Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Charles Reznikoffs Birthday

                                            [Charles Reznikoff - Photograph by Abraham Ravett]

It's Charles Reznikoff's birthday. 

For more Charles Reznikoff postings on the Allen Ginsberg Project - see here and here

and here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here , here, here, 
here and here   (a thirteen-part series of Naropa lectures from 1978 that we recently featured on the great master)

and should you want more Ginsberg-on-Reznikoff:

herehere, here...

Shall we go on?  ….

Suffice, it is to say, that for Allen, Reznikoff was one of the essentials.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Robert Crumb's Birthday

It's Robert Crumb's Birthday. He turns 73 today.  Happy Birthday, Robert!

                                                      [Robert Crumb - Self-Portrait (1982)]

R. Crumb on Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg kissed me once. It was in 1989, before I knew what was going on and I couldn't stop him, he kissed me on the mouth. [laughs]
I like Howl. Howl's great. It's like the beatnik manifesto of the '50s, y' know, it really says it all. It's got that beatnik attitude of that time in America. It's quite eloquent. But after that, he didn't really do anything that struck me as particularly interesting. But he was like a spokesman for the hippies in the '60s too. He would lead the hippies in all those Indian chants. He tried to lead them in the direction of spirituality, an East Indian kind of spirituality with meditation and chanting and all that.

R. Crumb on Jack Kerouac:

When I was 17, I read On The Road, and it sickened me, because my reaction was, "Oh God, these guys are out there having so much fun. I'm not having any fun at all. I'm just sitting here in my parents house. But them — the girls, the adventures, they're just like having a fuckin' lark On The Road."I liked his writing. I still like his writing, I think he's a great writer. He has a very particular, specific genre that he does of that time. He's very much of his time, you know, the non-conformist in the post-war era. But I like Kerouac. I haven't read everything that he's written. Sometimes I intend to go back and read more of his stuff, but I haven't read anything he's written in a long time.

R.Crumb on William S Burroughs:

"I love Burroughs also; a great writer. But his best writing is his straight-ahead prose. He wrote all this crazy fantasy stuff, which I think he was encouraged to do by this other beatnik writer, Brion Gysin, who, for some reason Burroughs admired. Gysin was, I think, a jive-ass, bullshit kind of guy. Burroughs, I think he lacked confidence in his own writing, because when he wrote straight prose it didn’t sell well. When he wrote Junkie, and that came out, it didn’t sell well in the beginning. And then he wrote this other book, Queer, around the same time in the early ’50s and he couldn’t even get that published. That wasn’t published until the 1980s. And Queer is a great book. Both Junkie and Queer are great. They’re both written in this very dry, prose style. And his little thin book called the Yage Letters, which were letters he wrote back to Allen Ginsberg while he was in South America looking for this psychedelic Yage plant. That’s a great book; great stuff. But the problem is, there’s not enough of that, not enough of his straight-ahead prose. He just didn’t think it was any good because he either couldn’t get it published or it didn’t sell. So then he wrote this gimmicky thing called Naked Lunch, which is mostly fantasy stuff and not very interesting to me, and that sold well. He made his reputation on Naked Lunch.
"He was a very eccentric character; very eccentric ideas and thoughts. He tried all kinds of strange, avant-garde psychotherapies. He was into psychic experimentation. He built himself an orgone box based upon the theories of Wilhelm Reich. He later got involved in Scientology and had this E-meter and used it as a way to psychically clear himself. He said it was his electrical Ouija board. [laughs] He tried other stuff too, like out of body experience. I can relate to all that stuff because I’m interested in all that fringe, psychic experimentation also. But he was very serious about that stuff.
"The sad thing about Burroughs, the tragic thing. was he abused himself so badly with substances. It’s amazing that he was still a very sharp thinker into his late years. His intellect was still pretty good even though he'd used drugs and heroin– and he didn’t stop that until he was about 60 or something–and then he became a bad alcoholic. I heard these  tapes of him giving recitals, reading his stuff to audiences, and he’s so drunk you can barely understand him, he’s slurring his words so badly. It’s really sad. Still, he lived until his mid-80s. He was a tough guy. He appeared to be kind of wimpy, but he was tough."

Here's Crumb eloquently reminiscing, last year on Australian radio

from that interview (on Allen and the Beats):

(Allen was a) classic, classic example. He became a guru, total guru of the hippies - and loved it, ate it up. He'd get up there on stage, and, you know, just chant OM or something in his robes and everything and they loved him, ate it up. He was a hero, they were all heroes, all those people from the Beatnik-histter era, you know, they were our antecedents and the people we looked to. Like Kerouac - it killed him, it destroyed him, they wouldn't leave him alone, they pestered him to death, he couldn't escape from them hippies they climbed over his fence to get at him. He just wanted to sit quietly and drink in his house with his mother aor whatever and they hounded him to death. 

