Note: These posts – “Allen Ginsberg Punk Rocker” (parts one and two) first appeared on The Allen Ginsberg Project on June 23, 2011, and, due to technical problems, are now being re-posted
The Sex Pistols Anarchy In The UK was released on November 26 1976.
Less than six months later Allen Ginsberg was playing San Francisco’s
premier punk venue, Mabuhay Gardens.
Dirk Derkson, the legendary promoter, recalls:
“I told Allen Ginsberg on the night he came to the Fab Mab to see Jim Carroll
that I thought punk rock was today’s poetry. Two weeks after, Ginsberg showed
up with his band and we put them in for a couple of nights!”.
Allen was already familiar with the New York punk scene – “I like The Nuns“, he
wrote referring to one of San Francisco’s more prominent punk bands. “They’re
like Kabuki Theater. I’ve been to CBGB’s 15 or 25 times but now I think that the
Mabuhay is a better scene. CBGB’s is a bit tired”.
(Peter (Orlovsky)’s girlfriend, Denise Mercedes, was a member of The Stimulators,
frequently featured at Hilly Kristal’s CBGB’s, so this gave him plenty of insight).
Steven Taylor, Allen’s accompaniest, was also an important conduit. As he recounts
in his absolutely-indispensible text – False Prophet: Field Notes From The Punk
Underground: “My interest in contemporary pop music had been on hold for five
years by the time punk became a presence in the New York area…But some time in
1978… a friend took me to a local bar to see The Ramones. At first the dangerously
overcrowded smoky bar room made me feel claustrophobic but when the band came
on I heard pure hilarious rock ‘n roll and it was as if someone had turned the lights on in a room that had been getting gradually darker for five years.”
Steven, it was, who turned Allen on to The Clash (of which more anon). He also began simultaneously with his own band, joining up with Stephan Ielpi and The False Prophets.
Here’s Birdbrain, as recorded in 1981, with the Denver band, The Gluons.
and here it is in an alternative version, recorded in San Francisco that same year, with Marc Olmsted‘s band , The Job.
– and here’s footage of the man in action – “Capitol Air”(from Ron Mann’s 1982 film documentary, Poetry In Motion).
“Whatta lotta Noise” – “Punk Rock, Your (sic) My Big Cry Baby”.
Tomorrow, part two – “President Ginsberg” (sic) – Allen meets Joe Strummer. Allen gets to play “Capitol Air” with The Clash.