Jim Rutland’s exhaustively researched, and thoroughly enjoyable book on SST Records – one of the most influential punk rock labels in the history of the genre – could just as easily serve as a bio on Black Flag, the band founded by SST label owner Greg Ginn.
SST – initially a mail order business Ginn started to sell old radio equipment – morphed into a record label when Black Flag was looking for a way to get their records out into the world. Over the course of several decades the California-based SST Records would become the Good House Keeping Seal of Approval for punk rock music, alongside the east coast-based Discord Records.
Ginn, a hero to many and a villain to many more, earns both titles in Corporate Rock Sucks as the highly driven head of a label that gave a slew of seminal bands their first start via SST (Minutemen, Husker Du, Dinosaur Jr., Meat Puppets, Sonic Youth and many, many more). He’s also portrayed as a mercurial individual who would turn on some of the bands he signed, as well as his own bandmates, and is alleged by many to have failed to pay royalties for their work. He’s also a Deadhead – likely the biggest sin for many punk rockers.
The book complies interviews from many in the SST universe, including former employees, musicians from a slew of former SST bands, other label head and producers that were part of some of those influential records. It is a complete and complex look, the eschews simple reverence and hero worship for a balanced look at the label and personalities that ran it. Rutland, who also co-authored bios of both Keith Morris and the band Bad Religion, is quickly becoming the Dean of Southern California Punk Rock, having penned three essential texts about the scene so far. Corporate Rock Sucks is essential reading for music fans, even those ambivalent about punk.