The vibrating intensity of Henry Rollins and the free-spirited love-in that followed The Beatles around aren’t exactly the perfect bedfellows. The two artists had very different ethos, but, like the rest of the world, Rollins would be remiss if he didn’t confess to the Fab Four being the overarching influences on his career and offering him a safe space to avoid a childhood of being beaten up.
A noted lover and sharer of music, the Black Flag frontman and all-around punk archetype, Rollins has never been afraid to offer his opinion on the music that made him. Across a host of different features, the singer has shared notable inspirations and vinyl recommendations. Usually, these suggestions are easily traceable to his fire-breathing brand of punk rock, acts like Black Sabbath and Joy Division, who both brood with a bellowing heartbeat. But, The Beatles aren’t exactly the band you’d imagine Rollins rocking out to.
However, just like the rest of us, when Rollins first heard The Beatles, it completely changed his life. While the singer is from a generation who had always known the band, thanks to his mother, he was just as heavily influenced by the band as his rock and roll elders.
Speaking to Pitchfork, Rollins elucidated on just how important the Fab Four were and what they meant to him: “I really liked the Beatles because they had gentle voices. They seemed like they’d be friendly people. I swiped my mother’s copy of Yesterday and Today and spirited it away into my room, where I had this record player that folded up.” The album was a US release comprised of songs that would feature on studio albums Rubber Soul and Revolver.
Rollins became fascinated with the album: “I played that record all the time, and it became this electronic babysitter. I’d just listen to one 15-minute side for hours. It didn’t matter that it was the same songs; it just mattered that someone was in the room with me, keeping me company.”
Rollins struggled socially during his childhood. Often bullied and ridiculed, he found solace in the peaceful tones of the biggest band in the world: “My room was where I would go to be lonely and not beaten up, not teased, not made terrified by my fellow classmates. In those days, the racial tension in Washington, D.C., was really, really intense. I was at a school where I was one of the only white kids. I was getting called ‘cracker’ and ‘bama.’ It was just scary. Music became the thing that wasn’t angry and yelling and waving a fist in front of my face.”
There is, of course, a little bit of irony in the final statement, considering Rollins would end up making music akin to the act of shaking a fist angrily. But one thing that has never been a joke for Rollins is the power of music.