follow us in feedly
‘Poem for Keef’: Patti Smith’s poem for Keith Richards, 1978
12:40 pm



There’s a delightful slapdash quality to the magazine Rock Scene from the 1970s. The magazine, which was edited by Richard Robinson, featured contributions from Alan Betrock, Lenny Kaye, Leee Black Childers, and Lisa Robinson. I can’t speak for the intentions that went into Rock Scene, but to me it reads like an attempt, largely successful, to offer the demographic that gravitated towards, say, the Stones and the Ramones a Tiger Beat all their own. A typical issue from May 1977 name-checked the following acts on the cover: Ted Nugent, Blue Oyster Cult, the Heartbreakers, Aerosmith, Television, the Sex Pistols, and Gene Simmons. That mix of mainstream hard rock and cutting-edge impulses from the world of punk was typical of the magazine—most importantly, the Bay City Rollers, Donny & Marie, and Leif Garrett, to cite a random issue of Tiger Beat from the exact same period, were nowhere to be found.

The cover of every issue trumpeted the number of pictures to be found within (“OVER 150 PHOTOS”), and If they were grainy b/w pictures that were laid out in half an hour max, all the better. Rock Scene, which came out every two months, spent as much time documenting the insider-ish parties backstage at Max’s Kansas City or CBGBs as the gigs themselves.

The February 1978 issue of Rock Scene contains a startling artifact that, well, scarcely exists in Internet terms. (At least, none of the many Google searches I’ve tried was able to find it.) The cover of that issue promised “PATTI SMITH: POEM FOR KEEF” and damned if there isn’t a poem by Patti Smith about Keith Richards tucked in there on page 13.

By the way, the legendary Stones guitarist and songwriter is mentioned in three places in this issue (at least as pertains to the poem)—cover, table of contents, and on the page with the poem—and every time the final “S” is left off of his last name, as in “Keith Richard.”

The poem is called “Wreath.” I’ve done a little checking in the various poetry collections under Smith’s name, and it apparently isn’t included in any of them. It’s not in WITT (1973; a longshot to be sure) or Early Work, 1970-1979 (published 1994). The best chance would likely have been Babel, published in 1978 and covering poems of the previous five years, but it isn’t in there either.


on the hills of rif we come to greet you
through the halls of myth we choose to roam
crown of thorns
shroud of love
our gifts we offer
and the waters of life
of health
of stone
on the hills of rif we call, undefeated
crown of thorns
kreed of love
and language comb
on the hills of rif we rise
salute you
ja-kiss your face of light and bone

Click on the image for a larger version:

I found this issue of Rock Scene at the Rock Hall’s Library and Archives, which is located at the Tommy LiPuma Center for Creative Arts on Cuyahoga Community College’s Metropolitan Campus in Cleveland, Ohio. It is free and open to the public. Visit their website for more information.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan’s song for the gay liberation movement
09:26 am



The first three songs on Allen Ginsberg’s First Blues album come from a November 1971 session for a planned release on the Beatles’ Apple Records. Ginsberg asked Bob Dylan to lead the band, which included Ginsberg’s lover Peter Orlovsky, Greenwich Village folkies Happy and Artie Traum, composer David Amram, and guitarist Jon Sholle. Dylan himself played guitar, piano and organ.

Vomit Express,” credited to Ginsberg and Dylan, might be the best-known product of the session, but the pair also co-wrote a song for the gay liberation movement, which was about five minutes old at the time: “Jimmy Berman (Gay Lib Rag).” I believe Ginsberg is improvising the lyrics, which concern his efforts to get an eighteen-year-old newsboy in the sack. I’ve transcribed the lyrics (as I hear them, of course) below, so you can sing along with Allen and discourage any homophobic and heteronormative attitudes within earshot.

Dylan and Ginsberg at Kerouac’s grave, 1975

Who’s that Jimmy Berman? I heard you drop his name
What has he got to say? What papers is he sellin’?
I don’t know if he’s the guy I met or ain’t the same
Well, that Jimmy Berman was a boy that is worth tellin’

Jimmy Berman on the corner sold the New York Times
Jimmy Berman in New York he had a long, long climb
Started as a shoeshine boy, ended on Times Square
Jimmy Berman, what’s that rose you got settin’ in your hair?

