Cities of the Red Night

“Nothing is True. Everything is Permitted.”

Click on image for an amazing excerpt from "Cities of the Red Nights"

The Cities of Red Night were six in number: Tamaghis, Ba’dan, Yass-Waddah, Waghdas, Naufana and Ghadis. These cities were located in an area roughly corresponding to the Gobi Desert, a hundred thousand years ago. At that time the desert was dotted with large oases and traversed by a river which emptied into the Caspian Sea.

The largest of these oases contained a lake ten miles long and five miles across, on the shores of which the university town of Waghdas was founded. Pilgrims came from all over the inhabited world to study in the academies of Waghdas, where the arts and sciences reached peaks of attainment that have never been equaled. Much of this ancient knowledge is now lost.

The towns of Ba’dan and Yass-Waddah were opposite each other on the river. Tamaghis, located in a desolate area to the north on a small oasis, could properly be called a desert town. Naufana and Ghadis were situated in mountainous areas to the west and south beyond the perimeter of usual trade routes between the other cities.

In addition to the six cities, there were a number of villages and nomadic tribes. Food was plentiful and for a time the population was completely stable: no one was born unless someone died.

The inhabitants were divided into and elite minority known as the Transmigrants and a majority known as the Receptacles. Within these categories were a number of occupational and specialized strata and the two classes were not in practice separate: Transmigrants acted as Receptacles and Receptacles became Transmigrants.

To show the system in operation: Here is an old Transmigrant on his deathbed. He has selected his future Receptacle parents, who are summoned to the death chamber. The parents then copulate, achieving orgasm just as the old Transmigrant dies so that his spirit enters the womb to be reborn. Every Transmigrant carries with him at all times a list of alternative parents, and in case of accident, violence or sudden illness, the nearest parents are rushed to the scene. However, there was at first little chance of random or unexpected deaths since the Council of Transmigrants in Waghdas had attained such skill in the art of prophecy that they were able to chart a life from birth to death and determine in most cases the exact time and manner of death.

Many Transmigrants preferred not to wait for the infirmities of age and the ravages of illness, lest their spirit be so weakened as to be overwhelmed and absorbed by the Receptacle child. These hardy Transmigrants, in the full vigor of maturity, after rigorous training in concentration and astral projection, would select two death guides to kill them in front of the copulating parents. The methods of death most commonly employed were hanging and strangulation, the Transmigrant dying in orgasm, which was considered the most reliable method of ensuring a successful transfer. Drugs were also developed, large doses of which occasioned death in erotic convulsions, smaller doses being used to enhance sexual pleasure. And these drugs were often used in conjunction with other forms of death.

In time, death by natural causes became a rare and rather discreditable occurrence as the age for transmigration dropped. The Eternal Youths, a Transmigrant sect, were hanged at the age of eighteen to spare themselves at the coarsening experience of middle age and the deterioration of senescence, living their youth again and again.

Two factors undermined the stability of their system, The first was perfection of techniques for artificial insemination. Whereas the traditional practice called for one death and once rebirth, now hundreds of women could be impregnated from a single sperm collection, and territorially oriented Transmigrants could populate whole areas with their progeny. There were sullen mutters of revolt from the Receptacles, especially the women. At this point, another factor totally unforeseen was introduced.

In the thinly populated desert area north of Tamaghis a portentous event occurred. Some say it was a meteor that fell to earth leaving a crater twenty miles across. Others say that the crater was caused by what modern physicists call a black hole.

After this occurrence the whole northern sky lit up red at night, like the reflection from a vast furnace. Those in the immediate vicinity of the crater were the first to be affected and various mutations were observed, the commonest being altered hair and skin color. Red and yellow hair, and white, yellow, and red skin appeared for the first time. Slowly the whole area was similarly affected until the mutants outnumbered the original inhabitants, who were as all human beings were at the time: black.

