Black Flag, when led by the captivating figure that is Henry Rollins, earned a reputation for putting on a live show that was incomparable with any of their contemporaries. 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 and transformed into the uncompromising frontman. It’s a true tale for the ages and the 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.
Since his departure from the group, Rollins has gone on to tear it up with the Rollins Band and has become an icon of hardcore music. The life-changing moment that saw the musician get his big break occurred when he was offered a partial audition for the role as frontman in his favourite band at Tu Casa Studio in New York City. Eventually, Black Flag then asked Rollins to become the new face and vocals of the group after the former regional manager for an ice cream shop quit his day job in an instant.
It was a crossroads moment for Rollins, “I looked at the ice cream scoop in my hand, my chocolate bespattered apron, and my future in the world of minimum-wage work,” he said. “Or I could go up to New York and audition for this crazy band who is my favourite.” He didn’t care that the opportunity provided a chance of humiliation in front of his favourite band because “meh, I was used to it.”
His career is a truly astonishing ride and the longevity his musical progression has had has seen Rollins defy all odds, grabbing every opportunity with both hands and fast becoming the poster boy for rebellion. The reason that he has had such a long-lasting career is not down to luck, it was almost destiny that Rollins became the frontman of Black Flag and one of the greatest punk frontman of all time in the process.
Rollins is also a man of exquisite taste, one which has helped him have a prolonged period at the top of the alternative music mountain and, earlier this year, he offered a list of his favourite ten records of all time to Goldmine and, unsurprisingly, it is an utterly phenomenal collection.
No list of favourite albums would be complete without Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced? which Rollins waxed lyrical about, “As a player, an innovator and young badass, Mr. Hendrix states his case rather well on this album,” Rollins said. “I identify heavily with the alienation in the lyrics. It’s the first thing that I noticed about his songs.”
Another album which Rollins holds in the highest regard is The Doors’ classic record Strange Days, an effort which arrived as a life-changing moment for the former Black Flag man and helped him fall in love with music. “I had the Doors’ first album when it came out, heisted from my mother, and liked it,” Rollins recalled. “As a young adult, I connected with Strange Days and it made me want to work harder on lyrics, knowing what could be achieved from having listened to Strange Days a lot.
Black Sabbath’s pioneering third album Master of Reality is another record which holds a special place in Rollins’ heart and he had nothing but praise to say about the album: “Bill Ward and Geezer Butler are one of the greatest, if not undermentioned, rhythm sections in rock. This album not only has Tony Iommi capturing one of the greatest tones ever committed to tape, but Ward and Butler swinging as hard as they’re crushing it. This is a perfectly balanced bit of playing. This is the record I evaluate other rhythm sections by.”
There was an intangible aspect to The Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat which lured Rollins into their world and praise doesn’t really get any higher than his assessment. “The first album is, of course, fantastic but it was the band’s second album that really grabbed me,” Rollins added. “There was an intensity about it that I had never experienced before. It’s as good as a record gets.”
See the full list, below.
Henry Rollins’ 10 Favourite Albums:
- Isaac Hayes — Hot Buttered Soul
- Miriam Makeba — Miriam Makeba
- Various Artists — Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical (The Original Broadway Cast Recording)
- Ted Nugent — Ted Nugent
- The Stooges — Fun House
- The Velvet Underground — White Light/White Heat
- Jimi Hendrix — Are You Experienced
- The Doors — Strange Days
- The Birthday Party — Prayers On Fire
- Black Sabbath — Master Of Reality