Jimmy Berman what’s your sex, why you hang ‘round here all day?
Jimmy Berman what’s up next, oh what do you play?
Who you wanna sleep with night, Jimmy boy? Would you like come with me?
Jimmy Berman, O my love, O what misery

Jimmy Berman, do you feel the same as what I do?
Jimmy Berman, won’t you come home and make love with me too?
Jimmy Berman, I’ll take my clothes off, lay me down in bed
Jimmy Berman, drop your pants, I’ll give you some good head

Eighteen-year-old Jimmy, the boy is my delight
Eighteen-year-old Jimmy, I love him day and night
Now I know I’m getting kinda old to chase poor Jimmy’s tail
But I won’t tell you other, love, it’d be too long a tale

Jimmy Berman, please love me, I throw myself at your feet
Jimmy Berman, I’ll give you money, oh, won’t that be neat?
Jimmy Berman, just give me your heart and yeah! your soul
Jimmy Berman, please come home with me, I would be whole

Jimmy Berman on the street, waiting for his god
Jimmy Berman as I pass gives me a holy nod
Jimmy Berman he has watched and seen the strangers pass
Jimmy Berman he gave up, he wants no more, alas

Jimmy Berman does yoga, he smokes a little grass
Jimmy Berman’s back is straight, he knows what to bypass
Jimmy Berman don’t take junk, he don’t shoot speed in his eye
Jimmy Berman’s got a healthy mind and Jimmy Berman is ours

Jimmy Berman, Jimmy Berman, I will say goodbye
Jimmy Berman, Jimmy Berman, love you till I die
Jimmy Berman, Jimmy Berman, wave to me as well
Jimmy Berman, Jimmy Berman, please abolish Hell



Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Starring William S. Burroughs as Dr. Benway
01:24 pm



This remarkable footage comes from Howard Brookner’s Burroughs: The Movie from 1983. In this scene, two modes of address are skillfully intercut, Burroughs himself reading the hospital passage from early in Naked Lunch, which becomes the voiceover for an actual filmed enactment of the same scene, starting Burroughs as his memorable creation Dr. Benway, described by one observer as “the high priest of manic irrationality.”

Warhol superstar Jackie Curtis is tasked with embodying the nurse, a task she does admirably—the mind practically invents a cigarette for her to puff on between lines, so world-weary and seen-it-all is her nurse. I couldn’t figure out the name of the fellow playing Dr. Limpf. Of course, Roy Scheider played Dr. Benway in David Cronenberg’s 1991 adaptation of the book.

Jim Jarmusch and Tom DiCillo, who together did so much to define American independent film in the 1980s, both worked on Burroughs: The Movie. Jarmusch’s masterpiece Stranger Than Paradise came out a year later, of course.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Vietnamese Buddhists decide ‘crazy’ Allen Ginsberg must be a government spy
01:17 pm



A dedicated student of meditation throughout most of his adulthood, Allen Ginsberg fell into Buddhism fairly early on in life, well before the mysticism craze of the 1960s, to be fair. He was even instrumental in bringing Buddhist thinkers and writers into the mainstream—hardly a shallow New Age dilettante. That doesn’t mean he didn’t have super goobery white dude moments early on in his quest for spiritual education.

In this fantastic little 1963 item from The New York Times (cheekily titled “Buddhists Find a Beatnik ‘Spy’”), Ginsberg finds himself in the midst of a government/religious conflict that he clearly hadn’t anticipated.

SAIGON, Vietnam, June 5 - The Buddhists, who are in conflict with the South Vietnam Government, asserted today that they believed the Americans has sent a “spy to look at us.”

A Buddhist spokesman told this to newsmen. The newsmen, incredulous, asked if the spokesman would be good enough to describe the “spy.”

“Well, he was tall and had a very long beard and his hair was very long in back and curly,” the Buddhist said. “He said he was a poet and a little crazy and that he liked Buddhists. We didn’t know what else he was so we decided he was a spy.”

At this point his listeners burst out laughing and said the “spy” was the American poet Allen Ginsberg, a well-known beatnik. Mr. Ginsberg was here briefly for several days on his way to British Columbia after a long stay in India.

The Buddhist controversy with Government involves their resentment over Government curbs on their activities, including a ban on raising the Buddhist flag.

Via New York Times

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
RE/Search’s Vale and JG Ballard on William Burroughs
12:06 pm

Pop Culture


This is a guest post from Graham Rae.