The women, led by an albino mutant known as the White Tigress, seized Yass-Waddah, reducing the male inhabitants to salves, consorts, and courtiers all under sentence of death that could be carried out at any time at the caprice of the White Tigress. The Council in Waghdas countered by developing a method of growing babies in excised wombs, the wombs being supplied by vagrant Womb Snatchers, This practice aggravated the differences between the male and female factions and war with Yass-Waddah seemed unavoidable.

In Naufana, a method was found to transfer the spirit directly into an adolescent Receptacle, thus averting the awkward and vulnerable period of infancy. This practice required a rigorous period of preparation and training to achieve a harmonious blending of the two spirits in one body. These Transmigrants, combining the freshness and vitality of youth with the wisdom of many lifetimes, were expected to form an army of liberation to free Yass-Waddah. And there were adepts who could die at will without nay need of drugs or executioners and project their spirit into a chosen Receptacle.

I have mentioned hanging, strangulation, and orgasm drugs as the commonest means of effecting the transfer. However, many other forms of death were employed. The Fire Boys were burned to death in the presence of the Receptacles, only the genitals being insulated, so that the practitioner could achieve orgasm in the moment of death. There is an interesting account by a Fire Boy who recalled his experience after transmigrating in this manner:

“As the flames closed around my body, I inhaled deeply, drawing fire into my lungs, and screamed out flames as the most horrible pain turned to the most exquisite pleasure and I was ejaculating in an adolescent Receptacle who was being sodomized by another.”

Others were stabbed, decapitated disemboweled shot with arrows, or killed by a blow on the head. Some threw themselves from cliffs, landing in front of the copulating Receptacles.

The scientists at Waghdas were developing a machine that could directly transfer the electromagnetic field of one body to another. In Ghadis there were adepts who were able to leave their bodies before death and occupy a series of hosts. How far this research may have gone will never be known. It was a time of great disorder and chaos.

The effects of the Red Night on Receptacles and Transmigrants proved to be incalculable and many strange mutants arose as a series of plagues devastated the cities. It is this period of war and pestilence that is covered by the books. The Council had set out to produce a race of supermen for the exploration of space. They produced instead races of ravening idiot vampires.

Finally, the cities were abandoned and the survivors fled in all direction, carrying the plagues with them. Some of these migrants crossed the Bering Strait into the New World, taking the books with them. They settled in the area later occupied by the Mayans and the books eventually fell into the hands of the Mayan priests.

The alert student of this noble experiment will perceive that death was regarded as equivalent not to birth but to conception and go in to infer that conception is the basic trauma. In the moment of death, the dying man’s whole life may flash in front of his eyes back to conception. In the moment of conception, his future life flashes forward to his future death. To reexperience conception is fatal.

This was the basic error of the Transmigrants: you do not get beyond death and conception by reexperience any more than you get beyond heroin by ingesting larger and larger doses. The Transmigrants were white literally addicted to death and they needed more and more death to kill the pain of conception. They were buying parasitic life with a promissory death note to be paid at a prearranged time. The Transmigrants then imposed these terms on the host child to ensure his future transmigration. There was a basic conflict of interest between host child and Transmigrant. So the Transmigrants reduced the Receptacle class to a condition of virtual idiocy. Otherwise they would have reneged on a bargain from which they stood to gain nothing but death. The books are flagrant falsifications. And some of these basic lies are still current.

“Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.” The last words of Hassan I Sabbah, Old Man of the Mountain. “Tamaghis … Ba’dan … Yass-Waddah … Waghdas … Naufana… Ghadis.” It is said that an initiate who wishes to know the answer to any question need only repeat these words as he falls asleep and the answer will come in a dream.

Tamaghis: This is the open city of contending partisans where advantage shifts from moment to moment in a desperate biological war. Here everything is as true as you think it is and everything you can get away with is permitted.

Ba’dan: This city is given over to competitive games, and commerce. Ba’dan closely resembles present-day America with a precarious moneyed elite, a large disaffected middle class and an equally large segment of criminals and outlaws. Unstable, explosive, and swept by whirlwind riots. Everything is true and everything is permitted.

