The Rollins Machine Turns You On (to Some Amazing Long Jams): Henry Rollins on the Velvet Undeground, Fela Kuti and Sleep's "Dopesmoker"!

Our new columnist, Mr. Henry Rollins!
Our new columnist, Mr. Henry Rollins!
Maura Lanahan

[The one and only Henry Rollins will be contributing a weekly column and far-reaching reportage to the music section of the LA Weekly. Look for your weekly Henry Rollins fix right here on West Coast Sound every Friday and make sure to tune in to Henry's KCRW radio show every Saturday evening, or online, or as a podcast, or however else you decided to listen to the most eclectic DJ on LA's airwaves.

This installment includes Henry's report from his European trip, his thoughts on the so-called "Ground-Zero mosque" controversy and the awesomely annontated playlist for his KCRW BROADCAST #78 for tomorrow, Saturday 8-28-10. For more details please visit and]

Took a few days but I have finally shook off the jet lag that had been dragging me down. I am writing to you from Edinburgh, Scotland. I am here for the Edinburgh Festival. I have been here for a few days now, three shows into my seven show run that will end this coming Sunday.

I arrived in Europe days ago in Belgium for the Pukkelpop Festival. I think it was my sixth performance at that one. Always a great time.

I flew to Scotland into two days off, which I spent trying my best to wrest myself from the surreal grip of jet lag, a state I find myself in quite often. Five trips to the gym in five days later, I think I am finally here.

I have been having a good time here. This is my third time at this festival. I have a fantastic audience in Edinburgh and look forward to the show every night. It's not easy only having a seventy-five minute set. I want much more time up there but I am getting better at consolidating my ideas up there as the nights go on. It still feels cramped!

My good times here have been greatly stepped on by what I have been reading about happening in America. The ugliness over the "Ground Zero Mosque" is truly depressing and distracting. The stabbing of New York City taxi driver Ahmed H. Sharif by Michael Enright is sickening.

I am sure many of you have read about this and you don't need me to tell you what news to check out but if you get a chance, please read up on this. Just my opinion but I think this uproar about a Muslim Community Center being built in Manhattan is about something much bigger and far more threatening. There are some people in America who want some kind of epic confrontation with Islam. Hats off to Mayor Bloomberg for stepping up in the way he has to ease this ridiculous tension in his city. Damn. I want things to be better than this. I don't want this to be my America. Ugh.

The good part is that America is full of switched on people who will keep the light of sanity burning brightly.

So, one of the many upsides of being here in Edinburgh is, for me at least, the weather. Sure, there's some rain but it's been infrequent since I arrived. It's the night time that is the great part. The air reminds me of American east coast autumn. So, I get to start my post summer, end of squalid heat enjoyment sooner than later. I walked for quite awhile last night, post show. Looking forward to hitting the streets again tonight.

Hey! This is a music blog, let's get cracking!

And now the notes for this weekend's radio broadcast on 89.9 KCRW. I am on Saturdays from 6 pm until 8 pm. After I sign off, Liza Richardson will take control of the airwaves until 10 and then Mario Cotto steps in to take it to the midnight hour. Get more info at




Fanatics! Tonight, we change things up from last week's rapid fire all Punk show, all forty tracks of it. Thank you so much for all your kind and enthusiastic letters. I was thinking about last week's show earlier today as I walked back from the gym where I am presently living in Edinburgh, Scotland. Tonight will be night three of my seven show run at the Edinburgh Festival. It's such a great time. I can't wait to get out there tonight. Anyway, I was thinking about another all Punk Rock show but perhaps digging in a little deeper and presenting some tracks to you that are a bit more obscure. I will start outlining that show later on this week.

So, like I said, tonight's show is a bit different than last week's blast. Tonight, it is six tracks. A whole different mindset than where we were last week. Years ago, I would have been hesitant to unleash such a show on you Fanatics.

Don't take this the wrong way. It's not that I think you are lightweight, it was actually my shortsighted perceptions of what a radio should be. You would have figured I would have learned better from Deirdre O'Donoghue. Years ago, I started putting in longer tracks into the show and I asked you Fanatics what you thought of that. The feedback was absolute: We can handle the jams. We can go long. That's when Engineer X and I started doing our Jazz Juggernaut broadcasts, where it was all Be Bop all night. Ayler, Sun Ra, Coltrane, Shepp, etc. You responded with Fanatic enthusiasm. And so, knowing that you all can go deep, than deeply we shall go.

