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Rise Above: Twenty-Four Black Flag Songs To Benefit The West Memphis Three

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The Black Flag/West Memphis Three tribute CD came out today. I just ordered my copy. It is for a good cause, and contains some great music with some well known singers, so go ahead and order a copy.

From Henry Rollins’ website:

Track Listing:
01. Rise Above (Chuck D, Henry Rollins)
02. Nervous Breakdown (Keith Morris)
03. Fix Me (Iggy Pop)
04. American Waste (Neil Fallon (Clutch))
05. I’ve Had it (Cedric Bixler Zavala (The Mars Volta))
06. I’ve Heard It Before (Jeff Moreira (Poison the Well))
07. Room 13 ( Corey Taylor (Slipknot))
08. Wasted (Exene Cervenka)
09. Jealous Again (Nick Oliveri (Queens of the Stone Age))
10. TV Party (Henry Rollins)
11. No Values (Hank III)
12. Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie (Dean Ween (Ween))
13. Depression (Casey Chaos (Amen))
14. Six Pack (Mike Patton)
15. Police Story (Ice T)
16. Revenge (Tom Araya (Slayer))
17. Thirsty & Miserable (Lemmy)
18. What I See (Chuck Dukowski)
19. No More (Tim Armstrong, Lars Frederiksen (Rancid))
20. Black Coffee (Henry Rollins)
21. Slip It In (Henry Rollins, Inger Lorre)

22. Annihilate This Week (Henry Rollins, Kira Roessler)
23. My War (Henry Rollins)
24. Nervous Breakdown (Ryan Adams (Live @ the Fillmore))

There is not enough space in this format for me to say all the things I want to about Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin, otherwise known as the West Memphis Three and the scarcely believable situation they’re in, or Steven Branch, Christopher Byers and James Moore and their tragic deaths. Since there are more informed sources, WM3.org for example, I will concentrate on what will be effective here in this confined area.

I became aware of the case like many people, from watching Paradise Lost documentaries that HBO released. The first one shocked me and made me upset. The second one made me mad. Damien, Jessie and Jason were found guilty of murdering three boys and sent to prison. I didn’t agree with the verdict. I figured that to do nothing about that would be to align myself with the forces of injustice that got them pulled into this horrible situation.

One thing led to another and soon I was in contact with the West Memphis Three Support Group folks; Grove, Burke and Kathy and the plight of the WM3 became personal.

What could I do to help? I could send a check to aid in the boy’s defense. That’s nice, but it’s pretty quiet and I thought what this situation needed was volume and motion. I tried to think of things to do and it always came back to a benefit record.

Benefit records are well meant but anonymous and boring to me. If I were to put one together it would have to be one-of-a-kind, a must-have. One morning at around 0330 hours when I am at my best, I came up with the idea to make the record you now have. Like many brilliant ideas had at this hour, they fade with the dawn when sanity and an already daunting itinerary of things that must be done come back on line.

Great idea but I’m too busy I thought. Then I thought about the ages of the WM3, when they went into prison and how old they are now. Mid-teens to mid-twenties. Those were some great years for me. I spent them all over the world. They spent theirs in small rooms with no natural light for something they didn’t do. All of a sudden, my schedule opened up and I got busy. I talked to the guys at my label, Sanctuary Records in New York and they were totally into it.

First thing I had to do was to see if I had a band to do this thing with. I called Jim, Jason and Marcus, aka Mother Superior, aka 75% of the Rollins Band, and stated my case. They were on it immediately. Next phone call was to Heidi May. I knew that to pull this off, it was going to take a lot of connections and literally hundreds of phone calls.

That takes a certain kind of patience and tenacity that I don’t possess. Heidi’s got truckloads of both. She had to do this thing with me. Luckily, she was clear and immediately installed herself at my office and plunged in.

We made a wish list of singers to be on the record. Some were easy to contact. Keith Morris, one phone call, he’s in, he’s got ideas for other singers, some of them are on this record because he suggested them. Right after that call, our road went from uphill to almost vertical. Some managers don’t want their singers on stuff where there’s no money for them. Their clients are too busy we were told. We told the managers that the songs were only ninety seconds. Too busy. But these WM3 are fans of the singer and they’ve been salting away in prison for nearly a decade. Busy, busy busy!

Heidi brings in Sean E and Bill Fold. Two guys who seem to know everyone. They sit us down and rip our wish list to shreds. They have suggestions, they have access, they are into our cause. Lucky us. An example: “Sean, we have been trying for weeks to contact Tom Araya of Slayer but his manager won’t respond.” Sean produces Tom’s cell number. We call Tom directly. Tom enthusiastically agrees to help out. In three minutes we have arranged a recording date. I tell him that we have been contacting his manager nonstop about this. He says he never heard a word about it. Tom comes into the studio a while later and blows the roof off the place with his performance. Thanks for being so cool and amazing. And so it went.

Thankfully, not all the managers were like that. And without exception, all the singers were 100% cool, generous with their time and amazing in their performances. The passion and intensity with which these people laid into these songs are off the scale.

At the end of a lot of inspired work, we ended up with a record that is absolutely bulletproof. Support came from all corners, Marketing companies, publicists, online companies etc. etc. Everyone involved from the engineers to the equipment companies who donated goods, gave 100% and words cannot express my gratitude. The album is scheduled for release in October 8, 2002 on Sanctuary Records. It has been fun being the ringleader in this great conspiracy against injustice. By buying this record, you join us. In a situation like the one the WM3 are in, silence is the enemy and apathy is death. So let’s go.

Thanks.
–Henry Rollins

If you order from Amazon.com (link below), they have a special 2 disc set with bonus tracks.

The book, Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three by Mara Leveritt was also released today. I plan to order that when I get a chance too.

The story of the West Memphis Three is one of the worst miscarriges of justice that I have ever heard of or researched in this country. The product description of Devil’s Knot has a brief overview:

On the evening of May 5, 1993, in the small town of West Memphis, Arkansas, three eight-year-old boys disappeared. The next afternoon, the naked bodies of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore were found submerged in a nearby stream. The boys had been bound from ankle to wrist with their own shoelaces and severely beaten. Christopher had been castrated.

The crime scene had yielded few clues, and despite Christopher’s castration, there was a remarkable absence of blood. The police were stymied, and citizens’ alarm mounted as weeks passed without an arrest. Finally, a month after the murders, detectives announced three arrests — and a startling theory of the crime: that the children had been killed by members of a satanic cult.

Detectives attributed their break in the case to a former special education student, seventeen-year-old Jessie Misskelley Jr. Although Jessie insisted he knew nothing of the crime, after eight hours of questioning, police announced that he had implicated himself and accused two other teenagers, eighteen-year-old Damien Echols and sixteen-year-old Jason Baldwin. Damien and Jason both denied Jessie’s account, and Jessie himself recanted it within hours, but by then all three had been charged with the murders.

With no physical evidence connecting anyone to the crime, prosecutors contended that the murders bore signs of “the occult” and that the three accused teenagers possessed a “state of mind” that pointed to them as the killers. As proof of the defendants’ mental states, they introduced items taken from their rooms — such as books by Anne Rice and album posters for the rock group Metallica. Jurors found all three teenagers guilty. Jessie and Jason were sentenced to life in prison. Damien was sentenced to death.

There is much more about this case to read. See WM3.org for more information about the plight of the West Memphis Three.

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