Get in the Van: On the Road With Black Flag
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Get in the Van: On the Road With Black Flag

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  4,454 ratings  ·  183 reviews
As a member of the seminal punk band Black Flag, Henry Rollins kept detailed tour diaries that form the basis of Get in the Van . Rollins's observations range from the wry to the raucous in this blistering account of a six-year career with the band - a time marked by crazed fans, vicious cops, near-starvation, substance abuse, and mind numbing all-night drives. Rollins dec...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published November 18th 2004 by 2.13.61 (first published October 1st 1994)
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Community Reviews

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Erin
I've been toying with my review of this book for about three weeks now. Every time I write it, it inevitably turns into a meandering treatise on my inability to understand why, exactly, so much gratuitous pseudo-intellectual post-punk disdain is aimed directly at Henry Rollins. I'm going to try my very best to avoid that here; I will, however, say this: I like Henry Rollins -- a lot, in fact -- and this book has something to do with it.

I've read Get in the Van about five or six times now (most r...more
J
I've wanted to read Get In The Van since it was published sixteen years ago. Getting around to it after all this time has proven to be a loopy experience. When I was a teen, I was all about Black Flag. I thought they were incredible. Damaged, their first LP, was hard to take in and an immediate favorite. Each chapter after that was an education. Black Flag ruled. I identified with the sum of the parts in a variety of ways. I found it frightening as hell, too. These guys were like demons to me, l...more
matt

Best story:

Rollins writes about how he and another guy in his band (might have been Greg Ginn) are out on the road in some godforsaken place, have no money and are starving and want to go to this Wendy's type establishment to eat. There's a salad bar there where the price is three dollars for all you can eat. Their eyes light up and they run over, stacking mound upon mound of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc 'till the plate is three feet high.

The manager comes over and kind of pokes his head o...more
Josh
Dec 06, 2007 Josh rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: anyone thinking about taking over vocal duties in a fairly established hardcore punk band
This is the only thing of Henry Rollins's I've ever read, and it was pretty righteous. But when he gets into a funk, that may last for months, the book drags along with it. There are still brilliant insights and passages from it, and it gives the music a whole new spin too, in a lot of ways. My only word of caution in reading this book, is the following: IT WILL REALLY MAKE YOU WANT TO PUNCH THINGS. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT PUNCH THINGS.

Henry Rollins is a very angry man. He has the largest neck...more
Lauren
Apr 27, 2008 Lauren rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: punk rockers
So Henry Rollins is someone I want to spend the rest of my life with.Some think he is a complete asshole, which he is, but that does not bother me much bc it's henry fucking rollins!

Anyways if you had a childhood/teenage blah blah life similar to my very own you love Black Flag. Maybe you even have the bars tatted up on you.

Their painful coolness is what punk rock dreams are based on, but this book shows you in some instances the mundane existence of a touring punk rock band from the 80s. there...more
Nate
I can't really take too much of Henry's self-mythologizing, but this book chronicles the work that he'll be known for forever: fronting Black Flag. Working on Greg Ginn's farm wasn't easy and Henry's story is funny, bracing, and paints a staggering picture of young men overcoming unbelievable obstacles to push their rock band out into a very hostile world. A must read for fans of 1980s American rock.
Mark Desrosiers
As a misanthrope and a solipsist, young Henry Rollins is the midpoint between Gene Simmons and Arthur Schopenhauer (with whom he bears more than a passing resemblance). This book chronicles his transformation from an insecure D.C. ice-cream sales associate to a self-absorbed glossolalia Cardassian. Compassion, malice, and egoism (the nascent traits that Henry calls his "Discipline, Insanity, and Exile") are vividly enacted here, everything from skinheads interrupting Henry's taking a shit to his...more
Greg Swallow
First off, I'm biased. I've seen Henry Rollins with and without his backing band live over 25 times. I never missed a tour until the last couple of years.

How I got to the ripe old age of 34 without reading this book is beyond me. That I never cracked the cover of this book other than to glance through it casually is the same phenomenon as never owning copies of those oh-so-many "crucial" albums that were put out in your youth -- you know, there were just so many other alternatives that you had t...more
Joseph
Feb 17, 2008 Joseph rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: punks, hippies, metal heads, jazzers and everyone else
I've owned this book since the late '90s, when I was a teen getting into punk rock. Black Flag's "Who's Got the 10 1/2" was the fourth punk record I ever bought and made me a fan for life. When I bought "Get in the Van" in early 1997, the history of punk rock (especially American Hardcore Punk) was still spoken in whispers. It was very hard to find out more about punk rock bands than it is today. This book is Henry Rollins' journals while he was the fourth and last singer of the great Black Flag...more
Marty Day
A much darker read than I anticpated, this collection of Henry Rollin's diaries while on tour with Black Flag underlines how much harder it was to be a touring independent band in the 80's, and also why I generally dislike the punk rock scene.

