Friday’s Weekly Round-Up – 329

Last week we reported on a poor quality tape from Stanford that illegally came out (and was dutifully squashed). This week we report on a high quality recording that was properly disseminated (included, alongside a brief notice, in Le Magazine Litteraire’s announcement of the Ginsberg digitalization).  The tape “Tape 3 Ginsberg 1994” is a raw record of Allen presenting some poems, in a studio setting, for future musical adaptation.  (We’re thinking that this is from the preparation for The Lion For Real album/CD, though we could be wrong, the Stanford date here is 1994, The Lion For Real recordings are from five years earlier 1989).  Notwithstanding…

The tape  begins with Allen reading  the concluding two parts of “Kaddish” – “Hymmnn”,  (“In the world which He has created according to his will Blessed Praised…. “with your eyes/with your eyes/ wth your Death Full of Flowers”),  and,  “Kaddish Part V”  – (“Caw caw caw crows shriek in the white sun over grave stones in Long Island”…..”Lord Lord Lord caw caw caw Lord Lord Lord caw caw caw Lord”) – Then, at first muttering, he begins to jauntily sing his lyric “When The Light, Appears” – ( “You’ll grow your bag of  bones/ you’ll pray you’ll only know/ When the light it appears, boy, when the light it  appears/You’ll whimper and you’ll cry/You’ll get yourself sick and die/When the light it appears, boy, when the light it appears..”…..”You’ll come and you’ll go but just the same you’ll never know/When the light it appears, boy, when the light it  appears”). Next, is “On The Conduct of the World Seeking Beauty Against Government”  (‘Is that the only way we can become like Indians, like Rhinoceri,/ like Quartz Crystals…”. ….”What Slogan for Futurist architects or epic hymn for masses of Communist/ Party Card holders in Futurity/ on the conduct of the world seeking beauty against Government?”

Then – a moment of pure improvisation –  (“Let go, let go” – “Let me do the let go thing, yeah, I’m going on to Let Go, let go”) – two seperate versions –   (“Going to the world of the Dead,/ Stalin and Hitler in bed/Gone inside of your head/Anybody gor any bread?/FBI papers to shred/Eisenhoewer’s ghost on a sled/Going. to the world of the Dead/ Everybody give you good..  – well, I haven’t got it right!” ) – {Allen tries it a second time] – “I don’t know, I had it before”

Then (likewise improvised)  –  “Millionaires of Detroit/Millionaires of Chicago./Milionaires of New York/Millionaires of Hollywood/let go of your money/ho ho ho/ Let go your big poetry/let go, let go/Let go of your cars/ho ho ho/Let go your cocaine/ho ho ho/Let go your meat/let go, let go/Let go moving picture/ho ho ho/Let go your diamonds/ho ho ho/Let go your dollars/Let go your gold/Let go your houses/your bodies. let go/Let go your souls/ho ho ho/Let go God/Buddha let go/Let go Allah/let go. let go/Let go your armies/ho ho ho/Let go your war/ho ho ho/Let go your Holy Land/let go/Let go Palestine/PLO/ Jews, let go, let go, let go/ Let go Israel/ ho ho ho/Let go Apocalypse, let go, let go/let go your bomb/ho ho ho/ Your nuclear bomb/ho ho ho/Let go your disaster, your death, let go/ho ho ho/. ho ho ho/ ho ho-ho, ho ho ho/ Millionaires of Mexico/ho ho ho/Millionaires of Nicaragua. let go , let go/ Let go your music, your sex, let go/Let go your cigarettes/let go your grass/ Let go your meditation, let go/Let go your news/let go your ass/ let go your head, let go your tongue/let go your record/go get hung/ let go, let it go, ho ho ho”.

Allen continues, making a half-hearted effort at singing “the Fifth Internationale”,  ( “Let’s see, now I don’t remember the words and I don”t have it here but it’s something like “Arise..”…  “Arise ye prisoners of your egos …”), before settling in to the recitation of  two poems (“Love Replied” and “Some Love”) – ( “This is not my favorite but it’s sort of close  – there’s a couple that are rather interesting here – see what’s the most pleasant – give me a minute, okay  – two – one is sort of dirty and the other is not”)  – (“Love came up to me/& got down on his knee..”…..”Hold me close and receive/All the love I can give”) – (and) “this is. a little cleaner, a little more rock ‘n roll sounding”) – “After 53 years/I still cry tears/I still fall in love/I still improve…”…”Sweeter and sweeter/Wrinkled like. water/My skin still trembles/My fingers nimble”) –

“Those are sort of interesting. The voice in those is interesting. I’m sort of interested in getting to that voice one way or another”

Allen comments on “that voice” on several occasions – ” That’s a special voice for those poems, it’s interesting – your heart voice, kind of. There’s a number of poems like that and one of them might be interesting with that voice.” – “There are certain poems that can be done with that voice, and, I know, slowing (it)…yes. (and) if there’s anything you particularly want to try in that voice… that might make more sense” – “That voice, though, is very interesting, and I’d like to do more with that, actually. In other words, if we do any more vocal recording, that voice could be used for certain.. you know, just (to) slow it down, calm it down. It develops, actually, for “Father Death Blues”, for the (William) Blake “Nurses’ Song” and those love poems – because (it’s)  heart voice, basically..”

