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