AG: So..then.. oh I wanted to read, from… “Willie the Weeper”... Probably she knew… Helen Adam knew… one or two ballads by Helen Adam…which is the..?…if I can find it.. .
Best to have them done by her – (First off), the “Cheerless Junkie’s Song” – “a maudlin ballad”
“Seeking love upon a day, a day of summer’s pride/I left Long Island’s suburbs for the Lower East Side,/The train it roared and thundered,/And I sang above its scream./There’s a cockroach coming towards me/But it cannot spoil my dream./Love! Love! and L.S.D./It shall not spoil my dream/ Blue moonlight over Tompkins Square./”Drop out, tune in, turn on”/The Village all around me/And Long Island’s suburbs gone./In a pad down on Fourth Street/Soon I welcomed the approach/Of the rat that loves the twilight/And the nimble footed roach./”Love! Love! at eventide,/The grey rat and the roach.”/ I’m always wheretheaction is//I blow my mind all day./While on Long Island’s tennis courts/The bland suburbans play./And I was born suburban!/Who would ever credit that?/No chick who saw me frugging/With the cockroach and the rat./It’s Ho! for Horse, or methedrine/ To spark the swinging mood/While rats run up my trouser leg/ Roaches share my food./Rats and roaches nuzzle me/ When it’s dark and hot./Love! Love! It’s all the same/Mixing Speed with Pot./First a rat, and then a roach./Or both as like as not./If I can’t find a fix tonight/My marrow bones will rot./ Goodbye transcendent Tompkins Square/I haven’t long to stay/A double jolt of heroin and I’ll be on my way./Let rats and roaches bury me./They’ll bury me in state,/As they march from Verrazano Bridge/Down to the Golden Gate/ Clear across the continent/Yonder let me lie/In the gutters of Haight Ashbury,/To freak the passers by,/Till all the tourists gape, and say,/”Brother! He died high!”/Let rat tails write my epitaph./Brother! He died high!”
She really can sing it and swing it, unaccompanied. We were looking for the tape of her chanting of it here. I’ll see if I can find it. She’s actually really authentic. There’s also another she has, more recent. Somehow she’s captured the sort of archetypal thing that you can put in a ballad of that situation.
[There follows a brief discussion about the apparently-missing Helen Adam tape –“It’s listed in the library/alas! it is not there/perhaps somebody’s walked away/carried it off in his hair!” – “Maybe somebody is typing it up or something. I don’t know”..]
AG: (resumes with the second of the two poems – “Jericho Bar”) – “Last night there was a junkie at the Jericho Bar/A little junkie twanging an electric guitar/A great big, amplified,/Full bopped, way out wide/Hip as the high tide/Electric guitar,/Oh! Mother!/At the Jericho Bar” – She sings it, but it’s a very complicated tune – Anybody remember that?
Student: (sings) “O Mother at the Jericho Bar”
AG: (likewise, attempts singing) – Last night there was a junkie at the Jericho Bar”/”A little junkie twanging an electric guitar./A great big, amplified,/ Full bopped, way out wide/Hip as the high tide/Electric guitar,/Oh! Mother!/At the Jericho Bar”
AG continues singing:
“Over his shoulders his hair was so long/ And every strand of it so dark and so strong/ When he tossed his head, when he shook his hair/My heart was like a fish gasping for air/Hooked in the Jericho Bar”
“In the Jericho Bar, they sing loud.. they sing loud and late/In the Jericho bar near the harbor gate/When that little junkie sang, he was heard afar/Chanting to the throb of his electric guitar./His howling, whining, electric guitar/Beating up the Jericho bar.”
“And when it howled and when it whined/My very heart strings trembled and pined/As though my heart strings felt what they would find/Dancing at thr Jericho bar.”
“With a beatnik and a beggar and a queer, and a square,/With a soldier and a sailor, and a big blind bear,/With a hipster, and a hustler, and a drunk, and a dwarf/And a cold scaly mer-man from underneath the wharf/Dancing at the Jericho bar.”
“I drank milk, Mother, in my sheltered home./I drank milk and I ate honeycomb/Now I’m eating goof-balls/drinking rum and gall,/Wine, and gin, and vodka, and wood alcohol./Give me ten Tequilas/a jigger full of stout,/And a little lap of Pepsi before I freak out/In the reeling Jericho Bar.”
“Jericho bar, across the sandy flats/Among the greyest sea gulls/ And the boldest rats/There above the dark tide/ He sang to me/Lonely sorrow like the everlasting sea/ Thrilling his electric guitar…. ”
I think she had three choruses – Yeah – “Forget your lonely sorrow./ Get high, get high, get high!/Laughing he sings, though he seems to sob and cry./Think of me, my Mother, while the night goes by/Till you watch the morning star sailing up the sky/Bright above the Jericho Bar.”
” Oh! Mother, mother, so much I’ll never see./The rising of the morninig star, the red rose on the tree/The blonde lily, it will not bud for me,/ In the dusty Jericho bar.”
“Wade the creek, Mother, when the east grows light/When, in the Jericho, rats slip out of sight/At early dawn, when guitar strings break/Still my junkie’s song I’ll celebrate,/With a wild cat, and a were wolf/Frugging fast in the dark,/With a pusher, a seducer,/A spiv, and a narc/With the Loch Ness Monster,/And an open-mouthed shark,/ Seeking love in the Jericho Bar.”
“Oh! never hope to lure me home/ Before the break of day,/For this is where the action is/ And this is where I’ll stay:/With Uppers and with Downers and with L.S.D. and pot/Till all the rats of Jericho/ Stampede to Camelot./Don’t grudge me dreams, Mother,/ Dreams are all I’ve got/Swinging Single at the Jericho bar.”
“Don’t let my sister raise her listening head./Don’t let my sister leave her lonely bed./Tell her not to follow where my feet were led/ By the fatal twang of his electric guitar/Across the sandy flats, lit by one white star,/ Where snarling waters flow/ Down by the Jericho Bar …”
Some, some amazing rhythms she’s got in there. And she also had a good tune, or some kind of tune that was more… or really precise – yeah?
Student: What page?
AG: Well, I’ll get you the first page – (“I’ll gie ye the first page, lad!”)
Student: Did she sing that a cappella?
AG: Yeah . A cappella, and every guitarist in the house wanted to get up and do it with her, it was so good. I don’t think she’s ever worked with a guitarist, though.
Student: She said she had a very good tune but she improvised too
AG: Yeah. She does it slightly different each time. This play was what (19)76 or something?..She’s, like, getting on a swing, she’s a great performer. Just by herself and that..and the Tompkins Suare. And she also has a lot of…ghoulish – she’s Scots – she’s got a lot of ghoulish things, and she’s got illustrations to it. This book is in our library – Turn Again To Me & Other Poems by Helen Adam – great ballads. She was in San Francisco, back in the (19)50’s,part of the San Francisco Renaissance, and a great friend of Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer and that whole crowd of poets of that time
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately sixty-six-and-three-quarter minutes in and contimuing until approximately seventy-five-and-a-quarter minutes in]
For previous Helen Adam posts on The Allen Ginsberg Project – see here, here, here, here here here here and here