Yass-Waddah: This city is the female stronghold where the Countess de Gulpa, the Countess de Vile, and the Council of the Selected plot a final subjugation of the other cities. Every shade of sexual transition is represented: boys with girls’ heads, girls with boys’ heads. Here everything is true and nothing is permitted except to the permitters.

Waghdas: This is the university city, the center of learning where all questions are answered in terms of what can be expressed and understood. Complete permission derives from complete understanding.

Naufana and Ghadis are the cities of illusion where nothing is true and therefore everything is permitted.

The traveler must start in Tamaghis and make his way through the other cities in the order named. This pilgrimage may take many lifetimes.

                                                 -William S Burroughs

During the Crusades, the Hashishins fought both for and against the Crusaders, whichever suited their agenda. As a result, the Crusaders brought back to Europe the Assassins’ system, which would be passed down and mimicked by numerous secret societies in the West. The Templars, the Society of Jesus, Priory de Sion, the Freemasons, the Rosicrucians, etc. all owe their organizational efficiency to Hasan. In fact, the Illuminati had their origins in the mystical aspect of the Hashishin order, although most equate the Illuminati with the Bavarian Illuminati, which was a revised version of the Hashishin system (Tim O’Neill analyzes, in-depth, the influence of the Assassins in Adam Parfrey’s Apocalypse Culture)

Our modern day “assassination cults” (the FBI, the CIA, etc.) have incorporated many of the Hashishins’ techniques into their methodologies. In a CIA training manual titled “A Study of Assassination”, you find traces of the Assassins influence throughout. Hasan Sabbah is even mentioned in the document, which is a must read if there ever was one.

If you want to know more about the secret order of Hashishins click on the image below.

They call him Shaykh-al-Hashishim. He is their Elder, and upon his command all of the men of the mountain come out or go in
“They call him Shaykh-al-Hashishim. He is their Elder, and upon his command all of the men of the mountain come out or go in… they are believers of the word of their elder and everyone everywhere fears them, because they even kill kings.” – Benjamin of Tudela

Just Kids by Patti Smith

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“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.” ― Lester Bangs

I have just finished reading ”Just Kids” for the second time and I can’t help feeling a bit of anguish as I’m about to express my perception of Patti’s first book of prose mainly, I suppose, due to the fact that it’s a best seller. Not that I disagree, Au contraire! All the praise about ”Just Kids’‘ is very well deserved, but so much has been said already that I forbade myself to read any of it so that everything I would say would  be 100% mine. Therefore I will simply pretend I’m the only bloody diamond geezer who was clever enough to read it, heartily hoping to bring something new to the table in the process. I chose this quote by Lester Bangs as an opener because these words seemed to be the very foundation of one of the most sincere and coolest relationship ever, one that’s been told through the pages of ”Just Kids”, a true story that would in itself become an inspiration for so many more to come. It’s a call to be who I really am no matter what, because by doing so, I might be able to bring something unique and new in this bankrupt world.

”There Will Always Be Us!”

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     In ”Just Kids”,  legendary, highly authentic American inspired singer-songwriter, poet, and visual artist Patti Smith, who  became an influential component of the New York City punk rock movement, offers a very unique, never-before-seen glimpse of her honest, enduring, sister-brother, Yin/Yang, boyfriend/girlfriend magical everlasting relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the epochal days of New York City and the Chelsea Hotel in the late 60s and 70s.

The relation itself is the guiding light and the whole purpose of this book and if, at times, certain passages might seem trivial, well, they never were. This unconditional love they shared –  creative, sensitive, stimulating and artistically prolific – becomes a sincere and deeply moving story of youth, friendship and ultimately success. The best thing being that anyone can relate to it in a very intimate, personal way.  ”Just Kids” fully grasp the heartfelt passion and holds this very same unique, sensitive and lyrical quality that is written between each lines of her formidable body of work, from her influential 1975 album Horses to her visual art and poetry.

