Henry Rollins!

Henry Rollins: Jim Crow America

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Thu, May 29, 2014 at 3:45 AM
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[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 Sunday KCRW broadcast.]

Right now, I am in Big Rapids, Michigan. Before I got here, I had no idea there was such a place. I have been here for a few days now, filming for the show 10 Things You Don't Know About. We have been tasked with early call times, long drives and, thankfully, interesting work.

When I first started visiting Michigan in the early 1980s, I was always taken by how wide open some parts were. I associate the state with The Stooges, MC5 and Ted Nugent. Before shows, I would walk around and try to imagine what they were seeing and feeling when they were writing their music.

In Detroit, I would see stores with bulletproof glass, abandoned buildings and very tough people. I figured this hard urban environment, as well as the emptier spaces, afforded these musicians a lot to draw upon. Not to mention the time and boredom to gather the immense power found on their records. The MC5 were an in-your-face wake-up blast, the first few Nugent albums - post - The Amboy Dukes - are excellent rock albums, and The Stooges did their thing and threw the world away song after song.

When we arrived in Detroit two days ago, I walked around the hotel on almost empty streets and thought of The Stooges' ode to the massive expanse/sucking maw of the great big nothing, "1969." If you have not heard it, you should check it out. In a little over four minutes, they lay out the blueprint for punk rock.

As the sun set on almost zero traffic and one abandoned building after another, I saw at least two venues where I had done shows in decades before. I smelled pot. Ahead of me were four young guys crammed into a parked car, smoking out. Further up the block, three police cars. A few bars were open and one or two restaurants, but past that, as "1969" goes, "It's another year for me and you/Another year with nothing to do."

The air was cooling as I walked along a very wide street, free of traffic. On either side, the buildings were unoccupied. The size of everything, along with the almost total quiet, was like being on a film set.

I saw someone on a bicycle coming toward me. He stopped. "Henry?!" We both agreed that it was probably a strange meeting, which made it all the more memorable and strange.

For the most part, I love America in the summer. The heat makes hours stretch and mutate. Music sounds better and life compels one to live with more urgency.

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