Saturday, 16 January 2010

Henry Rollins at the Royal Festival Hall



Anyone who knows me knows that Henry Rollins is my personal hero and a man who is a day-in, day-out inspiration to me, via his music, his books of poetry, thought and deeds; work with the troops for the USO and his legendary, epic, ass-numbing spoken word shows (seriously, they last 3 hours and kick your fucking ass).

It was as a depressed 18 year old that I first connected with Henry Rollins, via a bizarre double attack of my cousin Shayne, who turned me onto the awesome Rollins Band album "Weight" and the urgings of Kurt Cobain who spoke endlessly about Black Flag, of which Henry was of course the last and best singer.

So in 1994 I bought "Weight" by the Rollins Band and "Damaged" by Black Flag and the two albums kept me propped up and damn near held me together as a human being and as much as I loved the jazz-heavy metal of "Weight", with its uplifting determination in the fact of adversity; it was the life shattering visceral "Damaged" that saved my fucking life, I swear, a record of such density, rage, anger and empowerment I felt I could rise above whatever life would throw me and knock it down.

That record still has the power to transform me, indeed as a young buck "Damaged I" (take a listen right here), which closes the record, used to be my record to get me pumped for a fight (macho bullshit I know but I was a kid) and I still know the howled lyrics off by heart, a mantra to reach a deep, personal-pain intensity to search and destroy.

The cover of "Damaged" is Rollins smashing his fist into the glass and at that time that's how I felt every single day of my life, grieving for a dead best friend, dealing with a life without drugs and coping with my first grown-up relationship. Needless to say, every time I had spare cash I'd buy another Black Flag record and they are my favourite band of all time, just the best music ever and their emblem adorns my left arm, as it should.

I soon began consuming Rollins' prodigious writing output of poetry, prose, diaries and the back catalogue of the band he formed after Greg Ginn quit Black Flag, the perfunctory titled Rollins Band. He became an anchor, I even wrote him a few times and he kindly replied (I am furious with myself that I no longer have these letters) and even now his writing, ideology and beliefs form a centrepoint for my own beliefs and it was because of Henry that I got into Nietzsche, Celine, Sartre, Miller and the seminal work of Bill Shields; which in turn spiralled into so many great authors and thinkers.

So anyway, Eva-Jane and I went to the Royal Festival Hall last night (of all places to see an ageing, alternative rock icon) to catch Henry Rollins in action, Eva's fourth time of seeing him and what must be my 10th or something like that...lost count.

It will come as little surprise to you that it was an awesome show, so positive, so uplifting, inspirational; like a really good three-hour talk for the best motivational speaker you could possibly imagine, pulling at the heart strings but never mawkish, educational but never a hectoring; absolutely essential, so liberating and empowering. If he ever passes your way you should seriously check him out and before I go I'll leave you with an old clip of Rollins doing so spoken word.

Peace.

15 comments:

  1. Yeah. Very compelling discourse. Never heard him speak before. Excellent.

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  2. I remember seeing the video for Liar when I was just a kid. Its such a strange, vivid memory to have...him red. At the time it wasn't really my type of music but now you've reminded me I think its something I need to revisit.

    I love to hear about people's musical history. The songs that get people through the really shitty times are always so fascinating to me. A bit like in High fidelity (the movie) where at one point he's looking to rearrange his entire record collection in the order that it came into his life.

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  3. Daniel,

    I'm completely off topic, but I wanted you to know that you are not only welcome to my support, but damn near entitled to it. That is the most pathetic flaming I've ever encontered. I'm glad Sunny got on the case...

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  4. thank you for this. i remember/knew the music, but somehow had never heard his spoken word. xox

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  5. was comment moderation on yesterday? *or am i losing my mind*

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  6. Yes it was, I turn it on and off, I'd prefer not to have it but as you well know, I have a racist troll problem.

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  7. ok, as long as YOU got to see my comment yesterday. xox

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  8. Savannah:

    Thanks to you I found a whole bunch of comments I didn't know I had. Awesome.

    Ellie:

    Indeed it is, he is a machine.

    rashbre:

    Glad it was compelling, you should try him on Spotify or YouTube, he has a lot of stuff out there.

    Beth:

    Deffo! Get the album Weight, which has liar on, it is jazz-funk metal at its best, real heavy/light work of genius.

    dougiesplace:

    Your support means a hell of a lot sir, attitudes like yours keep me going, that and my daily dose of Rollins!

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  9. Hi Daniel,

    I went to the Rollins gig on Friday night as well - possibly a little slow to get started, but he definitely brought his trademark brain-wallop to the venue, and we all left feeling inspired, exhausted, and full of "SHIT YEAH! WHAT DO WE DO NOW?!", as usual.

    He's a very thoughtful, intelligent & deep guy, and I always think it's a huge privilege to hear him speak.

    Thanks,

    Jason

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  10. Hi Jason, thanks for stopping by and totally agree with that feeling you describe when you leave, like, UNLEASH ME IN THE DIRECTION OF STUFF! But yes, he is thoughtful and intelligent and I think you sum it up nicely with the idea of it being a real privilege.

    Cheers dude.

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  11. By chance, I was sent this Dazed digital link today...which is for Rollins...

    In full below:

    http://www.dazeddigital.com/ArtsAndCulture/article/6258/1/Henry_Rollins?utm_source=_link&utm_medium=Link&utm_campaign=Newsletter&utm_term=Henry+Rollins

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  12. Hello from Canada. I thought you might be interested in contributing to this project. Details are below. We've had some press this week. We are just starting to take off. Thanks for reading this and considering if you might be interested in contributing and/or helping us to spread the word! Best, Angela Bennett.
    PRESS RELEASE – JAN 22/10

    Project of Love From the Fans of Henry Rollins

    Thanks to Hank
    WANTED: Personal stories from the fans, a.k.a, ‘fanatics’, of Henry Rollins. If Henry Rollins has moved you, inspired you to reach higher, helped you in some way, or just makes your life better by way of knowing he is out there, living art and inspiration, and you are willing to share your story in a future publication of Fanatic Stories of Thanks to Hank, please send your story!
    The target goal is to complete the project by February of 2011, Henry’s 50th birthday. All potential proceeds will go to the charity of Henry’s choice.
    Fanatic and novice writer, Angela Bennett, commented on the project, “Henry has made such a profound contribution to the lives of many thousands, perhaps even millions of people around the world. He is an inspiration to so many people regardless of age, race, or socioeconomic class. This is an opportunity for fanatics to share their stories with, and thank Henry. During the first week of this project, some really moving stories have come in from across North America, from 16 year olds to 50 year olds, in response to an early post on the internet. It’s one thing to be a fan of a band, or an actor, but often it’s about more than that when it comes to Henry. Henry moves people, he is a catalyst in people’s lives. There’s a quote from The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, by Lewis Hyde, that captures Henry well, “…the gift we long for, the gift that, when it comes, speaks commandingly to the soul and irresistibly moves us."
    People can contact Angela Bennett with questions, stories, or artwork, at bennettangela@rogers.com, or on Facebook (the Angela Bennett with the pic of Henry), or at http://open.salon.com/blog/angelalala. Angela does not work for, or represent Henry Rollins, other than being one of many grateful fanatics in the global neighbourhood.

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