Kerouac-Cassady (Jack Kerouac Scat Singing)

[Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac – Photograph by Carolyn Cassady]

We continue this week mining the treasure which is the extraordinary trove of audio at the Allen Ginsberg archives, now housed at Stanford University.

Today, a remarkable discovery – Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. The tape (there are two copies, actually, 131 and 132) is simply (and with no further information ) titled “Kerouac and Cassady, San Jose, 1952, William Burroughs“. (Burroughs, in fact, doesn’t appear on the tape (in those days ayahuasca-hunting in South America), but there’s some wonderful speculation on him)  – viz:

“Here’s what I thought about Burroughs anyway, that nothing will ever happen to him as far know, he could have a lot of times been..a bum, but instead, you know, he’ll go on and on, and disintegrate in the heat of the tropics. That’s bound to be what’ll happen. He doesn’t do nothing, does he? He just stays home..”

Home recording. Private recordings. This eighteen-minute tape is remarkable in all sorts of ways. There’s a spirited reading from Dr Sax:

“..luminescent in flame, blue shadows at his rear and guards – Seeing the eagle was like suddenly realizing that the world was upside down and the bottom of the world was gold.”

and, towards the end of the tape, more extensively (and exuberantly):

“..we’d had a fight after the raft episode – we’d make up in three days meeting gloomy and unwilling eyes in the irrevocable path in the park and exchange  Shadows..”  …  “… they stood against the raw drippy wood of the wall, near some piles of kidshit, and kicked some rocks aside,  and he lifted her dress up over the goose pimples of her thighs, and they leered together in the dark paint barn..”

“Yeah”, “Yeah” – Cassady cheers him on.

But, even more extraordinary, (and this is what we trumpet (sic) today),  there’s also priceless documentation of Kerouac scat-singing. Beginning at approximately two-and-three-quarter minutes in (until approximately six-minutes in), Kerouac attempts singing the (bebop) melody to “A Foggy Day in London Town”, followed by, (words and scat singing), “My Funny Valentine”.  There’s also further instances of Kerouac letting his improvisational spirit fly.

The tape begins with Cassady reading (from Kerouac – or is it Kerouac reading from Cassady?) – “It’s all, see, one paragraph. That’s why I’m continuing, you see, for the sake of the paragraph. Because it’s all very clear, Allen. He’s understandable isn’t he?  He is understandable.”

“Glass” declares Kerouac/Cassady a propos to nothing.

“Glass my ass!” – You see when you said “glass”, I thought you meant that Proust is like glass”. Here Neal says “opaque”.

Dig this treasure.     Listen to it – here 

postscript – Vincent Tinguely up in Canada (at the Canadian Review of Literature in Performance) writes us – “…thrilled to hear the original recording (digitized, that is) from the Ginsberg tape at Stanford. Thanks for posting!… A couple of notes. Cassady is reading from Proust at the beginning, a passage concerning the character ‘Gilberte’. Also, if you listen carefully, you’ll hear a woman’s voice near the end of the recording. My guess is it’s Carolyn Cassady.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *