Henry Rollins: My Old-Man Gripes
Photo by Heidi May
Last week, I turned 54 years old. It’s one of those not-all-that-interesting milestones, like turning 27.
As I get older, life gets funnier. At least I’ve learned that it’s best to put extra humor in the pack as I go. I need it more and more.
Things are always changing, and it’s great/horrible to discover how out of the loop you can become as the years drag on. And, sometimes, that the loop ain’t what it used to be.
I have no idea if this is an age thing or what, but I am very glad there are some aspects of this modern world that I have no interest in whatsoever. I am not one of those “things were better back in my day” types. But for the most part, I am glad to have seen what I have seen, especially when it comes to the experiences I have had with music.
Here are a few things that I feel lucky to have no interest in, or that I flat-out reject or find myself enraged by. If any of this smacks of stodginess or encroaching senility, so be it.
The experience of music as a series of downloads. I have downloaded music several times, but only because some of the bands I listen to post a lot of live jams that are never going to be released any other way. I get more music and pay the band directly. Justice!
Beyond that, if there is a record, CD, cassette — something I can hold in my hand — I will go for that. This is my version of gold-backed currency.
As a young person, I often considered my earnings as the means to buy records, pay rent and eat — in that order. If it came down to a meal or a record, the decision (the right one) left me hungry, but at least my mild starvation had a good soundtrack.
The records I bought in high school still play. Talk about investing in your future!
As the years went on, and I moved from apartment to apartment, the most important thing was figuring out how to transport what was now the accumulation of missed meals, long walks, snail-mail trades and countless hours going through miles of record bins all over the world. The rest of my stuff — an old futon, beat-up stereo gear and broken microwave — were nothing to heft in comparison.
At this point, I derive a quiet joy just sitting amongst my shelves and boxes of music. I am completely sure that there is no such thing as too many records. Or, if that is possible, I would like to find out how many that is.
The idea of having no evidence of your music other than “I have all my tunes in my phone” is ... I don’t have words.
To see a young person with a pair of those brightly colored plastic headphones listening to music on their cellphone is to know that the great power of music has been partially neutralized by technology.
“My hard drive crashed and I lost all my music!” I don’t feel your digital pain. You didn’t lose any music. You never had any.
One day, everything will be on the cloud! I hope that’s not true. That is a perfect, Orwellian hell.
Can you imagine conversations in the future? “A few weeks ago, the cloud?...?,” he says with a quick, terrified look upward, “shut me out. I put everything there. I have lost contact with my iSelf and don’t know who I am anymore. I have hired an iAdvocate and am appealing my case. I have to appear in Apple Court at the Grove tomorrow morning. I don’t know what I did.”
I detest the idea of tons of information no longer weighing tons, work being relegated to mere data and always being one Cloudmaster “oops” away from no proof of its iExistence.
This is part of the devaluing of information. The integrity of intellectual property can’t mean all that much if you don’t really know where it is or who could be checking it out. The truth and force of your life is diminished.
I am not a Luddite, but I do not believe a server is serving me. I am fully aware of how “old and in the way” that sounds, and perhaps my edges are becoming crusted.
But I must say, when I go to Amoeba and find it crowded, I am elated. All these people who are not going to let culture die. A young person standing in line to pay, holding an Ornette Coleman album, inspires and excites me. All is not lost! Someone still wants to put their hands on something and use it, take care of it, and years later, remember the day they got it.
I guess my old-man gripe is the lack of awe required when one downloads Hendrix or streams Coltrane. In their short lives, these two toiled ceaselessly to give you everything they had. They went all in. They deserve more than a point and a click.
Don’t worry, my hands will be cold and dead soon enough and you can pry my Fun House LP out of them.
The time is right, but people aren’t ready. How long until this idea gets shredded?
I hate the ooze that some people, especially politicians, are happy to spend their lives in. College-graduated, degree-holding adults who should know better still argue against marriage equality. We still have problems with race. How? Fifteen years into this bold new century and it’s remarkable that so many people remain so disappointingly dim.
For some, the time will never be right and they will never be ready. We’ll just have to drag them along until they cheer up.
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