Here’s the bottom line with Henry Rollins for me.
Back in the ’80s when Black Flag played New York it was a big deal. But that was true of most of the high-profile west coast bands, because we got to see the New York hardcore bands over and over and over but the Cali bands were a much more rare and precious morsel. Same with the DC bands to a somewhat lesser extent.
He’s so dreamy!Anyway, so when bands like Black Flag or the Dead Kennedys or Suicidal or the Circle Jerks came to New York it was truly an event. But when it came to Black Flag, all anyone ever talked about was Henry’s haircut. Will he have a pony tail? Will he have a crew cut? Will he have hair down to his ass? Will he be a skinhead? Basically he was just a big, sweaty, buffed-up meat puppet with a revolving hairdo for all the girls (and half the boys) to drool over.
And sure, the band had some decent songs when Henry was the point man, nobody can front on that, but to be honest he always seemed to be a replacement singer to me, not the real deal. I know it’s weird, but he seemed an afterthought to me in some ways having seen the band before he was in it. He was like that one dude in the audience who the band would call up on stage to sing along because he knew every single word to every one of their songs by heart. Which, upon re-reading that sentence, makes me kind of sad. Plus as the ’80s wore on Black Flag just kind of got sucky and heavy metallic and I wasn’t all that upset when they finally crashed and burned because hey fuck Henry and his smooth jazz funk metal bullshit. And truth be told I was a big fan of Kira Roessler and I thought she got a lot of unfair shit rained down on her near the end and I didn’t appreciate that at all.
I’ve of course heard a ton of Henry’s spoken word stuff, in fact I’ve seen him live a couple of times for whatever that’s worth. But I could never get past the inevitable comparison of his spoken word to Jello’s, and Jello is my favorite asshole in the whole wide world and Henry, well, he’s just kind of a fucking dick really…
To me Henry is the Rod Stewart of American punk. Had there been no Jagger or McCartney or Lennon or Clapton, Rod Stewart could have been a major force in rock and roll. But instead he was just a prettyboy goofball that ended up singing for little old ladies at Indian casinos, which is exactly how I see Henry at this point. Had there been no Jello or Ian MacKaye or H.R. then yeah, Henry would have been the hottest shit since sliced bread.
But yeah, here in the real world, not so much…