Talk Talk Vol. 3, No. 6, cover art by William S. Burroughs
The Lawrence, Kansas label Fresh Sounds had a long-standing relationship with William S. Burroughs. In ‘81, owner and proprietor Bill Rich introduced Burroughs to Fresh Sounds recording artists the Mortal Micronotz, to whom the author gave his song lyric about child-chewing, “Old Lady Sloan.” Burroughs later read his Civil War tale, “Death Fiend Guerrillas,” for a Fresh Sounds compilation, and he recorded his own interpretation of “Old Lady Sloan” for a 1995 Mortal Micronotz tribute album.
Bill Rich also edited a magazine called Talk Talk, some of whose numbers came with Fresh Sounds flexi discs. One such issue was Vol. 3, No. 6, published in September ‘81, with cover art by WSB and, inside, a square, six-inch disc of the author reading from the first chapter of The Place of Dead Roads (page 10 in the Picador paperback)—or, more precisely, three Burroughses reading the same text at three different points in space and time. Abandoned Artifacts superimposes recordings from performances in Toronto, Chicago, and San Francisco, and it is downright spooky when they match in cadence and tone. Percussion by one Martin Olson juices the passage’s weird, incantatory power.
The interview with Burroughs from Talk Talk Vol. 3, No. 6 helps make sense of the title Abandoned Artifacts, especially if you don’t have The Place of Dead Roads handy:
Mr. B.: We are squandering time and time is running out. We must conceive of time as a resource. That is one of the concepts central to this book. Another is that people are living organisms as artifacts made for a purpose, not cosmic accidents, artifacts created for a purpose.
TT: What are some of the purposes?
Mr. B.: Space. Leaving the planet. We are here to go. This first chapter shows you the concept of living beings as artifacts which is developed much more in the rest of the book. Artifacts created for a purpose, just like arrowheads.
TT: Have you decided on a title?
Mr. B.: Oh, yes, Place of Dead Roads… The planet earth, place of dead roads, dead purposes.
Leaving the planet? Yes, please!
On the B-side, a recording of Burroughs reading “On the Nova Lark” in the early sixties, accompanied by backwards music of unknown origin: