Henry Rollins - Get in the Van [book] (Cover Artwork)

Henry Rollins

Henry Rollins: Get in the Van [book]Get in the Van [book] (1994)

Reviewer Rating: 3.5
User Rating:

Contributed by: nedsammynedsammy
(others by this writer | submit your own)

It's a tough job. But someone's gotta do it. Henry Rollins is, of course, the spoken-word performer, writer, fourth frontman of Black Flag, frontman of his own band (the obviously named Henry Rollins Band) and possibly the most controvertial firgure in punk history. He's been criticized as extrem.
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It's a tough job. But someone's gotta do it.

Henry Rollins is, of course, the spoken-word performer, writer, fourth frontman of Black Flag, frontman of his own band (the obviously named Henry Rollins Band) and possibly the most controvertial firgure in punk history. He's been criticized as extreme left, consrvative, whiny, unfunny and more, but he has a lot of fans which he completely dedicates himself to, and I mean completely: The man is almost always working on something.

Now, another tough job. From 1981 to 1986 Henry fronted Black Flag, the constantly touring pioneers of hardcore and key force in alternative rock (I mean in the Dinosaur Jr. way, not the My Chemical Romance way), and he kept a journal and notes throughout. So what we have here is the history of Black Flag, 1981-1986, now with added Rollins!

The book gets off to a good start: There's a dedications bit (most notably to Joe Cole, Rollins' best friend who advised him to write the book) and then an introduction of his life in the Washington, D.C. hardcore scene. Him and his good friend Ian MacKaye, future Minor Threat and Fugazi frontman, were taking in bands like Black Flag, the Damned and Bad Brains and through an amazing twist of fate Rollins is induced into the former. A quick move to Hermosa Beach and he's full-time frontman.

This first part, made up of memories interpreted in '94, is the best part. Not only does it show us what some believe is the golden age of Black Flag, it is fat-free and full of great anecdotes, like him and the legendary roadie, Mugger, eating Jello Biafra's food in a restaurant ("he didn't seem to mind at all.")

At first, when the horror sets in, it's shocking: The descriptions of Mohawked, pea-brained punk rockers spitting on them and Gene October, of all people, taking the piss out of them on their tour of the UK is compellingly horrible, and the situation seems to get worse as poverty begins to mean no food rather than simply little money. Also, much violence and aggresion is often caused by the Flag's oldest enemy, the police (or as Rollins calls them almost without fail, "the pigs").

This all makes for a great read until it switches from prose to journal, the journal made by the younger, highly volatile, fragile and depressed Rollins of the '80s. Some of it can be funny, or as cool as ever (the Minutemen's D. Boon shouting "FANATICS!!" at skinheads), but much of it gets repetitive. The formula for a bad show seems to be: went to the show; got spat at; people wanted shit from Damaged; the cops closed it down; and someone else ripped us off. For a good show: went to the show; got spat at; had a little fun with the audience; the cops didn't give us much trouble; met a couple of cool guys, but couldn't really connect with them that much.

Of course, the formula isn't always applied. The book can be less disturbing, or it can be much more. The journal gives coverage of the shed days, when the writer almost went insane. Some of what he scrawled during those days is disturbingly true, some of it just disturbing, and much of it I'm sure even "Hank" no longer understands. Perhaps the tough job I was talking about was actually "reading the book." It's often actively unenjoyable, but once these sections are over and done, he'll surprise you with a great laugh, a bit of cruelty, or a genuinely shocking story. Even as a young man, Rollins was an excellent writer, and he usually delivers well, right up until the end, which is the break-up of the band.

The book also has numerous photographs from Glen E. Friedman, among others, and Raymond Pettibond's deliciously nasty posters and artwork for the band.

All in all, the front half is a healthy five stars, the end about two and a half, and despite its weak patches this is well worth picking up.


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
nedsammy (June 23, 2010)

and to be honest, in retrospect i should've rated it higher.

nedsammy (June 23, 2010)

nice to see the review's getting a good reaction. sorry about the slightly patchy writing (should've edited more) and i forgot to mention, the man's an actor too.

goodna (June 23, 2010)


xIxKilledxJesusx (June 23, 2010)

Joe Cole? The soccer player?

FudgePakistan (June 22, 2010)

this book definitely had a big influence on me. its just the idea that someone can go out and take such risks and get fucked over and be depressed, but still have fun at the same time and have so many different experiences. It always made me feel guilty that I don't do enough with my life.

jacknife737 (June 22, 2010)

Have a copy of this on my bookshelf for a while now: will try and read it by the end of the summer: only issue is that i've got a pile of books as tall as i am to read as well.

misterspike (June 22, 2010)

This book is Mandatory reading. I got this when I was graduating from UF and stuck making a difficult decision about staying in
FL or leaving the country for a new job. After reading it, my decision was made. Seeing someone that was my age (I was 23
at the time), be able to go out with no safety net was very inspirational. I was able to meet Henry after a show a few years ago
and got him to sign my dogeared, worn-out first edition copy. I think I smiled for a week after.

Great B/W photography as well. The old flyers and concert shots are amazing.

MrIndecisive (June 22, 2010)

Fucking love this book. Shows that the touring life isn't all its cracked up to be

punk_sk (June 22, 2010)

This review makes me want to tear paper up.

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