The Arena documentry ("The Confessions of Robert Crumb") from 1987, is available - here

The Confessions of Robert Crumb

The trailer for Terry Zwigoff's landmark 1994 documentary may be viewed here  

Here's Crumb and his wife fellow-cartoonist Aline Kominsky at the Prague Writers Festival in 2009

Here's Crumb's 2010 Paris Review interview

Here's Crumb on NPR's Talk of the Nation  in 2013

In fact, all of the Crumb brood….

Here's Crumb (more recently) talking comics in San Francisco in May 2015

oh and ps. Jesse Crumb, Robert's son, turns out to be a pretty talented artist himself. From the 1995 set (with Erica Detiefsen)  - Beat Characters - Diane di Prima, Ted Joans, Kenneth Rexroth, David Meltzer, microphone (poetry and jazz), Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Tuli Kupferberg, and Allen Ginsberg 

In fact, all of the Crumb brood…..

Monday, August 29, 2016

Charlie Parker's Birthday

Charlie Parker's birthday today. We salute, as before, on The Allen Ginsberg Project, "the creator of the cool sound, the most modern of all horn men…"  

Bird-fanciers (ornithologists) have plenty to be grateful for this year with the release this past month of Unheard Bird - The Unissued Takes, a new double-CD, featuring 58 previously-unreleased recordings made between 1949 and 1952 for Norman Granz, foumder of Verve Records, showcasing Parker in a variety of settings - in a Latin-jazz orchestra (spotlighting Afro-Cuban rhythms), leading  all-star quartets, quintets, and septets, (and we do mean all-star!), solo-ing over a strings ensemble, and fronting a big band.
Not the least matter of interest is the inclusion of false starts, incomplete takes, and alternative versions (each placed alongside the previously-released master-recording of each one - thus offering an unprecedented glimpse into the process of his creative genius. 

Studio interactions, coughs, splutters - the emphasis is on comprehensiveness (it's no surprise that primo jazz historian, Phil Schaap is behind the project - Schapp's WKCR Bird Flight is, like this collection, essential listening - In fact, if you tune in to WKCR now, you'll hopefully get to catch his annual wall-to-wall Charlie Parker birthday broadcast (following on, as ever, from his Lester Young one)  

Schapp, aside from discovering the material, and presenting it so definitivly here, also provides extensive track-by-track history and session-by-session analysis.

From some of the recent reviews:

Jon Young in Mother Jones - Charlie Parker's "Unheard Notes" -  "His (Parker's) gorgeous alto sax sounds as fresh and inventive today as it did more than half a century ago. Offering 69 tracks most previously unissued, on two discs, Unheard Bird is a monumental archaeological achievement"

Michael Ullman in Fuse - "The Unheard - But Indispensible - Bird" - "It's easy to recommend this new two disc set, where the miracle that was Charlie Parker is repeatedly on glorious display. What jazz fan wouldn't want to hear Bird rejigger versions of a blues tune [one of the many treasures in this two-CD set]…There is more new music from Parker at his most astounding here than I ever expected to encounter again in this lifetime" 

Bill Brownlee for KCUR - "Casual Parker fans may express..annoyance at the idea of subjecting themselves to more than two hours of false starts, outtakes, and other studio ephemera.But for Parker fanatics and jazz historians, the new two-CD set is like discovering rough drafts of sacred scripture.
Parker was 28 in the earliest sessions documented in Unheard Bird.He was 35 when he died in 1955 less than three years after its final recordings. But rather than foreshadowing the travails that would end his life, this is vital music suffused with joy. 

Further reviews from Downbeat, from The Wall Street Journal, from Sammy Stein at Something Else, and from StanleyonMusic - here, here, here and here   

Happy Birthday, Charlie!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Jim Carroll workshop - continues - 6

                                              [Sherlock Holmes -  illustration by Sidney Paget

transcription of Jim Carroll's 1986 Naropa workshop continues

JC: Now I'm going to play this..

(JC: here, can you cue this up? first song on Side A - Student: Sure)

This is some of the stuff. I shouldn't really play this either, but this is the stuff with a couple of new songs I wrote with me and  (Ray) Manzarek - I think this one's called.. This is a real rough mix. I made.. I had the engineer make it while the guitar guy was doing his lead lines.. so.. I figured I just wanted to write songs now that had a kind of, you know, didn't have anything  heavy happening in them, in a certain way. And I'm a real Sherlock Holmes fan, so.. I think, the day before..  I wrote this, the day before I'm flying out there to make the demos, the good demos, in the fancy studio, and we had - what was it? - Well, I saw, like, a Sherlock Holmes thing on [tv] on Channel 13 Mystery Theater - and I was thinking - And, on the plane, I wrote this lyric.

