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Get in the Van: On the Road With Black Flag

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  7,638 ratings  ·  292 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, 303 pages
Published November 18th 2004 by 2.13.61 (first published October 1st 1994)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  7,638 ratings  ·  292 reviews

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Aug 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crazy-crazy
I think this has been one of the hardest books that I have read in a long time. It isn't the writing that makes it hard, however, I will say that it is all taken from Henry's journal entries so the flow is rough. No, the reason why it is such a hard read is that Henry's depression, self loathing and general hatred to the world is SO palpable that you can feel it wafting off the pages. He literally gave everything he had to his music and performances that there was nothing left for himself or any ...more
East Bay J
Feb 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music-bios, travel
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
Michael Jandrok
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
10-01-18 Lockhart TX: We will start with this. Black Flag is one of my all-time favorite bands. They distilled hardcore into something tangible at a time when punk was reinventing itself for the second or third time. Nobody is really counting. Black Flag was the first of the hardcore bands to really embrace heavy metal and see the possibilities of taking one extreme form of music and melding it with another. They were hardly the first crossover band, and they weren’t really metal in any true sen ...more
Mar 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, musique

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
Dec 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Matthew W
Henry Rollins used to be Greg Ginn's prize white slave.
Greg Swallow
May 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: music
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
Bonnie G.
Not going to do a star rating for this one. I got 20% in and remembered how much hated this historical moment. I despised the rooms full of white boys grabbing women by their hair and breasts and genitals (including me on several occasions, this is not second-hand info.), I hated watching them beat each other into unconsciousness. I hated hearing their racist and homophobic shit at EVERY show (many would not have considered themselves racist, but I saw a lot of people with "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" ...more
This is a biased review. I’m kind of in love with Henry Rollins. He’s the man, as simple as that. I know he’s a deeply flawed human being, with a motor-mouth and a strong tendency to self-mythologize. And… I really don’t give a fuck. I still love him. His music, his spoken word, his writing. I love it all. He’s made me laugh, cry, dance and inspired me endlessly. He is not perfect, but no one is and that doesn’t make him less of a hero for me.

Now about this book. It’s not a pleasant read: these
Apr 27, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Oct 16, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Mark Desrosiers
Jan 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: music, memoirs
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
May 23, 2013 rated it did not like it
"Damaged" is a good album and all, but I wasn't impressed. I even listened to Black Flag semi-regularly at the time. Henry Rollins is just another angry middle class white kid who was in the right place at the right time to get sort-of famous. That was my opinion going into the book, and I didn't read anything to change that opinion.
Feb 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf, music, biography, library
Henry Rollins is kind of an asshole. I'm not sure why I would be surprised that when he was in his early 20s he was an entitled self-centered and pompous asshole. Couldn't finish it, spent too much time rolling my eyes and convincing myself that Rollins has grown up by now.
Feb 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
Henry & Marina

I downloaded the audio book for Marina Abramović’s memoir Walk Through Walls on the recommendation of Ben Loory, a friend, writer, and reader whose taste in literature syncs up with my own more often than not. When he strongly recommends a book, I pay attention.

I was somewhat familiar with Abramović’s work as a performance artist. I had a vague recollection of a piece she did a decade ago that involved a lot of celebrities. I’ve met a handful of performance artists and her name al
Aug 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Not sure why I'd never read this cover-to-cover before, I've certainly dipped into friends' copies numerous times over the years. I guess it's largely because (heresy coming... ) despite being into hardcore as a teen and adult, I've never been a big Black Flag fan. I mean, yeah, some great songs here and there, but it just generally wasn't ever a sound that connected with me. But in the last few years I've met him a few times at various book and film events here in DC, and found him to be very p ...more
May 04, 2016 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings about this one. I think Henry Rollins is a fascinating guy and I had high expectations before reading. My first impression was the difference between the twenty-something Rollins and the fifty-something Rollins. The younger one is a bleak misanthropist. The older one, as I've seen in recent footage, is more at ease with himself and others and is definitely wiser. I think his journal entries are a great documentation of his time in Black Flag. I didn't like the repetition of ...more
Feb 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 06, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Oct 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Benoit Lelièvre
Mar 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Jan 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I've seen Rollins Band and two Henry Rollins Spoken Word shows live. His voice and story telling carry a lot of the character and experience from the events depicted in the book. It is taken from his journals during those years of touring with Black Flag. There is a rhythm to the audiobook as tours grind on and turn him inward to reflect on his attitudes and begin to break him down into just touching base with the journal as he approaches burnout at the end of a grinding tour with little stable ...more
Brian Fanelli
May 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jennifer Ozawa
Henry Rollins is one of my personal heroes. I would love nothing more than to sit for hours with him and talk about everything. I made it a personal goal to read all of his books. This book was on my to-read list for years.

While Henry has evolved into an erudite, articulate voice, he was not always. At the writing of "Get in the Van", he was in his early twenties and had barely made it out of high school. He was angry, disaffected and disconnected.

Much of this book is a portrait of a really ang
Jun 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Not the most enjoyable read but I suppose the tedium of touring is reflected in Henry's diary which includes the the never ending physical abuse. Military tropes. And there's a fair amount of crabbiness including complaints about Mike Watt. I was touched by how he was able to become friends with Nick Cave (and Diamanda Galas) by simply writing fan letters. I was very pleased that in the postscript, he apologies for dissing Kira. Kira!
Jul 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favourites
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.
Dec 06, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
Listened to the abridged audio version of this back in college, thought I should read the whole thing. This updated version from 2004 has a bunch of old photos and fliers. Five years of journal entries documenting touring as the singer of a punk band called Black Flag in the early-to-mid 1980's, and the hell and heaven it was through Rollins's eyes.
Jul 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
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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

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