Black Flag, when led by the captivating figure that is Henry Rollins, put on live show’s that were incomparable with anything that anybody else was doing at that time. The ferocious swirling energy filling up each and every room they visited from the first note until they left the stage with sweat dripping off every part of their body.
Rollins remains Black Flag’s longest-serving vocalist, having joined the band in 1981 before their eventual first-break up in 1986, the singer was plucked from being a 20-year old fan to becoming the uncompromising frontman. It’s a true tale for the ages and this opportunity was one that he didn’t waste.
Following his addition into the group, Black Flag went from strength to strength and built up an international fanbase. Their following may well have been small but they were met with adoration from their cult fanbase in every city they visited. Here, we revisit iconic footage of the hardcore icons performing ‘Rat’s Eyes’ from Slip It In at Bierkeller in Leeds and it is a clip that encapsulates the united spirit that the hardcore punk movement is supposed to champion.
The footage sees Rollins wearing just a pair of boxer shorts in a captivating performance which was a far cry from the pop music of the day, a sign that this band was truly operating within its own lane. A contentious point occurred towards the end of the song, however, when an audience member decides to give Rollins his two cents about his displeasure towards the performance with the vocalist reacting in the most perfect fashion imaginable which puts the ‘fan’ firmly back in his place.
Rollins stood his ground and poetically embarrassed the so-called fan with the following scathing remark: “Is that it? You know what, as much fun as you two guys make of us and everything you still don’t make me feel bad about myself. I still feel alright, there ain’t nothing wrong with me. You make fun of me then you’re just making fun of you and that’s okay.”
This message of positivity and it being okay to be different is everything that Black Flag stood for. For the other fans in attendance that night, witnessing Rollins rise above the hate that was sent his way in the most mature manner possible must have been a life-affirming moment.
Check out the performance of ‘Rat’s Eyes’ and Rollins’ equally awesome putdown, below.