Hour one. We start the evening with a track called "Pentaprisma" from a band called WhiteBuzz. They are on one of the labels we champion on our show, MeteorCity Records Great label! Crushing jams. I don't know much about WhiteBuzz but when I got the record and put it on, I was a fan immediately. This is a very cool song that you can get way into.

I don't think our next track needs any introduction for any of you Fanatics. A track from the second Velvet Underground album, my personal favorite, White Light/White Heat. Unleashed upon the world in the beginning of 1968. A monster piece of work. Six songs, all great. The lyrics of "Sister Ray," you can check them out online, one violent, drug addled experience that has some of the coldest imagery ever. A man shoots another man who falls to the floor, dead. The only concern is the staining of the carpet and scrounging money. Check it:

Cecil's got his new piece / He cocks it and shoots between three and four / He aims it at the sailor / Shoots him down dead on the floor / Oh you shouldn't do that / Don't you know you'll stain the carpet / Now don't you know you'll stain the carpet / And by the way have you got a dollar

Damn! Nick Cave, step back! Moe Tucker's drums are like a Stax freight train on this track. I was listening to this a couple of days ago, as I reviewed all the songs for our show and gave myself a test. If I had to shave five minutes off this song, where would I make an edit without compromising the song? I couldn't find any part that isn't lean and mean. This song and this album are mandatory listens in this Fanatic's opinion.

We finish hour one with some Fela, no stranger to you or our show. On this track, Swegbe And Pako, dig how much James Brown and the JB's there is going on. The keyboard is SO James and at times, the sax goes from Maceo to St. Clair Pinckney. I guess that's Fela on those instruments. I'm no expert but so far, there's no Fela record I've heard that wasn't worth checking out. The one he did with Ginger Baker, blazin'.

Hour two. Noah Howard starts us off with a track from his long out of print Black Ark album. It came back into the world, albeit briefly, a couple of years ago, that's when I found it. I had read about Howard and how he had been influenced by Albert Ayler and I had to hear him. You can definitely hear the Albert in his playing but Howard has his own thing. The line up on this 1969 release includes Juma on conga, you might remember him from Hendrix's appearance at Woodstock. At one point, Juma let loose some of the rehearsal tapes for that concert and they are out in the world if anyone seeks to search. This is the only Noah Howard record I have and sure would like to hear the one that preceded Black Ark, At Judson Hall. I will get on that.

I am sure you Fanatics remember the times we have listened to the mighty band Sleep, one of the best bands, ever. Their album Dopesmoker is a masterpiece. As you probably also know, the band has re-formed for some shows this year. The band was and for the time being, is, Al Cisneros on bass and vocals, Chris Hakius on drums and Matt Pike on guitar. The band broke up years ago, splitting into two very powerful parts. Matt went on to form High On Fire, Al and Chris formed OM. Both bands are excellent.

OM's second album, Conference Of The Birds has one song per side, tonight, we listen to "At Giza." Al wrote me the other day and told me that the band is gearing up to record again. We look forward to that, of course.

We finish the night with a track that really put a hook in me many years ago. It is from one of America's most amazing bluesmen, Robert Pete Williams. Not that you need my opinion on anything but I recommend you get ALL of his records. Not a bad one in the bunch. He's like Mississippi Fred McDowell in that way. Anyway, Robert Pete Williams, what a player, what a story. This saves us a little time: Nice discography here: I first heard tonight's track in 1986 or thereabouts and it knocked me out. Somewhere in the eighties, I started getting Blues albums as best I could with my meager earnings and I am glad I did as many of them are damn hard to find now. Thankfully, many have been re-issued. Great labels like Arhoolie and Takoma have come to the rescue and put their catalogs back into print.

SO, Fanatics, there you have it! Next week's show is nothing like this one. We will go bouncing all over the world and I will have some interesting news to lay on you. All you need to do now is let it happen. Hop in the pan, let it melt on you and STAY FANATIC!!! --Henry

E-Mail address for Henry:

The Playlist:


01. WhiteBuzz - Pentaprisma / Book Of Whyte

02. The Velvet Underground - Sister Ray / White Light/White Heat

03. Fela Ransome Kuti - Swegbe And Pako / Open & Close

04. Noah Howard - Mount Fuji / Black Ark

05. Om - At Giza / Conference Of The Birds

06. Robert Pete Williams - Talkin' Blues / Blues Masters

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