Opening for Henry Rollins? How EJL did it.

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Pre-show crowd at the Echoplex by Timothy Norris
Pre-show crowd at the Echoplex by Timothy Norris
Henry Rollins talked to fans for about an hour before the show. By Timothy Norris
Henry Rollins talked to fans for about an hour before the show. By Timothy Norris

I asked KCRW DJ and Music Librarian Eric J Lawrence about how he put together his pre-show compilation for Henry’s “Rare Cuts and Conversation” event last week. As always, EJL had a thoughtful response. My fave – he chose some people who reminded him of Henry…read on for details and a set list:

Occasionally I’m asked by KCRW’s Events Department to make a compilation for the pre-show entertainment as people arrive and find their seats.  I tend to be a good person to put such things together, having the keys to the entire KCRW music library at my disposal.

Henry Rollins Live At Echoplex by Timothy Norris
Henry Rollins Live At Echoplex by Timothy Norris

Also, I take great pleasure in being able to sneak in some mind-blowers when people least expect to hear them – even if only a handful of attendees might pick up on what they just heard, I still feel as if I’ve made my contribution to the event.

But when they asked me to put together a compilation to play before Henry Rollins’ listening party at the Echoplex last week, I’ll admit I felt the pressure.

Sure, it was only going to be half-heard by folks as they got settled in for the main event.  But what a main event: Henry sharing some of the best rarities from his extensive musical archives!  How was I going to compete with that?  The answer is, I couldn’t.  So all I could do is put together something in the spirit of the evening.

I may not have a cassette of the Ramones‘ demo recordings and the like, but I do have some favorite, relatively-obscure gems of my own that I imagined might peak the discriminating music fan’s earbuds.

I wanted to pick a few things that I knew would fit Henry’s aesthetics, including songs related to some of his favorite artists like James Brown (I included longtime Brown-associate Fred Wesley’s cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man”) and The Fall (whose leader, Mark E. Smith, sings with Edwyn Collins on his “Seventies Night”), as well as beloved genres like African rock (70s Zimbabwean group The Green Arrows) and first-generation punk rock (1977’s “Creep Skin” from The Afrika Korps).

I also selected some tracks from people who personally reminded me of Henry in some roundabout way, like Ice-T (a stand-out musical artist who later established themselves as an actor as well), Jack Kerouac (a literary raconteur who knows his music as well) and The Incredible Hulk (I included Joseph Harnell’s theme to the late 70s/early 80s TV show because Henry seems to me to be perpetually morphed into the exact midpoint between super-smart nerd Bruce Banner and the unbridled id of the Hulk).

Added to the mix were some selections to serve as secret nods to some of my station friends who I knew where going to be in attendance, like our publicity gal (and moderator of this here blog) Rachel Reynolds (whose recent post about Galt MacDermot inspired me to include a track from him) and longtime uber-volunteer, pledge drive premium coordinator and Rollins fanatic Jen Y. (Australian AC/DC clone Rose Tattoo’s “We Can’t Be Beaten” is an inside-joke between us, not to mention a damn fine rocker in its own right!)

And then there were those things I threw in just because – like Syd Dale’s near-perfect piece of production music, “The Hell Raisers” (first heard by me in the background of the 60s Spider-Man cartoon), and Hee-Haw regular Junior Samples’ hilarious hillbilly fish story, “World’s Biggest Whopper.”

All in all, the project proved a fun challenge to put together.  And while I arrived at the event just as Henry hit the stage and therefore never got to hear the fruits of my labor, I hold out a secret hope some folks in attendance got a chuckle out of hearing something unexpected before the real fireworks began.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Read more about the event here and see more photos from LA Weekly’s slideshow by Timothy Norris

Henry even signed a band-aid! He chatted with fans after the show as well
Henry even signed a band-aid! He chatted with fans after the show as well

Eric J Lawrence’s Pre-Show Compilation Track List

1. Watermelon Man / Fred Wesley & The J.B.’s

2. Only Shallow / Japancakes

3. No Delay (Part One – Chipo Chiroorwa LP) / The Gree Arrows

4. The Hell Raisers / KPM Artists (feat. Syd Dale)

5. Free the People / Bruce Downer

6. Creep Skin / The Afrika Korps

7. Your iPhone Is Broken / Parry Gripp

8. 100% / The Slew

9. I’d Rather Be Thin Than Famous / Jack Kerouac & Steve Allen

10. Call To Danger / Mort Stevens And His Orchestra

11. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 / Prinzhorn Dance School

12. Space / Galt McDermot

13. Spider / Mi-Gu

14. Can’t Be Still / ReverendOrganDrum

15. Anorexic Colt Herd / HollAnd

16. I am very glad, because I’m finally returning back home (Trololo) / Eduard Khil

17. We Can’t Be Beaten / Rose Tattoo

18. World’s Biggest Whopper / Junior Samples

19. Personal / Ice-T

20. Main Title / Bernard Herrmann

21. An Ugly Woman (Is Twice as Sweet) / Don Covay

22. Seventies Night / Edwyn Collins

23. The Real Stuff / Dudley Moore

24. The Incredible Hulk / Joseph Harnell

25. Love, That’s America / Melvin Van Peebles

26. Earache My Eye / Ceech & Chong