Henry Rollins

A modern-day Mark Twain

But with big muscles where his mustache used to be

*special introductory paragraph!
*Short Walk On A Long Pier
*Big Ugly Mouth
*Human Butt
*Live At McCabe's
*Deep Throat
*The Boxed Life
*In Conversation
*Big Ugly Mouth
*Get In The Van
*Black Coffee Blues
*Think Tank
*Eric The Pilot
*A Rollins In The Wry
*Live At The Westbeth Theater
*Talk Is Cheap Volume 1
*Talk Is Cheap Volume 2
*Talk Is Cheap Volume 3
*Nights Behind The Tree Line
*Talk Is Cheap Volume 4
*Spoken Word Guy 11-03-08 Alexandria, VA
Henry Rollins was a troubled, angst-ridden, confused, angry young man when he toured the world as lead screamy guy for Black Flag. Since that time, he's developed into a surprisingly charismatic, intelligent and hilarious storyteller. Here are a few brief words about his many spoken word releases.

Short Walk On A Long Pier - Quarterstick 1985
Rating = 5

Recorded in 1985, this was Rollins' first spoken-word album, and it shows. He doesn't sound confident at all. It's mostly a mixture of teenagey "I'm in pain" poetry and gross jokes. There are some cool moments though, like the Fly On The Wall story. Now THAT's humor!

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In Conversation - Tabak 1995
Rating = 6

So I bought this 71-minute CD featuring two Henry Rollins press conferences (one for Johnny Mnemonic and one for The Chase) and I thought, "You know what would be nice of me to do? Transcribe both Q&As in their entirety so people won't have to buy the CD." You see, Henry is a perfectly fine interviewee, but how often are you gonna want to listen to a guy answering questions about his career? So I went about my thankless task with cheeks aglow and eyes rosy red.

Unfortunately, Henry talks pretty fast. I did, however, manage to jot down all the questions more or less, so what I'll do is try to imagine how Henry might have answered them, and then we can all save some money, which is important in today's society with oil.

Reporter: Henry, last time I saw you, you were accepting a Grammy for best spoken-word album. How has that changed your life?

Henry: I have a big tattoo of a sun on my back.

Reporter: Some lady saw some old footage of you and couldn't believe how violent it was. Are you becoming a kinder, gentler person?

Henry: (*backfists reporter into swimming pool; laughs, calls him "faggot"*)

Reporter: Can you tell us about your record label?

Henry: Which one? I have three.

Reporter: All three!

Henry: Which three? I have six.

Reporter: How do you do A&R for your companies?

Henry: Anteaters & Railroad Ties? I feed the anteaters every morning and make sure the - AUGH! My muscles got all big!!!

Reporter: What is your criteria for signing artists? Is it about the money or -

Henry: Yes. I don't have a Maserati unfortunately, but I do have eleven computers. Which is nice because I have eleven hands.

Reporter: Why do you like jazz so much?

Henry: The taste.

Reporter: What inspires you about Henry Miller?

Henry: No no, I said "Henry's Killer." I was talking about how good I am.

Reporter: Do you go online?

Henry: If I need to buy something at a store and people are in front of me, I have no choice.

Reporter: What is the future of cyberspace?

Henry: Come on, I'm a singer, not an astronomer.

Reporter: After all these years in the business, how did you manage not to sell out?

Henry: Well, it's a big hall.

Reporter: Can you tell us about "I See Through" from the Johnny Mnemonic soundtrack?

Henry: Can you tell me about "I.P. Freely"? HA HA HA!!!!

Reporter: Is the Rollins Band too big for you to release on your own label?

Henry: At the time I conducted this interview, we in fact were, if you can believe that. These days (2006), I'm lucky if my own label will sign my shitty band.

Reporter: How'd you get this part in Johnny Mnemonic?

Henry: Well, it was originally called Johnny Pneumatic.

Reporter: Do you like acting?

Henry: Does a bear shit in the woods?

Reporter: You wouldn't consider it as another career though?

Henry: Why? Is there good money in shitting in the woods?

Reporter: Can you tell us about your publishing company?

Henry: Yes. It releases every boring word I've ever typed onto a piece of paper.

Reporter: What is your new book about?

Henry: Chances are really, really good it's about how nobody understands me.

Reporter: No further contemplation about the female orgasm then? Can you enlighten us on that topic?

Henry: No, but sources say that if you french kiss me, I'll bite down on your tongue until it bleeds -- then I'll punch you in the face! (again, according to sources)

Reporter: What is the biggest misconception that people have about you?

Henry: That I'm gay.

Reporter: Is that because you've contributed to so many gay publications?

Henry: I don't know! I guess it's just never occurred to me that spending four hours a day pumping iron, going on stage with nothing on but a tiny pair of shorts, and never being seen in public with a woman might somehow be misconstrued as the acts of a "complete fucken pole-smoker."

Reporter: What have you done to try and change these misconceptions?

Henry: Got a tattoo.

Reporter: Do you still love Apocalypse Now?

Henry: Yes, because it's so Shakespearean. Isn't it? It's so Shakespearean that I'd almost swear it was based on a Shakespeare play. I mean, what else COULD it be based on?

Reporter: Can you tell us about working with Keanu Reeves?

Henry: It was tough, man. He was driving this big bus and if the speed went under 55 miles an hour, the whole - AUGH! When did my neck get so thick!?

Reporter: Could you talk about the character you play in Heat?

Henry: I play a cat in heat.

Reporter: You're doing Nixon now too, right?

Henry: Nah, Pat's always around.

Reporter: What was the atmosphere like on the Johnny Mnemonic set?

Henry: Almost non-existent. We filmed most of it on the moon.


Okay, that's the end of the 25-minute Johnny Mnemonic press conference. Now let's move on to the 46-minute The Chase one.

Reporter: You stink.

Henry: (*writes in diary for 45 minutes; releases the pen scribbling noises as a 'written word' CD*)

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Big Ugly Mouth - Quarterstick 1987
Rating = 8

Rrrrrreally, really good stories about people he's encountered in his life. Both thoughtful and funny, this is a grand example of how smart Henry can be when he puts his thinking car on. Beep beep!
Reader Comments

I consider this to be one of Henry's more average spoken word releases. The story about meeting "Peach" on his 25th birthday is a winner, and many of his discourses about the objectification of women are spot-on, but a lot of this is pre-written material that doesn't work as well in a live setting. A recurring theme in these live spoken word pieces is how people should care more about the victimized people in society whom we often take for granted (i.e. women, poor blacks in the ghetto, bums on the street of New York), but the delivery is too general and pedantic to be truly effective. Still a fun listen, but Henry would get better at expressing his true feelings with subsequent releases.

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Sweatbox - Quarterstick 1989
Rating = 7

Sweat Sweatbox's Badassssssssssssssssssssss Album features far too many 'jerkin' off' stories, most of which aren't that interesting. He just sounds like a horny teenager! Some of it's really good though. If it wasn't an impossible eleven feet from me at the moment, I'd look at the track listing and tell you more about it.
Reader Comments

Here, Henry confronts head-on some of the topics that most people just don't talk about. The fact that he talks for nearly 30 minutes about his own masturbation practices is proof enough that he's really starting to bare his soul here, and is able to joke about it without trivializing it into a bunch of dick jokes. Also, he delivers a real shocker in "Blueprints for the Destruction of Earth" by delivering a first-person account of a (hopefully fictional) person who just doesn't give a shit about anything, and wants to fuck up his world anyway he can and kill everyone in his way. It's a neat catharsis, and makes even the most alienated listener shocked with the extent of this person's indiscriminate rampage. The "Running/Crawling" fable doesn't really make it's point, though - relating the story of a struggling cockroach to a homeless bag-lady outside the grocery store - but his honest emotion pulls it through. This release made it clear that Henry was honest, if nothing else.

While this one does have too many masturbatory stories, bringing new meaning to the term "self-indulgent," the rest of the material here is almost of Human Butt-quality. "Blueprints for the Destruction of the Earth" and "Mechanik" (a concept later expanded upon in the book Eye Scream) are especially noteworthy, as is "Late Night Phone Blues". 9 of 10

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Human Butt - Quarterstick 1992
Rating = 9

EXCELLENT spoken word release!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! One of his best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Same mixture of comedy and painful human experience, but he sounds very, very confident with the audience!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Even the masturbation story is funny!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Reader Comments

opeth1213@yahoo.com (Eric D.)
Nice title for this one. This does have some painful human experience stories, a couple of which had me hitting the fast forward the first time I heard it (the police harassment story and yes, the masturbation one). Now that I'm a little older it's not as hard to listen to though. Probably my favorite spoken word album by Rollins, though i like Sweatbox and Big Ugly Mouth pretty much straight through also. 10 of 10 for Rollins' Human Butt.


