We’ve been following our friend Simon Warner‘s Substack – Rock and The Beat Generation with increasing delight (and you should too!) – Recently posted (and a must-read!) is his interview with Allen’s long-time collaborator and musical accompanist, Steven Taylor.
Steven has of course been substantially featured on The Allen Ginsberg Project – see (most explicitly) here and here – and also, most-recently, in our announcement of his wonderful Ginsberg-Burroughs transcription – Don’t Hide The Madness (complete with great Robert Crumb cover!). There’s also great footage of him and Allen, in Toronto – here, at Texas State – here, in Wuppertal, Germany – here – and… did we mention his extraordinary settings of William Blake ?
“If there is a Beat sensibility, I think we have to speak in terms of what Beat became, and that’s due to Ginsberg. He wanted legal weed, gay rights and to stop the war; Kerouac wasn’t into any of that; he was a Goldwater Republican. Burroughs was only Beat by proximity and a peculiar iconoclasm. Corso was Beat in the sense of orphaned, beaten down, did jail time, did junk for most of his life, but his politics were personal. He thought of himself as a poor Shelley. In a sense, Ginsberg was the only Beat; most of the others disavowed the tag. Kerouac named it, but Ginsberg sold it.”
“As for the connection going the other way – Beats influencing musicians – there is Dylan. In his Chronicles he mentions On the Road, ‘Howl’, and Corso’s Gasoline. He says that before arriving in New York, On the Road had been a bible to him, and he knew Allen from ’64. You could connect the Beatles to the Beats from their initial London period. Barry Miles was a connection there. Allen knew Lennon and McCartney. John had all of Allen’s poetry books (he had requested them in ’76). He had one or two of Paul’s paintings, and discussed photography with Linda…”
“Allen shot skag with Monk. Met Lester Young ‘and got down on my knees’. Mingus was a friend. Attending jazz clubs uptown in the ’40s while going to university and then moving downtown within a few blocks of the Five Spot in the ’50s: what a time to be looking for a bar with cheap beer and a band! You could see top players every night of the week and ask Franz Kline to pass the peanuts…”
For more of this fascinating interview – see here