Gregory loved Keats and Shelley and would stagger into the lobby with his trousers hanging low, eloquently spewing their verses. When I mourned my inability to finish any of my poems, he quoted Paul Valery to me: ”Poets don’t finish their poems, they abandon them”… – Patti Smith, Just Kids
The last words Burroughs ever wrote — from his private journal, the day before he passed away…
There is no final enough of wisdom, experience- any fucking thing. No Holy Grail, No Final Satori, no solution. Just conflict.
Only thing that can resolve conflict is love, like I felt for Fletch and Ruski, Spooner, and Calico. Pure love. What I feel for my cats past and present.
Love? What is it?
Most natural painkiller what there is.
William S. Burroughs
Call Me Burroughs: A Life by Barry Miles
Just finished reading the latest Burroughs’ biography ”Call Me Burroughs: A Life by Barry Miles and I was so enthusiastic about it I had a hard time putting it down. Just to give you an idea the intro consist in simply telling this (true) story in which Burroughs tries to get rid of this Ugly Spirit in a sweat tent with a few very close friends and a Shaman who finds it happens to be a much harder task than he originally thought it would be. the ”Ugly Spirit” won’t give up so easily and he really needs to use all the supernatural powers he has. After the ceremony he confides that at a certain point he wasn’t even sure he was going to be able to get rid of it.The intro ends by saying:”This is the story of William Burroughs battles with the Ugly Spirit”. Sounded VERY promising to me… The book doesn’t follow that lead though but rather gives a very well documented detailed bio about Bull’s parent’s, friends, travels, business projects, relationships, love..everything is in there!! It is very detailed and is very interesting even if it’s very different from Victor Bockris‘ bio ”Notes from the Bunker” which has a much more intimate approach but if you love Burroughs as I do, you will none the less be delighted by all the details that you always wanted to know but was too afraid to ask!
I can’t stress out how this is the ultimate detailed biography on Bill. Finally we are getting the whole, complete picture by someone who was very close to him, not in bits and pieces, the whole, complete, complex picture served on a continuous thread that we can all grasp fully and completely. Bill had a way of telling stories that were so personal that he’d always left you wanting to know more, just opening avenues after avenues, the embryo of the embryo of an idea that he has yet to explore and trust me, they are infinite… I think my wish was granted and I finally got to getting the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth in plain, simple and understandable words and figures of speech for all to understand and grasp the grandeur of this larger than life character who has shaped so many aspects of today’s art. I have read almost all his novels, lots of essays and other experiments, interviews with other significant masters of modern art (like Andy Warhol for example) but something tells me this was the ultimate voyage that I had been waiting for into the mind of the Godfather of Punk himself. I wasn’t even deceived to have uncover a his secret and that his mystery will be gone and I’m sure that all of you who knew him know very well why. So… even if I know you will want to finish this book very fast, I suggest that you take your time and savor every word, every page and every chapter of this biography I could definitely have a lot to say about it although whatever I could say will never be a match to what you can get by reading Bill’s bio. If you are a fan, you owe it to yourself to read this one and the one by Victor Bockris.
Discovering Burroughs and his art was a turning point in my life and from that moment I never saw life the same way I used to. William S. Burroughs is without question one of the most influential character of the modern ages and I intend to suck out every detail I can from him. I was once invited to meet him personally by Montreal writer and poet Denis Vanier (1949-2000) and his wife (also a writer) Josée Yvon (1950 -1994), both being close friends to Bull, told me they wanted to introduce me to him !! Imagine!! Vanier gave me a VIP pass for his shotgun paintings exhibition when he came to Montreal around 1989 but unfortunately fate and my crazy life back then didn’t allow me to meet him in person and I so regret that it was impossible for me to make it, I regret it to this day still.
(Always click on images for put in links!)
This guy has foreseen so many events, trends, politics, changing in arts, literature, performing arts, fashion, screening our lives like the FBI or the CIA would in an attempt to reduce our lives to basic intel but just falling in an endless spiritual torment of ideas and beliefs, occult images and visions if the past and the future … This is really all I can say about his work, trying to break it down in a few lines. It is simply impossible. Like I said before, do not go and try to understand word for word that he is saying, some of his books are more like a huge mosaic of images and ideas following a very thin and fuzzy line for an idea in huge brush strokes for sure he will give you inspiration and if he doesn’t give you inspiration he will for sure in some strange way understand where you can find it. I think the best quote I could use comes from the first book of the trilogy of “Cities of the Red Night” and the Old Man in the Mountain Hassan I Sabbah….