[Jim deciphers the lyrics] - I think it says: -  "I want to put my mind and find a proper solution just like Sherlock Holmes/I want to lay in a couch and figure things out just like Sherlock Holmes/I want…  At first I put "I want to lay on a sofa and figure things out.." These are the little things you find when you're singing it. "Lay on a sofa" and then you realize I want to "lay on a couch" and "figure things out". You know, "a couch" and "out" are a lot better than "sofa"and "out". If I said "I want to lay on a sofa and think things over", that might have been okay! - "I want to lay on a sofa and read the author" - But and then..what..and where does it go? - 

And then.. but whre does it go? - there's a little change in the music and then it goesI want to catch that man in Central Park/who leaps from bushes in the dark - a little pause - "A shaved head.. - and a synth-line or a jump.. snare - (I told the (engineer) I wanted a snare-hit then but (Ray) Manzarek said, "No, let them play a synth line there" - "A shaved head - [Waaa  - JC imitates the synthesizer] dressed like a loggerattacking random twilight joggers. And this version doesn't have it, but then it goes, "And on every corpse, he leaves strange poems/But I'm going to snag him just like Sherlock Holmes" - (This one just has  "But I'm going to snag him just like Sherlock Holmes"). Then it goes into a little instrumental that says… The bridge is.. "I want to stand up straight, stand up tall/I want to win the final battle at the waterfall"/ "I want to play the violin, be left for months alone/never hear the dial tone on a telephone"/ "When it rings, I'm a total wreck/It's like pliers tightening around my neck"/ "I feel these mysteries in my soul/I feel them just like Sherlock Holmes" - And then the last verse is, "I want a doctor like Watson to amaze and dazzle, just like Sherlock Holmes"/"I want to hide my secrets in Morroccan slippers.." [that's where he hid his syringe  - "the seven -percent solution" - (I'm) a real Holmsophile - holmsophile? - that doesn't sound right, does it! - shit!) - 

And then there was.. how does it go? - "I want to.. I want do something then.. it's that same change..I want to..  I forget that part. And then it goes 'I want to.. "  It says something and then it says "I want to.. I want to find that trash that finds a means to kill/that is worse than the hounds of the Baskerville(s)" /And uncover women at uptown parties/who agents for Professor Moriarty"/ They got blow-guns and good darts disguised as combs/But I'm going to catch them just like Sherlock Holmes"
So that one - I'll play that one, and then I'll play a song that is a little more relevant to something. 

[It's a good band, a good band - Rough mix though - deaf engineer, chickenshack studio with the rain falling on the roof … ] - Jim plays the "rough mix" of his Sherlock Holmes song. Here it is recorded by Ray Manzarek and Roy Rogers (sic) [from the album Twisted Tales (posthumously released, 2013]   

It has a real long fade I don't want to subject you to it, you know…

to be continued

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately forty-six-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately fifty-four-and-a-quarter minutes in]  

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Jim Carroll Workshop - 5 (Patti Smith)

                                 [Patti Smith and Jim Carroll c 1969 - Photograph by Wren D"Antonio]

Jim Carroll's  June 30, 1986 Naropa Poetics and Music Workshop contimues - see previous segments - here. here, here and here  

JC: Then, you know, the danger of course being, you didn’t want to fall into that kind of stream-of-consciousness type of scene because, I mean, that falls into a certain lassitude too easily also. So you have to use a song structure, I think. You can’t just put a poem to music. That’s very difficult, you know. I think with every song by this young lady [Patti Smith], she kind of advanced more and more from writing..  
[JC presents tape to Student/technical assistant - "This is a tape.first song on the A side..) This was from, I think, the next-to-last album, maybe the last album of Patti Smith [Wave (sic)], when she advanced from more like, you know, freaking little sections of poems into.. or starting out with poems.. (I did that a few times too, you know, there’s nothng wrong with that, but it has to fall into a song structure). I mean, by the end, Patti was writing pop songs, you know, I mean.. She had.. And they were good too, you know. There was nothing wrong with them. I mean, after Because The Night, she wanted..  you know, she had a taste of that Top-40 thing and she wanted some more of it, you know. And that’s ok. 
I mean, Lenny Kaye said to me, you know, when I said, “This song sounds a little pop-ish”, he said “Fuck it, man, go for it:, you know” - "Get the money!" – I mean, you get the money, you get the audience – That’s what you’re doing it for, you knowYou reach people.That’s why I felt that adding political songs on [Dry Dreams] was a responsibility, you know, (but the real thing that changed was the spirit.)     

