Henry Rollins: I Am Basically a Vinyl Cat Lady
Photo by Heidi May
Every fiscal quarter or so, I meet with the accountants who handle my affairs. It’s usually to sign returns. I always ask if I’m doing anything financially irresponsible. They say no, but from the receipts, I seem to exist on small expenditures for essential items, and then the rest of my spending is almost entirely on music.
From the looks on their faces, I can tell that they find me a bit strange. I try to logic with them in terms they might deem rational. I tell them that records I bought for a few dollars many years ago have appreciated, and in a way, they are an investment — as if I have some freakin’ crystal ball and can tell that after my untimely demise, my Himalayas mountain range of vinyl won’t be half-lifing in a picked-over used store, heaped on top of the thousands of Burl Ives albums that are turning the Spike Jones records underneath them into a petroleum-based goo.
One day, I tell the accountants, when the going gets rough, I can … and that’s where my idea runs out of steam, because I don’t know what I would do with my records. More importantly, I don’t know what I would do without them.
We humans are incredibly adaptive creatures. We’ve had to be. The Earth has been trying to kill us off longer than we have been trying to choke it, but we’ve got the planet in our crosshairs and eventually — we will prevail!
From the beginning of human history, Mother Nature has waged a ceaseless war on Homo sapiens. Plagues, viruses, volcanoes with irritable bowel syndrome, tectonic plate hip checks and an army of creatures lurking in all corners, ready to envenomate, disembowel, infect or otherwise take us out.
The human response has been as you would expect: You fuck with us and you die. We have put the entire planet in a signature Ronda Rousey armbar, and even though the Earth is tapping out as hard as it can, for this gutless planet there will be no mercy.
Climate change is basically Earth on its back, involuntarily kicking its legs at the sky. It’s almost completely dead but still thrashing around.
After the Earth has been taught the ultimate lesson of who not to mess with, the victors — probably a small group from the banking industry, their lithesome playmates and a posse of good guys with guns — can jump up and down on the scorched, seedless, dead surface and congratulate one another on “staying the course.” Until then, we’re super busy mutating crops and livestock, and finding more efficient ways to annihilate each other as we overpopulate and put every single species on the endangered list by the mere fact that it is alive — for now.
Preening precariously at the top of the heap, humans don’t even want humans around! Yet we still hang in there, apparently getting off on the misery. We are sho ’nuff freaky and self-absorbed.
Despite catastrophic famine and systematic slaughter of millions of Soviets by their own leader, Joseph Stalin, thousands cried their eyes out when his casket rolled by in 1953. Men and women might still throw their hotel keys and knickers onstage when Dick Cheney makes appearances.
We pine for the “good old days,” when people knew their place and things were better. The Great Famine, aka the Irish Potato Famine, wasn’t so bad! When life hands you a potato, mash it, fry it, etc.
If dolphins or elephants had a cable network called “Human Planet,” imagine the documentaries they would make about us. Scary!
Do you think the last person alive will take naked “selfies” if there is no one else to send them to? (I pose that question in an attempt to convince you that I’m really deep. I am well aware that it probably didn’t work.)
The point I am making is that I buy records because I medicate with music. It makes the day-to-day horror show of existence endurable. It’s like waking and baking but with a different stash.
This is what I can’t explain to the accountants, because it is way too intense for lunchtime conversation. In a way, my records are an investment — an investment in the preservation of what’s left of my sanity.
I am less an audiophile than I am a vinyl cat lady. You can never have too many records, aren’t they all just so wonderful?
I have been trying to send my best friend and fellow Cramps fan, Ian MacKaye, a live album of the band called Hogwild at the Nashville Rooms from June 1979, for a few weeks now. The Internet says there were 1,000 pressed, 500 in red and 500 in yellow. After I got a copy, which happened to be yellow, I played it and knew that Ian would dig one. So I found another copy and ordered it.
When the second copy arrived, it was on clear vinyl! I had to keep both because, well, they look so cool.
I found yet another and it arrived. In red. It has to stay here, too.
I found yet another, which the vendor assures me is red. This fourth copy will go to my good pal.
Next time Ian visits, I’ll enthusiastically pull out all three copies and, with great intensity, speculate as to what the clear vinyl version is all about, as if it’s a matter of great importance. He will do that thing where his face takes on an expression of infinite calm, as he says something about that clear record being real strange, you bet.
In closing, I just want to say that you, humans, have driven me to this vinyl addiction. If our species were not so hell-bent on extinction, I might momentarily leave the stereo and go to a park or something.
More From the Mind of Henry Rollins:
The Major Labels Are Screwing Up Record Store Day
When You Claim Racism Is Over, You Get a Dylann Roof
Why I'm Not an Atheist