Henry Rollins' writing will make you think...while you're laughing your head off. The man has his opinions and he's not big on the sugarcoating thing.
Broken Summers, like many of Rollins' other books, is written as a collection of journal entries. Spanning late 2001 to mid-September 2003, the bulk of the material concerns the making of the CD Rise Above: 24 Black Flag Songs to Benefit the West Memphis Three and the tour that followed. One thing about Henry: if he believes in something, he will bust his ass to support it.
I got interested in Rollins after seeing him perform on the old Dennis Miller show. What a sight: a heavily tattooed guy clad in what appeared to be gym shorts, screaming into a microphone with the intensity of a pit bull on angel dust. All of this over some angsty hardcore-meets-jazz blasphemy. A little research and I make the Black Flag connection. But maybe best of all, the guy likes to write. Not your garden variety look-at-me-I'm-a-rock-star-and-artiste kind of thing either. Nosir. This is the distillation of a very active and interesting mind, just as intense as his music.
Check out the opening entry:
- My next door neighbor died. Ninety-seven years old. Concentration camp ID tattooed on her arm. I knew she was in there but I never saw her. Two men loaded the body into a gray van a couple of days ago.
Last night, my doorbell rings. The dead woman's granddaughter. She was emptying the place out and came by to ask if I had a valium to spare. How Eagles Greatest Hits is that?
Now that is some weird happenings, folks.
You need only read a small chunk of his descriptions of his musical life (rehearsals, recording sessions, shows) to discover just how passionate Rollins is about music. This passion extends into his commentaries on just about everything else. Henry doesn't suffer fools gladly and has no use for "weakness". For example, here's a bit of social editorial combined with a tasty Creed-dig:
- All you have to do is listen to the songs on the radio and you know that Amerika is weak. If I was seeking to invade Amerika, the music would be my cue. "They're listening to Creed. We're going in. We'll take the Capitol in a day."
Other highlights include a strangely touching visit to Lemmy's apartment, a long riff on the death of Dee Dee Ramone (with a recollection of a trip to Dee Dee's place at the Chelsea Hotel), and a bunch of fun snarls at the general soulless state of all aspects of the music industry.
Rollins' take on things might take a little getting used to. At times he can seem a little blunt. But in this season of increasing political doublespeak, maybe a little no-nonsense ranting is necessary.
(First posted on Mark Is Cranky)