometown of San Pedro, California, and though the band developed rapidly and restlessly until December 1985, when Boon was killed in an auto accident, they sounded fully formed right out of the gate. But a year before starting the Minutemen, those same three musicians formed the Reactionaries with singer Martin Tamburovich.The Politics of Time (New Alliance, 1984), a kind of odds-and-ends compilation of early Minutemen recordings. Until last month it was the only Reactionaries music to see release. A relatively new San Pedro label called Water Under the Bridge Records has just put out a vinyl-only collection called 1979 that includes all ten tracks from the same rough practice tape that produced "Tony Gets Wasted in Pedro"—made in January 1979 in a "shed in back of George's house on 17th St., across the street from San Pedro High School," according to the back cover. The Reactionaries played pretty standard-issue punk rock, an experience that might've helped Watt, Boon, and Hurley get it out of their systems and focus on something more radical when they returned as the Minutemen the following year.
As Joe Carducci points out in his typically lucid liner notes, "What you can hear are the rudiments of the Minutemen's sound, only unlike most bands, they only got rid of stuff as they improved." Already in evidence are the ferocity and elasticity of the Watt-Hurley rhythm section, and Boon was clearly developing the trebly, scrabbling guitar sound that was one of many elements distinguishing the Minutemen from their fellow SoCal hardcore brethren from the get-go.
All ten tracks are squeezed onto side one of the record; the second side, in a move that probably means more to the San Pedro scene than to anybody else, features 38 folks from the city's punk community covering those same Reactionaries songs in various ad hoc configurations. I don't know most of the musicians, but the ones I do recognize have pretty sterling credentials: Watt, Hurley, Jack Brewer and Joe Baiza (both from Saccharine Trust), and Black Flag cofounder Chuck Dukowski. Thanks to label honcho Craig Ibarra, who coproduced 1979, you can listen to "Getting Existential on the Beach" by the Reactionaries below.
Paul Motian Trio, At the Village Vanguard (Winter & Winter)
Sun Ra, Rocket Ship Rock (Norton)
Gnonnas Pedro & His Dadjes Band, The Best of Gnonnas Pedro & His Dadjes Band (African Songs)
Paulinho Da Viola, A Dança da Solidão (EMI, Brazil)
Johnny Bristol, The MGM Collection (Hip-O Select)