Bent By Nature - Ep. 10: Rollins

Throughout “Bent By Nature,” you’ve heard many stories of the lifelong connections set in motion by Deirdre O’Donoghue. But none were quite as surprising as the bond between Deirdre and fellow iconoclast Henry Rollins, the former Black Flag frontman, musician, writer, actor, activist, and longtime KCRW host. After a chance meeting in early 1984, Rollins became a regular voice on “SNAP!” And he quickly became one of her most treasured co-hosts and friends.

In our final episode of “Bent By Nature,” Rollins shares his remembrances of Deirdre: the DJ, tastemaker, and human being who changed his life irrevocably.

“You’re impossible to pigeonhole is what you are. You are simply Rollins. That’s all there is to it. And I rather like it.”

Deirdre O’Donoghue, “SNAP!,” 3/22/84

Bent By Nature - Ep. 10: Rollins
Henry Rollins performing with Black Flag at Mi Casita in Torrance in 1983. Photo by Kevin Salk.

I believe I met Deirdre in 1984. I forget how it happened, but I ended up on her KCRW show "SNAP!" to be interviewed. After the show was over, we stayed at the station for a few hours. I told her I had brought some tapes of music I was listening to at the time. She was very interested in hearing what I was into. I was struck by how enthusiastic about music she was. This was the beginning of our friendship that lasted until she passed away. 

In those days, I was in a touring band and out of California for months at a time. When I would return, it usually wasn’t for very long, but I always tried to get over to Deirdre’s apartment to visit and catch up on what music was currently captivating her. There were always new bands and artists she was excited about. Rarely was she lukewarm about a group. If she mentioned a record at all, it was because she found it almost impossible to stop playing it.

Whenever I could, I would go to KCRW with her and watch her do the show. I was her vinyl roadie. She had these large, as I remember, blue canvas carry bags for records. Both would be full. We made an odd couple. She, this effervescent, slight, ball of energy, and me, a long-haired, tattooed guy in a rock band. Many nights, I would hang out with her at the station, crash on her couch, and then take two busses back to Redondo Beach, where I was living.

"We made an odd couple. She, this effervescent, slight, ball of energy, and me, a long-haired, tattooed guy in a rock band," writes Rollins, pictured here in 1984. Photo by Martin O'Neill/Redferns.

We would hang out in her living room, which was filled with records. She would play one after another. I took notes and made tapes to take on tour, which eventually I would have to leave for. She ended up being a huge influence not only on what I listened to, but how I appreciated music. She was so completely open to pretty much anything that was happening. She was completely consumed by music.


I would go through her tapes and find demos sent to her by famous artists who just wanted to keep her in the loop with what they were doing. Christmas cards from George Harrison and others showed up around the end of the year, and lots of signed records were always leaning against the over-packed shelves. Whenever the phone would ring, I would grab it and say, “Deirdre O’Donoghue’s residence, who may I say is calling?” One time, when John Cale replied, I almost threw the phone. She and I were at his show later that night. 

Bands who were reluctant to be interviewed said yes to Deirdre. I think it’s because they felt she really got what they were doing. She wasn’t working in radio for the fame or the paycheck, Deirdre really loved music and the people who made it. One night, she cooked dinner for Nick Cave and I. There we were, the three of us, at her small kitchen table, her pair of finches talking nonstop.