Henry Rollins: My Go-To Hot Weather Hendrix Track
Photo by Heidi May
Remember when it rained several days ago? I think that’s the only spring we’re going to get. How long did that last, 72 hours? It’s not yet April and we seem to be in summer already.
I dig how the weather puts us all in the same boat, like some great humanizing equalizer.
I prefer the warmer months. Many things seem to operate at a higher metabolism. I feel a need to get more done while also digging deeper into anything I’m working on. If there is a way to put more into each moment, that’s what I aim to do. I approach all things with a noticeably spiked degree of furiosity.
Hot weather makes music come alive. It’s my favorite time to be in front of the stereo.
When off the road, the way I go about it is, at this point, ancient. I employ the Stone Age practice of first allowing the tubes to warm up for at least an hour, then hauling the vinyl from one room to another. My primary turntable requires that you wind a clamp onto the LP, pressing it onto the platter. All of this is like walking to the well for a drink, but if you’re thirsty, the journey is as meaningful as the thirst is real.
Beware of anyone who tells you they know a lot about music. I’ve met some people — Byron Coley comes to mind as an example — who are vast warehouses of music factoids derived from decades of listening. But when you accuse them of being muso-scholars, they will usually deny that charge with great vigor.
This is one of the many great things about music. There is so much truly amazing material, you easily could devote yourself to one aspect of one genre from one time period, and even with that hyper-specificity still get stumped now and then.
One of my many approaches, which has worked incredibly well, is to spread my musical appreciation thinly, in an almost aerosol coating, over a lot of different kinds of music. This results in a borderline maniacal interest in what might appear to be far too wide a field. It is an exercise in willful futility.
If you take almost every course the university offers, there is a good chance you may never graduate. But if you love going to class that much, why would you ever want to leave campus? So I am the perpetual freshman, always running late.
At a certain point, I encountered a case of critical mass. I had more new records than I thought I was ever going to be able to listen to. I had to change my routine and spread myself even thinner. I had to reconcile myself to the fact that there were some records I was going to listen to only once or twice, the audio equivalent of that time I visited the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. The Chinese museum cops give you about an hour in this massive building. “We are walking,” indeed.
Not wanting to treat fine wine like bathwater, I listen as intently as I can to a record, and often take notes to determine if I will come back for another spin. This is how I attempt to reconcile the fact that I have an espresso shot of a lifetime in which to gulp down a sea of music.
That being said, if you run all the time, the most beautiful garden may appear the same as one poorly kept. So, to go in the opposite direction, there is no such thing as spending too much time with any particular artist, album or track.
Extremes can be fun, and musical hyper-obsession is a great way to put off sleep. For the last few nights, I have been listening to every version I have of what I am convinced is one of Jimi Hendrix’s finest moments, his song “Burning of the Midnight Lamp.”
Hendrix was first and foremost a blues man, and his lyrics often expressed great loneliness and alienation. Next time you listen to the U.K. edition of Are You Experienced (hopefully in mono), one of the most mind-blowing debut albums of all time, you’ll find the lead on “Red House” fairly incinerates all the other music on the entire record! Hendrix brought so much youthful, beautifully rendered angst to many of the first songs he committed to tape that when you listen carefully to what he’s saying, it is very much at odds with all the smiling photos taken of him from that period.
“Burning of the Midnight Lamp” put the hook in me when I first heard it as a kid. In hot weather, it is one of my go-to tracks.
The song was issued in a few configurations, one of which is an absolutely amazing, two-song single: “Burning” on the A-side, with the psychedelic/blues/punk scorcher “The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam’s Dice,” perhaps my favorite B-side of all time and a track that perfectly illustrates the sheer awesomeness of a great B-side. (The best part of that opinion is that it took me more than 30 years of listening to several hundred sin-gles to come to it!)
To be succinct: There is no wrong way to listen to music.
My father didn’t listen to music. To be pseudo-intellectual: He listened to no music. As close as I get to “no music” is when I listen to Noh theater music, my favorite being the Tsuxma — Hayashi Music of Noh CD. Hey now! I’m here every week…
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Los Angeles, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.