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.