A note for / of Henry Rollins,
From the Punk 101 dinosaurs:
It dawned on me this morning for some odd reason that Henry Rollins is perhaps one of the biggest conmen that ever accidentally walked into the world of punk rock. I don’t know what the hell made me think of it or him but it occurred to me rather randomly as I was lying in my bed thinking about some old punk songs I used to adore, and then it also suddenly occurred to me just why Henry Rollins is the jerk he is.
You see I believe I found the answer and it’s actually pretty simple: Henry Rollins has a disease folks- and it’s something that I personally refer to as “pre established band syndrome“. When one really thinks about it, it all of a sudden becomes pretty obvious how it all works. Quite frankly I’m surprised I never realized it before. But now that I have I’m almost beginning to wonder if Henry Rollins, as loud and influential as he has been, is perhaps even a big part of the reason that punk rock went down the tubes like it did. This guy is as pretentious as they come and has been for years, and in my opinion it’s all on account of the fact that he has this “syndrome”.
See, many folks might not realize; but when you’re starting a rock band, which ive tried to do (and yes, failed at, many times) there are basically 2 paths you have at your disposal to break into it all (unless you’re rich) and basically they work like this: You either gradually build a band from the ground up, piece by piece, and brick by brick….which is what almost all the truly classic bands did ….or you get lucky and you insert yourself into an already established band that is already gigging or very close to getting there. Now most of the time when someone joins a pre established band they aren’t a singer, and in fact the truth is that you almost NEVER hear of a singer joining a pre made band because it’s just like…I mean THATS the whole personality of a band so it’s just not typically what happens.
That one detail of course was what really had me coming to the realization about Rollins, however, because it suddenly dawned on me that this dude actually walked into Black Flag when the band was not only already organized & rehearsing – but also actually already on the road, releasing albums, and touring! Yea the band wasn’t ultra famous playing arenas and selling millions of records like Springsteen but they were something to write home about in that punk rock world at that point in the 80s ….and then here comes this dude, who I don’t even think was 20 years old at the time, and he just slips right into the band like nothing, as the singer of all things.
Well when I look at it now I gotta say you know …it’s pretty easy to see, from this perspective, why Henry Rollins wound up becoming such a colossal prick. He literally walked right into the zone. Threw a lucky Hail Mary Fortune 500 pass the second he walked into the scene. Sure – from any other cultural perspective this would be “awesome”; but from the very unique cultural perspective that is punk rock, I can’t help but feel this is ironically a bit of a failure. There is something condescending about it. It’s like he cheated or something. He didn’t have to watch a piece of him die in order to reach the throne like so many of the other punk gods and goddesses did. And in my opinion it helps to explain why he seems so pretentious these days now that he’s a so called “elder”.
The funny thing about Rollins of course is that he basically seemed like a jerk to me right from the get go, and I can remember not liking him almost the second I came to understand the personality he had taken on after departing from Black Flag. Like all the other angry young (and very poor) punks, I liked Black Flag well enough on basically every record that I had to hear of them …but I remember very well finding out about who Henry Rollins had actually become in my own time, following the release of those records , and being utterly bewildered and even rather disappointed . Perhaps even deeply so. It was like even then as a kid I felt stabbed in the back by this guy, and as a kid that really mattered because I took all of this punk stuff real seriously for awhile back then. And I remember Henry didn’t make me feel good. Again it was like he was condescending. He wasn’t like the other big punks. Not at all. He seemed like an actor.
The strange thing about this is that all the kids who loved Rollins and fought in his name right down the line and even went on to support that absolutely ridiculous “comedy show” bit he was doing for awhile there- they were all, not surprisingly , of the college and/or deep suburban punk variety. The truth is I never talked to a dirty city punk in my life who didn’t have at least a slight suspicion when it came to Rollins, because the guy, again, he just became a bit of a DOUCHE!
