[Allen Ginsberg recording session at the Record Plant Studio, New York, November 13, 1971 – from left to right – David Amram,Bob Dylan, Happy Traum, Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky (kneeling), Denise Mercedes, Allen Ginsberg, Sadi Kaze, John Sholle, Arthur Russell, and Ed Sanders – Photograph by Fred W McDarrah © The Estate of Fred W McDarrah]
Big news! – the release next month of a three-CD box set – The Last Word on First Blues, on Omnivore Recordings – “the first box set of Allen Ginsberg as a singer-songwriter”. The collection will include a re-release of the classic 1983 John Hammond-produced double album, First Blues (in its entirety – featuring collaborations with Bob Dylan, Arthur Russell, amongst others), plus “eleven previously-unreleased songs from 1971 and 1981 sessions, and demos and live recordings.. ” – “The release (also) includes a full-color twenty-eight page booklet of rare photos, writings and drawings from Ginsberg’s archives and an essay from set producer Pat Thomas featuring interviews with original participants.” Thomas, “was given full access to the poet’s tape archive at Stanford University and spent several years pouring over hundreds of hours of recordings”.
“Mastering and restoration was handled by Grammy-winning engineer, Michael Graves.”
Thomas will be on hand at the Beats and Beyond Festival, mentioned here last week, early June in New York. For that occasion he’ll be hosting a round-table discussion about the recordings with the musicians who played on it (including David Amram and David Mansfield), followed by a one-off reunion of these musicians performing this material. Further details to be announced.
For a”sneak preview” of the collection – see here
Marc Olmsted reviews “Wait Till I’m Dead”, the posthumous poems, for Empty Mirror – see here – “What we come away with is wanting more, and wishing we knew what Allen would say about these complicated times. His Buddhist name translated was Dharma Lion Peace Heart. I miss his lion’s roar and purr.”
Guest-critic for The Brooklyn Rail this month – Anne Waldman features Joanne Kyger (“Dharma Committee Rules“), Bernadette Mayer (“After Rilke”) and Alice Notley‘s (“How We Cause The Universe To Exist“), alongside much else.
“WHAT imMORtal HAND or EYE dare FRAME thy FEARful SYMMETRY?” – Alice helpfully maps Allen’s singing rhythms
Excerpts from Bill Morgan‘s recent City Lights book, The Beats Abroad, on the City Lights blog ( a book noted on the Ginsberg blog previously) – available here
“I guess it all came back to Allen. Allen was definitely my big break” – Elsa Dorfman on Allen, featured on NPR – “And I wasn’t such a bad break for Allen – because, after all, we were friends for almost fifty years.”
[Elsa Dorfman and Allen Ginsberg – “October 15, 1988 – The morning after our receptoon at Vision” – Photograph by Elsa Dorfman]
Elsa Dorfman is currently the subject of a documentary by Errol Morris. More about that collaboration here
More Ginsberg memories:
Reverend Billy recalls being led off the stage by Allen Ginsberg – here