BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Another book ...

The Wife's eldest nephew (now in his 30's) has been a big fan of Henry Rollins for ages, and he got me a copy of Get In The Van: On The Road With Black Flag for Xmas. Now, I'm a few years older than Henry, and, while being aware of Black Flag, I was never that much of a "fan" (although I did have a couple of their albums), and never went to see them live.

The concept of this books is interesting, in that Rollins starts up a journal where he initially jots down a few sentences about what's going on every day or so, and this grows into longer (if less frequent) postings as the years go on (no doubt aided by having Spin tab him early on for a column). On one hand, it's a rather strange little window onto the history of Black Flag, but it really is more "watch Henry learn to write", especially looking back from a point where Rollins is perhaps better known as a "spoken word" performer.

The book is broken up into yearly "chapters" (with monthly sections that have the various daily postings), going from 1981 when Rollins was simply a fan of Black Flag being somewhat serendipitously added as the new singer (I'm not sure, but he was either the third or fourth lead singer for the band, replacing Dez Cadena who was wanting to switch off to just playing guitar), and on through the end of the band in 1986. It's funny reading it this way, again, from a place 20-some years down the line, as pretty much what he was going for back then was a "blog", but was keeping it on scraps of paper rather than via something like LiveJournal.

Get In The Van is not a comfortable book to read, as it is primarily a vehicle for Henry to deal with his demons, and there is a lot of rage and loathing involved. Needless to say, the boy had "issues", which evolve as the book moves on, but very few get "resolved". This is also a look at what crappy conditions bands like Black Flag had to tour in back then ... he's always hungry, always sleep deprived, always dealing with some physical issue. However, his antipathy for the "straight world" is such that he keeps going back to preferring touring over anything else. His hatred of Cops is a common thread for these aspects, and is another thing which makes this an "uncomfortable" read.

Frankly, I wished there was more "dishing" and less ranting ... the "name dropping" bits come and go, almost off-handed, and it's fascinating (especially for somebody who was pretty much into the Punk scene back in those days) to hear who was hanging with who, who was working on side projects with who, etc. I would think that this would also be a big disappointment for Black Flag fans, as there is more Henry saying "well, fuck them" than really detailing the inner workings of the band.

As a guy who's been "clean and sober" for a couple of decades, it was interesting to watch Rollins process his angst and rage without the "benefit" of booze and drugs (things that he is violently against), so contrary to the "rock & roll lifestyle" cliché, albeit his use of physical pain as a way to process psychological pain is in itself a cliché (no doubt familiar to any LiveJournal reader), which could be argued is as "weak" as using substance abuse to distance oneself from what one is feeling.

Oh, also ... if this sounds like something you'd want to check out, make sure to get the Second Edition (published in 2004) of the book rather than the original 1994 version (not that one would be more likely to run across the older one, but still) as there is supposed to be a LOT more stuff (photos, copies of flyer art, etc.) in this one, as well as the various corrections and text additions that one would expect from a second edition (although, I must admit, I found a good half dozen outright typos in this). Again, this is a book that I wouldn't necessarily recommend to everybody, but if you have an interest in the band, the time, or Rollins (or the psychology of the struggling rock performer), it would be well worth the read.

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Tags: book review
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