Henry hits an early peak here. His "Adventures of an Asshole" is the obvious centerpiece, a brilliantly sustained 50-minute story that details an important lesson learned about his violent tendencies. This story is filled with gut-busting humor, the likes of which we hadn't seen before, paired with intense personal pain, guilt, and remorse that can only be properly expressed with the benefit of sober reflection. And it has, as Mark points out, a really funny masturbation story (while he was in the hospital, attached to an IV cart, with a nurse checking on him to see if everything was ok). The rest of this 2 disc set is nearly as good. While his stereotypical take on the banality of "romance" doesn't really offer much of value, the touching story of homeless DC street-guy Paul is truly moving and genuinely funny and entertaining. The title of this piece, "Donate Your Bodies to Science, You Fools!" references a memorable phrase Paul once said to a group of old ladies in an upperclass boutique - and provides one of this disc's funniest moments. Overall, this is as focused and relevant as Henry ever got, and my choice for his best spoken-word release.

johnnyalpha01@yahoo.co.uk (Dan)
Good stories, well told - I don't see him as a comedian. I just see him as a very good talker, possibly one of the best and most endlessly entertaining and storied - just not a joker. But the tale of his first date is priceless! Get this if you want to steal some tall tales to tell to strangers.

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Live At McCabe's - Quarterstick 1990
Rating = 9

Did you know Rollins was molested once as a child? Did you know that he used to beat people up because he was afraid he was impotent? It takes a big man to talk about these things honestly and with humor, and he has done so here. Mark Twain, you'd might as well shove your dick up your fucking ass (except your dick's too small to shove up your fucking ass, fagit!), because Henry Rollins is now the greatest storyteller in the history of the world.
Reader Comments

Be careful with this release - although it's of very high quality material-wise, the sound quality is very annoying. It sounds as if Rollins' mike went straight into the soundboard - and as a result, he's either very quiet or VERY LOUD (about a 90%/10% split) - so you'll find yourself turning the sound up to hear what he's saying, then get blown through the roof by sudden shouting. Not a real pleasant listen. It's a pity, though, because two of these four tracks are of the same high quality as his high-water mark, "Human Butt". "I Wish Someone Had Told Me" and "Misunderstanding" are two very serious tales about personal discovery that tell you a lot about Rollins as a person. I just don't listen to it very often because of the jarring sound problems.

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Deep Throat - Quarterstick 1992
Rating = 8

Dis is a box set containing the last 4 spoken word CDs. As I've already written reams and reams of essays on each of them individually, wouldn't I just be buttering the salt container by saying even more here?

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The Boxed Life - Imago 1993
Rating = 6

Ugh. Henry fancies himself a wacky standup comic on this one, throwing out bad jokes that are much, much less interesting than his slice-of-life stories. It picks up on disc 2 though. And it's funny to hear him trash Bono!
Reader Comments

I wouldn't call this a total misstep - although it tends more towards funny material, there are several key pieces here that rank with the best he's ever done. The "Funny Guy" bit is an absolute classic - in this, Henry muses as to why people laugh at him all the time for no reason (because he looks like a goof, probably), and comes to the realization that he'd rather be funny than happy, because happy people are boring and lame. It's a fun look at his trademark "intense" persona, and he expand this premise into a hilarious look at a fictional movie that contains only "happy people" that nobody goes to see, instead opting for the movie about the paranoid psycho that's playing in the theater down the street. Another great story is the "Strength" bit - it explores the same themes as "Running/Crawling" from Sweatbox, and similarly fails to leave much of a dent moral-wise, but it's damn entertaining hearing him talk about dealing with renegade frogs in science class (a la "Dead Poets Society") and his battles with "Satan Rats" as a guy who cleaned mouse cages for the NIH. And it sure is refreshing to hear him trash Bono and Edie Brickell.

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Get In The Van - Imago 1994
Rating = 8

An audiobook reading of his Black Flag tour diaries. Really interesting stuff if you're a Black Flag fan. Even if you're not, it's an intriguing peek into the ridiculously violent world of American hardcore in the early 80s.
Reader Comments

Hearing Henry reading pre-written material without a live audience had been a hit-and-miss thing in the past, but his journal readings from his days in Black Flag are so cohesive and gut-wrenching that they work on their own. Although his accounts are probably a bit one-sided (i.e. he wrote mainly about his depression and things that pissed him off), that's just what his journal was probably meant to be - an outlet for venting that he wouldn't have otherwise had in Black Flag's inhumanly busy schedule.

This is excellent. It's a diary, so the criticisms of 'Jesus! Change the tone you manic depressive!" don't really work. It's a heavy work, but a great document for us white-boy indie 'rockers' to show how damned easy we have these days. I've had one fight at a show I played ever, with a soundman - well, when I say fight, I mean 'heavy exchange of words'. Good insight to life on the road, well, especially when you're playing 3421 nights out of 3456 and living in a shed.

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Everything - Thirsty Ear 1996
Rating = 7

A serious audiobook reading of some of his old diaries or something, Everything ranges from poetic to funny to prosaic to fluffy. It's not quite as fascinating as the best of his live spoken word stuff, but he does come up with some cool points. We don't really need to hear how much he hates "pigs" for the fifty zillionth time, but whatcha gone do.
Reader Comments

Here, Rollins attempts to be a Hubert Selby, Jr (one of his favorite writers) type of writer, with long beatnik-poetry type discourses on the harshness of life in the city, complete with free jazz background. It's of limited appeal, but if you like Rollins already, you'll like this ok. Not a good introduction to his spoken word releases though, since it really presents Rollins as a commentator on a fictional nightmare world rather than as a real person discussing personal experiences. I'm sure his feelings on the subject are genuine, but the actual mini-tales discussed in the work are obviously fictional and provided for literary purposes only. The jazz backing includes Charles Gayle (sax) and Rashied Ali (drums) - I'm not familiar with Gayle, but Ali was the drummer for Coltrane's late-period ensembles, so it's cool that a jazz legend such as him was able to participate, although the actual music is a bit haphazard and incidental.

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Black Coffee Blues - Thirsty Ear 1997
Rating = 6

Similar to the last one, but not quite as consistent. This one, more diary entries I guess, is weighed down by Roger Waters-level doses of self-pity and narcissism. Who cares if Rollins feels like he can't relate to the people around him? He's not the center of the universe. Cool Charles Gayle free jazz on this one though....

That wasn't an ellipse; I just wanted to make it absolutely clear that I'd reached the end of the sentence.

Reader Comments

Similar to "Everything" but not as focused. As Mark says, it wallows in self-pity and self-love too much. You'd have to really be into Rollins to get much enjoyment out of this one. Again, there's backing music, this time by former Rollins Band guitarist Chris Haskett (who's a really great guitarist, by the way, making this at least a better musical experience than "Everything" was). Unlike "Everything", this release details personal experiences on tour, focusing on different geographical locales across Europe. It's kind of like "Get in the Van" updated for the Rollins Band instead of Black Flag - but the narrative isn't well enough sustained to make for a consistently engaging listen. Plus, it repeats the track "I Know You" from "The Boxed Life" for no apparent reason.

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* Think Tank - Dreamworks 1998 *
Rating = 10

BULLSEYE!!! Barely beats out Human Butt as the most entertaining and thought-provoking Rollins spoken word CD ever. He kicks ass all over this one. Really intelligent and humorous without trailing off into stupid jokes and self-pity. Keep on goin', Bob Hank!
Reader Comments

I saw Rollins on this tour! It was at the University of Georgia. I agree that he seems to have hit a second peak here - he's funny as hell and quick witted and concise. Rollins purposely paced this CD release in a special way - the first half is "faster", with quick jokes and laughs, while the second is more drawn-out and reflective. In either case, he handles both modes of delivery extremely well. My personal favorite part comes in the second half, when he relates a story of how he got so pumped at the beginning of a performance at a festival in Brazil that he smashed his knee into his head so hard it bled profusely - and then he tried to "go with it", foolishly thinking that the Brazilian women would find his animalistic intensity sexy. That and the part where he forgot the lyrics to a new song and spent the majority of the song "rocking out" with the band while the band and the audience thought, "What the hell is he doing?"

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Eric The Pilot - 2.13.61 1999
Rating = 9

The debut episode of a potential TV series entitled Eric, Eric The Pilot was o

Don't get confused or upset by the way the CD cover says "Henry Rollins IN Eric The Pilot." This is not a dramatic work or piece of musical theater. It's simply another one of his great anecdotes -- but one that's so goddem long he figured he'd give it its own CD. Recorded before a live studio audience in Australia during the tenth month of 1997, the hour-long monologue tells of an ill-fated journey through the skies in a single-propeller plane with -- well, I don't want to give away the 'punchline' right away so I'll just put the word "pilot" in quotes and you can wonder what secrets this mysterious grammatical decision might contain -- "pilot" named Eric. And the story is funnin' FUCKY, man.

Henry Rollins on a good night (like this one) is warm, witty and friendly to such a degree that you come away from the CD feeling like you're actually buddies with the guy. Of course, you're not. Nobody is. As much as he sincerely does care about people in need (among other things, he donates a portion of every CD sale to charity), he admits that he's too 'dysfunctional' to carry on normal friendships and relationships. But he sure has the uncanny ability to make you FEEL like he's your pal!

This is a remarkable gift that not many entertainers have. For example, the closest comparison to what he does would probably be a standup comedian, but how often do you come away from a standup comedy act feeling like you've just hung out with a jocular old friend for an hour or two? Even the comedians who rely more on anecdotes and commentary than jokes (ex. David Cross, Bill Hicks) generally sound so pissed off at the world that you don't come away feeling like they care whether you live or die. But Henry, in spite of his depressing poetry and violent rocker persona, treats these spoken word shows as a privilege. He shows nothing but respect towards his audience, constantly expresses his gratitude to them for coming out to support him, and more than earns his paycheck by helping them to smile and laugh at his experiences and foibles for evenings at a time.