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Photo©by Frank Stefanko scanned by Patricia Lee Smith 

No one else could have better described all the ins and outs of the unique, constantly evolving story she shared with Robert Mapplethorpe, and this means way more than just itemizing their body of work, for the whole represents way more than the sum of it and their relationship in itself was on its own an expression of art. It just couldn’t be contained in its entirety in little works nor in big works for all to see.  Parts have been laid in music, paintings, poems and photographs but even all these, as inspired and beautiful as they are, fail in giving us a complete picture. Even if it celebrates a friendship that left a permanent impact on almost every artistic aspect and style in America, it still had to be told in a book. It was essential and sacred. Patti had to share their journey under the blue star, a symbol of their undying love for each other, one last time.

Patti writes in a Last Note to the Reader:

”We were as Hansel and Gretel and we ventured out into the black forest of the world. There were temptations and witches and demons we never dreamed of and there was splendor we only partially imagined. No one could speak for these two young  people nor tell with any truth of their days and their nights together. Only Robert and I could tell it. Our Story, as he called it. And, having gone, he left the task to me to tell it to you. ” – Patti Smith, Just Kids, May 22, 2010

What makes this book so special is how Patti manages to express a magic that started almost immediately. Patti arrived in NYC with almost nothing but her wish to accomplish something no one has done before. Robert was already in NYC and struggling on an urban survival mode, but nevertheless they both had a deep sense that life had something very special in store for them and that it was written in the stars. They never thought it would be so hard, that they would have to struggle so much just to survive but nevertheless it didn’t take very long for them to be able to recognize the signs. We can feel that they saw in each other something true and very real, something which they felt they would later be able to rely on as persons and as artists. Of course there were moments of doubts but maybe it was these crucial moments that would prove them to be essential to one another. It never was a give and take type of relationship. The base for it might just be honesty, true faith in each other’s talent, the hope that there was a place for them as they were and that with a lot of work, perseverance and a little bit of luck, they would both find their niche as people and artists. Lots of spoken, unspoken pacts were made, very few ever broken.

Patti Smith by ©Andy Warhol , Ca. 1972

Despite a certain ”twinlike” aspect, their part in each other’s life could also definitely be seen as complementary. One could say that Robert was the eternal dreamer, on some aspects, even alien to practical knowledge and certain everyday life faculties and that Patti possessed a more down to Earth perspective on life but this is only a half truth since, when needed, on several occasions, they could trade roles and when the other one would be in dire need of a trait that would normally be the other one’s unsaid character/task assignment, they would put their egos aside and would manage to trade places if it would help the other to get through a rough patch.

”The premise was simply that one of us always had to be vigilant, the designated protector. If Robert took a drug, I needed to be present and conscious. If I was down, he needed to stay up. If one was sick, the other healthy. It was important that we were never self-indulgent on the same day.

In the beginning I faltered, and he was always there with an embrace or words of encouragement, coercing me to get out of myself and into my work. Yet he always knew that I would not fail  if he needed me to be the strong one”

The Chelsea Hotel

Patti Smith on the balcony of the Chelsea Hotel , 1971
Patti Smith on the balcony of the Chelsea Hotel , 1971

“I loved this place, its shabby elegance, and the history it held so possessively”

Back in those days, New York City was a very dangerous place. Some areas were filled with what is commonly regarded as the lowest forms of the human species likes thieves, pimps, rapists, thieves, hookers, murderers and so forth. Being young artists who strive to survive, of course they were bound to have to live in such areas. At one of their lowest points they were plainly told that they had to get out, that they wouldn’t make it if they stayed. Fortunately, there was a place that offered hope if you were an artist, a little island of optimism, gathering past, present and future generations of artists of all kinds where you didn’t even need to have money right away. Stanley Bard would keep your portfolio, or take a work of art until you could get it back and you were now part of a community that was very special, during the 60s and the 70s especially. The Chelsea played a huge part in the history of the new generation of artists of the 60s and the 70s.

”Gregory made lists of books for me to read, told me the best dictionary to own, encouraged me and challenged me. Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs were all my teachers, each one passing through the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel, my new University. ”

”The Moon Turned Blood Red”

robert mapplethorpe and patti smith in their chelsea hotel apartment, circa 1970, photo©Albert Scopin.
Robert and Patti Smith Chelsea Hotel, circa 1970, photo©Albert Scopin.

