Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Rollins and the Ruination

Recently I came across this 2001 interview with Jack Grisham of the original TSOL in which he touts Black Flag as a great band but at the same time clarifies that only “pre-Henry” Flag was any good. “Early Black Flag -- I f***in' loved 'em,” he says, “I think Henry [Rollins] ruined 'em.” I have encountered this sentiment elsewhere, and it puzzles me.

What, exactly, did Rollins do wrong? Grisham offers no explanation except that the Keith Morris Flag was his Flag. He “f***in’ loved ‘em” and that’s that. Perhaps he's simply confusing Rollins's Black Flag tenure with the later machismo-core of the Rollins Band. I don't know.

I saw Black Flag in the more experimental Kira-era, and they certainly delivered the goods. Besides, Greg Ginn himself tapped Rollins to replace Dez, didn't he? Plucking Rollins from the D.C. scene wasn’t the act of some mersh-minded manager cobbling together a radio-friendly supergroup. And Dez's throat was hurting.

So, Grisham should cut Rollins some slack. Damaged, My War, and Slip It In are amazing albums, despite Flag’s less-than-impressive later releases. The hair-waving duo of Rollins and Ginn was pure rock chemistry onstage. Mixed with Dukowski's neck-snapping bass presence and Dez's deceptively aggro hippy style, the Rollins five-piece phase captured on Damaged is anything but a ruination of the band. More like a fulfillment.

Maybe Grisham is just sensitive about what happened to his own band. After releasing the brilliant Beneath the Shadows, TSOL dumped him—or he bolted—so that they could eventually become a hair band. So, Grisham knows firsthand what it’s like to be the original and better lead singer in a band, but that’s no reason for him to project the “TSOL tragedy” onto Rollins.

3 comments:

Henry said...

Personally, the Beatles were ruined when Ringo entered the band. The Pete Best Beatles is the only group for me...This is a silly argument, can't forget Bill Stevenson too, who ruled. Seems like having a contrarian opinion for the sake of it.

mrowster said...

When I'm feeling kind, I like to think all them lame anti-Rollins types out there were turned off by the absolute MASSIVENESS of his presence. Henry was right there in your face all the time talking yelling screaming - he'd never fade away and you couldn't ignore him no matter how hard you tried. Which was the fucking point! And a big point that point was. Only Keith rivaled Rollins for that kinda presence - but Keith bailed real early. Ron Reyes is loved cause he was the most trad HC and Darby-like; in retrospect, he was the weakest imo. Dez was totally singular, but pretty limited vocal-wise. Dezo couldn't've pulled off amazing performances like "My War" or "Slip It In" or even "Now She's Black". No: BLACK FLAG needed Rollins like Taxi Driver needed De Niro.

Hey! I've just added you to my blogroll. Thanks - keep the good posts coming.

Damon said...

Plan to. Thanks!

And yes, I had no intention of excluding Bill Stevenson. Poor drummers; they (we) always get overlooked.

Of course, from the "Rollins era" came a non-Rollins gem: The Process of Weeding Out. Really a milestone in punk rock: punk as noise as free jazz.