In the mid-90s, at the request of his longtime collaborator producer Hal Willner and his manager James Grauerholz, William S. Burroughs recorded selected readings from his notorious novel Naked Lunch—some of the raunchiest and dirtiest parts of what was (and still is) a notably raunchy and dirty book—that were to be set to musical accompaniment.
Wilner brought in guitarist Bill Frisell, pianist Wayne Horvitz and violist Eyvind Kang, but the project was eventually scrapped
The project was revived when Wilner was introduced to prolific weirdo garage rocker King Khan through Lou Reed, and he realized that Khan was well suited to put music behind Burroughs’ dry narration. Khan brought on Australian psych rockers band Frowning Clouds and M Lamar (who happens to be the identical twin brother of Orange Is The New Black‘s Laverne Cox) to help.
The resulting album Let Me Hang You will be the first full-length release on Khan’s new record label Khannibalism with the Ernest Jenning Record Co. It comes out this Friday and you can preorder it now. Listen to the full album below. Extremely NSFW.
In Drugstore Cowboy, Gus Van Sant’s breakthrough 1989 portrait of junky culture, the appearances of William S. Burroughs as the older addict Tom inevitably lent a dose of reality to the proceedings. That movie, however, was not Van Sant’s first encounter (so to speak) with Burroughs. A decade earlier, Van Sant directed a short movie called “The Discipline of DE” that was an adaptation of a Burroughs story of the same name.
“DE” here stands for “Doing Easy” and is synonymous with zen practice applied to everyday existence. In the short film (9 mins.), Van Sant respectfully stays very close to the source material. The story, which is from Burroughs’ 1973 collection Exterminator!, actually is scarcely a story at all, it is more like a brief guide to zen practice. Burroughs introduces the reader to a figure that combines traditional values and the methodical military approach to life, 65-year-old Col. Sutton-Smith. After a reverie in his past the Colonel “is jolted back to THE NOW” as the predictable rhythms of some dreary short story suddenly snaps to the crisp how-to imperative statements of a self-help manual.
Midway through, Burroughs/Van Sant switches to the figure of “an American student” to illustrate the benefits of learning to stop fighting the seeming hostile intent of objects in our daily lives: “You will discover clumsy things you’ve been doing for years until you think that is just the way things are”—eventually you will attain “the final discipline of doing nothing.” The movie has something of the deadpan style of Jim Jarmusch, whose breakthrough feature Stranger Than Paradise came several years after this.
Van Sant’s mentor Ken Shapiro, who later directed the Chevy Chase vehicle Modern Problems, serves as the movie’s narrator—since much of the movie is excerpts from Burroughs’ story, that’s rather an important role in this instance.
In 1991 Van Sant told the magazine LA Style:
I believe the properly manipulated image can provoke an audience to the Burroughsian limit of riot, rampant sex, instantaneous death, even spontaneous combustion. ... The raw materials of inspiration include elements as primal and potentially frightening as violence, sex, and death—which have haunted us since we were reptiles slithering on the ground. Only in our dreams can we make the journey back through labyrinthine, DNA-encoded history to our fiery, barbaric origins. But the primitive world of blood and flame is still with us.
I was in a record store the other day when I noticed an LP I’d never seen before—a sealed copy of a 1977 album called William Shatner Live with a $25 asking price. We’ve all heard about Shatner’s sublime 1967 album The Transformed Man, of course, but this record was another animal altogether. For one thing, it’s “a talking album only,” to quote the disclaimer on Elvis Presley’s 1974 album Having Fun with Elvis on Stage.
One of the hilarious things about William Shatner Live is the back cover, which has some of the most over-the-top liner notes I’ve ever seen. Here it is:
The overwrought, hyperbolic text is credited to Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath:
It is the first time the man has come out, alone to confront his legend.
And the legend has come out to confront him.
The audience, six years old and yet unborn when the ENTERPRISE flew—the rerun generation.
They came, college students—and college professors. Pre-schoolers—and Ph.D’s. Doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers. Truck drivers, dockworkers, drill sergeants. Both sexes. All ages. Every shade of difference, every degree of diversity. Feeling no generation gap at all.
