Reading this book was a great trip into the nostalgia of being a teenager and an angsty punk rocker. The second edition, which is the one I read, was full of more photos and art by the amazing Raymond Pettibon. The book itself, is the collected journals that Henry Rollins wrote during his time touring with the seminal Los Angeles punk band, Black Flag.
I remember when I first heard Black Flag. I was 14 and I was in a band that didn’t know what the hell we were. The band was called Belligerence. That felt strange. I don’t think that I have ever typed that word before. Anyhow, we were in Dan Caranza’s garage during our practice and he played Slip It In on this little boom box. I couldn’t believe how dirty it was. When I asked him if it was a song about fucking, he told me that it was a song about working in a chewing gum factory and slipping all the pieces of gum into a pack. He had me going for a second. Mike, the guitarist, believed it for much, much longer.
I picked up the Wasted…Again compilation and played it all the time. Over and over and over again. Then, like the freaky collector that I was, I had to pick up everything Black Flag related. That included shirts, posters, CD’s, tapes, VHS, vinyl and even the books written by Henry Rollins.
My tenth grade yearbook photo, I was wearing my turquoise Black Flag My War shirt. My mom asked me not to wear black. I remember in the poetry reading we had to do for my English class, I read a poem from one of Henry’s books. The book was One From None. It was my favorite. I think I still remember the poem…
I want to take a screwdriver,
And mutilate my face,
Find a woman who loves me for who I am.
Then say, “I don’t need it.” And walk away.
I hope that’s it. It’s been awhile since I saw it. I lost the book in high school. I’m sure some girl asked to borrow it and never gave it back to me.
At the end of that school year, a girl that I knew named Jenny, somehow got Henry Rollins’s phone number. She wrote it in giant numbers across two pages of my yearbook. I remember all summer staring at that number and never calling it. What was I going to say? You’re great? You’re amazing? I felt like a douche bag just thinking it.
Get in the Van is good and is bad. The first half of the book is very naive. Henry is so excited to be a part of his favorite band, he looks at the world through rose tinted glasses and you feel so happy for him. It is almost as if, you, the reader, were just asked to join Black Flag.
The rest of the book however, gets dark. Mainly because of the way people at the shows treat Henry. Henry becomes very cynical, isolated and anti-social. The band’s art form; playing music, making records and touring, becomes more of a test of endurance than anything that resembles art.
The negativity through the years and until the end in 1986, is sad. At the same time, the assholes that Henry talks about at the shows picking fights with him and giving him a hard time, are very known to anyone who has spent any time in the punk scene.
If you are a fan of Black Flag, pick this up. If you are fan of Henry Rollins, especially his books, then pick this up. If you know absolutely nothing about the punk scene, punk music or don’t like negativity, this book probably isn’t for you. The tone of this books is very similar to his early books like Black Coffee Blues, Bang, One from None, Art of Choking Hearts.
I have been listening to a lot of Black Flag lately and that is why I actually went back to this book. If you want to hear Rollins with Black Flag, you need to check out the albums, Damaged, My War and Loose Nut. Those are, hands down, epic albums.