[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 trips to Buthan and Vietnam, his visit to a medical center that treats Agent Orange victims and their children, plus the awesomely annotated playlist for his KCRW BROADCAST #83 for tomorrow, Saturday 10-2-10. For more details please visit KCRW.com and HenryRollins.com]
I am in a hotel room in Hanoi, Vietnam, or Ha Noi, Viet Nam as it called here. I am in the relative cool of the early afternoon, having spent the top half of the day outside, perspiring freely. I am listening to Funkadelic's "Hardcore Jollies", a masterpiece of raw greatness.
The last time I checked in with you, I was on my way to Bhutan. I spent a few days there and while beautiful, it was slow moving and a bit too peaceful to keep the roaring monsters of my mind at bay. I asked if there was a crematorium in Thimphu, where I was staying and was told that indeed, there was. I went there in the late morning and asked if it would be permissible for me to attend a cremation. I was told that wouldn't be a problem if I was discreet. I was told that there was to be at least two bodies cremated that afternoon.
I returned later in the day to see that four wrapped bodies had been prepared for cremation.
I sat at a respectable distance and watched as relatives for the four departed arrived. After that, several monks arrived. They went into a small building. A PA system was turned on and for the next two hours, the monks prayed for the dead. It was one of the most powerful things I have ever heard. The intensity never wavered, no breaks were taken. The haunting sounds of the horns and the voices only seemed to pick up momentum as the minutes passed. It is a relentless and churning sound they make. They believe that the souls of the dead are lost and need to be called back. If any sound could do it, that was the one.
At one point, four young monks walked past me with wooden torches and lit the wood underneath the bodies:
After several minutes, I walked closer to the pyres to take a look. I noticed that the color of smoke had changed. I went to furthest pyre to the right and watched. I became aware of a hissing sound. My guide, Younten told me that was the sound of the body burning. He pointed to the second body from the left and told me that was where his father had been cremated a couple of years before. I stayed until dark. The fires were still going strong.
This is my second visit to Viet Nam.
I was in Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City as it is called now, in 2008. Given America's history with this country and the mythology that conflict has acquired over the years, I have always been curious about the country. After I left the first time, I knew I would be coming back. For the last two days, I have been going to many museums, learning a lot about the enormity of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which as you know, wasn't a single trail but a series of roads and tunnels that went all over the country to run supplies and soldiers to the North Vietnamese war effort.
You also know that America dropped millions of tons of ordnance and chemicals on this country. What you might not be aware of is that decades later, the effects of defoliants dropped on Vietnam, falling under the catch-all term Agent Orange, are still doing harm. Now the grandchildren of the people who first came into contact with these toxic substances are "bearing the burdens of war," if you will.
I asked around and was told that there was a center, The Viet Nam Friendship Village, that looks after people suffering the effects of dioxin contamination. The establishment was founded by an American Vietnamese veteran, George Mizo in 1988. He passed away in 2002. I set up a visit and a few hours ago, I went. I met with the center's director. Through a translator, we talked about what they do at the village and the toxic legacy of America's time spent here.
I then went to visit some of the children and veterans. I was taken to several classrooms and met lots of kids, many of whom were permanently affected from what they had inherited from their parents. I was happy and completely impressed to meet young people from Europe and America where were there as volunteers, helping with the kids.
I spent quite a bit of time with a small group of male veterans from the conflict. Through a translator and a map, they showed me where they had fought. All of them had children affected. From stillborn children to ones deformed, brain damaged, they all had heartbreaking stories of what this war means all these years later.
Understand that the children I met were the grandchildren of the men and women who made the initial contact with the defoliants. This is the third generation.
What a day. What an understatement.
I will be here for a couple more days but I doubt I will have any experience as moving as the one I had today. I have a lot to think about, that's for sure.
Last week, I told you that this weekend's radio show was going to be done from the overwhelmingly energized streets of Ha Noi and last night, I went out into the cool moistness and while choking on the exhaust fumes of a million motorbikes, I did the show.
It was all sent into Engineer X, who has adroitly assembled music and voice for unleashment Saturday night. It's a tremendous mix of music interspersed with the roar of one of the loudest cities anywhere. Details can be found below.
Next week, I will write you from Washington DC.
DON'T MISS SATURDAY NIGHTS ON THA K, KCRW FM 89.9
6-8 PM - HENRY ROLLINS, ENGINEER X, WILL BENTLEY
8-10 PM - JAMMIN' LIZA RICHARDSON
10-MIDNIGHT - MARIO 'MIRACLE MAN' COTTO
KCRW BROADCAST #83
Fanatics! Tonight a whole lotta noise and a whole lotta good music. As I warned you last week, we were going to do the show from the turned-up-really-loud streets of Ha Noi, Viet Nam. The work was done and I think it came out pretty well. I easily destroyed several million brain cells, hanging out in the cloud of motorbike exhaust to get the broadcast done but it was worth it.
