Tuesday, 21 August 2007



This is how it was supposed to be. In many ways this could be viewed as the punk generation’s On The Road. Held within is a blunt and unflinching account of what it was like to tour and indeed be on the road during one of the most violent and volatile periods of music.

Like the majority of people of my generation I discovered Black Flag long after the event through the recommendations and comparisons by and of Kurt Cobain. In Black Flag was some kind of mystical monster of a punk, the kind whose records were difficult to find/buy which as a result added so much value to the reputation and legacy to a band very few of us knew about. When I finally ordered my first Black Flag record on import it was “Damaged” and I never looked back. In some ways I think the message cut/touched deep and for me there has always been that Black Flag stance, of cutting a solid posture and sticking up for yourself while questioning anything dubious, successful and popular. This wasn’t even working class music, it was underclass music.

Of course this tale is not perfect. Given how Rollins and Ginn felt about each other towards the end of the band’s existence it is very probable that naturally the tale leans more in favour of Henry when the political correctness of instances comes into question. Likewise even though the band was eternally piss poor and seemingly working hand-to-mouth living in true wrecks of digs (a point hit home by the movie Decline Of The Western Civilisation which actually featured a pre-Rollins Black Flag) the natural hyperbole of Rollins’ style is very male potentially misleading, he is the commander of the jokes and sense of humour.

Such quibbles aside the entertainment value of the work is beyond question. The tales of touring and roaming around the country (indeed world) as the ultimate gang is something that can literally conjure arousal in certain men. Indeed when I got left out of a tour early into the existence of our record label back in the day I truly felt that I was missing out on my “Get In The Van” experience.

As bands of the era guest star left right and centre it is exceptionally titillating to get something of an insight in the world of these individuals and just what they were like (explicitly in the case of Gene October from Chelsea) as well as being mocked by Ultraxox. Elsewhere other great times are recounted such as tours with the Minutemen and happening across a Misfits soundcheck.

When Rollins signs off he leaves some kind of epitaph as to how this is not an experience lived by punk bands of this modern, of how they have nearly really had to fight for their music in order to survive. The sad truth is that as Green Day and Epitaph took over the pop punk bands became the new hair bands of this modern era once the final optimistic remnants of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain had been stubbed out. As a result of this Rollins very much establishes himself as a one off, the type of individual that is unlikely to be replicated and there at the end of the day is the major value of Get In The Van as a document of how it was and how it still should be.

Thesaurus moment: drive.

Henry Rollins
Henry Rollins interview

No comments: