Barred For Life – Pre release book review

February 13, 2009

Barred For Life book image
After the Ramones and perhaps Minor Threat, Black Flag are undoubtedly the most documented out of any American Punk band and for good reason. Black Flag were in no uncertain terms both iconic and brilliant. In the legacy of Punk rock they were simultaneously inspiring, mystifying, and undeniably terrifying if nothing else for the allegiance that they commanded from their fan base. This sort of devotion that the band inspired is most visibly proven by the thousands of fans over the years who have paid the ultimate tribute to the band by permanently tattooing their bodies with the instantly recognizable Black Flag "Bars." This phenomenon is in the process of being documented in an upcoming photo album appropriately titled Barred For Life. Here at Big Wheel we have been lucky enough to receive an advanced preview of this book and will vouch for the authors saying that it promises to be an essential volume for fans of Black Flag, graphic designers, tattoo artists, and sociologists alike.

The Bars are in a sense a symbol of a symbol, an adaptation of an anarchist symbol created by Raymond Pettibon. However over the years this logo has come to transcend its original political symbolism and in an ironic twist in someways it even transcends Black Flag's music. The Bars themselves have been adapted to market skateboards, clothing, and even tacos. As Barred For Life's preface states Black Flag's logo has come to represent Punk rock, America's underground music legacy, and rebellion in general. This point is skillfully illustrated by photos of people all over the United States who have the Bars tattoo'd on them and accompanied with captions containing quotes about the significance of Black Flag and their logo to each individual. Probably the best of these explanations comes from a Philadelphia bike messenger named Kevin Stewart who states, "the Bars are a symbol of an idea that I try to live by: Go your own way and do your on thing."

While Black Flag's music and history have been documented fairly meticulously in books like American Hardcore and Henry Rollins' Get In the Van, Barred For Life is unique in that it solely documents Black Flag's influence on their fanbase. By collecting stories and photographs of people who have gotten Black Flag tattoos this book shows us how wide of an affect Flag and their logo have had on people. The book promises to be a captivating read and a visually stunning volume of photography and tattoo art. This is yet to be released and is still in the treatment form, yet the final will be 12x12 and close to 400 pages. Just remember you read about it here as you slap your ducts on the counter to buy this book, this is gonna be a book you will want to get.

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