July 22, 2010

Get In The Van

Rereading Get In The Van; Henry Rollins diary of his days with Black Flag. It's highly recommended to all you kids who romanticize the first wave of d.i.y. hardcore/punk.

Sure, American Punk can be traced back to the Stooges and of course the late 70's NYC scene. But those bands largely had record company support.

The early 80's bands like Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks (on the left coast), Reagan Youth, Kraut, Minor Threat (right coast) and the Necros, Effigies, Big Boys (flyover states) didn't have the largesse of corporations to fund their records and tours. Most of em were on indy labels run by the bands themselves.
And life was bitch tough, both on the road and at home.

Rollins' book is chock full of self loathing, hatred towards cops and BF's fans and audience (many times they were subject to abuse from their crowd) and frustration. His book reads like a horror story, as each night brings more aggravation, pain and struggles.

I was around back than, and can certainly empathize with BF's troubles. "Back in the day", ya young whippersnappers, we used to get shit from teachers, cops and our parents for being into the scene. I remember one of my dickhead English teachers in High School threatening to fail me because I was wearing a Ramones shirt. It wasn't all Hot Topic and Warped Tours back then. And the shows were violent. This whole crowd surfing/moshing ritual that happens at any alt-show got it's start back then, and it was more like a riot than a dance. One time at a Minor Threat show I stage dove and knocked myself out. Rollins was actually one of the people carrying me off the floor when I regained conciousness.

At no point in Get In The Van do you ever get the feeling that Rollins was having any fun at all. Their tours in Europe were particularly harsh with no money, no place to stay, bitter cold and ultra violence.

It certainly didn't help that Black Flag were the most relentless, aggro-musically inclined mutha's out there. And Henry, leading the band with that feral look in his eyes and bare chest was like adding gasoline to the fire. I was at several shows in the NY area and there were ALWAYS fights. Additionally, Henry was the fourth lead singer in BF's history and the band was leaving Punk Rock behind and playing more and more sludge core. Between the new direction in music and being labeled as sell-outs, it's amazing they weren't killed.

I had several occasions to interview and also informally talk to Henry back in those days. Despite his "don't fuck with me" swagger, I always found him to be extremely gracious and thoughtful. In fact all the guys in Black Flag were pretty cool (though Greg Ginn was a little insular). One of my fondest memories was my dad telling me that someone named Chuck Dukowski was on the phone for me.

Anyway, if you haven't read it yet; Get In The Van is a great read tht will gove you a real understanding of your Punk Forefathers. And if you have read it, take your copy and smack some little nuevo-punk upside the head with it.


Karate Boogaloo said...

Hey Devo - Good post, good memory. You would be remiss to leave DOA off of that list however.

Jon said...

Yeah, I was gonna say let's not forget DOA who lived in their van for years. Shithead was so poor that he was proud of himself when he got a legitimate city of Vancouver cab driver's license.
Other than that. Carried out of the pit by Henry Rollins and "There's someone on the phone named Chuck Dukowski" are two of the best punk rock credentials ever.
I'm not sure, outside of Canada maybe DOA played the midwest more than the coasts. They don't get the attention they deserve when people get historical about hardcore.
My only claim to fame is that Shithead mentions a party at my apartment in Indiana in his autobiography. He also briefly mentions a fight in Detroit that I had the misfortune to be in the middle of.

Nazz Nomad said...

Props to DOA- saw em a few times on their NYC treks, Shithead's got a pretty good book out as well... called "I Shithead"

Karate Boogaloo said...

When I lived with Jack Rabid (who wrote the forward to Joey's book) in the mid 80's DOA stayed with us a couple of times. Great guys...really down to earth.

Nazz Nomad said...

my quick doa story- my dad drove a cab in nyc in the 80's- one day he tells me that he had two guys in his cab named joey shithead and chuck biscuits- shithead had just gotten ripped off buying a watch on the street from some goniff.

Karate Boogaloo said...

Thats great...imagine meeting a couple of characters with names like that?

Heff said...

Man, the audio quality of these clips is WORSE than what we film in my den, lol !

I always thought Rollins was kind of a "Douche", so seeing him get hit in the head was pretty cool !

Rinjo Njori! said...

This book is great, but there are many other Black Flag books that literally rip Henry off. I haven't read the latest book out but figure I will get someone to get it for me for Xmas (That is "straight edge" Christmas to all you newbies). The only thing I hate about it is that Henry seems to hold back about everything except his own faults.

As far as getting a call at home my only experience was Verbal Assault. I went to school in RI for a year and did a radio show. This was right after Tiny Giants came out. Chris Jones might not be Chuck Dukowski, but I don't think Chuck was returning calls in 88.

Nazz Nomad said...

karate- my dad in those days called me alot worse names than "shithead"!

heff- punk rock- it's not for the audibly choosy

rinjo- i would have liked to hear more about bf and henry definitely holds back. really just passing references to ginn, etc.