In 2007, I interviewed Val Vale, of RE/Search Publications, and the late futurologist novelist JG Ballard, about a writer whom they were both very favorably predisposed to, William S. Burroughs. I talked to the amiable Val by phone, and sent JGB a few questions by mail, sending him a copy of an expensive science book I had received for review, An Evolutionary Psychology of Sleep and Dreams, to sweeten the pot. The answers are below.

These interviews originally appeared on the now-defunct website of the fine Scottish writer Laura Hird, and do not appear anywhere else online; have not done for years. Thus the references are somewhat dated, but at lot of the material, sadly, remains very much in vogue. I had only been in America for two years in 2007, and my views here seem somewhat naïve to me now, but, well, them’s the learning-immigrant breaks. So without further ado…

Foreword: Noted San Francisco underground publisher V Vale has been publishing since 1977, when, with $200 he was given by Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and poet/ City Lights bookstore owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti ($100 from each), he put out 11 issues of the Search And Destroy punk zine. In 1980 he started RE/Search, an imprint which still puts out infrequent volumes on subjects like schlock therapy trash movies, JG Ballard, punk, modern primitives, supermasochists, torture gardens, pranks, angry women, bodily fluids.anything and everything taboo and alternative and unreported was and is fair grist to Vale’s subversive ever-churning wordmill.

In 1982 he put out RE/Search #4/5, a three-section volume including William S. Burroughs, with the other two sections being about Throbbing Gristle and the artist Brion Gysin, WSB’s friend and collaborator who’d introduced the writer to the ‘cut-up’ method of rearranging his texts to show what they really mean.

The Burroughs section of the book include an interview with Burroughs by Vale (who is mentioned in Burroughs’ Last Words), an unpublished chapter from Cities of The Red Night, two excerpts from The Place of Dead Roads, two “Early Routines,” an article on “The Cut-Up Method of Brion Gysin” and ‘The Revised Boy Scout Manual’ which is a piece in which Burroughs muses revealingly on armed revolution and weapons-related revelation.

I talked to the amiable publisher about this interesting volume, but only about Burroughs, because he was the reason I wanted to read the thing in the first place; neither of the other two subjects much interest me, to be perfectly honest. It’s an interesting volume that any Burroughs enthusiast would definitely enjoy. So join us as we (me with occasionally incomprehensible-to-American-ears Scottish accent) take a trip down memory lane and talk about snakebite serum, dark-skinned young boys, the City Lights bookstore, independent publishing, aphorisms, Fox News’s hateful right-wing Christian conservative pop-agitprop, the madness of Tony Blair and avoiding mad drunks with guns.

And after the interview with Vale you will find the answers to a few questions JG Ballard was kind enough to answer me by mail about his own relationship with El Hombre Invisible.

V Vale Questions

Graham Rae: First off, how did you first encounter Burroughs’ work?

Vale: Oh, jeez. Well, I encountered Naked Lunch at college in the late ‘60s. He was like the cat’s meow. Burroughs and Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon—books like these. And it was obvious that Burroughs was this un-sane, slightly science-fictiony visionary, but he wasn’t really science fiction, he was extremely sardonic, that was his main appeal, with Dr. Benway and all that. And since I was more-or-less hetero oriented I think I more or less ignored all the references to young boys with blue gills and fluorescent appendages and whatever. That sort of went right by me like water off a duck’s back. It was only later that I realized that the imagery was kind of . . . how it was oriented. But what really turned me on to Burroughs was an article in a 1970 or ‘71 Atlantic Monthly magazine that came out with a huge excerpt in it from The Job, which is Burroughs’—I think it’s his signature book of interviews, it’s kind of the equivalent of The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again). And so I took this magazine and underlined it and kept reading it over and over, making lists and trying to get all the books that he talked about. And then The Job came out and that became my Bible


Vale: Oh yeah, it’s totally important. Still important; it’s got so many ideas in it.

Well that’s the thing about Burroughs, isn’t it? It’s like this sort of surreal mercurial Braille, it’s very strange. I mean you read it, you go back to it and then you go back to it and then you get something different from it because you’ve got a completely different level of understanding of it, y’know, I think, personally.

Vale: Well yeah, that definitely can happen with any great book. And I spent so much time with ‘The Job’ and with that ‘Atlantic Monthly’ article. It was obvious that this was sort of like a philosophy of life. I mean, instead of saying you’re right wing or left wing politically, you could just say, Well, I’m a Burroughsian. There should be almost a Burroughsian political party making fun of authoritarianism all across the entire political spectrum.

