Recorded in 1981-1983, Released in 1989 by Dischord
Best Songs: Out of Step, Guilty of Being White
Interesting Facts: Minor Threat had a strong influence on the hardcore punk scene, both stylistically and in establishing a “do it yourself” (DIY) ethic for music distribution and concert promotion. Their song ‘Straight Edge’ became the eventual basis of the straight edge movement. The lyrics of the song call for abstinence from alcohol and other drugs, a novel ideology for rock musicians which initially found a small but dedicated following. Another Minor Threat song ‘Out of Step’, further demonstrates the belief: “Don’t smoke/Don’t drink/Don’t fuck/At least I can fucking think/I can’t keep up/I’m out of step with the world.” At the bridge of this song (EP version), vocalist Ian MacKaye explains his philosophy of straight edge, explaining that straight edge “is not a set of rules; I’m not telling you what to do. All I’m saying is there are three things, that are like so important to the whole world that I don’t happen to find much importance in, whether it’s fucking, or whether it’s playing golf, because of that, I feel… (chorus)”. Although MacKaye clearly stated “This is not a set of rules…” an ideological door had already been opened and by 1982, some straight-edge punks were swatting beers out of people’s hands at clubs!
Minor Threat’s song ‘Guilty of Being White’ led to some accusations of racism, but MacKaye has strongly denied such intentions and said that some listeners misinterpreted his words. He claims that his experiences attending Wilson High School, whose student population was 70 percent black, inspired the song. There, many students bullied MacKaye and his friends. Slayer later covered the song, with the last iteration of the lyric “Guilty of being white” changed to “Guilty of being right.” In an interview, MacKaye stated that he was offended that some perceived racist overtones in the lyrics, saying, “To me, at the time and now, it seemed clear it’s an anti-racist song. Of course, it didn’t occur to me at the time I wrote it that anybody outside of my twenty or thirty friends who I was singing to would ever have to actually ponder the lyrics or even consider them.”
Minor Threat broke up in 1983. MacKaye stated that he did not “check out” on hardcore, but in fact hardcore “checked out”. Explaining this, he stated that at a 1984 Minutemen show, a fan struck MacKaye’s younger brother Alec in the face, and he punched the fan back, then realizing that the violence was “stupid”, and that he saw his role in the stupidity. MacKaye claimed that immediately after this he decided to leave the hardcore scene.