Henry Rollins: The Column! Rollins on Being an Angeleno in New York (and Missing Joey Ramone)
[The one and only Henry Rollins contributes a weekly column and far-reaching reportage to the music section of the LA Weekly. Look for your weekly Henry Rollins fix right here on West Coast Sound every Wednesday and make sure to tune in to Henry's KCRW radio show every Saturday evening, or online, or as a podcast, or however else you decided to listen to the most eclectic DJ on LA's airwaves.
This installment includes Henry's recent nostalgic visit to NYC and a very special memory of an encounter with Joey Ramone. And come back Friday for the awesomely annotated playlist for his KCRW BROADCAST. For more details please visit KCRW.com and HenryRollins.com
ps: Henry is currently appearing at Largo with a spoken-word set celebrating his turning 50. Don't miss it.]
This week, I am in freezing New York City for five shows. It's been going great so far. I used to live here in the '90s. I am sure many of you have visited. If you have not, you should. Actually, you'd better. Everyone should. Of all the cities I have ever been to, New York City is the most amazing one I know.
The list of great bands that have come out of this city would exceed my allotted word count. Stories told to me of shows that went down in this city fill me with envy. Hearing Hubert Selby Jr. talk about the times he saw Billie Holiday, Coltrane, Parker and other jazz giants still blows my mind. Just walking around the city has often given music fans quite a jolt as they are casually passed by a major rock legend on his or her way somewhere. This city is all about music and there are countless tales to tell.
Luckily, I have spent enough time here that I have one or two New York music stories of my own. This is my favorite:
I believe the year is 1996. I'm living in a by-the-month hotel on Rivington, right off Bowery. I know the Dictators are playing at CBGB's and there's no way I can miss it.
I hit the street and endure those incredibly cold blasts of wind as I walk the few blocks up to CB's. Louise is at the door and waves me in, which makes me feel like a big deal. (I will never get better validation than that.)
The Dictators are soon to go on, so I stand by stage right and get ready to rock. The Dictators hit the stage and the band's vocalist, "Handsome Dick" Manitoba, looks into the crowd and yells, "H-D-M?" The audience responds, "King-of-Men!" and roars with approval and laughter. Everyone's into it and we're off to a great start.
The band starts playing and, damn, they're absolutely killing it. Their records are cool, but live is where this band shines. I notice someone standing to my right and realize I'm only looking at this person's upper arm. Whoever it is has some considerable height.