I’ve got that party in my head that goes on 24 fucking 7, man. Right. When and how did you first contact Burroughs?

Vale: Well I was already working at City Lights Bookstore and one of the perks of working there was that you got to meet all the so-called Beatniks and you were already in the in-group.

Did you meet like Ginsberg and that then, I take it?

Vale: Oh yeah, sure. The legend is that Ginsberg gave me my first $100 to start publishing. It’s certainly true, but I wish I had made a Xerox of the check, and I wish I had made a Xerox of the check that Ferlinghetti gave me, too. But you know, back in those days you didn’t have a home Xerox machine, you had to go to a corner facility and spend ten cens on a Xerox. Believe it or not, ten cents for a Xerox was a lot of money in 1976 or so.

Especially when you don’t have much money.

Vale: Especially when you’re living on minimum wage from City Lights, but you know you would parlay that, you’d stretch that out by: you’d get such a low income you’d qualify for food stamps, for example. They still give out food stamps—I see these old Chinese people using them still, but I hear they’re really hard to get now. But they used to be easy to get.

Continues after the jump with more from Vale and JG Ballard on WSB…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘William S. Burroughs & Lawrence’: Every WSB fan needs to see this charming film
05:37 pm




“This is one of the great dangers with overpopulation… the absolute proliferation of morons.”—William S. Burroughs

I’ve long given up on seeing another decent documentary on William S. Burroughs. One that’s not full of talking heads of people who barely knew him—I could not give a shit about hearing Michael Stipe or Iggy Pop’s well-rehearsed soundbites about WSB, again—and footage that you’ve already seen ten gazillion times before. Not since Howard Brookner’s Burroughs:The Movie—made over 30 years ago—has there been a good Burroughs doc.

So I’m happy to have stumbled across this utterly DELIGHTFUL short “Burroughs & Lawrence” produced and directed by Chris Snipes. It’s episode 7 of Our Town, a series of films about Lawrence, KS, the university town where Burroughs lived the longest of all the various places he’d lived around the world.

Not only have I seen almost zero of the footage contained in the film, it’s full of charming and intimate stories about the notorious Beat writer in the September of his years, anecdotes told by people who really knew the man. Featuring footage of Burroughs reading in a local bookstore. Wonderful stories about Burroughs driving a car. The hilarious “cat butt” scene (trust me, it’s LOL). Clips of Timothy Leary, Marianne Faithfull and Allen Ginsberg celebrating the Beats in 1987 at the River City Reunion event. Patti Smith singing at Burroughs’ gravesite and plenty of mundane, but funny/fascinating details about Burroughs’ day-to-day life in Lawrence.

Highly recommended. In fact, I recommend that you get high and watch this.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Real Horrorshow!: Malcolm McDowell and Anthony Burgess discuss Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’
11:05 am



Ken Russell was among the many directors originally touted to direct A Clockwork Orange before Stanley Kubrick. Russell was considered stylistically sympathetic to bring Anthony Burgess’s source novel to cinematic life—he had documented youth gangs as a photographer in the 1950s and made a series of highly influential drama-documentaries and films that had inspired not only Stanley Kubrick but also Lindsay Anderson, Tony Richardson and later Derek Jarman. I wonder what Russell’s version of A Clockwork Orange would have been like? Perhaps more flamboyant, more seedy, more of the end-of the-pier, more human than Kubrick’s aesthetically pleasing but cold and sterile vision. And though the great and the good lobbied to have Mick Jagger play Alex, I wonder if Russell would have opted for his favorite actor Oliver Reed? Oh, what japes they’d have had. Instead Kubrick chose Malcolm McDowell because of his unforgettable and iconic performance as Mick Travis in Lindsay Anderson’s If…
Casting at first sight: director Lindsay Anderson was understandably smitten by McDowell’s beauty, talented and attitude when he cast him as Mick Travis in ‘If…’ The performance that led to his role as Alex in Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange.’.
McDowell had the blue-eyed, blonde beauty of a fallen angel—he would have been the perfect choice to play Lucifer for Kenneth Anger. McDowell was born in 1943 into a lower middle class family in Leeds, he was never the working class lout as some tabloids like to pretend but a privately educated son to a family who ran a small guest house. He was clever, smart, idealistic, and decided he wanted to be an actor. After school, he found found work as a stage manager on the Isle of Wight before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company. McDowell embraced the cultural rebellion of the 1960s and hated the dominance of the established theatrical institutions, as he once explained to writer Michael Bracewell:

‘The RSC? Horrendous. Middle-class theatre crap…actorly acting with lots of shouting—after [Laurence] Olivier—and soul-searching performances…I mean I saw some great performances—Ian Richardson and Paul Scofield—but it was like being ordered around and told what to do by a bunch of little shitheads. I auditioned for the RSC by reading the Prologue from Henry VIII, for the very good reason that nobody knew it. It begins, “I come no more to make you laugh”, which was ironic, because humour has always been a great mainstay of my arsenal. I mean, A Clockwork Orange was essentially a comic performance. I used to loot my style from Eric Morecambe.’

Eric Morecambe (with umbrella and bowler) and Ernie Wise.
Eric Morecambe was the comic half to the much-beloved double-act Morecambe and Wise, who dominated British television screens in the 1960s and 1970s, which brings a different interpretation to his performance as Alex—one that would have been ideal for Ken Russell.

‘I’ve always had to live down A Clockwork Orange wherever I go, because ever since then, with the exception of O, Lucky Man!, which I made with Lindsay [Anderson] immediately afterwards, I’ve always been cast as the heavy. It used to irritate the shit out of me, and then I just got bored with it, you know? I just wanted to get on, maybe make a few comedies or do something else, but there was Alex…I know that I’ve said some mean things about Kubrick in the past, but thinking back to the actual shooting of that film and trying to forget all the baggage of what happened afterwards, it was an incredibly stimulating experience, even though I got to the point where I hated the film because of the reaction.’

This runs contra to McDowell’s enthusiasm as expounded in this interview about A Clockwork Orange he gave with author Anthony Burgess in 1972, but this was still early days and McDowell had not been hamstrung by his move to Hollywood, where he ended-up making movies for the lowest common denominator. McDowell is an exceptionally talented actor and no matter how dire the film he always gives a powerfully memorable performance.
The book and its Beethoven-loving author, Anthony Burgess.
Anthony Burgess came to hate Kubrick’s film too, which was ironic as the movie made Burgess a bigger star than his writing up to that point had achieved. Burgess is a writer’s writer, a polymath who claimed he would rather be known for his musical compositions than his books. Burgess wrote A Clockwork Orange in 1962, after being mistakenly told he had not long to live. To ensure he left money for his wife, Burgess wrote a series of novels in quick succession, one of which was A Clockwork Orange. It was moderately successful on publication, a cult book, that became a bestseller after Kubrick’s movie. Burgess claimed he took the title from an old East London saying, “As queer as a clockwork orange,” which may or may not be true, as there appears to be no known record of this phrase. Whatever its derivation, it perfectly captured the book’s theme of a hideous artificial will imposed on natural behavior.
McDowell and Kubrick on set during filming.
After Kubrick’s film version of A Clockwork Orange was released in Britain in 1971, it was ironically linked to a series of violent crimes. The first was the murder of a tramp by a 16-year-old youth; the second involved another 16-year-old who, while dressed in the film’s distinctive gang uniform, stabbed a younger boy; the third was the brutal and horrific gang rape of a Dutch girl by a group of youths from Lancashire, as they sang “Singing in the Rain”.

Sentencing the 16-year-old for assaulting a child, a judge described the attack part of a “horrible trend” prompted by “this wretched film”. Following death threats and warnings from the police over revenge attacks, Kubrick asked Warner Brothers to pull the film from its UK release. For a very long time, through the 1980s and 1990s, the nearest place Brits could see A Clockwork Orange was Paris. It was only after Kubrick’s death in 1999 was his ban lifted and the film re-released in the UK.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
Anthony Burgess and the Top Secret Code contained in ‘A Clockwork Orange’

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Fuck obscenity!: Live footage of The Fugs performing at Cleveland free speech benefit,1967
09:48 am