[Student/technicial assistant: We can play it when you’re ready. JC: I’m ready – I hope that this is.. yes. Is this cue-d up? …Yes.. so all I’ve got to do is find the “play" on this positionJC plays a version of Patti Smith singing "Dancing Barefoot")]

JC: I mean the spoken part in that works so well because it's going counterpoint to, you know, like, the lines she's singing musically. And that's, I think, that's the strength in, I mean, all, I think, in any art form. I think the real strength is counterpoint, you know (whether it's, like, the subject-matter being counterpoint, or whether it's the music being a counterpoint to the lyrics, or whether you have, liken that, one vocal line working in counterpoint to another one). And, I always liked that idea, I always felt.. (But) I never tried it on my first couple of albums because it seemed it was too difficult for my head to think about arranging back-up vocals. Now it comes to me pretty easily. I guess it was just by practice, you know. I usually always get ideas for insane back-up vocals going all through it, you know, but the engineers always mix them down so low. (Actually, I had Anne (Waldman) do a back-up vocal on this one album, but you couldn't hear shit, right?! - you know - I mean I had Anne read a great poem, and I had everybody, four different people, reading something different, you know, and all you hear..  all the engineer had up was.. me going "We're closed on Sunday, come back on Monday"."We're closed on Sunday, come back on Monday"! - I mean, shit! - We should have done it in the same microphone (that's what (Bob) Dylan does. I mean, on his last two albums [(Empire Burlesque and Knocked Out Loaded (sic)], he doesn't trust engineers to fuck around with the back-up singers, so he has the back-up singers sing on the same fuckin' mic as him, and.. but he can do that shit.  I mean, in that way they can't… What can they do? - They can't separate the voices then, so he has it, you know, like they can't screw him. 

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-eight-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-six-and-a-quarter minutes in]  

Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 282

[Allen Ginsberg working late]

                                           [Allen Ginsberg's Desk - Drawing by Allen Ginsberg]

The second-part of an in-depth interview with Michael Horowitz, Timothy Leary’s longtime archivist, recently appeared. The first (posted back in November 2015) can be seen here
The second, brings Allen in to the picture (Lisa Rein, the Archives digital librarian, is the interviewer):

LR: What was the dynamic between Ginsberg and Leary?
MH: The synergy between them was powerful. There's a book devoted to their psychedelic partnership, White Hand Society. It went back to the Harvard period when Allen and Peter were subjects in the psilocybin experiments. Allen's messianic enthusiasm for psychedelics was equal to Tim's, and brought him to New York City to turn on his Beat friends and jazz musicians. He introduced Tim - still a semi-straight academic - to the hipster culture. Tim had a sexual awakening on psilocybin with a beautiful model. Everyone loved the magic mushroom pills for their life-changing insights and shattering revelations, as well as their spiritual and sensual sides.
LR: Allen was a practicing Buddhist . What did he think of Tim's alliances with the Weathermen and the Black Panthers?
MH: Their friendship was tested publicly, when Ginsberg, like Ken Kesey and others, challenged the militancy of Leary's "Shoot to Live" mantra. For Allen, who was getting heavily into Tibetan Buddhism, meditation was a necessary revolutionary discipline; political action without spiritual consciousness led to the same dead end. Allen put out these ideas in an interview in the Berkeley Barb. Tim responded with "An Open Letter to Allen Ginsberg on the Seventh Liberation", defending the idea of armed self-defense and explain(ing) his new philosophy…"

Here's Allen's initial response (on being contacted, while Leary was in exile, by the Leary camp): 

[Allen Ginsberg to Michael Horowitz , August 14, 1970 - "Dear Bo  - [Horowitz had introduced himself as "Bodhisattva M.Horowitz"] — Kerouac used the Bo of Hobo for American Bodhisattva… Hey Bo! - Your plans sound excellent and I just pray you are a steady solid quiet cat who can safeguard & index & prepare mss. like a lovely scholar over years. When you have any specific word for me to put in anywhere please do call on me. I wrote a short 3-page addenda to Jail Notes mss. which together with earlier extensive essay on Tim in Village Voice can serve as a lengthy preface to the book, all dignified, like. Your letter if you follow up is really a bright ray.   Allen G.”]

A third segment of this interview  ("Kicked Out of Switzerland - Captured in Afghanistan - Back in the California Prison System") is forthcoming.

