To support what would prove to be its last studio album In My Head, Black Flag did a full national tour in the autumn of 1985 and then basically repeated the process in the first half of 1986. For that second go-round—Black Flag’s last tour—they were joined by Painted Willie and Greg Ginn’s new side project Gone, which featured future Rollins Band members Sim Cain and Andrew Weiss. (Hard-hitting Cain was a sorely underrated drummer, while Weiss has production duties on several Ween albums on his resume.)
The drummer for Painted Willie was named David Markey, one of the founders of the punk zine We Got Power! and he took along a video recorder and took a copious amount of footage during the several months. By this time Kira was gone, replaced by C’el Revuelta, and Anthony Martinez had taken over for Bill Stevenson.
The result of Markey’s filming was an hour-long movie called Reality 86’d. The movie has enjoyed a contentious backstory. According to James Parker’s Turned On: A Biography of Henry Rollins,
The results of [Markey’s] on-off filming were edited together as the tour movie Reality 86’d—still unreleased, owing to the opposition of Greg Ginn, who owns the rights to much of the music featured in the film. (Ginn was invited to attend a private screening of Reality 86’d shortly after it was completed, but walked out halfway through.)
In 2011 Markey put the video up on Vimeo but today there is a notification indicating copyright infringement. Today it’s easy to find on YouTube and Vimeo.
Ginn and Rollins were the last gasp of the classic Black Flag impulse, and they were growing apart. Ginn was veering towards instrumental jam music, and Rollins was sticking to his harder ethos. In Parker’s book there is a telling anecdote, according to which Ginn had requested the construction of a box that could be fitted into the back of the tour van so that he could crawl inside and put on his headphones and just “be totally alone.” The split between Ginn and Rollins was accentuated by the presence of Rollins’ close friend Joe Cole, who wrote about this tour in Planet Joe, published after his tragic 1991 death at the hands of armed robbers in Venice Beach.
There’s an odd moment about a quarter-hour in when a shirtless Henry—although come to think of it, when was he not shirtless?—jokes in a swishy way about getting into rock to meet buff skinhead boyfriends. In the second half there’s a wonderful bit where a bunch of the guys sing the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” at the top of a picturesque mountaintop. This is followed up a silly rendition of John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High,” which is a good indication of their location.
Towards the end there is a chilling shot of Cole pretending to be dead, draped over a tombstone with COLE engraved on it.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The Art of Punk: Watch great new doc on Black Flag and Raymond Pettibon’s iconic collaboration
Three mega-rare Black Flag videos see the light of day—watch them here now