Minor Threat are credited with being one of the first hardcore punk rock groups to come out of the USA. Along with Black Flag and Bad Brains, Minor Threat are the band to know and their self-titled record (officially known as “First 2 7″s”) is the one to own. It’s debatable as to whether there weren’t a thousand other hardcore bands of that era of a similar quality and ethos, but no other band was lead by a figure like Ian MacKaye.
It is true that amongst the punk-underground-alternative-independent-etc scene this album cover, a photo of Alec MacKaye (Ian’s brother) asleep after a gig taken by Susie Josephson Horgan, has taken on an almost iconic status. And not without merit.
The strength in the sharpness of the colour and the descending print on the right-hand-side is confronting and satisfying. The bald head, the boots, the second-hand clothes and the garbage on the cement floor leave one in little doubt that, if the scene is not desperate, it is one that reflects a subculture of some sort. And I think the band and the label themselves recognised the power of the image by using it three times:
for the first seven inch
for the above mentioned record, and, finally, for the “Complete Discography” CD release
The iconography was taken to new heights in 1995 with Rancid’s homage cover, from Jess Fischer:
Clealy, the band couldn’t simply ape every aspect of the cover and, what they ended up with is something predictable and lightweight. Using their patented punk-rock spray art aesthetic to brand the sleeve as a Rancid record, it looks exactly like what it is, cheap. (This doesn’t reflect my thoughts about the music. It is, in my opinion, a fine pop record.) It is clear that the strength of the Minor Threat cover is in its simplicity and, in contrast to the Rancid photograph, the closeness of the figure to the camera works to emphasise the severity of the situation and, in that way, shouts “MINOR THREAT!”
A recent controversy took off, when Nike seemed to accidentally borrow the Minor Threat art for their own purposes:
I don’t know that being overly protective of album artwork is useful and constructive, but coming from the idealistic punk standpoint it is to be expected. Personally, I’m unsurprised and unmoved by corporate theft, but would be chuffed nonetheless if the band decide to take action against Nike.