“Rise Above” by Black Flag is punk rock self-help music, an inspirational rallying cry for punk rockers fed up not only with hippies and cops but with everything and everyone that stands in their way. I first heard this song when I was nineteen years old, and it felt like a wake-up call to burst through all of the problems that were weighing me down and break through into a better, stronger life. It still feels that way today, twenty years after I first heard it.
The other thing about this particular clip is that it shows rare, live footage of Black Flag in performance with a very young Henry Rollins on vocals. Grainy and shaky as the video is, it does capture at least a little bit of what made the Black Flag live show such a legendary experience.
The crazed energy of Greg Ginn on guitar, the violent exuberance of Rollins' performance, the supercharged aggression of the audience- all these things must have been a hundred times more powerful to those few who were lucky enough to be there in person. They say- of Black Flag and a handful of other bands who were more influential than they were successful- that only about a thousand people ever saw them perform, but every one of those people started a band of their own.
Black Flag had to overcome a lot of things to even exist- opposition and sometimes outright oppression from self-serving record companies, self-righteous politicians and brutal police. Here they are in action, rising above it all.