I can even remember one night many many moons ago when he was on that insufferable comedy circuit that one of my buddies- a “deep suburban punk” – had called me up asking if I wanted to go. It was all the way out in Boston, which is a fair number of hours from me, and I figured it would be good times. I wasn’t thinking. Then too , hearing the name Rollins at that point in time, I immediately associated the show with punk rock and thus…cheap seats. All thepunk shows I ever went to as a kid –and I went to a damn lot of them, I only ever walked in with 15 bucks or 20 bucks TOPS and never was there an issue. Hell I sometimes would show up with nothing and kind older punks would get me in the back door for a good time. Punk rock was one of the greatest experiences of my young life because it actually let me have fun at concerts even though I didn’t have shit in my pocket on 9 out of 10 occasions.
Well long story short I took the whole 5 hour ride to Boston this night never imagining in a million years that a fuvking comedy show (not even a punk show!! No instruments!! Nothing!!) would cost more than whatever I had on me. Well, well, well, moral of the story is don’t trust Henry Rollins who now performs for the college and suburban punks with dollars and not the poverty punks with nickels. Hell he performs for the suit and tie punks now !! On Howard Stern and all of that. With that late show he had and everything. It’s just weird. He brought punk rock to somewhere it didn’t belong.
Yes indeed that night in Boston outside of Henrys egomaniacal comedy special, I and the other kid my rich boy had taken up were both left humiliated when we got to the door and we came to find out that the tickets were $55 maybe even $60. We were about to faint. We were standing at the door going are you kidding me I got 20 bucks and 5 of it is for beer what the hell is going on right now??? 60 bucks! to hear a musician tell jokes!?!?
My deep suburban college punk pal went straight on in of course,the only one with enough dough (he later went to graduate school somewheres & vanished) while I and this other punk I hardly knew were left to walk the streets of Boston until fucking midnight or maybe even 1 am talking to bums and throwing shit at the wall bored to tears waiting for Henrys ego parade show to finish, not even a bottle of booze to show for our troubles. It was awful.
I’ll never forget it of course and as you can see I blame Henry Rollins for giving me a bad time that night. But again like I said, I truthfully had a bad taste in my mouth about him even in the beginning when i was 12 years old. I remember I was talking shit about him the whole car ride up that time to Boston. I never liked him. He just smelled like a fake punk to me..
Of course as the years have gone by now and I have occasionally found news about him somewhere it has consistently been bad news, which is why I said earlier that it’s very possible that Henry Rollins might of actually had a bigger role to play when it comes to the ending of punk rock as a cultural movement for poor angry folks than we even yet realize. History is a double edged sword …you never know what you’re going to find and stories wind up looking a lot different in retrospect than they did at the time, and many years have passed now since Henry was in his prime….
I don’t really want to say that I think Henry is a bad guy or anything however and in fact – again- if I was looking at him from any other cultural perspective, I wouldn’t even care. But from a punk rock perspective something just feels very inauthentic and wrong about him, and I think it all goes back to this pre established band syndrome thing like I’m saying. He basically just had punk rock handed to him on a silver platter as far as I’m concerned, and the effects on his individual personality seem to have been rather…questionable. I respect him for his versatility and everything as an artist, in a way its cool he does new things- but I dunno…something is very screwed up about it all.
Its also funny to think that he once put out a jab at Mick Jägger for still rolling onwards with the Stones “and never changing anything” ….and though Jägger is certainly no punk icon…he never claimed to be … he also BUILT THE STONES from the ground up more or less piece by piece with Brian Jones and K. Richards. It was not at all pre established. Brian Jones had been tinkering with an earlier model of the band prior to their arrival- but he had never written a single original song in his life. That all began with K. Richards and Jäggers arriving. Which is exactly why Jägger is still out there doing HIS THING with the Stones and performing those songs that he and he alone wrote. Unlike Rollins here, who abandoned the heart of the punk rock 101 community by never writing a single worthwhile punk song again now for years, last I heard at least….
So basically we have one of the biggest names in punk and he can’t even write a song anymore. Come on there’s no way around it: He’s an asshole! Which is why im saying..he could possibly be blamed for destroying punk rock.