Eric The Pilot is separated into six untitled installments that I am now going to name, in hopes that he'll hire me as 'official segment titler' for 47 billion dollars an hour, the fuckin' rich rock star sellout. Fuck you, Jello Biafra!

Part 1: Explaining The Appeal Of Doing 100 Shows A Year, Sharing Anecdotes About Almost-Missed Shows, and Explaining the Mishaps That Led To The Eric The Pilot Experience
Excerpt: "Pilot: 'Uhh sir, uhh... the propeller's leaking oil; I, I gotta check it out. I can't fly a plane that has oil leaking out of it.' Henry: 'What's the matter - you a pussy or somethin', man?'"

Part 2: Meeting Eric And Gawking Nervously At His Shitty Dangerous Little Plane
Excerpt: "I approach the craft. It is a canoe."

Part 3: Flying With Eric (Who Seems To Have No Clue What He's Doing), Running Low On Fuel And Landing In The Middle Of Nowhere
Excerpt: "'Eric, where's Tulsa? I, I don't mean to be a drag, but I need to - I got a show to do, you know?' He goes, 'Uh, you see those lights way over there?' It's like over the crest of the Earth itself. I'm like, 'Yeah. What is that, Asia or something?' He goes, 'I think... I think that's Tulsa.' WOW. He thinks it's Tulsa? He doesn't know exactly that it's Tulsa? He looks down at his control panels, looks back up, looks at me, and says.... 'Uh oh.'"

Part 4: Learning The Truth About Eric And Going To A Convenient Store To Wait For A Ride To Tulsa
Excerpt: "Henry: 'And you're just a big fan of mine, so you rented an airplane? You didn't even register with the FAA? We were up there without anyone knowing?' Eric: 'Yeah. Y'know, but like -- we almost got there in time! Really dig your band, man. You guys are really fuckin' cool.'"

Part 5: Attracting The Attention of Local Police; Fitting The Description Of A Jewelry Store Thief
Excerpt: "When cops come up with that swagger, 'Where do you think you're going?,' you're gonna be fine, 'cuz they're just doing their dick thing. And all you have to do when they're doing their dick thing is act all meek and mild - 'Oh I'm sorry, sir. I was just walking across the street. Did I do anything wrong? I'm really sorry if I did. I hope I didn't do anything wrong.' Just act, you know, like some little Stepin Fetchit and you'll massage their ego, and they'll go "Well, I'm gonna let you go this time. But don't ever try and... go to a store and.... buy food again!'"

Part 6: Holding An Impromptu In-Store Appearance For Local Youth
Excerpt: (re: a recent show supporting Marilyn Manson) "And they're a pretty intense band. Their thing is very theatrical. Lots of lights, lots of smoke, and the make-up and the whole thing - it's very intense. But during the day? On an outdoor stage, where there's wind? Okay. The lights have no effect whatsoever, the strobes are going and you can't see it, and the smoke machine is given to the ways of the wind. So it just looked like a bunch of dead guys having a cookout on stage!"

Part 7: Hiring Mark Prindle As 'Official Segment Titler' For An Infinite Amount Of Dollars Per Hour
Excerpt: "Brapp! Hey, I'm a muscley guy with a tatto."

This is interesting - you know how Windows Media Player recommends 'similar albums' when you play a CD in your computer? Well, I have Eric The Pilot in my player right now and WMP is recommending Rodney Dangerfield's No Respect, Don Rickles' Hey Dummy! and Sam Kinison's Have You Seen Me Lately?. At first glance, this seems natural enough, what with Rollins telling lots of jokes like a comedian and whatnot. But read those three particular recommended titles again - more closely - and tell me somebody at Microsoft isn't having a bit of fun with ol' "One Hit Wonder" Rollins.

Reader Comments

Awesome. I'd give it a 9 too. And goddamn funny. Really funny.

selected quotes:

"i'm the terrified-of-flying guy...trying to hide the convulsive jet of urine that just went down my leg, and whenever this happens there's always this old southern guy sitting next to me, saying, 'Son, I just noticed ya pissed yer pants.' 'No I didn't!' 'It's the turbulence, right?'"

"and they've totally got those haircuts that scream 'I used to fuck my sister but not anymore...'"

"Ok...knowing what I know about bands...if you're in a cover band, there's an automatic switch that goes...Loser! Loser! Loser!"

funny as hell, but the best joke is of course at the end. i can't give it away.

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A Rollins In The Wry - Quarterstick 2001
Rating = 8

Rollins being funny again. Sometimes a little too "funny," with some Neil Hamburger-level Rite Aid/condom jokes that won't have you laughing all the way to any bank. And the fawning "Jesus was crucified for being too cool" bit sounds a little bizarre coming from such an avowed anti-conformist. Otherwise, the worldwise and weary wayfarer is no worse of for the wear, Wally!

What are YOU still doing here? I was talking to my wall, whom I affectionally call 'Wally'! If you ain't a wall, then get the fuck out, asshole!!!!

No no, you don't have to leave. I was talking to your anus.

Here look, I wrote down the stupid "Jesus was crucified for being too cool" bit:

the 14 stations of the cross!

station one: the trial - you're guilty of what? of being too fuckin cool for his time! is what he was too guilty of!

and then the flagellation, they give him a cross, it's a heavy fucker in this desert weather so he's like straining and sweating, it's like fuckin hell! ugh! oh! WHAM! it nails him to the ground. then his friend comes over and what does he do? he doesn't say "look, i got the getaway car! let's get the fuck out of here!" he helps him up. "Here! Get up! Okay, off you go, on your bike."

Pssht! Some friend! Thanks a lot! Fuckin' hell... aaahhh shitty cross...I'm going to my own death! Humiliating!

Then he sees his mom for the last time, and she goes "This is it kid! No more miracles, you know, i don't think. And that water into wine gag was WILD! Remember that shit years ago? back in the day?"

And ha! so he busts her, right? and he goes through a few more stations and he's sweatin, huffin and puffin and all of a sudden some chick comes out of nowhere and goes "whooo whooo whoo whoo" wipes him off in a pit stop, he says "thanks a lot babe, gotta go get crucified"....

And he keeps going, keeps dropping the cross and people are helping him up and he's like "no onwards onwards! to a fucking excruciating painful death." And all the women are crying saying, "Oh no! It's so sad! Boo hoo hoo!" and he goes "Shut the fuck up, baby! Cry for your people, cry for your children, don't cry for me cuz when i'm gone, this place is going to the dogs. Later."

And he gets up and he goes all the way up the hill BAM! They nail his ass to that cross and he dies. And there's another guy at the bottom with a spear, stabbing him and going "how does that feel? Hah? Hah? Hah?" and stabbing him. And to me, that is so synonymous with today's culture. One guy's down and we all gang up and attack 'em.... (he dwells on this point for a while)

Anyway, he gets up and he gets crucified, he comes down, they wrap him up in a sheet, they throw him in a cave, they put the rock in the way, he moves the rock and he busts a move and he ascends into Heaven and he says, "I'm goin' for now - the next time you see me, motherfucker, you better jump!"

Reader Comments

Excess adulation for the self-described "Aging Alternative Icon" has eventually gone to his head a little bit. It's still hard to dislike this material, though, because it's one of the more spontaneous, funny CDs he has yet released. But you know things are getting a little weird when he gushes about Jesus like some college freshman who just took Religion 101. "Jesus Was Way Cool", indeed. Another annoying thing is how he puts other "poets" down for reading pre-written material on stage (and he himself was guilty of this in the past), then proceeds to not only recite some pre-written stuff anyway, but stuff which he already read to us back on "Sweatbox" (and not even a very engaging journal entry, at that). Those two awkward moments aside, overall this CD has several classic bits that are up there with his best material ever: - Reading a letter from his fan "Boris" (not the Melvins song) from the Czech Republic, complete with surreal turns of phrase that could only come from someone with English as a second language... That plus an absolutely brilliant piece called "Maturity" in which Henry really cuts himself down to size via the device of a hypothetical woman who utterly humiliates him after a lame attempt to "pick her up." Definitely a fun release, but Henry's starting to get a little "cute" in his delivery (and is it me, or is he developing a bit of a homosexual lilt to his voice around now?), which isn't a great sign.

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Live At The Westbeth Theater - 2.13.61 2001
Rating = 8

Does anybody out there own a popsicle company where you put riddles on the popsicle sticks? If so, use this one I just made up because it's awesome and kids'll really dig it:

How many legs does a dog have?

Twelve! Two in the front, two in the back, two on each side, and four on the bottom!












Then lift him upside down and THERE'S FOUR MORE!!!!!












Then stand behind him and look at him diagonally from the back right side and THERE'S THREE MORE!!!!!!












Then rip some other dog's legs off and staple them to the first dog's back and THERE'S FOUR MORE!!!!!!!


I realize you'll have to use really big popsicle sticks to get the whole joke on there, but that's fine. Kids today are fat as shit anyway. Quintuple the size of each popsicle and they'll just have slightly bulgier wheelbarrows of stomach flab slopping out over their pants. Actually, fuck the popsicle. Just fry an entire cow, impale it on a pole, and sell it as "Fun Meat Snax." With my riddles and your Yottagrams of unsaturated fat, we can't lose!

