This Is The Impression I Get From Looking At The Television Set

Whoever spliced Allen Ginsberg reading his 1956 poem America with Tom Waits’ Closing Time created something beautiful and profound. You can take as much as you want from Ginsberg’s poem at the moment.

America (Closing Time)

America’s Greatest Living Poet Was Ogling You All NIght

Back at the start of the year Iggy Pop released what may turn out to be his last album. Eight months later it still sounds like a good record and contains several songs that are as good as anything he’s done for ages. It also sounds like a record he wanted to make rather than a contract filler or something to occupy some time. The lead song was Gardenia, opening with a great tremelo guitar part from Josh Homme and then Iggy’s baritone voice comes in singing about Gardenia, a stripper he used to love/admire. The sound of the song harks back to Berlin period Iggy, mechanical and with groove The line about ‘America’s greatest living poet’ comes from a time when Iggy and Allen Ginsberg spent an evening in gardenia’s company, Iggy waiting decades to use this memory in a song.

Gardenia

Good Woman

Ages ago a friend lent me a Cat Power lp- I can’t remember which one but I listened to it and decided it really wasn’t my cuppa tea. I don’t think I stuck with it very long. I found this clip recently- footage of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg hanging around the streets of New York in 1959, soundtracked by Cat Power’s Good Woman. Which I now love. The vocal and ever-so-distorted guitars, and with some lovely backing vocals. Some plucked strings, a dash of harmonica maybe. The right side of melancholic.

It’s good when a completely different context allows you to hear something differently and get a different response. I may have to go  and buy the album.

Good Woman

Sacco And Venzetti Must Not Die

It’s funny how these things develop in little bursts and how one thing leads to another. My compadre, technical advisor, guitarist and brother-in-law H has started a blog called Spoken Word Rock. He posted this which I just had to re-post here; Allen Ginsberg’s poem America (which I wrote about back in August) read by Ginsberg, set to the music of Tom Waits’ Closing Time, with some great cut and paste visuals. All of which ties in with my recent rediscovery of the Beats, and has some kind of message for tomorrow’s Presidential election. Maybe.

Sacco and Venzetti were a pair of Italian-American anarchists charged with murder in the 1920s and convicted on flimsy, xenophobic/racist evidence. A witness recalled in court one of the assailants ‘moved like a foreigner’. The judge added his own prejudices and the two men were sentenced to death. Both were eventually executed.

America (Closing Time)

I Saw The Best Minds Of My Generation Destroyed By Madness

Jack Kerouac may have been the handsome, freewheeling, checked shirt and chino, hitch-hiking, Zen typing, King of the Beats but in the long term Allen Ginsberg was probably a more sorted fella. In the mid 50s he pioneered a new form of poetry and won an obscenity trial over his poem Howl, particularly fighting against homophobic laws and attitudes. in the 60s he adopted the hippies and they adopted him, befriending Bob Dylan and being conspicuous in the anti-Vietnam movement. On meeting London’s swinging 60s leading lights he stripped naked; John Lennon left he room aghast muttering ‘not in front of the birds’. I thought I had an mp3 of him reading America but can’t find it. It’s a great poem, starting…

America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing. 
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956. 
I can’t stand my own mind. 
America when will we end the human war? 
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb 
I don’t feel good don’t bother me. 


And finishing…

America this is quite serious. 
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set. 
America is this correct? 
I’d better get right down to the job. 
It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts factories

I’m nearsighted and psychopathic anyway. 
America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

Instead this is Ginsberg reading his epic Howl.

Howl

While in New York for their residency at Bond’s Casino The Clash crossed paths with Ginsberg. Joe Strummer and Ginsberg collaborated on some lyrics, though Strummer later said Ginsberg’s contribution was only a few words.Ginsberg then provided vocals on the superb Ghetto Defendant, from Combat Rock (including some memorable lines- slamdance cosmopolis, enlighten the populace; strung out committee, walled out of the city). Today’s bonus download is the version of Ghetto Defendant from Mick Jones’ unreleased Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg bootleg (later to be pruned and polished into Combat Rock). This one is rougher and features more Ginsberg.

Ghetto Defendant (Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg version)