I thought I’d seen every frame of Fugs’ film footage that exists on the worldwide web…but I guess not. Here’s something totally new to me: The Fugs performing in 1967 at a Cleveland, Ohio benefit for poet D.A. Levy and Jim Lowell.
Lowell and Levy had been busted for distributing obscene literature to minors. Lowell owned a Cleveland beatnik hang, The Asphodel Book Store, where one could buy books that, in 1967, were deemed profane, including some of Levy’s self-published books of poetry. They both endured a year of protracted legal hassles before the charges were dropped in 1968. But despite being not guilty of anything, Levy had to pay a $200 fine and was told by the judge to “no longer associate with juveniles or give them his poetry.” That’s a rather harsh sentence for someone whose biggest crime was writing some poems. It was particularly rough on Levy whose art was intended to inspire a new generation of young people to question authority and expand their consciousness. Levy was a mystic, a Buddhist, a bard on a mission to change the world through a process of opening up minds. Later that year Levy opened his mind once and for all when he blew out his brains with a shotgun. A sad end for a brilliant young poet. He was 26.
From D.A. Levy’s Suburban Monastery Death Poem:

the poets will be kept in line
like they are in cleveland
its so easy to convince poets
what poetry is
and what it isnt
& everyone knows
sleeping with the muse
is only for young poets
after you’ve been kept impotent
by style & form & words like “art”
after being published by the RIGHT publishers
and having all the right answers
after youve earned the right to call yrself
a poet     yr dead
& lying on yr back
drinking ceremonial wine, while
the muse, who is always a young girl
with old eyes into the universe
suddenly remembers necrophilia
is an experience shes had before
& shes not interested
in straddling corpses anymore


Beatniks were scary! Children were hidden behind suburban mother’s skirts. Fathers oiled their rifles as teenagers shimmied to a wild bongo beat.

The Fugs came to the rescue. This footage is 16mm film shot by Dennis Goulden. The audio is rough but the visuals are fine indeed. The benefit took place at the Case Institute of Technology campus. Cleveland was scarred forever. Poetry had left its festering tattoo upon the buttocks of civility.

More after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
A Dangerous Minds exclusive: Previously unpublished interview with Allen Ginsberg
11:17 am



In 1977, Michael Rectenwald was a disenchanted pre-med student with a secret passion for poetry—Allen Ginsberg and his influences in particular. After a couple of years of covertly consuming, studying and writing poems, he found his interest in medical school had entirely evaporated, so he left school and dove further into writing, eventually sending a letter and some of his poems to Ginsberg himself. Not only did Ginsberg write back, he invited Rectenwald to apprentice him at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Describing his fellow classmates as “a hodgepodge of Buddhists, failed and former beatniks, wannabe poets, acid trippers, mushroom poppers, Carlos Castaneda aficionados who thought they could fly, and many stripes of New Ager,” Rectenwald was thrown into an erratic world of “creatives” head first. He thrived, developing both a meaningful relationship with his mentor and practicing his craft, despite the frequently turbulent environment.

For example, one of Rectenwald’s “tasks” was watching over Billy Burroughs, Jr., son of William S. Burroughs. Traumatized by an unstable childhood and the death of his mother at the hands of his father, Billy’s mental and physical health had deteriorated exacerbated by alcoholism and a speed addiction his father had encouraged him to cultivate—the senior Burroughs saw drugs as a creative muse. Eventually Billy fled to Florida and died of cirrhosis shortly thereafter, though not before leaving a suicide note, which Rectenwald still possesses.

Eventually Rectenwald went back home and returned to school, this time for a B.A. in English from the University of Pittsburgh. His experience with Ginsberg, while formative, had been disorienting. In 1994, Rectenwald and Ginsberg met again for an interview, which you can read below. This is the first time it has run in print, and the warmth and the familiarity of their interaction is apparent as they meander from politics to the drug war to Buddhism to William S Burroughs.

Michael Rectenwald has since gone on to publish his own poetry and fiction. He has also taught, and produced scholarly work on academic writing, and the history of science and secularism (guess pre-med really did end up coming in handy). He hopes to complete his next book—on his experience with Ginsberg—soon.

M: Hello Allen.

A: Hi, Hello.

M: How are you doing?

A: Well, I just came back from a Chinese restaurant with an old painter friend whom I haven’t seen in New York in thirty years. Robert Levin who was a court painter for all the Beat generation and San Francisco renaissance poets like Kerouac and Gary Snyder and John Wieners. So he just arrived in New York for the big Beat generation festival at NYU and him and I went out to summer tonight.

M: and you hadn’t seen him in how long?

A: Well we’d seen each other in Seattle where he was, but I hadn’t seen him in New York, I guess for I guess thirty years or so, since the 60s.