This is a double-CD of spoken wordness recorded on December 11, 1999 in New York City, New York. Henry is a laugh a minute this time round, starting by briefly addressing a number of timely topics such as:

Ex-Duchess of York Fergie: "She talks about wanting to devote her life to children 'cuz children are our future, and I said "Hey, maybe she could make children laugh by doing three shows a day at Sea World - jumping out of the water and catching the fish and jumping back in. And helping solve world hunger by skipping two meals and feeding 12,000 misplaced Czechnians, stuff like that!"

A guy from Canada who sued Starbucks because the toilet seat fell on his penis: "What, do you have a 4-foot dick?"

John F. Kennedy Jr. downing his plane and causing the deaths of himself and two women: "I was saddened but I was not surprised, because if you look at the history of the Kennedys, they've been crashing vehicles into water and murdering women for generations."

How Palestinians and Israelis could get along if only they had one important thing in common:
"Israeli: 'Fellows, don't shoot! I've got Road To Ruin!'
Palestinian: 'You guys are into The Ramones?'
Israeli: 'Well, YEAH!'
Palestinian: 'Fuck, we were about to shoot the shit out of you guys!'
Israeli: 'Come on, they're ALL into the Ramones! Whoo-hoo!'
By that evening, the hibachis are going and...."

After 22 minutes of such, he moves on to a hilarious 44-minute tale about going to a Ratt reunion concert:

"And they were HUGE for a minute. They put out their album that had the hit 'Round And Round': (sings) Round and round/What goes around comes around/I'LL TELL YOU WHY!!! which had the perfect mix of like puss and macho in it. You know, a little melodic and then I'LL TELL YOU WHY!!!! OOOOOHHHHH!!!"

"The guitar player is basically waiting for every lead so he can show you that he can move his fingers at the speed of light. And you remember those guys from the '80s - the dealers of the cheesy yet tasty licks, who would go 'WIDDLAWIDDLOWIDDLAWIDDLOWIDDLYWHEEOOOOOOOAAAAA!' And they would make this face where they would try and say, 'I am so insane! My hands are lethal weapons on the guitar, and they are so out of control, I don't even know what's gonna happen next!' And then they'd hit the whammy pedal and try and crunch their ass cheeks together so hard, and they'd give you that 'O' face - 'WIDDLYWIDDLY - OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!'"

"And every once in a while he takes the mic stand, like y'know, "I wanna hear from YOU now!" And when you do that in a club this size, the mic goes to like... the doorman."

Then you ramble on to Disc B where he starts with an uproarious story about having to play after Sheryl Crow at a festival show: "I know what we're gonna do! OOOOO - REAL ROCK POWER! There'll be nothing left. It'll be like Godzilla stepping on a cupcake. You're outta here! You're dead! YOU'RE DEAD! And so they clear, we put our gear on and we walk out there. 14,000 people have dwindled to... about six. It's alright! They'll come back! So we go out there - 'OOOOO POOOSSSHHHHH!' Three songs later, there's about 3,000 people. Four songs into the set, there's about 800 people. No response whatsoever. We get to the end of the set, there's like eight guys standing a mile away, 'Fuck you!'"

Before closing with a laugh-out-ridiculous 39-minute tale about turning 38, purchasing a home and slowly but surely turning into a fashion-conscious househusband:

"I'm looking at 40, which is just another number but it has all these connotations. Like '40' - Do I have to buy a Sting record?"

"Furniture salesman: 'Sir, do you see anything you like?'
Furniture salesman: 'Oh ho ho! He's an actor, isn't he?'"

(on his first visit to Bed, Bath & Beyond) "I have to use a handbasket, which says 'I'm only kidding. I'm not really here buying a lot of shit. I'm just buying a few things. I'm just goofing around. Hey!' It's a way of avoiding the truth. It's like when you come into your apartment, and your two buddies are fucking each other. You know, like 'Uhhh! Ooohhh! Oh - ha ha ha ha! You're wondering about this, huh? Ha! We were just kiddin' around! We were just goofin' around! Nothin' else to do; let's fuck each other! Go figure!'"


(conclusion): "Fuck it. This is me. This is how I am now. This is how it is. You were a rock and roll samurai; now you're just a guy who buys shit for his house."

I wish I could remember some of the funny things he says on here, but I don't have the CD with me. I hope you at least enjoyed all the quotes from Mr. Belvedere that I included in the review.

Reader Comments

It's a Henry Rollins extravaganza! Geez, I never though there'd come a day where the guy was putting out spoken word albums faster than I could buy them.. As such, some of the more recent ones are not as familiar to me yet. Westbeth Theater feels like another winner though... The anecdote about seeing Ratt on a reunion tour is certainly great, as is the story about playing on the same bill with Sheryl Crow, as well as the needed-to-be-said comments on the Kennedy family. That one part about how the Ratt singer (Stephen Pearcy?) shouted out that asinine "Ratt Shit" comment at the show is probably the funniest moment here. And it's nice to see Rollins acknowledge that he got his ass kicked by Sheryl Crow (in terms of audience response, anyway) - I guess popular opinion counts for something.

Oh yeah, Mark, if you talk to Rollins again, we're all curious to know if he still jacks off to Woody Allen.

You know, you said in another review that listening to a Rollins show gives you the feeling that you've just spent time hanging out with a cool friend. I couldn't agree more. I don't get that same feeling from anyone else apart from Lenny Bruce. And since he's dead, he makes much less interesting company these days.

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Talk Is Cheap Volume 1 - 2.13.61 2003
Rating = 3

Lord knows I'm no ageist, but boy did Henry become a doddering old motormouth bore when he hit 40! This is unquestionably THE WORST HENRY ROLLINS ALBUM EVER. I mean worse than his hard to find spoken word debut. Worse than his free jazz poetry. Even worse than Come In And Burp! First of all, he showed up to the venue without any interesting stories. And finally, last but not least, he seems to have (for this night at least) lost all understanding of what makes his spoken word acts so interesting to begin with. Where's the everyman self-epiphany? What happened to the sympathy mixed with humor? This double-CD is nothing more or less than very VERY bad, unfunny, tired observationist humor. Imagine a Jerry Seinfeld with no clever twists at all -- who laughs at his own unfunny jokes, equates profanity with humor, insults the exact people that his audience would want and expect him to insult (yuppies, hippies, laidback L.A. pretty people) and drags out every go-nowhere joke for 8-10 minutes. Want to hear some great "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" observations? Don't look here! Henry's insight doesn't go any deeper than quipping that men are slobs and women have to take care of them -- and it takes him THIRTY MINUTES to get this point across. Then there's the bit that starts as a promising anecdote about a visit to Africa, and quickly degenerates into a gross reminiscence about childhood wrestling -- and NEVER RETURNS TO THE AFRICA ANECDOTE. Elsewhere there's a hilarious one-minute Ku Klux Klan bit that he drags out for 16 minutes for GOD knows what reason -- certainly not in the interest of entertainment! And a couple of great lines about driving in L.A. buried in 15 minutes of bullshit. Where humor is usually just the natural side effect of him being a bright, charismatic speaker, here he actively, unapologetically goes for nothing but cheap laughs. Like never before, he comes across as a comedy club hack struggling on Amateur Night - but with his sycophantic audience still laughing at every boring, predictable word that comes out of his mouth.

Having said all that - there ARE a few honestly great bits on here. The parts where he makes fun of grunge singers and Metallica's S & M are so priceless that if you touch it, you have to pay for it. And the stories about what it's like for him to reach 40 are fantastic: his fear of impotence when he realizes that he's being targeted with Viagra spam, his neighbors seeing him with hardware purchases and assuming that he's building bombs with them, the horror of realizing that his face has developed smile lines -- all three of these discussions are hilarious and real and EXACTLY what Rollins does best. Just speaking from personal experience. Too bad the rest of the disc is made up of corny half-dirty jokes about men losing their balls and spending time in hardware stores to get them back. FUCK YOU, HENRY ROLLINS! Granted, this is the only lousy album he's ever released, but FUCK YOU, HENRY WINKLER!

Reader Comments

Man, you really hated this one, I can tell! To me, it's kind of like "Rollins in the Wry" without any editing. Many of the stories are way too long, and I agree the Ku Klux Klan bit just leaves me thinking, "So what?" And thanks for pointing it out, but I hadn't even noticed that the bit about Africa digresses and never returns to the story (in fact, that's where disc two ends). So basically we have longer stories that are less interesting and less focused than in the past. Well, that's still not enough for me to knock it down to a 3. For that, I'd have to be actively annoyed with the recording, and that's just not the case here. To me, it's just a pretty mediocre night for Rollins. I think this was only available by mail order (although I bought it from Tower - go figure), so it's clear he's targeting his loyal fan base with this one, with "mature adult" humor for mature adults, with material that wouldn't raise the eyebrows of a late-period Bill Cosby fan. That's ok, though. Henry seems to have won some hard-earned peace of mind - a far cry from the paranoid depressed kid from 20 years ago.