Two bits I found interesting...
1. Comparing and contrasting this to the tour diary entries of my friends, who were on tour at the same time.

2. Reading the Wiki on Rollins, which indicates he was on LSD most of the time he was with Black Flag. Kind of jarrin...more
catechism
There is a reason most of us do not publish the diaries we keep when we are teenies, and that reason is paragraph after paragraph about how the world is cold, no one understands me, maybe I'll cut myself for a while, everything is terrible, I hate the whole world and they hate me back, my girlfriend just broke up with me long-distance and I will be ALONE FOREVER. I spent a lot of this laughing and thinking to myself, CRY MOAR, HENRY ROLLINS.

That said! I enjoyed the hell out of it! It's a great l...more
Brian Fanelli
If you want a really honest, detailed account of what it was like to front a punk band in the 1980s, then check out Henry Rollins Get in the Van, a collection of journal entries from his time as Black Flag's front man. The book addresses the excitement of fronting a band, but also the boredom of being on the road constantly. The entries also detail some of the most brutal fights between the LA police and the punk rockers. Rollins' journals serve as a reminder that punk rock was not always so saf...more
Gillian
As an angry teenager I developed quite a Black Flag problem and Henry Rollins remains on my allowed list, mainly because he makes me laugh like a drain and seems like a genuine, if genuinely grumpy, person. My personal favourite anecdote in this book is the one about him and Nick Cave stealing cheese...yeah. It's a good read if you're interested in that particular little bit of music history.
Brendan
as much as i wish ginn had kept a tour diary to provide a counterpoint to some of rollins' more emo rantings toward the middle of this, this is easily the most punk rock diary in existence. black flag would eat any skinny band dude in girl jeans and flat ironed hair for fucking breakfast and still jam "my war" as hard as they possibly could without even skipping a beat.
Matthew W
Henry Rollins used to be Greg Ginn's prize white slave.
Daniel
Great memoir of Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins detailing the insane life on the road touring with the band in the early 80s. Pretty much the godfathers of hardcore music Black Flag's shows were as legendary as they are. Rollins and the brilliant Greg Ginn as well as the other Flag members endured countless chaotic shows that constantly resulted in violence and their being spat on by fans.

What's most impressive is the passion for the music displayed through their relentless touring, ferocious...more
Doug
There's a moment early in "Get in the Van" where Henry Rollins recalls listening to Black Flag as a fan and both loving and hating the music. Loving it because it was urgent, energetic and evocative of his own pent-up feelings of alienation and boredom. Hating it because, reflexively, the band's very do-it-yourself existence combined with the music to show the young Rollins what he was not - free and self-realized.

What follows is Rollins' account, almost all of it pulled from his own journals,...more
RandomAnthony
Okay, I'm going with three stars here only because 2.5 isn't an option. Get In the Van features three distinct categories:

1. Rollins in the "shed" (an actual shed behind Greg Ginn's house, if I'm not mistaken, where he lives when not touring),
2. Rollins free-associating through weird poems/visual fantasies, and
3. Black Flag tour diaries.

The first and last are solid, sometimes more than solid, but the second is bad/embarrassing to the point where I skimmed most of them. I can't give an unquivoca...more
Chris Pariseau
This book was originally picked up as a tanger while reading Azerrad's *This Band Could Be Tour Life*. I read the chapter of that book chronicling the life and death of that band, remembered my youthful love affair with all things Henry Rollins, went on a library search and Bam! I was nose first into theirs coupleof pages watching Henry serving Haagen Daas and thinking something was missing when he would come back from the city after seeing his favorite bands tear it up. When he decides to get u...more
Shane
This book totally rocked on audio but now I have the real book and it has TONS of pictures. So it's a "bathroom book". Reading it again just reminds of how much fun it was the first time.

