Minor Threat need no real introduction. Formed in 1980 in Washington, D.C., by frontman Ian MacKaye and drummer Jeff Nelson, the duo quickly enlisted bassist Brian Baker and guitarist to complete the lineup. Wanting to push boundaries even further, in 1982, fifth member Steve Hansgen joined the lineup as bassist, while Baker took up the role of the second guitarist, instilling the band with more power than ever thought possible.
As seems to be the case with the majority of bands that were ahead of the curve, Minor Threat were a short-lived outfit. However, in their time, they had a transformative effect on the hardcore scene, pioneering the DIY ethic and the rapid-paced style musicianship that we see ubiquitous today. In short, without Minor Threat, there’d be no Refused, Turnstile or Vein.fm.
MacKaye and Co. also made significant progress in the way that they distributed music and promoted concerts utilising the DIY ethic. Across cities in the world, you still see their impact alive and kicking. From Wharf Chambers in Leeds to SXSW in Austin Texas, you see their creative fire manifested in a plethora of hosts.
Notably, their pocket-sized 1981 anthem ‘Straight Edge’ set the wheels in motion for the formation of the straight edge movement, which emphasises a clean lifestyle, promoting alcohol and drug abstinence and non-promiscuous sex. Their music is raw and passionate, and it remains as refreshing today as it was 40 years ago.
Alongside fellow D.C. legends, Bad Brains and Black Flag, Minor Threat wrote the handbook for punk moving forward, and if you spoke to any punks today, they’d be able to recount the importance of the band with ease, as if it were a natural bodily function. The most mind-blowing point about Minor Threat is that they only released one full-length album, 1983’s Out of Step. In just under 22 hectic minutes, they managed to cram in all the relevant material allowing punk to explode into the multitude of subgenres we know today.
It’s a testament to their work that they’re still so revered today, and MacKaye and Nelson’s label, Dischord Records, remains one of the most eminent labels in the world.
One of the most interesting points in Minor Threat’s career came as the closing track of the 1981 EP, In My Eyes. Closing out the seven-minute EP, they triumphantly covered the ’60s rock classic, ‘(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone‘. First popularised by Paul Revere and The Raiders in 1966, it was the iconic Davy Jones fronted act, The Monkees, who took the song to the masses later that year.
In typical fashion, MacKaye and band trimmed the title to ‘Steppin’ Stone’, and ramped up the pace. At just over two minutes long, it’s a high-octane cover that makes a strong claim for being one of the finest punk covers in existence. Minor Threat took the source material and ran the distance with it. Lo-fi to the core, with MacKaye’s vocals drenched in reverb and delay, the way the band fused the sugary pop of The Monkees’ version with punk set a precedent for the formula that would make Nirvana world beaters in the early ’90s.
Although it might seem odd to note that Minor Threat covered The Monkees, do no fret, it’s stellar. If you haven’t heard it already, be prepared to be blown away. It’s also indicative of another often overlooked fact; The Monkees are one of the most influential bands to have ever graced the earth.
Listen to Minor Threat’s ‘Steppin’ Stone’ below.