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A review of Henry Rollins' Before the Chop

6/14/14 08:38

“I write this to you because at this moment, this is the entire world and everything I know.”  Henry Rollins 2/2/12 Antwerp Belgium

This morning I finished Henry Rollins’ Before the Chop, LA Weekly Articles 2011-2012.  It is published on his press 2.13.61.  Last year, I bought a signed copy from his web site, http://henryrollins.com.   Signed copies are still available, unlike his new book which sold out quickly of the limited edition (1,500) signed and numbered.  A Grim Detail.   
Before the Chop consists of the original versions of articles which were published in LA Weekly.  The weekly is the ubiquitous undergound LA publication and the editors made edits (chops) and shortened the originals; which makes this book a mandatory for his die-hard readers.  The work captures Rollins at his rawest and shares the insights of his recent world travels, in cities and an venues as well as his ever changing moods. Don't take that the wrong way.  Let me clarify this by saying Mr. Rollins is an excellent reporter with a keen eye and a respect for his readers as well as his fans.  As with his previous books and spoken word performances, Rollins is intelligent, articulate and blunt.  As I read the book I felt like I was listening to him on a private tour.  In fact he was the tour guide.  I just wished the articles would continue, but like his real tour with 188 shows in 19 countries – this book concluded.  In fact the ending was an unpublished interview with Nick Cave.   
What can you expect when you read this book?  He shares his passion for music.  So let me say this here and now, if you are not a fan of rock, punk, jazz or any music in general - this book is not be for you.  And the theme of music is constant throughout which I had to remind myself was the sole reason for the articles.  Rollins shares his favorite bands, records, interviews, memories of being on tour with either Black Flag or the Rollins band as he prepared himself for a show in the city he was in.  There were some repetitious themes which can occur when you’re writing a weekly article on the music you love.  It is very clear, Mr. Rollins has an insatiable desire to see or hear, touch, taste, smell, Iggy Pop and The Stooges in mono or stereo, outtakes, wherever and whenever.  This is one reoccurring theme, and another is how essential music is for his escape from the world. “If I can’t have a stage to report to every night, I will drown my sorrows in a sea of tunes!”   Some choose alcohol or drugs or other means, Henry seeks solitude and a self-imposed perfection from his music.  He likes music a hell of a lot.  Being a Rollins reader and alright a fanatic, I feel he is fighting off the depression he wrote about in his earlier works, but that’s only my assumption.  “Several minutes later, I eat and evaluate the incredible emptiness I am feeling. The people at my shows are going to be done with me before I am done with them.  It’s going to be extremely hard to deal with the fact that it’s going to be over well before I am done.”  
So, perhaps the editing could have been tighter?  Stooges…Fun…House…Iggy…best…performer…stares at the audience.  Got it.  We will salute you Mr. Pop.  We will see Mr. Pop.  But I have listened to The Stooges based on Henry’s proclamations, and I agree: The Stooges capture/d the punk spirit.  In fact most of the bands he refers to are not to be ignored. Coltrane is another constant point, but I have to agree with this statement Rollins makes, “Just my opinion, but artistic expression is humanity at its best.  Science, technology, modern medicine are all of course fantastic- but when I put on a Coltrane album and can actually hear him push the air from his lungs into his horn to create that sound, the total and perfect humanity of that…I am unable to find the right words to express how much it moves me and what a miracle I find it to be.”  
Surprisingly, this reader was exposed more to the real Rollins, the confessional wordsmith which for legions of us, continues to gain our respect and admiration over the years.  Yet, as he moves forward seeking new bands and latching on to his favorites, he saw Dinosaur Jr. a number times in a year.  There is the lurking DC past which creeps up quite often.  Before I forget, the reason for all of the Dinosaur shows, Rollins interviewed the band on stage on a few dates.  For the record I saw the show at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia with OFF! as an opening band.  So, Henry continues to tread in the past, going back to DC where he used to live and had the last “job” he held before joining Black Flag.  In this book, he shares the opportunity he had when he came across the new owner of the house he and his mother lived in when he was a teenager.  With sensory precision, holding the banister, he brings us back to the basement with the familiar scent and the marks in the wall that he an Ian Mackaye made when shooting a pellet gun more than 30 years before.   
But hold on a second, back in 84, I doubt Henry Rollins would print in Spin magazine his guilty pleasures. “With the advent of CD’s, that best of Kansas was one of the first purchases I made, along with some of Madonna’s albums.”  Also sharing his purchases of Duran Duran, Culture Club, Men at Work.  And he tells us IF WE have a problem with it…“Bite Me!”  I don’t have a problem with it.  I understand you love music and pretty much any music.  Well, in that case I lay claim to listening to and cherishing my Haircut 100 album.  Let’s move on.  Mr. Rollins craves music and collects albums as he treks across the world, he preaches the best sound is off the vinyl.  He collects a new album a day?  Did I read that right?
                “From an early age up to now, I am still awed by the completeness of sitting alone in a room, listening to music, somewhat isolated from the hot and bothered world.  It is a small, controllable and to a great extent, perfect place.”  Henry Rollins 8/23/13 Los Angeles, CA

                The articles continue on LA Weekly and Henry can be heard on the radio spinning his tunes for his fanatics as he refers to the audience.  You can listen in on KCRW on Sunday nights and take a lesson on all of the slam bam musical history and the joy he has in spinning the turntable and his deep knowledge.  

I also saw some dates in the future; let’s see if that means Henry will be back on tour?

Thank you for reading this.


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