I didn't start going to hardcore shows until 1987 so I missed out on all this (and that really sucks) but reading about it and seeing all these pics is the second best thing. Quotes like "I dove off the stage and landed hard on this guy pinning him to the ground - it ended up being Jello Biafra - sorry chief." J...more
Josh
First of all, I'm not a fan of Black Flag. I don't dislike Black Flag, and I think their history is really interesting. Being in a band myself, I feel like there's a whole lot that I can learn from their work ethic and desire to push their own limits. Musically, they're just not my thing. Henry Rollins, however, is very much my thing.
I came across this book in a roundabout way. I'm a massive fan of the book World War Z by Max Brooks (READ IT!), and I've listened to the audio book numerous times...more
Vache
Henry Rollins was the singer of Black Flag and Rollins Band. He also has written several books, has acted in a number of films, and does spoken word shows. I am a huge fan of Black Flag and, prior to reading this book, have seen many of his spoken word shows on the internet. I immediately connected with everything Henry Rollins said and I soon began to dig deeper into his many careers and works of art. I decided I had to read one of his books, and I chose this one first because it seemed to be v...more
Jake
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Russell
I finally got around to reading this during the Spring of 2002. And it was all by chance. I went into our library to kill some time before my next class, and I saw this on the shelf next to me. I checked it out and devoured it over the course of the next several weeks while I was by coincidence also in the van, or bus. In my travels as a collegiate track and field athlete I read each page and studied each picture on those hour to three hour drives. It starts with Rollins traveling with Ian MacKa...more
Mike
This is one of those books that almost everyone seriously into punk has read. Rollins has done a lot to solidify Black Flag as one of the few bands in punk and indie circles that has a well established narrative comparable to that of the Beatles in the way it is commonly understood among people in the subculture.

With that said, a lot of this book is behind the scenes details of Black Flag, and if you are not interested in them or punk in general, it might not keep your interests. However, there...more
Paul
Rollin's story of how he joined Black Flag is a microcosm as to how a lot of people get their real start in life: they make an impression on some loose connection and then they get to join the group, whether it's a punk band or a job at Google. Next are journal entries of hard work, problems with cops, and violent people who came to the shows.

While everyone won't have quiet a dramatic life as a Black Flag member, the anecdotes are pretty applicable to everyone. If you want to get anywhere in li...more
Jamila
Oh, Henry Rollins. The name alone stimulates so many different adjectives such as blunt, pissed off, alienated, hilarious, etc etc etc. I am a huge fan of Henry Rollins spoken word so this was the perfect listen for me. Imagine living your life for nothing other than your music, expressing your honesty in music putting your heart and soul into every song. Even though you will never be main stream, barely have any money to eat, practically live in a van you can hardly afford gas for, getting beat...more
Benoit Lelievre
If you like Rollins, even just a little, you owe yourself to read that book. I have a paragraph from page 120 tattooed on my right forearm.

The initial inception must be pure. All energy must be put to use. The end must never leave your sight. Complete destruction must be had. You must maintain drive that goes beyond obsession, beyond purpose, beyond reason. Every movement must be in the forward direction. When in the woods, seek the clearing. The path shines so bright it's almost blinding.

It's a...more
Beth
Aug 01, 2009 Beth rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009
When I was in high school/college I thought Henry Rollins was the coolest guy EVER and when I added this book to Goodreads i gave it 5 stars. Now that I'm reading the 2nd edition my star rating keeps dropping. I would love it if I could write off his whining and ugly attitude to early 20s angst, but if you've heard an interview with him in this decade, you know that at the age of 48 he is still acting like a 23 y/o twit.

I feel old. One more page of "f these stupid people, they're all pathetic a...more
Jack
A brilliant book by a very underrated thinker.. Henry Rollins. It's hard to believe he was seen as such an unthinking thug these days, but back in the day, he was considered a brute. We all know better now and it's great to read his on the road diary. He's to be taken with a grain of salt but it's a fascinating read. Who knew his first job was manager of a Baskin Robbins? From Rocky Road to Life on the Road.. with Black Flag. Mmm, ice cream with insect repellant.
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Henry Rollins (born Henry Lawrence Garfield; often referred to simply as Rollins) is an American singer-songwriter, spoken word artist, author, actor and publisher.

After joining the short-lived Washington, D.C. band State of Alert in 1980, Rollins fronted the Californian hardcore punk band Black Flag from 1981 until 1986. Following the band's breakup, Rollins soon established the record label and...more
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“I'm constantly around people that talk a lot but say nothing. A sad case.” 6 likes
“I've said it before and I say it again: "A man's got to do what a brainless idiot's got to do.” 3 likes
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