What is becoming increasingly clear is that the legendary Kirk is finding a place in the history of heroes which is unique, one-of-a-kind, unprecedented.
And the rerun generation is growing up never having known a world in which there was not at least one example of a hero who was profoundly open, willing to be real to himself and others.
On stage now the man who broke that trail a decade ago has gone on, WHERE-NO-MAN… The dramatic performance speaks of the flying, and is the flying. Shakespeare, Cyrano de Bergerac, Galileo on the need for the freedom of man’s mind. Some of the rerun generation may not understand the words fully. It doesn’t matter. Their eyes never leave his face.
He shifts from the dramatic performance. He loves to let the audience reach out to him with questions, with a love which would register on the Richter scale. Now he is fast, funny, light, loving, with anecdotes from the STAR TREK years and now.
Shatner has said, “They’re not the screamers. They’re the people who say ‘thank you.’ They remember something I did many years ago. I’ve grown from a boy to a man on television in front of everybody. And now here they are, turning out in torrential rains to say ‘thank you.’ And I am—moved to tears, many times.”
The response was so tremendous that there will be other tours, other albums. The man will go out to greet the legend again—and undoubtedly astonish it yet again.
Recorded at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, William Shatner Live recalls a time when Shatner’s status as a universally beloved icon of movies and TV was considerably more in doubt than it is today. The original Star Trek series had been cancelled eight years earlier, in 1969, and the 1970s were proving to be a bit rocky for Shatner. Star Trek: The Motion Picture was still two years off, and T. J. Hooker was fully five years into the future. The Priceline ads were two decades away.
Three years earlier, Shatner had appeared in Roger Corman’s Big Bad Mama, and while we’d all think it cool to have a Corman movie on our résumés, appearing in one is probably not a sign that one’s career is heading in the right direction unless it’s your film debut. In 1976 Mark Goodman wanted Shatner to host Family Feud—true story—and Shatner’s most notable acting credit of 1977, the same year William Shatner Live was released, was the tarantula horror movie Kingdom of the Spiders.
Given these facts, William Shatner Live comes to seem like nothing so much as an extended audition reel to send to Hollywood casting agents, as the former and future Captain James T. Kirk shows off his acting skills, reading monologues by the likes of H.G. Wells and Edmond de Rostand, as well as a less expected author: noted Marxist playwright Bertolt Brecht.
To hear Shatner essay the lofty and bracing registers of Brecht’s Life of Galileo is to ponder whether his signature declamatory style is a self-fashioned Verfremdungseffekt, or what we would call an alienation effect.
While the 17th-century scientist Galileo seems an odd choice for the originator of the space-traveling Kirk role, it makes a bit more sense when you realize that Galileo, as the astronomer par excellence, has reason to discuss the celestial bodies of outer space and the possibilities of the human mind. Indeed, it’s probably the most Roddenberry-ish thing Brecht ever wrote.
For those who want to read along, a similar (not identical) translation of the monologue can be found here.
Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go! has become the traditional graduation gift of our generation. It’s June, and people are graduating, so Funny or Die decided to enlist everyone’s favorite hardcore hunk, Henry Rollins, to sit a spell and read from the beloved volume.
Henry’s more of a literary figure than you might realize—he’s been publishing books for years on his 2.13.61 imprint—personally, I’d like to see a Dr. Seuss treatment of Pissing in the Gene Pool.......
Nice kid. Can we get an Einstürzende Neubauten homunculus on there?
Fortunately, it turns out that this isn’t just Rollins “reading” Seuss, it’s Rollins “reading and deconstructing” Seuss, which means that the video consists less of Theodore Geisel’s winsome versifying and much more of Rollins’ fervent crabbing about the silly-ass text.
Ryan Richardson is one of the United States’ foremost collectors, archivists, and dealers of punk rock records and ephemera, as well as being the Internet saint who created free online archives of Star, Rock Scene, and Slash magazines. He also runs Fanzinefaves.com, a repository of various early punk zines as well as the exhaustive punk info blog Break My Face.
