Barry Farber’s 1975 radio interview continues. In this second segment, Allen engages with two studio guests (unlikely cohorts), the open-minded and wonderfully out-of-fashion “Bullets” Durgin, and Robert Goodman, “a young reporter, no longer just a collegiate reporter”
BF: Poets, Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Jonathan Robbins (are here) with us, (and) “Bullets” Durgin, the hero-manager, who began driving a truck for a big-name band and wound up driving big names with truck-driver power to success that, sometimes they gave him credit for, and sometimes they didn’t (his cases where they didn’t, make better stories on radio) (and) Robert Goodman, a young reporter, no longer just a collegiate reporter, covered the shooting of a bandit by a man who worked in a photography shop and just didn’t feel like being robbed.
Bob, Allen Ginsberg was a little bit before your college time but I’m sure you remember when he was bopping all over the country, attracting college crowds, reading his poetry and overturning (rather neatly, no bloodshed but overturning) a lot of the values that so many of us hold dear
RG: It was kind of, kind of strange, when I started college. It was the first year of this decade. Most of the…most of the kids that went to the schools that I went to weren’t really any.. things had changed basically from the early ‘Sixties and the mid-‘Sixties. It wasn’t the same, at least on the college campuses that I was around, and a lot of skepticism [turns to Allen] (which I’m sure you noticed at different colleges, you went to)
AG: (this is) the ‘Seventies
RG: Yeah, it was a heck of a lot different. People…
AG: The heavy part was ’71, I’d say, it was when that came in..
RG: That’s when I started.
AG; After Kent State, after Kent State, people got really scared.
RG: Very very paranoid and kind of..
AG: Afraid of the secret police on the campus…was one of the reasons, wasn’t it? – or am I being paranoid?.
RG: Yes, no, you’re not. It’s ironic because the thing you mention about Kent State, the fellow that was the Dean of Students at my college had originally worked as a high official at Kent State, and when it came down and he found out that the kids had been killed there, the guy froze, he didn’t know what to do. Here’s this fellow, who’d been dealing out all this authority, he couldn’t deal with it at all. He didn’t know how to deal with it and he did… Basically, what happened is the guy just dissolved completely. It’s a lot different tho’, You had been at my school a couple of years ago. What was it like there?
AG: Yeah. Lehman College in the Bronx, yeah. Well, I was singing a lot at that point – CIA Dope Calypso and things like that, and some gay pop songs, folk songs, and everybody was pretty friendly. The impression I got – and still have – of what’s going on in the campuses is, though it’s quieter, people are a lot deeper. A lot of the resentments and aggression that was in the youth movement of the ‘Sixties has been sort of like stripped away and people are looking around more soberly, but at the same time with a deeper understanding of how crazy the world is, and how mad the ecological situation is, and sort of feeling somewhat in a trap but not knowing how to get out of it, and knowing that aggressive violence is not going to help the situation too much, so having to think deeper.
BF: Forgive me, Bob, keep your next question hot in your mind. Bullets Durgum and Allen Ginsberg are flying in different directions tomorrow, Bullets to the West Coast of the United States, Allen to the West Coast of Europe. I wanted to hear these two gentlemen in dialogue, even if I can only have them for a couple of minutes. You’re actually, both connected, if not by admiration of like drugs, by music anyhow.
AG: Yeah Well.. in.. During one of the intermissions here, I was saying that Peter (Orlovsky) and I had gone along on a showbiz tour, with the Rolling Thunder tour, with (Bob) Dylan and Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell – and wondered what… had he ever been on a rock tour? (because you apparently drove buses for some of your artists)?
BD: Well, I only drove one small truck, with the Glenn Miller band.
AG: Ah yes!
BD: That was a long time back, that was when I first got out of school, Now I’ve been on the road, all through Europe, and South Africa and Australia and Tokyo, Hong Kong, on concert tours with Trini Lopez
BD: , for one, and.. another, I’ve had a few of the contemporary ones. Right now I’m involved with Jim Stafford. I’ve been to Europe with him and, as a matter of fact, next, I have to come back from the West Coast and be back in Philadelphia next week (to the) Latin Casino, where he’s appearing with Raquel Welch. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Jim Stafford?
AG: No I’m not.
BD: He’s a contemporary artist who had his own television show this past summer. He’s had about four or five hits on the charts and, of course…
AG: Has he got a great soul?
BD: Yeah yeah, he’s a brilliant guy, and more or less a.. , he writes all his own material and he’s a great musician and he’s also an excellent comedian, a humorist .
Then I have Mort Sahl, who’s..
AG: Sahl I always liked
BD: He’s out on the…He’s got a book coming out in April from Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
AG: About what?