The one-time lover of Jack Kerouac on why she’ll avoid the new film of the book that made his name
By Peter Stanford
Carolyn Cassady will not be watching On the Road, Francis Ford Coppola’s eagerly awaited screen version of Jack Kerouac’s legendary novel, which opens on Friday. This is curious, as Cassady is the model for Camille, one of the main characters, while Dean Moriarty, star turn in the profoundly autobiographical book, is based on her late husband, Neal. And to add to her role in the drink, drug and sex-fuelled inner circle of the beatniks, Kerouac was once her lover.
In part, explains the 89-year-old, she won’t be watching because she is not well enough for a trip to the cinema. Her leg is heavily bandaged after an operation to remove a cancerous growth. As we talk, she’s waiting in her nightie for a nurse to come and change the dressing. Kerouac once described her as “my darling blonde, aristocratic Carolyn”, and her fine bones and patrician manner remain, even with her white hair piled on the back of her head.
Thirty years ago, she settled in Britain – “for the culture” and because “there is nothing I like about America”. So this sole survivor of the hedonistic Beat Generation now lives somewhat incongruously in a park of static mobile homes in suburban Berkshire.
Her reservations about the new film are deep-rooted. For a start, while she has been consulted by the filmmakers, she doesn’t like the casting. “Jack was a big, athletic man, and Neal was very muscular. But the actors they’ve chosen to play them are such wimps.”
Garrett Hedlund, as the hard-drinking, pill-popping, womanising Dean Moriarty/Neal Cassady, has talked to her on two occasions, and did not impress. “I think he was the most boring person I have ever met,” she recalls. “He didn’t ask me a single question about Neal, but instead told me how his turkeys in Minnesota bobbed their heads to Johnny Cash music. And then he came here, chauffeur-driven car waiting outside, sat in the chair where you are now, and read to me from his diary for what felt like four hours.”
Kerouac described Neal Cassady on their first meeting as “a side-burned hero of the snowy West”. In many ways, the two couldn’t have been more different. “They each had what the other wanted,” says Carolyn. “It made them admire each other more.”
In the original manuscript of On the Road, currently on show in the British Library, Kerouac uses Cassady’s name. Only later does the character become Dean Moriarty in this fictionalised version of the series of road trips the two took in the late 1940s, complete with beer, grass, jazz, poetry and sex. Cassady’s first wife, LuAnne, would often accompany them, as did the poet Allen Ginsberg (who was Neal Cassady’s lover), leaving Carolyn behind, looking after the couple’s three small children.
“I didn’t want to read On the Road when it came out in 1957 because I didn’t want to know what Neal was doing with Jack when he left me,” she reflects. “And, anyway, it was not my type of literature. I prefer Dickens, Shakespeare and the classics,” she adds, gesturing around the book-lined walls.
“I don’t think Neal ever read it either.” It emphasises the gap between the myth and the reality that she alone remains alive to highlight.
Curiously for someone so enduringly associated with counter-culture, Carolyn has almost nothing of the ageing hippie about her. “I’m such a traditional person,” she agrees. “I was brought up so strictly. I was still hanging on to those principles all the time I was with Neal. That was the problem.”
It sounds as if she is blaming herself for his serial infidelities. “It took me 50 years to understand how much my upbringing affected me.”
The memories – though regularly shared in the 45 years since Neal’s death, not least in two volumes of autobiography – clearly carry with them some pain. “Someone once wrote me and asked if eventually I had stopped crying, and I hadn’t.” She lights up another cigarette.
‘Neal was such a genius. He could psych out who a person was, and fit himself in with where they were. He only showed that side of his personality that fitted with them. That’s what he did to me. It was marvellous.” She pauses. “Before it went haywire.”
Carolyn Robinson was 23 when she first met Cassady. The couple’s backgrounds were worlds apart. She had grown up in a world of privilege, with a comfortable home and private schooling, and was studying for an MA in fine arts. Cassady’s Denver childhood was chaotic. His mother died when he was 10, his father was an alcoholic and they lived in the red light district. He was a hustler from an early age, but also a voracious reader of Proust, Spinoza and Schopenhauer, with dreams of being a writer and intellectual.