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Talk Is Cheap Volume 2 - 2.13.61 2003
Rating = 8

Only one night later, Henry's still in Australia but he's funny as a tree again! A hilarious tree of laughs! Here he reels off about such topics as:


Big Brother - "Here's what I would do if I was organizing the cast for Big Brother: I'd have five gnarly hardcore hookers from the Cross, two paraplegics, one guy with advanced Tourette's syndrome, and a bunch of psycho bitter old pensioners. Yeah, throw all those people in, close all the doors, turn the cameras on, and then we'll have something! Ooo, the smell, the bitterness, the arguments - that would be some shit!"

Survivor - "I'd threaten every male Survivor with rape!"

How he perhaps wouldn't make the best father - "SABBATH VOLUME FOUR, YOU LITTLE PIECE O' SHIT!!!"

How people treat him now that he's 40 and still hyper and angry - "'You're sprightly! You're a sprightly, sort of fragile older man!'"

And then he gets to the main event of the double-disc set: A full 76 minutes about going to a Kiss concert with his bandmates! It's absolutely hilarious, not only hitting on Kiss-related material but also showing an impressive insight and honesty regarding past character flaws and the current state of his career. Here, let's enjoy some excerpts:

On his drummer, an avowed Kiss fanatic - "The guy is really intense when you talk about Kiss. He has this theory that he unloaded on us the other day in the studio. He went, 'You know, one day all the people who don't like Kiss will die off. And everyone in the world will love Kiss!'"

On why he now views himself as one of rock and roll's "Ninjas" - "The Ninja, as you know, operates by stealth. And so, case in point: I put out records... no one hears them! I make videos... (whispers) no one sees! I go on tour.... (whispers) no one knows! NINJA! I was never here!"

On the really humiliating and embarrassing question he gets asked every single day - "Hey, did you ever do another record after that one that had that song where you're in the video where you're painted red and jumping up and down?"

On how he alienated all potential friends in the 1980's -
"Potential Friend: 'Hey man, why don't you come out with us?'
Henry: 'FUCK YOU! I live alone! I walk around my room of misery, consolidating my rage and my angst, writing really STUPID fuckin' poetry in a locked-out blacked-out room! I cannot go into lit rooms and talk with other people; it'll make me soft! The role of the artist is to live alone and be pissed off and uncomfortable all the time! To dig deep and rip out the REAL thing! Keep it real, keep it miserable, jerk off in your shower. Keep it real. KEEP IT REAL!'
Potential friend: 'What an asshole.'"

I can't keep going like this - there are so many brilliant moments on this CD! Listen to how he describes the cretins of San Bernardino, California as they recognize him in line for Kiss tickets: "Hey! Your Heerrryy Rorrrarrrns!"

Listen to him describing opening act Ted Nugent's pathetic between-song patter: "'I'm gonna play so sexy tonight, I'm gonna have all the FAGGOTS eatin' pussy!'"

Listen to him noticing his fist pumping the air during the Kiss set:
"Henry: 'What are you doing up there?'
Fist: 'I don't know! They ROCK!'"

And on and on and on. So fuckin' funny! If you like Kiss even a little bit, or if you just like hearing people make fun of people with mullets and El Caminos, holy crapola you gotta pick this up. It has a few draggy parts -- his in-depth, obviously pre-written-down stand-up skit about the women and children of the Kiss army waste about eight minutes, and his bit about men masturbating to porn videos might have to go. Otherwise, a high, high 8 with non-stop laughs! How could he have stunk so bad just ONE NIGHT EARLIER? Oh well; I guess that's spoken word for you!

One final comment, this one about mulleted Australian airport workers: "So what's up with the Australian working man who wears shorts that are so high, a ball hangs out?"

See, I don't even have to make up jokes when the excerpts themselves are this funny. And don't even get me STARTED about his delivery! And this stuff is so CHEAP! $10 for like two hours of laughingness and stories? That's as good as golden!

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Talk Is Cheap Volume 3 - 2.13.61 2004
Rating = 8

This one tarent vary fummy, bud its interesting neverthway. On side one of the double-CD, he talks about war like Jello Biafra would. It's all political and socially commentarist and shit. He begins the set by explaining that he's an angry man who gets pissed off about things that other people don't notice because, as he puts it, "You guys have one thing that I don't have: a life." He goes on to stress that although he and the members of the audience may have differing opinions on a given issue or two, they can both be right. However, as he puts it, "I'm louder than you for now, so...." He's 42 now and doesn't look like his passport anymore. He can't look at girls anymore because his older, wiser face always looks like it's leering at them! Can you believe that? Ha ha! They should come to take him away! Ha ha! He no longer dates women either; he abducts them. In the words of top alternative poet Henry Rollins, "I use cunning, stealth, roofies, duct tape...." Then he says something about standing in line, and how annoying it is. You know what he should do? Carry a book everywhere. That's what I do. So I'm never bored. I actually like standing in line, because it gives me time to read! Then he talks about how, before the Internet, you had to go to the library to look stuff up, so you never did. Then he says something funny about the Strategic Arts Limitation Talks (SALT), and how now if you ever wonder, "Hmm, I wonder what the deal is with that SALT treaty," you can type it into a search engine and it'll connect you to the SALT web page, SALT message boards, SALT fan pages, SALT dating sites, etc (ha ha!) (no, i'm serious! It was funny when he said it!). Then he talks about how it's easy to learn stuff and he hates people who don't want to know anything. He feels that mediocrity ruins everything. He understands not wanting to learn stuff if you're 80 years old ("Hey, you wanna learn about this thing in history?" "No! I just wanna SHIT today!"), but young people? Not so much funny as just good points. This section is called "Your Anger Manager" and I just covered all of its key points.

This is Section II of Mark Prindliff's Notes: Henry Rollins' Talk Is Cheap Volume III. This chapter discusses the key points of disc one, track two: "War's Greatest Hits Vol. 1." He begins this chapter by mentionin that he often does email interviews with college kids, and finds them to be for the most part a bunch of tuned-out, lazy, privileged assholes. Though I understand his point, I can vouch for college students that it's hard to want to be in tune with ANYTHING when (a) you're free from your parents for the first time, and (b) you have like eight hours of homework every night. Also, there's all these people with vaginas at college, where there were none in your parents' home growing up. Because your mother's a man, Mr. Adopted. When he was 18, if anyone said anything to him, Henry would get in an angry argument with them. ("Tomorrow's Thursday." "BULLSHIT!"). But college would have been a privilege for him. Don't waste it, you assholes! Even though I did. Hey, up your ass, me! Henry then deviates into this annoying Three Stooges-esque bit about these violent little brat children that he knows. Apparently little kids love him, so this little boy wants him to come over, so he does. He feels loved as the little boy shouts his name and runs up to hug him, but then the little kid punches him in the balls. Still he's happy because, as H. Rollins states on this CD I'm reviewing, "Finally I'm hanging out with somebody shorter than I am!" As an aside, I find it intriguing that Henry constantly jokes about his height (or lack thereof) on his most recent CDs. I never figured him to be a short guy (regardless of Billy Zoom's comments in a recent interview), but apparently he feels he is! After the boy beats him up some more, he and his sister scream in Henry's ear, then the girl paints his nails, puts make-up on him, and then accuses Henry of hitting her and tries to get him in trouble with her mother. I HATE THIS. I always hated The Three Stooges and Tom & Jerry - I've NEVER found meanness and violence at all 'funny' and don't understand those who do. I especially hate it when somebody (in real life) hurts themself and somebody laughs about it. Always makes me want to deck the laugher -- or some cards! (ha heee!) I also hate little kids, especially little asshole mean kids who eat the dick. Finally Henry gets back to a particular college student who sent him an email interview with questions like "If you were a crayon, what color would you be?" and "What are your feelings about the Spork?" As Henry Rollins states on his latest CD, "I know - it's College for 'Fuck you!' is what it is!" So he responded by threatening and cussing at the student. This chapter has reached cessation.

Hey dicknose! Yeah, you! The one with the dick where your nose should be! (perusing a Scratch-And-Sniff book; urinating on it) The next song is called "War's Greatest Hits Vol. 2." In this soulful number, Henry talks about how this Iraq thing isn't a war. He knows he can't add anything to what the audience already knows, the way that Jello Biafra could because he's a genus, but he still makes some points about the military figures he sees on TV, and the language that they use ("We're going to drop a Bunker Buster Bomb on them." "How old are you?"). Kofi Annan asked for 3 more weeks, Fratboy boy refused to allow it. Henry loved that lying Minister of Information guy in Iraq - remember that guy? The lying one who always claimed Iraq was winning the war? Rollins (Henry) thinks it would be great to take that guy and move him to areas affected by hurricanes ("I lost my home! Everything's gone!" "What? This is a fuckin' great day!"). He goes on to state that he winces whenever GW Bush opens his mouth. In the words of British expatriate Henry Rollins, "It's like he learned English phonetically. Like all the words in English are just sounds." He then presents an example of Bush's poor speaking talent: "France has shown their cards. They've shown their cards. We have a thing called 'Show Your Cards.'" "...A thing!? No, we don't!"). Of note is that Henry does a really good GWB impression! Buy it for that reason if for no other (of which there are many). He then compares Bush to Blair, calls him a 'dimwit', and assures the Sydney Australia Enmore Theater audience of April 23, 2003 that "We're not ALL that stupid!" Then he mentions Donald Rumsfeld and says "A crasser man you'd be hard pressed to find." Fuck crap, don't you feel like you're actually LISTENING to the CD? I'm the greatest summary guy in the history of Pantera! Remember Pantera? Those guys weren't very good. Too bad the one guy got shot though; that's nothing to joke about. I've received lots of emails from an obviously schizophrenic guy who believes that he has written several songs for Ween, Slayer and a few other bands - and it's really creepy! What do you say to somebody like that? I mean, the guy is dead serious. He is NOT joking with me. Am I supposed to reply, "Hey dude! You're fuckin' nuts!"? According to psychiatrists, that is in fact the correct response. I'm on the case! Then Henry mentions how fun German audiences are because they yell stuff that makes no sense, like "You crazy motherfucker! Fill my heart with fire, you rock and roll animal machine!" Then he dies and goes to Hell.

