Following on from yesterday’s “Capitol Air”, here’s another rock Allen, or more precisely, pop Allen – circa 1983, his collaboration with the Lawrence, Kansas, band, Start (from the album Look Around, on Fresh Sounds Records – (another cut from the album can be sampled here).
The poem Allen chooses to sing/recite is his “Little Fish Devours The Big Fish”, another political screed (“Hypocrisy is the key/ to self-fulfilling prophecy”), subsequently published in White Shroud: Poems 1980-1985, and drawing, very much from his visit to Nicaragua, and appearance at the Poetry Festival in Managua, the previous year. His “Declaration of Three” (penned alongside Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Ernesto Cardenal), “written in the Intercontinental Hotel bar, Managua, Nicaragua, January 25, 1982”, is among the material incorporated into the poem.
A subsequent, considerably more sophisticated version of the piece (recorded with Elvin Jones) was released on Holy Soul Jelly Roll (Volume 4 – Ashes and Blues). Here’s Allen’s note on the recording:
“Elvin Jones and I were teaching together in Florida and stopped at a small recording studio to experiment. I’d written this estimate of the US-backed Contra war at the bar of the big Nicaraguan hotel as a rhyme that requires a strong steady beat to rap against. The amazing thing about Elvin is he’s a very powerful-looking guy and a drummer of tremendous power, gigantic and scary in a way, but on the other hand he’s a being of great delicacy and understanding. He describes his job as building a ground floor to support the solo. I felt like a four-eyed intellectual professor with him but he was very respectful and amused by what I was laying down. At the end he got into what he spoke of as a traditional spiritual church rhythm.”
The accompanying footage here is of Allen in 1968, on the shores of Lake Michigan, leading a group in a chant, in advance of the fabled 1968 Democratic Convention. Footage from the same spot (“Allen Chanting”) can also be seen here.
A July 1984 performance (and another performance of Capitol Air, for that matter) can be found in this miscellany of performance here