Jim Carroll Workshop – 8 – Q & A (Power Chords)

Allen Ginsberg and Jim Carroll from The Love Book by Rob Rosenheck

Continuing with Jim Carroll’s June 30 1986 Naropa Poetics and Music class, we now turn to the Q & A:

Jim Carroll: I should say, like.. I mean.. just… does anybody, like, have any questions about, anything?  (But), like, I’m thinking about the nature of.. I obviously ask about.. the nature of the difference between lyrics and poems, generally, but.. you know, that’s not important to.. (go further into) (We can) talk about that next time. What? Allen?  [Allen puts up his hand to ask a question] – great!..

Allen Ginsberg : What are power chords?

JC: Oh, well, you know, two guitars really. You know, with that kind of.. where it really comes in with a kick, you know. Like… Power chords are usually associated with heavy-metal bands, I guess. – or hard-core punk bands. I mean, say, the archetype power chord would be, like, the (Velvet Underground‘s) introduction to “Sweet Jane”, you know – baam ba-bom
Student: Majors?
JC:  What?
Student: The majors?
JC: Yeah. Power chords are usually major. I mean minor chords are usually.. when you couldn’t cut it as a minor chord, you cut it as a power chord. But, I mean, just as a power chord is.. two power chords are crossing each other, like.. or changing, you know, from one (to the next (one)..) – baam ba-bom – you know.  Like, a lot of times, if you could fit a word right in there or, you know, or actually break-up a…  This is a very important thing that I got… It took me a while to do, also..  It took me… Always..  I mean, being a poet with music, I always wanted to write… you know. I’d have a riff, say, a power-chord. Say, a song (like) People Who Died”, or “Lorraine”, or something, you know  – Bom bom bom-ba.. (No, that’s not (“Lorraine”), that’s “People Who Died”. But.. alright..what was it..? )
“I was underneath the staircase,/ I was talking to my angel.. He said that beauty’s only terror/You know, when terror’s just beginning /I thought I heard some footsteps/ out and Lorraine was coming./She’s been feeling real sick lately..”But everytime I said that “I was underneath the staircase”, it was followed by these power-chords – doo-wah-wah-wah  ..talking to my angel -babom-babom-ba-ba, da-da-da-da da da And I was doing the line in, you know bo-bo-bo-bo-bo, and then it would be followed by dada-da-da-da. But then, you know, I got hip to the idea of breaking up lines, you know. I mean too often, you have, like, a complete thought,  like you feel like you have to have, you know, like  – [Jim quotes from his song, Dance The Night Away”] – “I  smoke a cigarette and wait in the bath – doon-do da-do – “and I wait for you for an hour and a half” “And I feel….”. “I feel something.”. “I feel something like the stars fall down like rain and I hear the music across the river, and say dance the night (away).”. 

But if you could do, like – “I smoke a cigarette and” – ding ding -adonga –  and wait in the bath” – You know, break-up that simple line – “I smoke a cigarette..”  and, instead of just completing it, “I smoke a cigarette and wait in the bath” – “I smoke a cigarette and  om-pom-pom-pom-pa – and wait in the bath”,  and I wait – ji-ji-jewa-bom – for you – bop bop – for an hour and a…half”(or “for an hour and a..yeeoww...half “, you know). I mean, that way you could take a ballad and make it like a hard rock gig, you know. I mean, it’s that difference –  sort of breaking-up, like, a regular line, which you’d have in… Like a ballad is straight.. straight.. you know, one complete thought sung, just like you would read a line in a poem, one line. Then have the punctuation come in the middle, break it up, you know, (like certain poets would break up a line) so that it over-hangs, the thought hangs over, by pausing with a little riff in between it.And that way you’re kind of breaking up the whole line of thought, and it gives it a certain abstraction that gives a possibility for little double-meanings to come to your head.
In the same way that, you know, if you end a line of a poem with a word that really overlaps, (should be the beginning of the next line but isn’t, you know, for some reason, you have it at the first line instead), it kind of leads it quicker into the next line, and maybe sets up the next line so you get like a different meaning out of it, or something . (One) way (is) to kind of interject a little, like, hook, (a keyboard riff, or even just a drum accent), in between a consecutive thought.

But this whole idea, like, when I was speaking about power chords crossing, you know, meeting.  I just hearsometimes, you know, if a guy just paused, and let the power chords come.  If you would just complete the thought, say, with..  you know, [ Jim gives example] “Shout, shout, knock yourself out” – (I’m not going with that music) –   “Shout, shout, knock yourself out” – ba-ba-ba-boam-ba – with the power chords there – Shout, shout, knock yourself – ba-ba-ba-boam – out!”. It’s just, if you waited that one moment, you know, it could be like, if you take it a long time, the riff, I mean, all of a sudden, “out” is going to jump at you. like, it’s going to be like some Artaudtype thing, it’s going to freak at you like a little cat, you know. So..  …or a big cat.  So, it’s like, you know, just crossing over with those things, but..Power chords are kind of the staple heavy-metal thing

to be continued

[Audio for the above can be heard here beginning at approximately sixty-nine minutes in and concluding at approximately seventy-five-and-a-quarter minutes in]

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