In the next section, "A Love Story," he talks about how CNN shows the same thing every 7 minutes, including a story about Clara Harris, who ran over her husband three times. Her husband told her she was boring and ugly, so she made all these huge life changes to make him happy, but then the prick cheated on her anyway. Her lawyer made her plead dopey woman defense, but Henry knows that "women are barbaric, vulgar creatures," so he does a funny impression of her 'dumb act' and says that she should have told the true story because in Texas she would have been acquitted and given her own talk show. As an example, Henry discusses a time during his Black Flag tenure when a guy at a Texas club called him a faggot so Henry beat him up. Eventually, a cop broke up the fight and asked Henry what the hell he was doing, to which Henry responded, "This guy called me a faggot!" The cop replied, "He did, huh? Well, I'm sorry, sir. You can go now." Henry walked away and looked back to see the cop threatening his beatup-ee, "Call ME a faggot!" Good stuff. Tape's over!

Disc two is more personal than the sociopolitical disc one. So if you're into people rather than society and politics, this disc will provide a greater entertainment dollar for your money. It begins with a piece excitingly entitled "The Ramones," as if in tribute to one of my favorite bands of all time. Christ, it's 2:fifty-fuckin-7 in the morning and I have to go to work tomorrow! I gotta go! The last part is about Henry stinking up his Armageddon movie audition and accidentally kicking ass in his Bad Boys II audition. It's funny! You've heard of funny things, right? For example, he talks about how he threw away all his old rock albums after seeing the Ramones in concert for the first time, but then years later returned to re-purchase them on CD. Funny bit involves the clerk saying, "Hey! You're Henry Rollins!" and somebody in the back of the store going, "Henry Rollins! Wow! There he is! Look at him! He's so SHORT!" and then this brief exchange:

Record Store Clerk: "Wow, Henry Rollins! I didn't know you liked bands like BOSTON!"
Henry Rollins: "Shut the fuck up, will ya?"
Record Store Cleark: "And TOTO!"
Henry Rollins: "SHHHHH!!!!"

I'd like to wish all of you a really good day, especially the nice ones among you. I spent nine and a half hours today/tonight rewriting a 12-page document about ETH Zurich, so my writing brain is all worn out and reduced to just typing up all the notes I took while listening to this double-CD for review. Wasn't it neat how you read them? Reading's AWESOME! Your eyes look at all these combinations of little symbols and shit, and your mind automatically knows what I'm trying to communicate! Pity it's just a bunch of bullshit, but think about if I was warning you not to drink motor oil or something - that would be important! You'd SUPER-appreciate reading if THAT were to happen!

On a lighter note, here's an advertising slogan for a fake company I just created in my head (where my brain does its thinking):

"Big Ol' Hole Window Furnishings: We Put The 'rape' in 'Drapes'!"

God, that was fuckin' light.

Oh - and for the reader who recently asked if I can write two sentences without cussing, the answer is "OFu CkOURSE I CAN!"

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Nights Behind The Tree Line - 2.13.61 2004
Rating = 5

Look, nobody's great at everything. For example, I can run 500 miles an hour and cure cancer with my bare hands, but I'm not very good at having a vagina. Likewise, Henry Rollins can tell a terrific story and at one point had the greatest hardcore scream in history, but neither of those qualities necessarily translate to the field of poetry. Henry loves poetry (not all poetry, but you know, certain prose-poet types), but when he tries to create it himself, it often doesn't feel natural. Part of the problem is that we're so used to hearing him 'tell it like it is' 'straight from the horse's mouth' 'no-frills' 'econo' that when he tries to gussy up his language with big words and metaphors, it can't help but feel artificial. Another part of the problem is that he's really not all that good at it. I've even heard some naysayers refer to him as 'the worst poet ever.' But the thing is -- it's not EASY to write serious poetry that doesn't suck eggs. I certainly can't do it! Can those naysayers who so deride him with self-righteous glee? Can YOU?

Actually, now that I review my Ballbreaker reader comments, I realize that my entire readership is composed of current and former Poet Laureates. FOILED AGAIN!

But he tries. And he wants to share his work. And why not? I'm sure that a lot of people like it, so who gives a shit about those of us who don't? Hopefully our families. It would be sad to find out nobody cares about us. It is important to love and be loved. Or at least as important as things can be on this ever-decaying orb.

Nights Behind The Tree Line is a collection of 16 serious prose-poem works read by Henry Rollins in front of a live studio microphone in September 2003. The first five are recitations from his book Solipsist, the last (one of the longest and best) is from the book Broken Summers, and the other ten are brand new. The pieces "run the gamut" (as we say in the professional entertainment business) from sad memories and remarkable insight to past-due teen angst and sophomoric social commentary. It's mostly very personal stuff, but unfortunately Henry is at heart a lonely soul, and lonely people write terrible poetry. Because it's all about how lonely they are!

Not every anecdote can be a happy one, so the harrowing tales of life-loathing prostitute "Maya," a devastating "Accident," and his annual post-tour "Disintegration" would be inappropriate for his live shows. However, they are powerful, heart-wrenching pieces that deserve to be heard. It's a shame that more of the CD isn't comprised of straightforward slices of everyday life like these, because this is where he excels. The rest of his 'serious' writing is bogged down in self-righteous social critique ("Americans are the self-fatted calves shunted off from the world, walking unescorted onto the belt enticed by bad music, fatted food and drugs."), klunky turns-of-phrase ("There is a calm that arrives as soft and unnoticed as early Autumn after humiliation's ever-hungry pack of hyenas have ripped the flesh away and crunched the bones to powder."), laughably lame high school philosophy ("I used to like reality, until they screwed it up and cheapened it. I used to defend reality until they shot so many people and crushed so many spirits that I could no longer be a part of it. They tried to break me; of course they failed.") and 'biting' jokes that aren't funny at all ("For those of you who are not white, here are some tips to avoid getting maimed, killed or otherwise detained by the men and/or women of the SCPD. There are skin-lightening and eye-rounding treatments available. Look what Michael Jackson was able to achieve in just several long, expensive and painful visits to the dermatologist! They couldn't get the skin underneath his nails, hence the Band-Aids he wears on his fingertips in public, although some close to him will tell you that he sometimes puts on the bandages to avoid getting the fecal matter of children in his cuticles.").

He makes some interesting points about emotional pain and the difficulty of creating a meaningful connection with another person, but these say more about his own failings at age 42 than they do about the reality of the human condition. As far as it looks from here, Henry is simply still stuck in his teen angst phase, most likely as a result of his failure to find a long-term mate to help stabilize his emotions and quell his destructive sense of loneliness. I'd probably start writing shit like this again too if I ever got a divorce! As such, do everything in your power to ensure that I keep my wife happy.

You can start by learning how to sexually satisfy your girlfriend so I don't have to do it all the time. You realize how many potential wife-boners are wasted in that slattern's marsh of sin?

A LOT! That's how many!!!

My plan was to make a hilarious Bible joke using the words "Lot" and "wife," but it's taking too long to think of something.

Say! Why did Henry Rollins cross the road?

To make a "SALT"y comment about Lot's w... ehh.... pbblll.

YOU HEAR ME??? "EHH.... PBBLLL"!!!!!!!!!!

This message brought to you by Ehh.... Pbblll & Company Inc. (NASDAQ: EHHPBBLLL)

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Talk Is Cheap Volume 4 - 2.13.61 2004
Rating = 8

If laughter were pain, this double-CD would have me in the Emergency Room (R.E.). If hilarity were homosexuality, I'd have shit all over my dick by the middle of track two. If great storytelling were AIDS, the students of San Jose State University better have worn ear condoms on the evening of April 16th, 2004. That's because this double-CD, recorded at San JORkfe DK on SRPil D FGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Sorry about that. These workmen are drilling, hammering, sawing and throwing heavy things all over our office today, and it's got my nerves a bit on edge.