They married in 1948 – after he had divorced LuAnne – and spent 20 years together. Carolyn divorced him after 15, but says he hung around her “like a shadow” until he died in 1968. His body was found next to a railway track in Mexico, with high levels of drugs and drink in his blood. His ashes were returned to Carolyn by the woman who had been with him.
She tried, she says, to tame him. “Neal had a lot of responsibilities [to their three children, Cathleen, Jami and John Allen], and he worked hard to support us. He’d take any job – on the railroads, tyre retreads. He always had a job, but then he was gone for two years in prison.”
With the publication of On the Road, Cassady suddenly became well known. He was caught with drugs by two undercover FBI men in San Francisco and jailed. “That whole Beat Generation thing didn’t really happen until later,” says Carolyn. “It was Ginsberg who started it. Jack always said he wanted nothing to do with it. Neal was the same. Jack was crushed by feeling responsible for all these youngsters dropping out of school, running round the country, wanting freedom. He’d been to university. He wrote.”
Far from being carefree, her husband was, she remembers, tormented and torn. On the one hand, there was the stable, domestic world at home in California that she provided – though it was unconventional enough that Neal gave his blessing to Carolyn’s affair with Kerouac.
“We were always very discreet,” she insists. And then there were the times he would go off for long periods and live the beatnik life. Neal always wanted to write, she recalls, “but he could never sit still long enough and find the mot juste”. A single slim volume, The First Third, appeared after his death.
Carolyn wrote her books as a corrective to what she sees as the Beat Generation myth – which will only be encouraged, she feels, by the new film. “I’ve tried to share my memories,” she says. “But people just don’t seem to want to hear. They prefer to believe the other version.”
It feels as though this literary widow has finally bowed to the inevitable. Fighting the legend that has swallowed up her life is beyond her now dwindling powers. And anyway she needs what energy she has left for her ongoing battle with the UK Border Agency over its refusal to allow her 60-year-old son, John Allen (“named after Jack and Allen Ginsberg”), to visit her. He was turned back at Heathrow earlier this year because he had a one-way ticket, though he’d been here many times before.
“I’m getting old and I need his help. I can’t even get to the shops for groceries. So I told him to leave his return open. Now he’s been sent back, and they are treating him as if he is a terrorist.” Next to such a practical dilemma, whether or not to watch a certain film must seem irrelevant.
What’s her son’s attitude to On the Road, I wonder. “Oh,” says Carolyn casually, “he hasn’t read it either”.
Godfather of Beat Generation Posthumously Drops ”Naked Lunch” Wildest, Dirtiest, Most Shocking Parts on New Psychedelic Spoken Album!
Khannibalism and Ernest Jennings Record Company have just announced the release date for a highly-anticipated album, called Let Me Hang You, featuring the late Beat generation artist and legendary postmodern author William S. Burroughs in a never-before-heard series of recordings, reading aloud from his seminal novel Naked Lunch with the accompaniment of King Khan and other acclaimed musicians.
Near the end of his life, William S. Burroughs was recorded reading some of the most shocking sections of “Naked Lunch,” his 1959 fever dream of a novel, which follows the descent of a drug addict into the underworld, for a release that paired the passages with experimental music.
The world may not yet have been ready for such an experience.
“The project got buried and put out of print very quickly,” said the producer Hal Willner, a longtime Burroughs associate who helped record that abridged audiobook, which was released by Warner Bros. (and pops up now and again on eBay).
57 years after the publication of William S. Burroughs’ seminal novel and 19 years after the death in 1997 of the legendary writer at the respectable age of 83, those surreal recordings — which featured music from the guitarist and composer Bill Frisell, along with the pianist Wayne Horvitz and the violist Eyvind Kang — are getting a second life as an album with an assist from the independent musician King Khan, best known for his raucous live shows as an eccentric punk and soul frontman. Billed as psychedelic spoken word, “Let Me Hang You” (Khannibalism/Ernest Jenning Record Co.) will be released on July 15 via King Khan’s new label, with updated ambient accompaniment for the author.