Yet they came to a point where one or both of them needed more space, more freedom. Some things are meant to be faced and dealt with on your own even if they knew the other one will still be there for me if need it be but never taking one another for granted and always being grateful of each other’s effort to play the right part when needed, never taking advantage of one another. In one word: Respect was of course the cement that sealed the ”deal”. Robert soon had to face his inner demons and question his sexuality again and again. Of course this was heart wrenching for both of them.

”He had been with a fellow and not for money. I was able to give him some measure of acceptance. My armor sill had its vulnerable points, and Robert, my knight, had pierced a few, though without desiring to do so.”

Their relationship morphed and this had major effects on their everyday lives. It is during theses major changes and adaptations that could have tore them apart that we see that love makes all the difference in the world and that instead of trying to exert control on each other’s lives, they simply went ahead with the flow and they grew stronger. I would say that we witness how something some would see as a humiliation becomes merely a chance to humble ourselves and let life take its natural course. Never stop to love and support those who are true soul mates. A bond stronger than marriage.

I will not spoil all the fun and tell you everything that happens. I already told you the big lines and a few little ones but Here is one last thing that I realised reading ”Just Kids”.

I so happened to notice that in general there can be two different kinds of artists. Some very callous, careless, aloof and undisciplined that are successful because of their God-given talent  and so much passion that they seem to evolve in a different space and time, going all the way with everything they’ve got, with all their worries and genius. They truly appear as some unstoppable forces of nature, pushed by some alien powers. Then there are others with which they share the same gift, also having a remarkable imagination, but very rooted in their reality, very lucid and conscious of the space they occupy in space and time as well as having a clear view on what is their place in society and what their relationships made of, how strong can they be.

Now certain artists are lucky enough to have just about the right proportion of each of these components within themselves, to be well supported by a team of people they trust and that have faith in their work. I think ”Just Kids” is about the encounter of 2 people who miraculously manage to complete each other perfectly as people and as artists.

Patti Smith and Sam Shepard in their play, Cowboy Mouth, in New York in 1971
Patti Smith and Sam Shepard in their play, Cowboy Mouth, in New York in 1971
smith-dylan
Dylan, Smith and Sam Shepard attended a party at Allen Ginsberg’s Greenwich Village house, where ©Ken Regan took several photos of Dylan and Smith in conversation on the stairs.

So?

”Where does it all lead?What will become of us? These were our young questions and young answers were revealed.

It leads to each other. We become ourselves.”

Fred
Fred “Sonic” Smith (September 14, 1949 – November 4, 1994) , was an American guitarist, best known as a member of the influential and political, Detroit rock band, the famous MC5. He married with poet and fellow rock musician, Patti Smith. The couple collaborated musically, and raised their two children together. 

Together the Smiths had a son, Jackson (born 1982) and a daughter, Jesse (born 1987). Jackson, a guitarist, was married to Meg White (formerly of indie band The White Stripes). Jesse is a pianist. Both have performed on stage with their mother along with other members of the Patti Smith Group.

Patti Smith never forgot Robert Mapplethorpe and wrote ”Just Kids” in 2012. She had made a promise to Robertthat she’d write a book about them and she did, Patti wrote this memoire of their friendship in her own unique personal, direct, sensitive and wholhearted style and we should be all damn happy she kept her promise!

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Just Kids won:

Also by Patti Smith

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Click and read my review!

Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages

Originally filmed in 1922, this version was updated in the mid 1960’s to include english narration by William S Burroughs while he was in London. The writer and director Benjamin Christensen discloses a historical view of the witches through the seven parts of this silent movie. First, there is a slide-show alternating inter-titles with drawings and paintings to illustrate the behavior of pagan cultures in the Middle Ages regarding their vision of demons and witches. Then there is a dramatization of the situation of the witches in the Middle Ages, with the witchcraft and the witch-hunts. Finally Benjamin Christensen compares the behavior of hysteria of the modern women of 1921 with the behavior of the witches in the Middle Ages, concluding that they are very similar.
santa-muerte

Biography

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!