If you click through www.henryrollins.com (located at www.21361.com), you'll discover that Henry has a cable TV talk show. Keep clicking long enough and you'll eventually find a ten-minute advertisement for the show. And I don't know who's in charge over there at the cable channel, but they've somehow managed to make Henry Rollins look and sound dull and uncomfortable. Listening to Talk Is Cheap, Volume 4 and then watching this bland, horrible commercial, it's nearly impossible to believe that it's the same guy. Maybe Henry just gets weirded out by TV cameras? Or is unable to fake warmth when there's no audience to make him feel warm? Or just doesn't want to steal the focus away from the (boring) actors and musicians he's invited onto the program? I don't know what the problem is, but the interview segments shown in this ad look unwatchably cold, unfunny and sub-amateurish. Not that running a talk show is easy, but if anybody seems tailor-made for it, it's the hilarious, friendly, comfortable man heard on this actual CD I'll get around to reviewing at some point. His name is Jose Jiminez and he does this HILARIOUS thing where h

Chalk Is Veap Folume Tour finds the former President Garfield addressing issues and anecdotes such as these:

- People? Who uptalk? So whenever they say anything? It sounds like they're asking a question? I once met a young man who did this. I alerted him to his habit, and the next time I saw him he no longer did it. This means that I am a doctor.

- Downloading music - "I've never downloaded a song in my life, because any band I want to buy a CD by probably sleeps on the floor and actually needs the money. But anything bigger than a little-ass band, STEAL THAT SHIT! FUCK IT!"

- George W. Bush's poor speaking ability - "If your 10-year-old brother said this stuff, you'd be like, 'Whoa whoa whoa... Have you been going to school - AT ALL!?'"

- George W. Bush's expensive plan to send men to Mars - "If Mars can't get me laid or fed, fuck Mars!"

- A destitute fan suffering from Spinal Bifida. This part's pretty sad, as you might expect. Gets you to thinking though, if you're into that.

- A punk kid who begs for money on the street and snottily calls him a 'rock star': "What he doesn't know is that I unconditionally like young people, and I don't have a lot going on during the day, so I have time to stand around and LECTURE this motherfucker!"

- The Pope - "'You're all going to Heaven... except you faggots.'"

- Skinniness - "When you look like one of those little bitches from The Strokes, chicks dig it."

- People who oppose gay marriage - "Don't hide behind the Constitution or the Bible. If you're against gay marriage, just be honest, put a scarlet 'H' on your shirt, and say, 'I am a homophobe!'"

- Making idle chit-chat on dates -
"Henry: 'So what three CDs have you been listening to most recently?'
Date: 'Um well, I'm listening to the new Nickelba -' (*car screeches to a halt*)

- A strange conversation with a would-be burglar -
"Burglar: 'HELLO! HOW ARE YOU?'
Henry: 'Can I help you?'
Burglar: 'Your neighbor let me in!'
Henry: 'My neighbor passed away three months ago. You're a burglar! You're breaking into my house!'
Burglar: 'NO! I WOULDN'T DO THAT!!!!"

- Recording a song with William Shatner - "He's the nicest guy! He's nothing like we are! (pause) He's CANADIAN!"

I love Henry Rollins. I could listen to his stories all day and night. I hope he reforms the old Rollins Band or finds a smart new band to write songs with. That's my opinion, and I'm sticking by it. I apologize for making such a controversial statement.

The reason this double-disc only gets an 8 is because the 35-minute segment on religion on disc one seems a bit too much like bad stand-up comedy in several places. Otherwise, bring the boys back home!

You know what joke somebody should make up? Something about how they 'are against the war, but support the poops.' For example, "I'm against the war, but I support the poops. NNNNN! (*takes dump on stage*)" Do you think Tim Allen would go for it? If not, I'm sure I have Father Guido Sarducci's phone number somewhere in this sock drawer.

Reader Comments

I saw Henry Rollins on the Shock and Awe tour at the beginning of 2005 overseas and he went over a good bit of the material you spoke of in this review. He goes over really well in Germany as they are really anxious to hear an American speak like a normal thinking person after hearing so much shit in the press and seeing little from us but the efforts of our current representatives. Sitting in a crowd of foreigners in our current political environment Henry was a nice rep (who are normally only rock stars and politicians: Henry? Rock star? Is that over?).

Rollins was unexpectedly easy going in delivery but that guy did not shut up for 3 solid hours. Jesus, pretty good stamina. As much as I enjoyed the show (talk?) I had to leave early! However, the stuff he went over from his USO tours (giving a kid's wid eyed view of running around an army camp and how all the soldiers are ordinary schmoes) meant a lot to the foreign crowd and definitely to the ex-pats in attendance. Very straightforward and honest. He really has developed in to an exceptional storyteller. Apparently, he is giving the talk show thing a shot: I saw something ad on IFC for a show in April 2006. Eeehhhhhh, we'll see about that one. Oliver Stone for the first guest? Salvador was a long time ago. Anyone see Alexander or that football flick?

Overall, at this time I don't think I would throw money at his releases but I would see recommend seeing him live if you are a fan of well delivered meaningful stories and a little to the left politcis-wise.

henry is a fucking dork. he panders to the auidance he must have been really traumatized in his youth to try and make the mainstream sheep love him so...

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Provoked - 2.13.61 2008
Rating = 7

Mary Poppins is back, this time with a paltry 61-minute talking CD available only through his web site or at Best Buy. I've no clue how he got Best Buy to sign an exclusive deal for it, but good on ya mate!

My new thing is to say "good on ya mate!"

Okay, I'm already tired of saying "good on ya mate!" How can the British STAND it year after year?!!? No WONDER they all have shitty teeth! The wafting stench of the phrase "good on ya mate!" stains and rots everything it encounters on its way out the mouth!

Provoked is a misnomer - Henry doesn't sound mad about anything on here, instead demonstrating Smiley, Fun & Funny GoodTimes from top to bottom. Subjects under discussion include Van Halen (he likes them), Homophobes (he hates them), His Friends' Children (he likes them), Abstinence-Only Sex Education (he hates it), President Bush's 'Mandela's Dead' zinger (he finds it hilarious - and rightly so!) and Wild Animal Attacks (he likes them, strangely enough).

On the downstick, I simply don't find children very entertaining, so Henry's stories about his friend's precocious daughter fall on deaf ears. Plus, his ruminations on minor current events (Larry Craig, a crackhead getting bitten by an alligator, 'Mandela's Dead') at times come awfully close to Biafra-style 'reading the newspaper to you.' Still, Henry's wit is on fire for a good three-quarters of this hour, as I hope to demonstrate with a few real-life examples:

"I got this letter recently from a guy, I'm not kidding, this letter was like, 'SO HENRY! YOU'RE ALL INTO TOLERANCE AND SHIT! WHAT'S UP WITH THAT!?' I spent easily like 40 seconds of sitting very still - how the hell do you answer that? 'Well, I - I was....'"

"So anyway, now the President's mind no longer has Karl Rove to organize it. And so now the President's mind is this open book. It is an open pen, and the words that are like lambs inside his mind - little sheep - the pen is open, and the sheep are wandering all over the intellectual wasteland of the President's mind. And there's no shepherd! There's no one to go, "No no no - over here. No no no no no." And now the English language stands all over the President's mind - on car hoods, on roofs, on limbs of trees...."

"I see my country and I see how we scare the rest of the world, and I came up with an idea to end the war in Iraq. Take out the Blackwater mercenaries; take them out now! Take out all the Coalition of the Willing, all the soldiers - bring them back to their wonderful families. And by the truckload, by the planeload, take Van Halen fans and put them - like MILLIONS of them - put them all over Iraq. Just drop - just 'go! go! go! go! go! go! go! go! go!' And send over millions of tons of corn tortilla chips, massive cheese dispensers and lots of bowls, and Van Halen to play over and over. And you tell the Iraqi people, 'If you don't cool the fuck out... we're not taking them back!'"

"I want to take dangerous animals from all over the world and sprinkle them in other parts of the world, so people will be unsuspecting and terrified at all times. I want to see newspapers with men being pulled out of their car at Wendy's drive-thrus by polar bears in Ohio in the summer! I want to see overhead helicopter shots on the 7:00 news of a polar bear standing a magnificent nine feet high, its belly red and slick with human entrails as it holds a steaming string of intestines in its mighty paw, going "AAAARRRRRRRHHHHHHH!" Because there's no way any CNN person would be able to be droll about that: (*bored voice*) 'Man eviscerated by crazy polar bear.' It'd be like 'HOLY FUCK THE NEWS IS ALIVE!!!' And so life would become interesting again because at any time in your office you could pull open the drawer BLACK MAMBA RIGHT IN THE FACE! YOU'RE FUCKIN DEAD!"

"So I feel uncomfortable in the bar setting. And so I'm slaloming through these tables feeling very self-conscious, very much desperately looking for people that I recognize - the radio people. And I notice that everyone sitting at all the tables are really good-looking men in their late 20s/mid 30s in tank tops or tight shirts, and their bodies are marvelously sculpted. I mean they're like made of marble; they're like BOOOOM! And their hair is magnificent, and their teeth are bright white, and they're having spirited conversation... that I seem to be extinguishing as I walk by. The mere sight of me - 'So anyway I was like - (*in hushed tone*) Oh god! Look! Look! Look! I told you! I told you! YES! Finally! He's come out!' And I realize I am causing joy. 'He's here! He's here! And now... I have a shot!' And I realize that I'm at a gay bar. Which doesn't put me out, but I notice that I'm causing amounts of agitation wherever I go. People exchanging 20-dollar bills, 'Okay, you were right. You were right.'"

Buy it! It is after all his first spoken-word release in four years. And he might be done with music altogether, having released no new material since that Black Flag covers album six years ago. So cherish any Henry Rollins you can find!

Except maybe the books. Most of those look pretty pretentious.

