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

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Death Letter, Hot Water

We are into day 5 of enforced Victorian living- come and film us Channel 4. Our boiler stopped working on Sunday- no central heating or hot water all day. It is not easy to fill a bath with the kettle and a few pans. The boilerman came on Monday and said our expander unit had popped causing the system to trip out. He’s ordered a new one but no sign of it yet. We have two portable radiators and an electric fan heater Mrs Swiss had when I first met her (and it wasn’t new then). On Sunday night we bathed at friends. Boilerman did a temporary fix for us, emptying the kitchen radiator to act as an expander unit. This has, since Monday evening, provided intermittent heat and some hot water. Some as in not enough. I got those faulty boiler blues.

Son House’s blues song Death Letter plays in the film of On The Road and hearing it on the big screen last week reminded me of its power and beauty. Two clips for you…

This one, undated, but I’m guessing 1950s (?)

And this one from 1970…

And without wanting to come across as one of those authenticity blues bores, they just go to show that lights, staging, films and projections, heck, even having a guitar that’s in tune, are all a little superfluous at times.

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)

On The Road Again

I went to see On The Road the day before yesterday, on my own in the afternoon. I dunno if this is the best way to go to the cinema or just a bit sad. The day before I took the 9 year old daughter to see Ice Age 4. I think On The Road shaded it. I enjoyed it, despite what the critics have said. It is a tad overlong and there is a coffee table element to the jazz and the clothes and the good looking cast and there is also a little truth in the reviews that said watching people drink, take drugs and have sex is pretty boring but even so I thought it was a good effort and better than I’d been led to believe. The film looks good, the scenery frequently stunning, the period details spot on, the cinematography beautiful. Sam Riley is good as Sal Paradise, the eternal observer looking for stuff to write about and on a search for kicks, but I half expected him to turn into Ian Curtis at any moment and start doing the jerky dance. Tom Sturridge (Carlo Marx/Allen Ginsberg) steals most of the scenes he’s in despite some clunky scripting and the female leads of Kristen Stewart and Kirsten Dunst are excellent. Mostly though, for a film based on a book that has narrative but no real plot, no three act formula, no twist, no denouement, none of the things that ‘make’ a film, I thought it worked. It was watchable, funny, absorbing in parts, and to me (no film critic admittedly) Walter Salles made a decent job of a book long considered unfilmable.

Ice Age 4 tells the continuing story of three animated prehistoric friends- a sabre toothed tiger called Diego,a woolly mammoth called Manny and a sloth called Sid. The continents are drifting apart leading to all kinds of japes and capers, plus there’s a crew of animal pirates and a teenage mammoth called Peaches learning about friendship.

Friday Afternoon In The Universe

Beatnik Monday

Jack Kerouac and Joe Strummer together from a 1997 album Joy Kicks Darkness where a load of indie beat types set Kerouac to music. Sure to put a spring in your step this morning. Or a shuffle.

MacDougal Street Blues

103rd Street Boys

Back to the Beats. William Burroughs led a colourful life, not one you’d choose for yourself maybe. Like Kerouac he was full of contradictions- loved by the counterculture for his drug use, novels and poetry he held some pretty extreme right wing views and was by some accounts capable of much nastiness. His writing, especially Junky and Naked Lunch, bled into music. Countless bands have taken names/inspiration from Naked Lunch, despite it being close to unreadable in parts. He shot his wife (accidentally, playing a William Tell game) and later said he’d never have become a writer without having done it. by the time he died he was held up as one of America’s great literary geniuses. Compared to Kerouac or Ginsberg, I can take or leave much of his stuff to be honest.

103rd Street Boys

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)