Bull Will.

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.

The painting that was on the cover of my VIP pass.
The painting that was on the cover of my VIP pass.

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!)

Bull with poet/musician/singer Patti Smith in his NY bunker at 222 Bowery Street.
Bull with poet/musician/singer Patti Smith in his NY bunker at 222 Bowery Street.

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….

 

Click on image for an amazing excerpt from "Cities of the Red Nights"
Click on image for an amazing excerpt from “Cities of the Red Night”

The Man Who Fell to Earth and Sold the World

The Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud. 

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British musician David Robert Jones aka David Bowie died in New-York on Sunday January 10, 2016, two days after his 69th birthday. His death really hit me hard. I had often fantasized that if there was a movie to be made about my life, for sure they would have been more than a couple of Bowie’s songs on the soundtrack. I can without a doubt  say that Bowie’s music has been a constant throughout my life, no matter how I changed, no matter what place I ended up being watching the sunrise or whom I found myself to be with, Bowie was there, humming along as I walked passed through life, no matter which path I had chosen nor how wild was the wind, Bowie always seemed either to fit perfectly or to be perfectly unfit for the situation. Each tune telling me in a very special, unique way that I’m ok, and if I’m not doing ok, that, at the very least, I am not the only one who feels alone and locked away in space and time, huge thanks to aliens and Major Tom. 

 THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH 1976 British Lion film with David Bowie
The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976)

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   I vividly remember myself setting myself up to listen Space Oddity from start to finish. That album was the first of a long and important part of my vinyl record collection. I was expecting something very new wave, very edgy. I was so pleasantly surprised  by the deep felt lyrics and conquered by the very planetary folk essence. It definitely had a knack to it and I felt a deep intimacy and sensitiveness through the whole album. I was conquered and intrigued.

Arnold Layne’s Moonage Daydream

Syd Barrett by George Underwood who was David Bowie's childhood friend. David owns this painting, he is a huge Syd fan.
Syd Barrett by George Underwood who was David Bowie’s childhood friend (Underwood is the one responsible for punching him in the left eye during a fight over a girl that left David with faulty depth perception and a permanently dilated pupil, which gave a false impression of a change in the iris’ colour) . David owns this painting and is a huge Syd fan (and always remained Underwood’s close friend).

     I was already a huge fan of Pink Floyd’s early days with Barrett and everything that was shining behind those ”crazy diamonds”. David Bowie first released “Moonage Daydream” under the project name Arnold Corns,  inspired by Pink Floyd’s song “Arnold Layne”. Arnold Corns’ version of “Moonage Daydream” was recorded in April ‘71 and released as a single in May of that year, with “Hang on to Yourself” as its B-side.  The song tells the story of an alien messiah, who is born to save the world from impending disaster. Surprisingly, it was a flop, but Bowie recognized he had hit on an idea that was too good to waste, and developed it for the album Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.  Later, on PIN-UPS ,  Bowie showed again his admiration by making a cover of  Pink Floyd’s early tracks, ”See Emily Play” written by no other than the original frontman Syd Barrett .  I saw in Bowie the same Oddity coupled with some space, alien, extraterrestrial, Life on Mars and the wild psychedelic thoughts of The Man Who Sold the World .  For sure Bowie’s deep sympathy and interest for Barrett must also have a little something to do with his half-brother Terry, who had been diagnosed as a schizophrenic. A lad insane… As some would put it…   david-bowie-aka-ziggy-stardust-wallpaper

So If you try and follow that thread all the way one can gather all the main roots of Bowie’s first albums…. From Syd Barrett‘s psychedelic fascination for astronomy, LSD and schizophrenia coupled with Bowie’s appreciation for Brian Eno and Roxy Music, VU and Iggy to a lad insane all dolled up!!  I’m referring here to The New-York Dolls who certainly had something to do with Bowie’s early very openly effeminate look of his early days, giving birth to Glam Rock as Bowie saw it. The thread being picked up later on by krautrock, leading to ”space” music which in turn influenced largely techno music… Now this no small influence… Bowie never invented anything of this but per se but he sure did picked it up because the vibes were in the air, moonage daydreaming with Arnold…  Bowie space