Allen experiments with “that voice” on three early poems –  “Refrain” (“The air is dark, the night is sad/I lie sleepless and I groan..”…”Shadow changes into bone”) – and, (“there’s a funny little poem next to it)  “A Mad Gleam“,  (“Go back to Egypt and The Greeks..”…”Follow the flower to the ground”) – and,  “Complaint of The Skeleton to Time ”  (“Take my love. it is not true./So let it tempt no body new..”….”Take them, said the skeleton/But leave my bones alone.”)

He concludes with “Stanzas Written At Night In Radio City” (“Well there one very funny thing which is kind of bebop and then I’ll quit”“If money made the mind more sane…”….”Where brightest shades sleep under stone/Man runs after his own shadow” –  Okay that’s about the only thing I can think of doing.”)

The last few minutes of the tape have Allen discussing the recording session with the recording engineers:

Engineer: “Kaddish” was an amazing reading – AG: Well, it wasn’t.. the cadence was right but the feeling wasn’t much there, but.. – Engineer- Really? – Do you want to hear any of it back? – AG: Listen to the “Kaddish” part that’s on that old record – Engineer: The Atlantic one? – AG: And look at that one piece of “Kaddish” that’s on the tape, the video-tape , in that Beat Generation interview, that’s a really great reading.  Engineer: I started watching that last night and the Moloch section of “Howl” – scary, man! – AG: Did I read that? Engineer: No, that’s on the.. AG: Well that would be an interesting thing to try to do. We haven’t tried that….Engineer: You want to try that with percussion? AG: Maybe percussion, yes..with percussion, yeah, I don’t know if you’d… Engineer: I heard you reading it on that special – AG:: What special?.. that Beat Generation.. that’s an old reading – Engineer: That’s scary, that footage? – AG: Oh yeah, well, it’s a very old, that’s very good.. visionary.. and then real solid, actually – the “famous-moments-in-poetry” type thing – Engineer: We’re going to try to (impress) on that tonight. I don’t know if we can beat that one. That was amazing, on that videotape. I don’t know if it was late, I thought it was great, wonderful. AG: No, I can do as well as that. That’s.. that just requires, like, a sort of long bravura voice –Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows!/Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs!  (the full voice, which is fun) – Engineer;  I think with this record we’re going to bring a lot of works that people aren’t going to know. We’ve covered a lot… – AG: But do you think any of this is useable? – Engineer: Yes, I can use the “Refrain” and a few things, but, what we really wanted it for was just for the musicians to work with.. And… – AG:  Well that was fun. We got down everything we needed, you think? – Engineer: Yeah – AG:  Did you think we’d get as much as this recorded? – Engineer:  It always works out.. – AG: Because I thought it’s a piece of cake to go through all that stuff and read it. To get the proper intensity and tone, though – that might be a little difficult, to get perfect – Engineer:  Well, when we know the pieces, I can align it with the other musicians or something, but I know that just as long as we have access to you on the phone all weekend we’ll be ok………”

One of the poems on the “Tape 3 Ginsberg 1994” tape is the poem “When The Light Appears, Boy” that also appeared in 1997 on the Indie band Cornershop‘s “When I Was Born For the 7th Time”. Robin Murray of Clash magazine tracked down Tjinder Singh of Cornershop, twenty years on:

TS: “Well, we walked from the label’s office [in New York] to where Ginsberg lived, and his apartment was very modest. He was watching a Beatles thing on the TV – some talk on the Beatles. And he was frail. But we didn’t know he was ill. And we sat in his kitchen, we talked a lot, and then we got on with doing a few different renditions of songs – some with harmonium that he played, some with him singing.”…..“Ginsberg was a very kind person, very open, I think he was very encouraging, and he was everything you would think he was because he was very political and he was still very much – for an older person – very much engaged with everything that was going on.”

Allen’s engagement with music was, of course, evident early on, in his early involvement with his William Blake settings (now stunningly re-released by Omnivore Recordings –  see our announcement of that recent CD release- here)

Josef Neff in The Vinyl District “Graded on A Curve – The Complete Songs of Innocence and Experience” – reviewing the collection, gives it a resounding  “A” – “the results are impressively non-affected”,  he writes,  “conjuring period flavor without strain and imbuing the whole with the spark of imagination that produces an enduringly engaging listen” .

Neff’s review compares Allen’s efforts on record alongside fellow Beats, Jack Kerouac and William S Burroughs, and argues (provocatively perhaps) that “,,,Innocence and Experience”  (along with last year’s similarly revivified  (“(Last Word on) First Blues...”,),  “makes the case that Ginsberg is the only one of the three that can be accurately tagged as a musician.,” – “Those who can’t abide his singing will likely take issue, but the contents here underscore his output as methodical and not nearly as eccentric as it might at first seem.”

Speaking of Burroughs…

Shot-gun paintings. photographs, even a tape-recording. If you’re in Copenhagen, don’t miss the William Burroughs exhibition at the Tom Christofferson Gallery (till 9th of September)

William Burroughs – Shotgun Painting (rejected by Absolut Vodka)


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