We’ve written about Richardson’s punk altruism before here at Dangerous Minds. The last time was when he uploaded the entire print run of the seminal transgressive LA artpunk publication, NO MAG, over at his site CirculationZero.com.
Richardson has done his Good Samaritan work once again, this time with the upload of the complete print run of the Bay Area’s Damage magazine which was published between July 1979 and June 1981. Damage concentrated its coverage on the San Francisco and LA punk scenes, but also covered underground music scenes worldwide. Richardson calls it “a definite contender in a state crowded with fanzine heavyweights.”
Thirteen issues were published including a freebie special edition released between the 9th and 10th issue for the Western Front festival which Damage co-sponsored.
The newsprint zine featured bold graphics, photography, and loads of writing and interviews of great historical importance to anyone following the early California punk scene. Your mileage may vary, but the San Francisco scene between 1978-1983 is perhaps my personal favorite all-time music scene, so these issues are absolute gold to me. For my money, nothing beats the aesthetic of arty punk fanzines prior to the age of desktop publishing, and Damage is as fine an example of the form as any you care to name.
Publisher Brad Lapin spoke of Damage’s importance as a historical record in a 2010 statement to the San Francisco Zine Fest:
While I trust that the magazine speaks for itself, both for good and ill, I suppose I could say by way of explanation that, beyond all the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, that is, beyond the pure visceral FUN of punk and life in the underground, there were also deeply serious issues of politics, of social justice and, above all, of aesthetics that connected and inspired the many people involved in the Damage project. Because these concerns were particularly articulated in the scene as it existed in San Francisco three decades ago, Damage’s importance today, like that of the other zines, is as a kind of constant witness to an unique time, place and circumstance; one that spoke and one hopes still speaks to the immanent primacy of youthful idealism and to the notion that there is a deep and abiding value in a radical, even desperate rejection of the commonplace, the accepted, the normal. Conformity and regimentation then, as now, are the foresworn enemies of the creative energy that is the essence and the wellspring of youth. That stance of absolute defiance to which the punk aesthetic aspires and which, in fact, is it’s raison d’etre is no less a viable ideal today than it was 30 years ago. If anything, it is more necessary and more important.
The download of the complete set is free, but Richardson asks that those taking advantage make a charitable donation to Electronic Frontier Foundation, Doctors Without Borders, or Austin Pets Alive. Donations to these charities make the project worthwhile for Richardson, so it would be, you know, the cool thing to do to toss a few bucks that way, considering the amazing gift being provided here. Richardson has placed donation links on CirculationZero.com—go there now to download Damage, and while you’re waiting on that file transfer, scroll through this gallery of covers and pages from Damage‘s history:
In 1970, Alejandro Jodorowsky brought his adaptation of Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra to the stage in Mexico City. A creation for its time and place, Jodorowsky’s Zarathustra was a play for four men (A, B, C, and Zarathustra) and two women (D and E), all (eventually) nude on a bare, white stage. The script indicated that the actors were to stand at the entrance of the theater and talk with the audience before the action began; Jodorowsky’s Zen master, the monk Ejo Takata, sat on stage meditating for the two-hour duration of the performance.
My ambitions were becoming centered on the theater. Nevertheless, Ejo Takata’s teachings—to be instead of to seem, to live simply, to practice the teaching instead of merely reciting it, and knowing that the words we use to describe the world are not the world—had profoundly changed my vision of what theater should be. In my upcoming production, a theatrical version of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, I had stripped the stage of its usual décor, including even curtains and ropes, and had the walls painted white. Defying censorship, the actors and actresses undressed completely on stage after reciting lines from the Gospel of Thomas: “The disciples asked him: ‘When will you be revealed, and when will we be able to see you?’ And Jesus said: ‘When you shed your clothing without shame, and when you take your jewels and cast them under your feet and trample them like little children, then will you be able to contemplate the Son of the Living One and have no more fear.’”
The production was a success, with full houses from Tuesday through Sunday. I then proposed to Ejo (without much hope) that he meditate before the public during the performance. To my astonishment, the master accepted. He arrived punctually, took his seat on the side of the stage, and meditated without moving for two hours. The contrast between the actors speaking their lines and the silent monk dressed in his ritual robes had a staggering effect. Zarathustra continued to run for a full year and a half.
Standing: Henry West, Brontis Jodorowsky, Héctor Bonilla, Micky Salas, Carlos Ancira, Isela Vega, Jorge Luke and Alvaro Carcaño. Sitting: Luis Urías, Valerie Jodorowsky (pregnant with Teo), Carlos (nicknamed “the hairy guy”), Alejandro Jodorowsky, Cristobal Jodorowsky and Susana Kamini.
So far as I know, you can’t watch a performance of Zarathustra on the web, but below, you can listen to the soundtrack LP recorded by the cast and the band Las Damas Chinas (Chinese Checkers), and if you open this link in another window, you can follow along in the script. Digital copies of the soundtrack are available from Paniques Records. It is, of course, entirely in Spanish, but that shouldn’t discourage anyone. These words from D’s song ring out in a universal tongue:
¡Mis piernas, mis dedos, mis pelos,
AAAmoor. . .!
Mi saliva, mi excremento, mi corazón. . .
(Translation: “My legs, my fingers, my hairs / Looove. . .! / My saliva, my shit, my heart . . .”)
While we’re on the subject of Alejandro Jodorowsky, don’t forget to give your money to the Indiegogo campaign for his upcoming feature Poesía Sin Fin (Endless Poetry). If you choose the “poetic money” perk, he’ll pay you back in bills of his own magical currency. Jodorowsky’s life and work are always cause for celebration.
Henry Miller was always looking for something though he never seemed to find it. Throughout his life the author of cult favorites Tropic of Capricorn and The Tropic of Cancer signed-up for various philosophies and crackpot ideas but inevitably canceled his subscription. He was always willing to believe any kook who claimed to have a knowledge of god, the afterlife, the cosmos or some esoteric wisdom. Miller was willing to give anything a go. At least for a little while.
He tried Madame Blavatsky and her Theosophical Society. He half-believed Blavatsky’s “Secret Doctrine” of the seven planes of existence and the seven cycles through which everything moves—which she claimed came via a secret brotherhood of Mahatmas in Tibet—until Miller “discovered” Blavatsky had invented the whole thing and forged the correspondence with her spiritual guides Koot Hoomi and Mahatma Morya.
In his youth, Miller latched onto the teachings of the former Evangelist preacher Benjamin Fay Mills like “a drowning man.” Miller later explained the preacher’s teachings offered him was a brief respite from his “battle” with his own libidinous sexual desire.
In the 1950s, Miller was convinced “flying saucers” were about to invade Earth. He thought the US government was covering up their knowledge of UFOs and extraterrestrials. Miller corresponded with ufologists ‘fessin’ up his own experience of seeing flying saucers (two objects twinkling in the sky) and witnessing them “far out on the horizon, at dawn, and without aid of glasses.”
Miller was a “cosmic tourist.” He visited “...the Scientology of L. Ron Hubbard, the apocalyptic studies of the Essenes, Christian Science, Kahlil Gibran, White Witchcraft and the modern hinduism of Sri Ramakrishna.” He dabbled with astrology and Buddhism, and was suckered by the conman guru “Lobsang Rampa” who wrote a book titled The Third Eye describing his spiritual life and upbringing in Tibet—but Rampa turned out to be a plumber from Devon called Cyril Hoskin who had never once set foot outside England.
Yet Miller never felt cheated by these cranks. He was open-minded about everything and was never dispirited, disappointed or angered when he found out he’d been conned by yet another New Age charlatan. Miller’s view was simple:
Any theory, any idea, any speculation can augment the zest for life so long as one dies not make the mistake of thinking that he is getting somewhere.
The marvelous cover for the first hardcover edition, 1969
For those who enjoy their realities getting fucked with, there’s no better writer for that than the great Philip K. Dick, and among his many unsettling works, his novel Ubik is held in unusually high esteem.
Ubik is about a mission to a moon base that includes Joe Chip, a technician who works for Glen Runciter’s “prudence organization,” and 10 cohorts. The mission ends in a fatal explosion, but who lived and survived that explosion is a puzzle the book never quite reveals.
