[The one and only Henry Rollins contributes 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 week 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 musings on his guilty pleasure listening (including shameless confessions about his Duran Duran and Men At Work singles!). And come back for the awesomely annotated playlist for his KCRW BROADCAST. For more details please visit KCRW.com and HenryRollins.com
Shameless: Guilty Pleasure Listening
It wasn't until I started listening to punk rock that it ever occurred to me that I couldn't listen to other kinds of music without having to defend my choices or having to have to conceal them without fear of judgment.
The day after I first saw the Clash, Feb. 18, 1979, many of the records I had played incessantly while growing up seemed suddenly inessential and somehow the enemy. I didn't think twice about saying goodbye to many of these records. Things had changed and I was moving on.
Being raised with a mother who listened to all kinds of music, I had room for tunes that would fall outside of the chalked lines of acceptable purity, but all that went to the wayside for several months as my listening choices became embarrassingly narrowed.
This wasn't the case with all of us in our small circle, thankfully. While pretending to disdain records played at people's houses when we were hanging out, I found the Velvet Underground, Eno and David Bowie much to my liking. It would be a few years before I had any of those records in my meager collection.
I remember there were a few albums that were outside of the punk rock genre that we were listening to, criticism be damned. Two of them were AC/DC's Back in Black and Motörhead's Ace of Spades. They were not punk, but we dug them anyway, and none of us had the interest to discuss what might be a violation of some imaginary code of ethics. As time went on, I was to discover that with some people, there were definite boundaries that, if crossed, harshly would you be judged.
In 1981, I joined Black Flag and was turned on to many bands that I had not listened to all that closely or carefully. The Stooges and the MC5 were two that ranked high on our band's appreciation list. I fell in love with those albums immediately. Probably much to the dismay of some of our fans, we also checked out a lot of Black Oak Arkansas, ZZ Top and Ted Nugent.
Speaking of ZZ Top, the great bluesmen of Texas: In 1983, we were enduring a night in a squat in Switzerland. One of my bandmates put a ZZ Top tape in the communal boom box. The punkers went into panic mode. It got even worse when we were able to convince one guy it was the new Exploited album. He started crying. It was one of the best moments of the entire tour.
Around 1984, my perimeter of musical appreciation took a massive expansion, thanks to people like Byron Coley, Joe Carducci and Deirdre O'Donoghue and her show SNAP on KCRW 89.9 FM. I found there was a major problem: Namely, there wasn't enough time to take in all the great stuff out there.
Not all of my interests in diverse music sat well with my bandmates, some of whom seemed very stuck in their listening habits; new sounds seemed to alienate them.
This is when I became the guy in the band who made the others raise their eyebrows when they heard what I was listening to bleed from the cheapest and worst-sounding mini-headphones that came with the small Aiwa personal cassette player I had somehow been able to acquire. My great affection for some of these albums perhaps would have garnered a thrashing from some of our heartbroken fans when they found out that I was totally unable to stop playing Madonna's Like a Virgin album and that the logical next choice would be the Birthday Party's Bad Seed EP.
There was no guilty-pleasure aspect to any of these listening choices. I just listened to what I wanted to hear. In those days, we ate at Waffle House fairly frequently. Not the healthiest fare, but they were always open and you could see their sign from the highway.
They always had a jukebox. I would load a fair percentage of my small per diem into it and let the fun begin. Out came Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, along with perhaps more palatable choices like Gladys Knight and the O'Jays. It was all music to my ears.
I got used to the looks I would get at record stores when I would get recognized and the person would see me with The Best of Kansas in my hands along with a Blind Lemon Jefferson album.
With the advent of CDs, that Best of Kansas was one of the first purchases I made, along with some Madonna albums. I started getting pointed questions tossed at me from interviewers about my “guilty pleasure” listening. So, I would lay the titles on them and watch them bum out.
I don't feel guilty about a damn thing I listen to, and those new Boston remasters are so rockin' I can't stand it! Sometimes it is these records that hit the spot like no other, which, it seems to me, is one of the great things about music.
Take that rag off my face and stop pouring water on me! Yes, I bought a Duran Duran single in 1983 — the same day I bought a Culture Club single. I still have my Men at Work “Down Under” single and a compilation tape I made later that year that has tracks by ABC. I have all the remix singles from the first SNAP album. I got the “In My House” single by the Mary Jane Girls! I bought the Nena album on vinyl and prefer the German version, “99 Luftballons”!
Floss your teeth, brush, rinse and BITE ME!
And to any of you who have a few records that you play for whatever reason but would rather not have anyone know your terrible secret: I beg you to shrug off your burden, vanquish your secrecy, and let it rip!