M: Wow, and the Beat generation and legacy and celebration is taking place, actually as this interview is airing. I’ve got the schedule here in front of me and it looks like it’s quite of an array… everything from academic presentations to…

A: Art shows, particularly. There will be a reading at town hall with Gregory Corso and Ann Waldman and myself, Dave [inaudible], Michael McClure…

M: Ferlinghetti with paintings?

A: Ferlinghetti is both poetry and paintings. Almost everybody. It’s a show of… it began in the school of education and art. It began as an art show to show paintings by Ferlinghetti and Burroughs and water colors by Gregory Corso and photographs by me and Albert Franken and others.

M: Yeah, you’re quite photographer too. I don’t think everybody knows that.

A: There is a new big book out by Chronicle Books that is [inaudible]. It is back on the stands now.

M: I myself have been an admirer of your musical works. You putting Blake to music and you have several musical scores that you have done.

A: We have a lot of albums out now. It’s basically a libretto that I did with Philip Glass, Hydrogen Jukebox that came out on [inaudible] Records a couple months ago. A couple years ago, I had on Island Records what was called The Lion For Real with spoken poems with jazz backgrounds by a lot of very interesting musicians, the same guys that play with Tom Waits and sometimes with Leonard Cohen, [inaudible],  Mark Greenbo, Bill Frisell and others. So now I’m working on a fourth CD set of highlights of all my recorded stuff that has been put out over a thirty-year period.

M: That’s excellent

A: We have a lot of Blake, that you like, plus some things you haven’t heard.

M: Great.

A: That I recorded with Dylan.

M: Oh really?

A: It’s about a half hour of work with Dylan, my own songs with Blake or compositions we did together, improvisations. Then there is a live cut with The Clash. A piece of an opera I did with Philip Glass, a duet between me and Glass. There is a duet with…oh, let’s see, who is the drummer for “A Love Supreme”?

M: Oh, you mean from the Santana album?

A: Elvin Jones, the drummer.

M: Is the cut from Combat Rock is that The Clash or is that another?

A; Oh that is a live thing we did, it’s one of my songs. We had Combat Rock, actually with the album I sing on with their words, but this was my own. Someone did it at a club in New York, improvised, years ago when I first met him.

More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Ken Kesey and the Grateful Dead’s unrealized ballet
09:21 am



Though The Sea Lion, Ken Kesey’s tale based on the mythology of the Northwest Coast Indians, wound up as a children’s book, the author originally intended it to be a three-part rock ballet scored by the Grateful Dead. Kesey discussed his vision for the ballet with Old Dominion University’s student newspaper during a 1982 visit to Virginia:

He says he has just spent all of last year researching Northwest Indian myths. The author wants to write a ballet featuring the Indian legends, and have the music written and performed by rock group the Grateful Dead. “I want the Dead to write the music and score for an orchestra,’’ Kesey explains, “and put the Dead down in the orchestra pit where they belong! The Dead are the best!”

The Greatful Dead traveled with Kesey to the site of the Indian rituals, where they saw the rites performed by the Kwakutl, Tlingit, and Hiada Indian tribes. Kesey wants the Dead to do the ballet because “They won’t be remembered unless they do something permanent.”

Kesey says the performers are enthused about the project, and that Bill Graham, the rock promoter, is very interested in staging the production. Kesey doesn’t want the ballet to be just another rock performance, or rock “opera.” He wants it to be something special and lasting.

The ballet will be called ‘The Sea Lion,” and will concern a boy who finds a magic amulet of god. Later, the boy must contend with magical powers and the designs of necromancers.

Kesey believes the ballet would be a success, and would preserve the mythology of the Indians as well as returning the sense of story and art to people.

“I’d love to see Baryshnikov do it!” Kesey laughs.

Given the personalities involved and the size of the undertaking, it is perhaps not too surprising that this ambitious project was never realized—at least, not with the Dead’s participation. The Sea Lion wasn’t dramatized until 2002, the year after Kesey’s death, when a Chicago-area YMCA staged a production.

In the news clip below, the Dead get back on the bus with Kesey to learn about the folklore of the Northwest Coast Indians at the Lelooska Foundation in Ariel, Washington. It all starts to make a lot of sense as soon as you see the masks.

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Page 2 of 42  < 1 2 3 4 >  Last ›