It’s a bewildering mindfuck of a book, featuring routinized space travel, psychics and “anti-psychics,” a character who can alter reality by traveling to the past, and a mysterious (and mystical) product called Ubik (same root as “ubiquitous”) that comes in a spray can and serves as a slippery metaphor for God itself.
One brilliant aspect of the book is the devilishly ambiguous ending—as Dick’s wife Tessa wrote,
Many readers have puzzled over the ending of Ubik, when Glen Runciter finds a Joe Chip coin in his pocket. What does it mean? Is Runciter dead? Are Joe Chip and the others alive? Actually, this is meant to tell you that we can’t be sure of anything in the world that we call ‘reality.’ It is possible that they are all dead and in cold pac or that the half-life world can affect the full-life world. It is also possible that they are all alive and dreaming.
A few years ago a Deviant Art user going by the handle martinacecilia created three alluring posters advertising the benefits of Ubik, using a retro style and adapting “mostly vintage ads of Coca-cola.”
The cover of Charles Bukowski’s short story, ‘Bring Me Your Love’ illustrated by R. Crumb.
The seemingly logical collaboration of the great R. Crumb and transgressive writer and poet Charles Bukowski finally became a reality in the early part of the 80s when Crumb created illustrations for two of Bukowski’s short stories, Bring Me Your Love (1983) and There’s No Business (1984).
An illustration from ‘There’s No Business’ by R. Crumb.
Crumb’s illustrations give the already gritty storylines of both stories visual context—such as a man who looks much like Buk wrestling on the floor with his “wife” after a dispute involving answering the phone or various barroom skirmishes depicting a Bukowski-looking character running amok. The pair would collaborate once again in 1998 (four years after Bukowski’s passing in 1994) with Crumb illustrating a collection of excerpts from Bukowski’s diary, specifically passages from the year prior to his death, The Captain Is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship. Many of Crumb’s illustrations from all three publications, as well as a few other cartoons images of Charles Bukowski drawn by Crumb follow.
When I got to San Francisco, the Summer Of Love was in full effect and I was crashing at a pad on Waller street in the Haight. There were a couple dozen of us in a large multi-room apartment sleeping on the floor, on couches, wherever we could find a few unoccupied square feet. I had a nice setup in an oversized closet. I knew the guy who rented the apartment (we had gone to junior high together) and so I got some preferential treatment. Everyone in the place were pilgrims from all over the United States and we were all under twenty. And, like I said, it was the Summer Of Love. So a lot of fucking was going on.
Everything you’ve read or heard about “free sex” in the Sixties is pretty much true. It was a love fest and the worst that might happen is that you got the clap or crabs. No one was dying. And for awhile no one that I knew was having babies, either. It was as if God had said “go for it.” And we did. I’d lie in the black light glow of my closet tripping on acid and listening to the zipping and unzipping of sleeping bags as young lovers migrated from one to the other, their giggles and moans mingling with the steady drone of KSAN radio playing the soundtrack to our lives.
In the world of commerce, far from Hippie Hill and Panhandle Park, the free sex “thing” was a great way for newspapers and magazines to sell product. There was an international explosion of hippie-themed publications that dealt with sex, politics, art, etc. Some were legit. Some were pure exploitation. Some were both. A lot of periodicals actually contained the writings of well-respected thinkers like Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary and were read by the counter-culturists they were intended for. Others were designed to appeal to the gawkers and the “raincoat crowd.” Hippie shit sold and there were a bunch of easy angles for marketing it: sex, drugs and rock and roll. If you didn’t have the balls to be a part of it you could always imagine. Burn some incense, put on some sitar music and pull your pud as you pictured yourself surrounded by a bunch of flower children wearing beads, headbands and patchouli. Your very own hippie oasis in a rec room tricked out in plywood and shag carpeting. Walter Mitty as imagined by R. Crumb.
Here’s a collection of covers that run the gamut from authentically cool alternative press publications to some really goofy softcore pulp. As I was compiling these it became quickly apparent that putting naked hairy dudes on the covers was never part of the marketing plan. The free love movement still had some old school hangovers from Playboy magazine.