White Whale Vinyl: Why Black Flag's Pre-"Bars" Debut Is Collector's Gold | Revolver

White Whale Vinyl: Why Black Flag's Pre-"Bars" Debut Is Collector's Gold

The story behind coveted "Nervous Breakdown" first pressing
Raymond Pettibon's illustration on the back sleeve of the "Nervous Breakdown" single

Our weekly column "White Whale Vinyl" spotlights the most sought-after rare vinyl in the heavy-music universe. Shop for vinyl, including a selection of limited-edition Revolver-exclusive variants, via our store.

"My name is Chuck Dukowski. I was the original bassist for Black Flag and an SST Records owner until the end of 1989. I perform on this SUPER RARE and IMPORTANT record. It has been stored for all of these years in an envelope in my desk. I stuck it in the envelope back in '78 after I packed the record in it's [sic] bag with the folded paper insert and sealed it with the SST sticker. I'll bet there are no other unopened copies of this record in existence besides it's [sic] mate in my archive."


So goes the lucrative 2010 eBay listing for an original pressing of Black Flag's "Nervous Breakdown" single. The young men widely regarded as America's first hardcore band dropped their debut single in February of 1979 as the first release on guitarist Greg Ginn's SST Records. To say that Black Flag changed the face of heavy music would be a massive understatement. Not only did they take the sound of punk in a more aggressive direction — they almost single-handedly created the underground touring circuit in the United States.

All of the early pressings of the "Nervous Breakdown" single are highly sought after, but the first is unique in that it pre-dates the band's iconic font and "bars" logo, which wouldn't appear until the second pressing was released during the summer of 1980. This first pressing is also the only edition that includes the "brick wall" portion of Raymond Pettibon's classic sleeve illustration. It's also notable for crediting bassist Chuck Dukowski by his real name, Gary McDaniel.

According to Ginn, SST pressed 2,000 copies of the original "Nervous Breakdown" single. The median price on Discogs for one of these rarities is currently $825, with the highest paid price standing at $1,000. As of this writing, a Discogs seller in Canada has one listed for $2,000 (or best offer). Even if they get their price, it wouldn't be the highest recorded sale for an OG "Nervous Breakdown." That distinction goes to Dukowski himself, who raked in $4,200 for a record he stashed in a desk drawer 42 years ago.