Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Shrouded Stranger (Three Renditions)

The Shrouded Stranger

Last weekend we featured two tracks from the Michael Minzer-Hal Willner-produced Lion For Real - "To Aunt Rose" and "Lion For Real", this weekend, a couple more - 

First, the very early lyric (from 1949) -  "The Shrouded Stranger"

Shadow Death From Nowhere.jpg

The Shrouded Stranger

Bare skin is my wrinkled sack
When hot Apollo humps my back
When Jack Frost grabs me in these rags
I wrap my legs with burlap bags

My flesh is cinder my face is snow
I walk the railroad to and fro
When city streets are black and dead
The railroad embankment is my bed

I sup my soup from old tin cans
And take my sweets from little hands
In Tiger Alley near the jail
I steal away from the garbage pail

In darkest night where none can see
Down in the bowels of the factory
I sneak barefoot upon stone
Come and hear the old man groan

I hide and wait like a naked child
Under the bridge my heart goes wild
I scream at a fire on the river bank
I give my body to an old gas tank

I dream that I have burning hair
Boiled arms that claw the air
The torso of an iron king
And on my back a broken wing

Who'll go out whoring into the night
On the eyeless road in the skinny moonlight
Maid or dowd or athlete proud
May wanton with me in the shroud

Who'll come lay down in the dark with me
Belly to belly and knee to knee
Who'll look into my hooded eye
Who'll lay down under my darkened thigh?

"The song of the Shrouded Stranger of the Night", Allen can be heard at the beginning of this 1970 reading at New York's 92nd Street Y, reading from it here

A 1973 recording at Salem State's remarkable Jack Kerouac Festival may be heard here

The 1989 Lion For Real version may be listened to -  here 

Sleeve notes: "A Blakean Lyric, drawn from a childhood boogeyman sex dream under Paterson, N.J. choo-choo train Broadway overpass, my best 1949 rhymed poem. (Jack) Kerouac liked the genius of "I hide and wait like a naked child/Under the bridge my heart goes wild'. Marc Ribot's setting captures the railroad shuffle bones wispy phantom rhythm - Till this version I never realized the strangers gasping graveyard groan was a Hungry Ghost's hopeless cry for sexual help"

addenda - here's the poem both in English and Hungarian - and a menacing rendition by the Hobo Blues Band

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