Henry Rollins: The Column! The Failings of Music Writers
[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Saturday KCRW broadcast.]
A few nights ago, we took the tour bus into the massive parking lot of a Walmart in South Dakota to get some provisions. Whenever I go into a Walmart, I always call it "committing Walmart," but it's one place we can fit the bus easily and so, now and then, we run the gauntlet.
It was around 0230 hrs. and we were at the register. An elderly woman was bagging our goods. She good-naturedly joked with us as she rang us up. I watched her face as she spoke. I saw how tired she was, yet still so polite and friendly. It occurred to me that, after a certain age, the work smock with the name tag is an insult; I wondered if there was a humiliating factor when she put it on at the start of her shift. I also wondered why she was working at her age and at this hour. I hope it's because she wants to and not because she has to.
As I walked out of the place, I thought about how damn tough Americans are. How, no matter what, more often than not, Americans rise to the occasion and hammer away.
Just my opinion, but I don't think a woman her age should have to be that tough. What if the Constitution had an amendment addressing dignity, or perhaps a line inserted into the Preamble after the part about promoting the general welfare, addressing the defense of the elderly -- that might be cool.
It's not as if this woman was being tortured, but if this is the most technologically advanced nation in the world, the country that gave the world jazz, you would hope that we would take good care of those who have been around the track so many times.
It is autumn in America. Things are winding up as they also wind down. Finally, we are seeing some trees showing color, and the air is starting to cool. Halloween candy is on display in stores, and the nights are more crisp.
This is the America that I have to remind myself about amidst the political noise. I think it's important to pay attention on a lot of levels, but it can't be the only thing on my mind.
That being said, the ramp-up to the November election has been extremely enjoyable in all its vitriolic flailing. Well, one side is flailing; the other, in my opinion, is merely stating its case. Personally, I would rather let the music play.
An upside of this time of year is that it gets darker earlier; I have always held that music sounds better when the sun is not in attendance. This year I have been getting a lot of listening done in backstage areas, like the one I am in right now. Every once in a while, I am afforded a window and can have the sunset and the tunes at the same time.
Music is the secret code that opens the door to the world where time is perfectly spent and nothing is wasted. I like it better than anything.
Music is such a great idea that, when music writers attempt to deconstruct and critique music's better examples, they rarely put on the page anything worth reading. I reckon if you can't write about a record or a band that you are not absolutely fanatic about, then don't bother at all, because truthfully, no one cares all that much about what you think in the first place, and when you write about how some record isn't any good, you are wasting everyone's time and basking under the dim bulb of your self-importance.
There are plenty of bands and artists whose music I don't care for, but thankfully I am not made to listen to them, so the fun fest never has to stop, hence my weekly, dependably ecstatic effusions to you. If some band sucks, you're going to have to find out about it for yourself, because I don't have the interest in issuing warnings.
Besides that, making music -- good, bad or otherwise -- is extremely difficult. Rarely has one who writes about those who make it ever had to try it for themselves. People made fun of Justin Bieber vomiting onstage several days ago, as the video, like everything else he does, went everywhere. The caloric burn of a week in that kid's life would do much more than make you puke, so impugn with caution.
It is through this portal of music where we can momentarily forget partisan leanings, the bull-in-china-shop fragility of the ego and the grind of respiration. Being a solitary type who is under a fair amount of scrutiny and is in constant physical contact with others, having some music to listen to and a window to look out of is a pretty good deal out here on the road.
I am lucky. I have a great audience who shows up every night. They are loyal, polite and, as the years go on, inspire me more and more. The entire day out here is merely the lead-up to walking out onstage and trying to be clear, sentence after sentence, at a high rate of speed. Hopefully, it will be a Japanese bullet train of thought that somehow affords the audience a clear view of every person in every car that goes by. That's what I'm attempting, and it's all mine to screw up nightly.
The records I get to listen to each day also are a part of the focusing process as the arrow is pulled back against the string for release at showtime. This evening it's been Not Fucked Enough by the Reatards and For Alan Lomax by My Cat Is an Alien, with Romance & Adventure by the Ooga Boogas rockin' now.
I live for performance. I am completely sure that at this moment, I am where I am supposed to be, doing exactly the right thing.
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