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Some kids dream of becom­ing a rock star. Oth­ers just do it. Start­ing out as some skin­ny kid who talked his way to becom­ing the local road­ie for a few Wash­ing­ton DC bands, Hen­ry Rollins took the chal­lenge and best­ed him­self, not only becom­ing the bulked up lead singer for sev­er­al hard­core punk bands, includ­ing the local Minor Threat and LA’s Black Flag, and his own Rollins Band, but after minor roles in Hol­ly­wood film, he then land­ed on his feet as the host of a cable talk show.
There was great music ahead. There was crap music to whack past as well. And while I had already throt­tled deaf ears among the Yip­pies of Atlanta, I knew I’d run into anoth­er hard wall soon­er of lat­er in DC. Know­ing my instincts for self-regard and what­ev­er it is about my whacked sense of social peck­ing order (none) that attracts trou­ble, it would­n’t take long.
One of the perks of becom­ing one of the elite at some­thing is that you get to meet almost any of the elite at any­thing else whom you wish to meet. The post­ed short animation—The Bare­ly Ani­mat­ed Adven­tures of Hen­ry Rollins: Tom Waits Story—created by Joz­abad, gives us a look at two such elites meet­ing and shar­ing them­selves. We think you will find it hilar­i­ous, and thank Joz­abad for his own cre­ative efforts.

But this RSN entry is actu­al­ly about my own rela­tion­ship to Mr. Rollins. First, a lit­tle rumor mill grist to get us start­ed. When I came upon the DC scene from Cor­pus Christi by way of Atlanta in the fall of 1983, I had heard of noth­ing of the bands or the per­son­al­i­ties that roamed the bar­ren streets of 1983 Wash­ing­ton, an urban waste­land that was bare­ly a city, with only two neigh­bor­hoods not rolling up come dark, George­town and Adams Mor­gan, but our sto­ry takes place between 7th & E Street NW and 9th & G Street, NW, down­town. Although about five years old­er than most of the charis­mat­ic lead­ers of the under­ground scene, I had only decid­ed to infil­trate the punk domin­ion the past year or so. So, although I had the gay and new wave dance scenes of Cor­pus Christi and the punk and gay scenes in Atlanta under my belt, I knew I had a lot of study­ing and many bands to expe­ri­ence before I knew how to nav­i­gate among the char­ac­ters I would face in the com­ing years, plot the topog­ra­phy, and maybe, just maybe, escape with my life if not my dig­ni­ty. There was great music ahead. There was crap music to whack past as well. And while I had already throt­tled deaf ears among the Yip­pies of Atlanta, I knew I’d run into anoth­er hard wall soon­er of lat­er in DC. Know­ing my instincts for self-regard and what­ev­er it is about my whacked sense of social peck­ing order (none) that attracts trou­ble, it would­n’t take long. True to the pur­pose­ful sol­dier spir­it in me, it did­n’t.

dcspaceNev­er a syco­phant but quite com­mon­ly a fierce defend­er of what­ev­er line of equal­i­ty or truth it is that I think is right among equal cit­i­zens, under­ground or oth­er­wise, it nev­er takes long before some­one else with a dif­fer­ent opin­ion strikes a blow metaphor­i­cal­ly or oth­er­wise.

The Four Horse­men of my own expe­ri­en­tial apoc­a­lypse, a bat­tle­ground also known as DC Space and the 9:30 Club would be artists and musi­cians Rene the Fist, Jared Hen­drick­son, Bruce Merkle and our mus­cle of the hour—Henry Rollins, all excel­lent artists, all for­mi­da­ble agi­ta­tors, all friends first before they became foes.

Except­ing Rollins.

I can’t say that we were ever friends. I was intro­duced to him by Jack who insist­ed at a WUST show dur­ing the Mus­tard Years, fol­lowed by a quick hand­shake, a sub­mis­sive gri­mace and prob­a­bly a lin­ger­ing brow stand­off. By this era I was already in the begin­ning stages of beer bloat, and every­one in the hall that night knew that Right­eous Rollins just did­n’t roll that way.

I spent my first year in my new city, my new scene buy­ing up copies of Max­i­mum Rock & Roll, Flip­side, Tru­ly Needy, and any small­er local street fanzines I could get into my hands. I even cre­at­ed my own street zine called SAMPLEX, but it was decid­ed­ly more bent to the social­ly-taint­ed word and image than any empha­sis on local or nation­al punk bands.

mzi.mgrnrdoz.170x170-75But my first con­fronta­tion with Hen­ry Rollins had begun back in the Skin­ny Years on a packed house night at DC Space (writ­ten in low­er case in real­i­ty, I pre­fer to adhere to most stan­dard Eng­lish ren­der­ings because I usu­al­ly can). This was a spo­ken word event. In fact I have nev­er seen Rollins per­form on stage, and frankly I do not think this small omis­sion of fan authen­tic­i­ty makes me a bad per­son. As I write this now, I some­what regret not ever hav­ing seen Rollins in Black Flag. No doubt he was a mon­ster on the stage. I don’t specif­i­cal­ly recall that I blew any oppor­tu­ni­ty to buy a tick­et for Black Flag dur­ing those years, but I prob­a­bly did.

I had read, of course, much glit­ter about the Hen­ry Rollins ver­sion of pun­ish­ing high octane ener­gy on stage in belt­ing out the lyrics to such punk clas­sics as My War and Rise Above. I’d also read in var­i­ous street zines and rags that he was also a nasty play­er in pub­lic in choos­ing to make a point of step­ping into fam­i­ly restau­rants and oth­er luke­warm venues which always some­how includ­ed snarling at any­one who dare com­mit the unpar­don­able sin of star­ing and whis­per­ing among each oth­er or in stunned silence at his buff tat­tooed uber self with a per­func­to­ry, “What the fuck are YOU look­ing at?” or some­thing sim­i­lar to nuclear flash and blind. Not polite to stare? How about not polite to bel­low at strangers? Giv­ing as good as he got? Hard­ly. He was­n’t the only punk rock­er who delight­ed in this type of pub­lic rebel­lion, but I always found that type of behav­ior stu­pid and unjus­ti­fied, and felt it MY duty to draw the ire of these types to myself, bone­head to bone­head, so to speak.

To be con­tin­ued…

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