     I see Bowie as a one of the pioneer of  ”modern” music along with The Velvet Underground, Iggy Pop and Joy Division. He also committed some of the best glam rock and art rock stuff with glitters of gold that was ever done along with The Dolls, The Heartbreakers, Brian Eno/Roxy Music and to his credit he was aware of the Velvet Underground and The Stooges before a lot of people, before he was known himself . What he added was this theatrical and artistic dimension that was first introduced by VU, managed in their early days by Andy Warhol,  plus the whole persona/opera aspect that the Who have also explored on very early. The Velvets and Warhol, were one of the first to really exploit the aspect of performance other than the musicians themselves, in modern rock. Andy Warhol’s lights engineer Danny Williams pioneered many innovations that have since become standard practice in rock music light shows.  

The Exploding Plastic Inevitable effects featured while VU were performing onstage but the show was offstage as well with lots of special effects.
The Exploding Plastic Inevitable effects featured while VU were performing onstage but the show was offstage as well with lots of special effects.

From May 27-29 the Exploding Plastic Inevitable played The Fillmore in San Francisco, where Williams built a light show including stroboscopes, slides and film projections onstage. At Bill Graham’s request he was soon to come back and build more. Film maker Jonas Mekas (who pioneered film projections during concerts at New York’s Cinematheque), Andy Warhol and Danny Williams influential ideas contributed much to the legendary Fillmore Auditorium’s prestige and were also used at the Fillmore East and Fillmore West, both opening in 1968. Bowie was clever enough to realise that there definitely was something there. He used all these ideas in his very own way, perfecting the art of performing an opera like show, impersonating Ziggy while at the same time pushing the whole concept of space and extraterrestrials and alien life. Don’t get me wrong here.. I’m not saying he was a plagiarist… He just so happened that everything he was about was probably at least partly incorporating all of these ”trends” already and of course I’m totally skipping T-Rex, Slade, Suzy Quatro, Glitter, etc, etc, etc… But Bowie just caught the vibes that were in the air and made a mold that would be his from then on to Eternity… From Cosmic Folk to… everything else…. Bowie was always inspired by what was the very best and he made sure he got the very best in order to create the very best. It seems that everything started with the new folk created by Bob Dylan back then in one way or another… So…. Barrett and Bowie ”invented” ”Cosmic Folk” and from there, it was like…..Ziggy played guitar and took it so very far… Became the Thin White Duke..and so much more… 

English model Twiggy poses with David Bowie in Paris for the cover of his 'Pin Ups' album, 1973. (Photo by Justin de Villeneuve/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
English model Twiggy poses with David Bowie in Paris for the cover of his ‘Pin Ups’ album, 1973. (Photo by Justin de Villeneuve/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

I heard recently that this gut instinct attraction to anything that glows or shines like gold, silver, diamonds and any precious stones comes from a very primal need we had for water during the pre-historical times of our evolution and has now become part of our genes legacy. So in a very poetic manner, one could say that we needed glam rock like we need  water. The relief we got from drinking the source of life that is water was and is still related to seeing the ripples and twinkle the sun would make when playing on the surface of this precious vital liquid, reminding us of our Gods and of the very sources of life on Earth. The Sun and the Water. While Richard Hell rightly felt we were the Blank Generation, Bowie made us realise how small we are under the stars… And we felt it, we felt the immensity of our Universe. I always felt that Bowie’s contribution to music was rarely bleak but rather uplifting, he always made us stare into the mystery of the universe without losing sight of all that was going inside another parallel universe, one filled with an overactive imagination and very deep, heartfelt but nevertheless human feelings.  BTW I always felt that those Diamond Dogs were inspired by the Nova Trilogy written by William Burroughs…. It just precisely the kind of creatures that would come out of his novels and bite your balls.