If you have been checking out this now with almost any degree of frequency, you will recognize several of tonight's artists. The Blues Boy Rawlins track is early in our show tonight, what a great song. I have seen this album, "I Got A Woman Shining My Shoe", only twice. The one I have and the one I bought for Dave Alvin because he asked me to get it for him if I ever saw it again. That acquisition was made over twenty years ago, so I don't know how easily one procures a copy of their own.
I figure that since we had been hammering on the conceptual for the last two weeks, it was time to loosen things up a bit and let the mix move us. Thank you for your kind letters from last week's Blue Note effort. One of my favorite tracks of tonight's show is the Johnny Hartman version of Nature Boy. What a song, what a singer. I think Hartman snaps his fingers all the way through the song. One of my favorite Coltrane albums, "Quartet Plays" covers this tune as well, that is likely the reference the great Mr. Hartman was making by putting this on his For Trane album. I think one of the best things either of them did was their collaboration on the Billy Strayhorn classic, "Lush Life." One of the best lyrics ever, perfectly captured by Hartman's deep, sweeping tone.
Next week, you will want to make sure your radio is on for our show, which will be live, one of the only times this year. I will be returning from about fifty-one weeks of tour and travel. I will admit to a little weariness but overall, I am feeling pretty good. Definitely looking forward to being with you, Engineer X and Will Bentley for the rest of the month as we will be live, ruining KCRW's reputation for FM excellence as best as we know how.
Next week, Fanatics, we will get into a little of that new Grinderman album. A much played record for many of you at this point but I have not even heard it yet. I will listen as soon as I walk in the door on Sunday, make a decision as to which track to spring on you and go from there. Perhaps we will have to investigate the re-release of the Bowie masterpiece, "Station To Station" as well. Today on the treadmill, I came up with some song ideas for next week. I will start working on the show on the way back from here. It's going to be one of those days that never ends. Due to unfortunate circumstances, I will be flying from here to Seoul into a seven hour lay over, onto Tokyo, change planes and then to LAX where I bet I will be asked many questions as to why I went here and there. I get it almost every single time at that airport. I always answer every question with a smile on my face.
Tonight is the night for music! ROCK THE JAM SESSION and STAY FANATIC!!! --Henry
E-Mail address for Henry: Henryontheradio@gmail.com
01. Thin Lizzy - Jailbreak / Peel Sessions
02. Roky Erickson & The Aliens - Click Your Fingers Applauding The Play / The Evil One
03. Blues Boy Rawlins - Going Back To Alabama / I Got A Woman Shining My Shoe
04. MC5 - The American Ruse / Back In The USA
05. David Bowie - Suffragette City / Ziggy Stardust
06. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Jangling Jack / Let Love In
07. Johnny Hartman - Nature Boy / For Trane
08. Dinosaur Jr - Whenever You're Ready / Farm
09. The Buzzcocks - Ever Fallen In Love / Love Bites
10. Jaguar Love - Freak Out / Hologram Jams
11. Past Lives - Don't Let The Ashes Fill Your Eyes / Tapestry Of Webs
12. Bobby Byrd - I Know You Got Soul / Bobby Byrd Got Soul: The Best Of
13. Alan Vega - Magdalena '83 / Collision Drive
14. Sam Cooke - Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen / Sam Cooke's Night Beat
15. Electric Wizard - Vinium Sabbathi / Dopethrone
16. Tunji Oyelana - Omoba D'Eru Ri / Nigeria Rock Special
17. Crystal Castles - Alice Practice / Crystal Castles
18. Sun Ra - The Shadow World / Media Dreams
19. 2nd Layer - Japanese Headset / World of Rubber
20. Minutemen - Joy / Joy
21. Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba - Banani / Segu Blue
22. The Shangri-Las - Dressed In Black / Myrmidons Of Melodrama
23. Boozoo Chavis - Goin' To The Zydeco / Hey Do Right! Blues
24. Zia - Helelyos / Pomegranates
25. The Firesign Theatre - Sleep / . . . Dear Friends
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26. Generation X - Shakin' All Over / Valley Of The Dolls
27. Dara Puspita - Rantiku / 1966-1968
28. Dee Dee Ramone - Hop Around / Hop Around
29. The Dangermen - We Are The Dangermen / Summer Of Danger