In 1994 I was a freshman in high school. A good boy who followed the rules, got good grades and showed up to work on time… on the outside. On the inside I was a fucking maniac, an animal caged inside a pressure-cooker that wanted to kill, fuck or destroy everything in sight. A ball of hormones and confusion, tightly wrapped in a nice little Catholic school attending, grocery bagging for $4.65 an hour package. I couldn’t wear my black jeans and Metallica shirt to Catholic school, I didn’t have the strength or the self-confidence to stand up to the privileged, pampered, future white collar asshole scumbags of America that ran the place and I definitely didn’t have the courage to be anything more than friends with the ladies.
But alone in my room, cranking Weight on my first stereo at as close to top volume as I could get away with, yelling along with Henry Rollins:
“You’re pathetic and weak / You’re a fake and you lie / I’d like to crush you like an insect / But I don’t want to do the time / Do you really want to confront me? / Do you really want to deal with me? / No! / I didn’t think so!” – “Step Back”
I felt ten fucking feet tall. I felt like Rollins was speaking directly to the war going on inside my head, like maybe at some point he too had been a scrawny little nothing that quietly went about his daily business, keeping his head down and trying not to draw too much attention to himself, all the while wishing he could be something more, wishing he had the stones to “fuck on the floor and break shit” (to borrow a phrase from the man himself, see the Henry Rollins – Up For It DVD).
Of course, it also helped that the musical backdrop for Rollins’ vein-popping pep talks was an incredibly rich one. In fact, referring to the music as a backdrop is to do it a great disservice. Rollins Band drew from the entire spectrum of sound as I knew it at the time; rock, metal, prog, blues, funk, punk/hardcore, Weight had it all in spades, making for an album that was crushing but also funky and danceable in some bizzaro-world kind of way, all without sounding silly or contrived. These were men that held Black Sabbath’s apocalyptic doom dirges and George Clinton’s bop gun-fuelled freak-outs in equal esteem. Chris Haskett, Sim Cain and Melvin Gibbs played with the same intensity and conviction that Rollins put into his words, a perfect soundtrack for raging hormones, sexual frustration and a pent up desire for reckless abandon that an existence in the bowels of the Midwest could never hope to gratify.
Even today Weight is an inspiring album for me. Being a little older and wiser(?), I have a better understanding (I think) of where Rollins was coming from with his lyrics, as well as a deeper appreciation of the vast ocean of musical influences Haskett, Cain and Gibbs were drawing from/destroying with. When the pressures of my everyday existence (corporate job, crazy relatives, bills to pay, etc) start to get me down, I still find myself reaching for Weight, still trying to find “grace in times of friction”.
In case you were wondering, yes, this was at least partially inspired by the recent Invisible Oranges interview w/ former Rollins Band bassist Melvin Gibbs, which can be read HERE.
If you’re still feeling nostalgic like I am, here are the two well known music videos from Weight, for the songs “Disconnect” and of course “Liar”.