Thursday, April 9, 2020

A Henry Rollins experience long before he unleashed 'The Cool Quarantine'

Henry Rollins sifts through his record collection. Photo: Heidi May; Rollins website

By Andy

Let's go back in time and complete a sort-of full-circle experience.

While listening to Henry Rollins' four-hour "The Cool Quarantine" hangout session the last two days on the KCRW site, I was reverted back to February of 1982 when my brother and I first entered the SST Records office on Phelan Avenue in Redondo Beach, CA, and began what I'll dub our "No Quarantine" visits with the Black Flag singer.

Music and stories about the Washington, DC, scene would soon literally bounce off those four walls of the ratty office via Rollins' passion and intensity and keep us coming back for more over the next few months or so.

A few days before that initial visit, brother Ed befriended Rollins, who was standing alone near the back of the Hollywood Palladium during the BYO's Youth Movement '82 Thursday night gig that featured TSOL, Adolescents, Wasted Youth, Social Distortion, Youth Brigade, Blades and AKA.

I remember them chatting for a while and Ed coming back over with a phone number to SST in hand and echoing this energetic message from Rollins, "You gotta listen to the Necros! You gotta listen to the Necros!" The band's recent EP from Dischord/Touch & Go Records was already on our radar, but we now knew that we had to get on board with the Maumee, OH, outfit's tunes post haste.

With Rollins already pointing us in the direction of more crucial music to add to our collection, we figured we would start cracking open the man's vault and get him sharing his experiences paired with tunes when we skateboarded toward SST that first day.


Much like Rollins does on his inaugural installment of "The Cool Quarantine" (which features some DC stories and songs wedged in between tunes and info from all across the music spectrum), he set forth a cavalcade of music knowledge in our direction and possessed heaps of rare tunes that had us shaking our heads in amazement.

When we entered the office, he turned our way, gave a "Hey, what's up, guys?" and we took seats near the desk he was sitting at. After some chatter about the Palladium gig and what Black Flag had on tap, Rollins whipped his chair around and reached into his belongings for a box of cassette tapes emblazoned with the names Bad Brains, SOA, Faith, Void, Youth Brigade, Deadline and much more. The names were written in black marker, but they might as well have been scrawled in heavenly golden ink.

Rollins had us in the palm of his hand as he grinned and plunked one tape after another into now what seemed like a magical music box to our eyes and ears. Live Bad Brains? What the fuck? It went on and on.

Former SST office (bottom corner) on Phelan in Redondo, taken in recent years. (TSHIT photo)

He took the excitement level up even further by vividly describing some of the gigs that took place in DC, all the while shaking his head and swinging his arm when a critical part of a song would arrive. The man's a true entertainer, for sure.

When we saw him let loose with Black Flag on stage, we felt like we were already privy to what was pulsating through his being.

Rollins loaned us a few demo tapes to dub back home and those are still a key part of our collection. He also trusted me with a copy of the "Flex Your Head" DC compilation, and later scolded me for keeping it too long since he wanted to tape it for a friend.

Perhaps he'll dig into some of those cassettes or "Flex Your Head" on a future episode of "The Cool Quarantine." If he does, I'll raise my fist and sing along, just like I did in my bedroom in 1982.

Check out "The Cool Quarantine" at

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