Described as “a collection of depraved genius straight from the godfather of punk’s very own mouth,” – think sex, drugs and defecation — in pop-song-length chunks across 13 tracks, using a variety of amusing voices and a lot of foul language. The focus was sections of the novel “that we found very funny in an outrageous way,” Mr. Willner, 60, said. fans of Kerouac, Ginsberg and other writers of the ‘50s anti-establishment era will no doubt embrace this revival of Burroughs’ most famous and controversial work, now modernized and given additional edge.
The producer revived the recordings that became “Let Me Hang You” — which the album’s liner notes describe as being “abandoned and collecting dust on a musty shelf as forgotten as a piece of rancid ectoplasm on a peep show floor” — recently with Mr. Khan in mind as the composer who could finish the job.
Mr. Khan, who was born Arish Ahmad Khan to Indian parents in Montreal and is now based in Berlin, said he had first discovered “Naked Lunch” as a teenager, around the time his father became addicted to cocaine. “Reading ‘Naked Lunch’ gave me a completely different view into addiction that made me sympathize with my father’s situation and helped me cope,” he said. “It made a mutation in my mind and left an ooze in my brain that I still go to for inspiration even 30 years later.”
After the 2013 death of Lou Reed, whose collaborations with Mr. Willner and artistic support of Mr. Khan brought them all together, the remaining pair found some solace in collaborating on what Mr. Khan called the “dissident art” of Burroughs, who “broke all these boundaries of sexuality and narrative, paving the way for the birth of punk.”
With contributions from the Australian garage-punk band Frowning Clouds and the vocalist and composer M. Lamar, Mr. Khan added to the work of Mr. Frisell in an attempt to heighten the unsettling mood of Burroughs’s narration. “I was making a lot of strange music, so it was perfect timing,” he said.
The writing in “Naked Lunch” “is really heavy and perverse at a time when society needs to be reminded that you can explore these nether regions of life and bring back something really beautiful,” Mr. Khan said.
On top of that, he added, “It’s hilarious.”
Let Me Hang You is scheduled for release on July 15 and is now available in vinyl, CD, and digital format. For pre-order here. For full details surrounding the album’s inception, click here and take a look at the track listing below:
Let Me Hang You tracklist:
1. The Exterminator
2. Manhattan Serenade
4. This You Gotta Hear
5. Disciplinary Procedure
6. The Afterbirth Tycoon
7. Leif The Unlucky
8. Let Me Hang You
9. Islam Inc.
10. The Queen Bee
11. Clem Snide
12. Gentle Reader
Top image by Orticanoodles
Burroughs’ Connection to Modern Music
The elder statesman of literature’s Beat Generation — and, by extension, of the American underground culture — few figures outside of the musical sphere exerted a greater influence over rock & roll than novelist William S. Burroughs. A provocative, controversial figure famed for his unique cut-up prose aesthetic, Burroughs lived the rock lifestyle years before the music itself was even created; the ultimate outsider, he existed on the dark fringes of society in a haze of drugs, guns, and violence, remaining a patron saint of hipsterdom until his dying day. Ultimately, Burroughs’ hold on the popular culture was extraordinary: few artists failed to credit him as an inspiration, and while bands like Steely Dan and the Soft Machine adopted their names from his turns-of-phrase, younger artists like Kurt Cobain and the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy lined up to offer musical support for his occasional excursions into spoken word performing.
William Seward Burroughs was born February 5, 1914 in St. Louis, MO, the grandson of the founder of the Burroughs Adding Machine company. A homosexual bookworm with a fascination for guns and crime, he attended Harvard University, but largely rejected all the restraints of mainstream society, opting instead to pursue a life in New York City’s underworld of organized crime. Upon becoming a heroin addict, Burroughs fell in with junkie drifter Herbert Huncke, leading to his introduction to other future Beat paragons like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Lucien Carr; he also met Joan Vollmer, who became his common-law life. While older than the others, Burroughs had yet to begin writing as Kerouac and Ginsberg had; at first indifferent to literature, he finally completed 1953’s Junky, an autobiographical tale of addiction published in pulp novel format by Ace Books. Queer, a similarly upfront examination of homosexuality, was rejected by the publisher and did not surface for several decades.