BD: It’s called Heartland It’s for Middle America. It’s about the last twelve years of the Mort Sahl story.
AG: He’s very much involved in sort of conspiracy, assassination theories, and things like that, too? in the..
BD: Well he has been, he’s kind of past
AG: That was his beginning,
BD: Yeah, that
AG: ..his early past. He was interesting then, (the same time as Lenny Bruce, actually)
BD: Yeah, well, more or less, he was a forerunner of, I guess, it all. So Woody Allen and Lenny Bruce both acknowledged Mort as the reason for them being in the position they got into…
AG: How do you take to being on the road?
BD: Well I…
AG: With your bullet bald head!
BD: Well I don’t mind, I enjoy it. It’s a great education. I never got to college but you sure learn a lot traveling Meet people and other things and such.
AG: Do you have groupies chase after you?
BD: No, no, no, I guess I appear like I don’t belong in a group, somewhere, somehow, but.. I’ve got a couple of new artists that are coming along. Harriet Schock, who wrote “Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady” and Larry Weiss, who wote “Rhinestone Cowboy”. I don’t know if you’re familiar with those songs?
AG: Rhinestone Cowboy I’ve heard of.
BD: Well that was a big hit. Anyway, So I’m into that area. It’s another experience for me. So I‘ve stayed abreast of a lot of it. I’m not much on poetry, unfortunately. But I did enjoy that [Allen’s reading of “Kral Majales”] – That was, that’s another field.
AG: Well, not entirely. On the Rolling Thunder troupe scene, all of the musicians who writing songs were calling each other poets – “Hey, poet, sing me another song!” – (Yeah, because Dylan was there, and they were actually beginning to think about the quality of their words),
BF: Allen, Before Bullets Durgin goes, can’t you play a little something or sing a little something? Last time you were here, you had those wumma diddies from Nepal that you wrapped around your fingers.
BD: [curious, noticing Allen’s instrument] – Oh, what’s that? a little..piano?
AG: It’s a harmonium .. I’ve been sort of studying Buddhism and writing Gospel…
BD: Where.. where did you get that instrument?
AG: I got this in India in Benares in…
BD: Did anybody explain that on the air here yet, what that..
AG: No, I don’t think so – It’s a harmonium… hold it in your lap and it’s got a bellows and a tiny keyboard. and you can make it do chords, and do chord changes with a.. So I’ve been writing… I used it originally for mantras, to sing Hare Krishna, but now more for…I don’t know, some kind of Blakean pop songs/
BF: For those who can’t see, it’s the size of a bread-box.
AG: Yes, (a) small breadbox, and it’s sort of mahogany-looking, and it’s got little…
BF: Beautiful. How old is that? That’s an antique one, no?
AG: No, actually, it cost twenty dollars in Benares, twenty-five bucks, Peter (Orlovsky), who is here, had one, and was studying Indian music for many years. and I borrowed his, and then I was in India 1971.. So this is four years old..
AG; I ordered this built. I had it sent to me about half a year later, But what I was going to do was sing a Buddhist gospel song [Beginning at approximately thirty-one-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately thirty-four-and-a-quarter minutes in, Allen, accompanies himself on harmonium and, sings ”Gospel Noble Truths” – (“Born in this world…”…”Die when you die”)
BF: Allen, if you hadn’t told me that was Buddhist gospel, I’d have told you that could have been coming out of any tent between Yadkinnville and Virgilana, during the all-day-singing and dinner-on-the-ground Festivals!
AG: Well, that’s what I wanted to do, I wanted it to be indistinguishable from American babble.
BF: Yeah, but do it in front of Bullets Durgin again, you’re liable to wind up in Lake Tahoe
AG: Sign me up
BF: It’s like a version of Doris Day’s old movie..
AG: There you sing to the syndicate!
BF: Thank you very much for coming, Bullets, I’m overjoyed to have made your acquaintance after hearing so many good things about you all these years.
BD: Thank you very much.
BF: I have ways and means of finding your private number and I’ll try and fix up a tracking system so that when good fortune brings you this way again we can continue your reminiscences about the Big Band era and what separated it from today.
BD: Thank you very much, nice meeting you, and [to Allen] nice meeting you .
Taking his leave. I hope lamentably and I hope when he comes back it’ll be enthusiastically.
F: Keep your radio fixed right where it is because I want to get to Allen Ginsberg before we part company
AG: Peter Orlovsky next
BF: Alright, but before we part company, a commitment, I want you to do that piece on the Bill Buckley show that you wrote under the influence of LSD… First… [At approximately thirty-five minutes in, the show pauses for a commercial break]
to be continued