[Acid Test poster designed by Wes Wilson, 1966 - courtesy Stewart Brand (included in the upcoming "You Say You Want A Revolution.." exhibition at the V & A in London]

You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966–70 opens at the V&A in London on September 10. In advance of it, don't miss Alex Needham's preview piece in The Guardian this week. Needham travels to San Francisco and interviews a number of counter-cultural luminaries, most notably, the Whole Earth Catalog visionary, Stewart Brand

& more San Francisco Beat history - For a recollection of San Francisco's legendary North Beach Co-Existence Bagel Shop by Judy Berman  "The Beat Generation Bagel Shop That Didn't Sell Bagels" - see here

                              [Co-Existence Bagel Shop, San Francisco, 1959 - Photograph by Mark Green]

Frank Rose, this week, reviews the ongoing Parisian (Pompidou Center)  "Beat Generation" show, in the New York Times,  
with particular focus on co-curator,  Jean-Jacques Lebel

                                                                     [Jean-Jacques Lebel]
"He was always transmitting, Mr Lebel said of Ginsberg, That's why we're doing this show, to continue the transmission." 
And, again - "I use the term "rhizome", it's the contrary of roots. Once your roots dig in, you're trapped - you can't move. But artistic and philosophical movements [such as the Beat Generation] work as rhizomes do - they're continually spreading across time and space. That's what I tried to do in the show, and in life [too]."  

 [Allen Ginsberg in a four-hour video from a series of interviews by Jean-Jacques Lebel in Paris in 1990, part of the “Beat Generation” exhibition at the Pompidou Center - Photograph by Dimitry Kostyukov]

(and here's (from El Mundo) a Spanish review)

Closing October 3rd, but the exhibition will be traveling, and will be having a second manifestation at the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany, sometime next year. 

Inky Tuscadero in Record Collector Magazine on the Last Word on First Blues CD - "Ginsberg's unique worldview outpunks anything coming out of CBGB's at the time"

Allen Ginsberg was a punk rocker! 

It's Guillaume Apollinaire's birthday today

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Naropa Classroom Conversations

                                                                  [Lyke Wake (in North Yorkshire)]

Minor matters today.  More one-on-one post-class discussion. Allen makes arrangements.

AG:  [to Student] - What have you got? some poems? 
Student: Some homework, from last week - Lyke Wake Dirge
AG: Oh great - good - Shall I take it home?
Student: There's a journal and a transcription.
AG: Oh yes, shall we make a date?
Student: Sure….. Mondays and Fridays are (the) best (days)...
AG: Mondays and Fridays?
Student: Mondays are good.. 
AG: Well, tomorrow I've got a reading.  (But) At weekends, I'm free, certainly...
Student: Weekends are fine.
AG: When?
Student: Saturday or Sunday? 
AG: Saturday?
Student: Sure.   Afternoons are probably good.
AG: What time is good? - Three?
Student:  Three's just fine - Ok, I'll see you at three. 

AG: Thank you for getting this (sic) ready.  We'll have this..  This is the… I want there to be.. could you make an index with the (poems)..
Student: Oh sure… 
AG: And I'll take this [the homework] home.  

[Francis James Child (1825-1896)]

Student 2: There's a singer who sometimes sings down at the James bar (sic) on Saturday's, I don't know her last name, but Christine.. She accompanies herself on autoharp and she's knows..
AG: She knows a lot? 
Student 2: She knows all the Child Ballads.

Student 3: Where?
Student 2:  The James.
Student3:  The James?

Student2: The James, yeah.. It's 13th Street, just off the Mall…Saturday night(s), ...she's not there all the time. It's Christine, that's all I know. But she knows all the old Child Ballads. And then, a lot of them that don't have music ..she's composed her own music.. 

Student 2:  I've found that a lot of them that don't have music  (like Lyke Wake Dirge). That they said.. most of the people said.. well, they just weren't that particular about taking down the music,  as the guy would sing with whatever instrument he had, passing the hat, or take it and do whatever he..(thought fit).. 
Usually, with the records, though, they'll be an insert in which the musician will say, "Well I got the music from here. I borrowed it from here". "We didn't have the original music but I borrowed a tune that would fit it", you know,  (a tune) that was current to the times. It's real interesting. And then how it would move from country to country. Each country would add its own flair, its own flavor. And something always happens in Child Ballads. It's not 
"I love her, and isn't this great?". It's, like, a storyand they end up (very) different from how they started...   

[Audio for the above can be heard  herebeginning at approximately forty-two-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately approximately forty-five minutes in ]