By the mid-’50s Burroughs, Vollmer, and their children had relocated to East Texas to live on a farm; as his descent into heroin addiction worsened, he found himself hounded by authorities, and eventually the family fled to Mexico. The marriage became the stuff of tabloid headlines when, attempting to impress friends with his shooting skills, Burroughs enlisted Vollmer to participate in a William Tell-like target demonstration; a faulty shot left Vollmer dead and sent Burroughs wandering the globe, finally drifting to Tangier. Following the success of their respective On the Road and Howl, both Kerouac and Ginsberg had become media sensations, with the Beat Generation emerging in full force; they tracked Burroughs down in Africa, finding him hopelessly addicted to heroin yet somehow able to write brilliant and wildly experimental fragments of prose. Kerouac began typing up the material and even gave it a title, Naked Lunch.
Upon its 1959 publication, Burroughs became a celebrity; the novel was the subject of a high-profile obscenity trial, and even today it remains his best-known and most influential book. Beginning with 1961’s The Soft Machine, he began experimenting with a “cut-up” method of writing, literally cutting and pasting together various random fragments of text for maximum reader disorientation; in 1965, Burroughs began expanding into other forms of media, recording the LP Call Me Burroughs, a collection of spoken word readings of material culled from Naked Lunch and The Soft Machine. While remaining a prolific literary voice on the strength of work like 1971’s The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead and 1973’s Exterminator!, aside from compilation appearances he did not issue another major recording prior to 1975’s William S. Burroughs/John Giorno; Nothing Here Now But the Recordings, compiled by Psychic TV’ s Genesis P. Orridge, followed in 1981, as did another collaboration with Giorno, You’re the Guy I Want to Share My Money With.
Always a major cult figure, by the late ’80s Burroughs had become something of a pop culture icon, a symbol of decadence and ominous genius; a supporting role in Gus Van Saint’s 1989 film Drugstore Cowboy brought him his widest mainstream exposure to date, and virtually every hipster worth his salt name-checked him as an influence. After 1987’s Break Through in Grey Room, Burroughs recorded 1990’s Dead City Radio, a collection of performances backed by Sonic Youth, John Cale, the NBC Symphony Orchestra, and others. In 1992, he guested on Ministry’s “Just One Fix” single, and the following year recorded ‘The Priest, They Called Him’ with Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. In 1993, Burroughs recorded his final LP, Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales, with the members of the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, and his sampled voice was also heard on recordings from diverse acts including the Jesus and Mary Chain, Laurie Anderson, and Material. With Tom Waits, he also co-wrote The Black Rider. The last major surviving figure of the Beat Generation, Burroughs died of a heart attack on August 2, 1997 in Lawrence, KS.
THE WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS/BEATLES CONNECTION
We all know that writer, William S. Burroughs is one of the “people we like” on the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album cover, but did you know that Burroughs was around when Paul McCartney composed “Eleanor Rigby”? Apparently so. Over the weekend, I noticed the following passage in the book With William Burroughs: A Report From the Bunker by Victor Bockris:
”Ian met Paul McCartney and Paul put up the money for this flat which was at 34 Montagu Square… I saw Paul several times. The three of us talked about the possibilities of the tape recorder. He’d just come in and work on his “Eleanor Rigby.” Ian recorded his rehearsals. I saw the song taking shape. Once again, not knowing much about music, I could see that he knew what he was doing. He was very pleasant and very prepossessing. Nice-looking young man, hardworking.”-Burroughs
The connection here was, no doubt, author Barry Miles. Miles started the Indica Bookshop in London with McCartney’s financial backing. Miles states in his book In the Sixties that Burroughs was a frequent visitor to the shop. When the Beatles started their experimental label Zapple, with Barry Miles at the helm, the idea was to release more avant garde fare, such as readings by American poets Michael McClure, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Richard Brautugan and comedian Lenny Bruce. McCartney set up a small studio that was run by Burroughs’ ex-boyfriend, Ian Sommerville, who also lived there, and this is why Burroughs would have been around.
It’s always thought that John Lennon was the far-out Beatle, but it was Macca who was obsessed by Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage and Morton Subotnick, not Lennon (he got there later via Yoko).
The story is also confirmed in Barry Miles’ own Biography on Burroughs called ”Please Call Me Burroughs”. The studio was in fact Ringo Star’s apartment, converted in a studio since it was inhabited most of the time.