Reader Comments

I've lived in Britain for the past 18 years and I don't remember ever hearing anyone say "good on ya mate!"

Hey some of those lines gave me a good chuckle, I hope this isn't like one of those expertly crafted and deceptive trailers that I'll go and buy this and find that you rounded up all the funny material and the rest is shit! I didn't like Shock and Awe so much, but I still have plenty of time for Henry. I heard years ago that Oliver Stone said if he'd met Rollins at the time he would have cast him as Mickey in Natural Born Killers! If only.

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Spoken Word Guy 11-03-08 Alexandria, VA - 2.13.61 2010
Rating = 8

I'll admit that I didn't react to my recent marital separation with the courage and dignity one would expect from the world's most heroic record reviewer, Mark Prindle. However, I ask you to please recall that (a) it came as a complete surprise, and (b) it hurt like a filibuster. That is how I've chosen to preface the revealing paragraph you are about to enjoy.

I've had my run-ins with Henry Rollins over the years, even though he has no idea who I am and any sort of acknowledgement between us is entirely inside my head. The pinnacle of my achievement in temporarily annoying him occurred a couple of years back, when I foolishly emailed him a high school photo I'd found of him online, along with the note "How did THIS get online!?" His impatient response read something like "Mark, It's obviously a yearbook thing. I am famous, and people like you put things like this online. That's how it got there. Please, get out there and get something new going on. Thanks, Henry." I was so offended that I vowed I would never buy anything related to him again, but then I got over it like a week later.

But here's the important thing that ties the previous two paragraphs together, as well as making me feel obliged to respond whenever I see a Facebook comment like "Henry Rollins is an asshole" or "Henry Rollins is a nogoodnick." Facebook often makes these arguments; I don't know why the company hates him so much. But here's what happened:

One day in early June, my asshole boss was an even bigger asshole than usual, so I -- already under severe emotional strain due to my failing marriage -- quit on the spot and walked out at 11:25 in the morning. I then walked down to my estranged wife's workplace, where she informed me that our marriage was over and she was never coming home. In shock and seeing no future for myself (no wife, no job, no way to pay for an apartment, etc), I walked to the Empire State Building, bought a ticket to the Observation Deck, and was chagrined to discover that they'd made it completely impossible to jump off. I tried a few of the windows inside too, but they were sealed shut. Down but not out, I walked to the Chrysler Building, where I was informed that they don't have any sort of tours of that sort. So my next stop was Rockefeller Plaza, where I paid my admission to visit "Top Of The Rock" some very many floors above sea level. And AGAIN there was no way to safely jump off to my doom. There was one space between a fence and a wall where I could've squeezed through, but there was a landing about ten floors beneath it, meaning I'd have to jump, land and probably break my legs, and then jump again, which hardly seemed worth the effort. Eventually I gave up and went to hang out with Jim Laakso.

So then a few nights later, full of vodka and self-pity, I sent this email to Mr. Henry Rollins:

From: Mark Prindle
To: two1361
Sent: Tuesday, June 08, 2010 2:33 AM
Subject: Henry

I know you hate me, and I'm very sad about that but I probably deserve it. I just wanted you to know that I'm getting my come-uppance. My wife recently left me after 15 years, and all I can think is "You didn't need to do that to me."

I tried to kill myself four days ago. Pretty wimpy. I know you'd never do that, but I felt my life was over.

Go ahead, make fun of me. I know it's fun for you.

Your fan,
Mark Prindle

When I awoke with a clearer head the next morning, I dreaded his mocking angry response. But instead, I found this in my inbox:

Mark, you can't kill yourself no matter how bad you feel. I know those kind of break ups make you feel that nothing is worth doing. It may feel like that for quite some time. You need to work against it to work past it. Perhaps you have a gym membership, you can use. A place to go and get the blood moving. Always good for the morale. That's a long time to be with someone. You probably feel like there was a death in the family or something. I know it's very hard but really, no suicide. There's a lot left to do. Hang in there. Henry

At first, I naturally assumed it was from Henry The Dog. But once I realized that Henry The Dog can't type, I knew that only one thing could be the case: Henry Rollins isn't an asshole at all. As he'd be the first to admit, he's not a people person, but when the stakes are down, the guy tries to help. How many other entertainers would bother to send a response like that to a troubled fan? So up your nose, Facebook.

As for this CD, I actually saw Mr. Rollins speak four nights before it was recorded, so it's nice to confirm that the material actually is as strong as it seemed in person. As suggested by its timing and title ("The Recountdown Tour"), this show found Henry in a more political mood than usual, discussing such Jello Biafra-worthy issues as the Iraq War, the presidential and vice-presidential debates, the legacy of Bush II and the politics of divide-and-conquer before moving on to humorous personal tales of career foibles and dangerous vacations.

And yes, you're probably saying, "Oh God! Rollins talking about politics!? What the hell does HE know about ANYTHING!?" Well, a lot more than you'd think -- and not just from reading news magazines. In addition to giving equal time to the Republican and Democratic candidates, he has actually taken the time to speak with U.S. soldiers and visit war zones like Pakistan to hear multiple sides of the key issues. He admits that he sympathizes more with the Democrats' point of view than the Republicans, but he also explains why.

More importantly for a storyteller, he's funny. No matter the topic, Henry is a hell of a charismatic speaker with a great sense of humor. Here are a few good lines I wrote down to help you smile in spite of our current economic meltdown:

- "Will Bush become a modern folk figure like Michael Jackson and O.J. Simpson, where you just think "What the fuck!?"

- "Mr. McCain lives in an America that no longer exists. And I don't want the past. I'll go as far as a Go-Go's greatest hitsCD, but...."

- (on abstinence education) "'If we give them condoms, they'll have sex.' If you give them TED NUGENT, they'll have sex!"

- (on his extensive football knowledge) "It's a lot of men's butts."

- "I ran as a child, as kids on the playground told me I killed Martin Luther King... I really wanted to defend my point, because I would've remembered if I'd killed Martin Luther King!"

- (to a fellow actor after a movie wrap) "I hope you don't get CANCER from working with me!"

- (on his manager's fear that he -- Henry -- will get killed on one of his crazy vacations) "He has a family to feed, and you can't put a corpse on stage... although the Rolling Stones still tour! HEY-O!"

- Airport Security Guy: "You're a singer, right?" Henry: "Not to anyone who has good taste in music!"

- (on Black Flag crowds physically abusing him) "After a couple of years of this, my assessment of humanity was two words and a period: PEOPLE SUCK, period. And I wanted to tour with a flamethrower and say, 'Here's our first song. It's called 'Progress.'' PFLOOOOOOOOOOOO! 'There! Now we can play!'"

- "I know what you're thinking: 'I like him very much, but he never shuts his FUCKING MOUTH!'"

- Anti-Science Republican: "Admit that you hate America!" Scientist: "I'm a scientist. It's illogical to hate a land mass. I can't do that."

So if it's left-wing politics and international travelogues you're after, all delivered with a dibble-dab of humor and a heaping help of likable personality, Hank's your man and Spoken Word Guy 11-03-08 Alexandria, VA is your download!

Also, if you ever get a chance, try to see him live. His body language is adorable. (Seriously!)

Reader Comments

Henry Rollins is the man. I was fortunate enough to see him do a spoken word just a few months ago, and it seems he was in the same positive political mood that he was in this recording. He talked about speaking in the same town in Canada as Ann Coulter (outselling her!), being inside Nelson Mandela's office, doing a college graduation speech, the recent outcry over the lesbian prom attendants, working with the director/producer (?) for that old police show The Shield, and, of course, his rough but entertaining childhood. He stayed in the same power-stance in the same spot the entire time, speaking loudly and energetically for 3 hours, non-stop, without taking a break. The guy's almost 50! Yet he still remains strong, bright, determined, wise, sentimental, and insightful. His material today sure is a far cry from old drivel like "Salt On A Slug"! My mom went with me and was a bit unsure about whether he was her type of humor, but walked away very impressed (she cranked Damaged from time to time back in the 80's too) and keeps a tour poster signed by him in her living room to brag to guests about.

Sorry about the story, Mark. I, like Henry, am glad your attempt failed. There's just no time for those sorts of things, mate! What side-splitting joy your art has brought to the world! I would know, I pretty much grew up reading your stuff. Do you remember that piece of wisdom you wrote to precede your old interview of Dave Blood (Dead Milkmen)? Well, read it, because it was worthy advice!

That was a great account of Rollins sending you a helpful email when you needed it most. I'd expect nothing less from the guy. I've been listening to his talking discs for 20+ years now, and really feel like he is still gaining momentum. My wife and I went to see him talk earlier this year, and both of us were just "wow" after the show. She was even more surprised than I, since she hadn't really listened to him talk lately. 3 hours, hardly a pause, and entertaining and informative throughout. When this CD came out, I had high hopes and was not disappointed. I think it's one of the strongest things he's ever put out. It's similarly paced to the show I saw - fast, funny, and incredibly substantial and full of real first-hand accounts, not just news and views. It's tempting to say that anyone who got out and saw the world as much as he has could entertain people with stories, but he has a special gift on top of that. I'm glad he enjoys it as much as I do - because I'll go see him again in a heartbeat (this was just my 2nd time).

So thank you Henry!

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