As befitting a post-apocalyptic work, Dogs was born from the frustration of failed opportunities. Bowie initially endeavored to create a TV musical adaptation of George Orwell’s totalitarian milestone 1984—until the social critic’s widow refused permission. Around the same time, Rolling Stone’s London bureau arranged for Bowie and William S. Burroughs to interview each other, which introduced the singer to the author’s Nova Express. Immediately thereafter, Bowie began penning lyrical non sequiturs via that novel’s cut-up technique, and planned a Ziggy musical to be similarly shuffled each night. This, too, faltered, although it inspired new tunes. These two projects, sharing dystopian themes, fused together to form the mutant Dogs.”Barry Walters for Pitchfork

Bowie and Burroughs
Bowie and Burroughs

I always saw Bowie as universal as he was intimate and had the power of attracting us to the most mysterious but positive sources of life.  

Lou Reed performing in UK at Scala Cinema,King's Cross,London on 15th of July 1972.
Lou Reed performing in UK at Scala Cinema,King’s Cross,London on 15th of July 1972.

Personally I see 1972 as a stepping stone in Bowie’s career mainly because it was then that he so kindly invited over in England Iggy and The Stooges and Lou Reed for a memorable series of shows , seizing this occasional dream and turning it in one of the most important album in the history of modern rock by producing Lou Reed’s Transformer‘. I thought that it was really nice of Bowie to offer a helping hand, share his technical, musical and artistic abilities/facilities,  the place he had in the spotlight by then by opening his arms, and the Gates of England (Europe?),  by showing to the world who were his greatest, most important, I could almost say revered (?)influences, Lou Reed (formerly from the Velvet Underground) as well as Iggy and the Stooges.  This was not as you all know a one time thing… He really helped Iggy Pop as much as he could to write and produce The Idiot and Lust for Life, even touring with Iggy!Brian Eno was a major producer on at least 3 of Bowie’s album known as the Berlin Trilogy” (”Low” , ”Heroes” and ”Lodger”)  though the album was mainly recorded in France and only mixed in West Berlin. Iggy Pop was of course cited by many as THE major influence for Ziggy Stardust.Iggy…. Ziggy… But the opinion as to the inspiration behind Bowie’s 1972 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, has always been divided; Mick Ronson, guitarist on the album, who died in 1993, credited Iggy Pop. “Mick said Bowie was looking for a rock star name beginning with Z – just like a plumber looks for a name beginning with A, to be at the front of the phone book,” said Christopher Sandford, Bowie’s latest biographer. “He met Iggy in 1971 and put a Z in front.” But we all know there’s more to it .  Another Bowie biographer, Peter Gillman, claimed the name was a composite of Iggy Pop and a US performer called The Legendary Stardust Cowboy. He is sceptical about Bowie’s announcement. “Look at how the lyrics describe him. `Loaded’, `Well hung’, `God given ass’. He was talking about himself.”

Bowie on the cover of his 1977 album "Low.
Bowie on the cover of his 1977 album “Low”

The album ”Low” marked a decisive shift in his musical style toward an electronic and avant-garde approach that would be further explored on the subsequent albums “Heroes” (1977) and Lodger (1979). Despite all these influences and collaboration Bowie was more than the sum of it. He always added is own touch and constantly went out of his way to give us the very best.  I think Bowie should be remembered as the ”Warhol” of music, always seeing and seeking the very best out of everyone and everything that was ”in the Universe”,  had the humility to help as well as being helped. Let’s not forget that even if he wasn’t the first one to do so, he really helped to change the perceptions towards homosexuals, cross dressing (”TV”s) and transgender, helping perpetuate the movement started in New-York by Warhol that the Velvet Underground had already strongly approached in NYC as well as throughout the US and Bowie somehow managed to making it a mainstream thing in the UK! We all know how much admiration Bowie had for Warhol (there’s a track called Andy Warhol on Bowie’s album Hunky Dory that was of course dedicated to Warhol) and how deceived David was to only get a remark on how nice his shoes were by the master of Pop Art! Nevertheless, glam rock really was the musical embodiment of Warhol’s thinking as well as many universal truth like the principal of the yin and the yang, the fact that there are greater forces at work here such as the universal attraction and major power that the sun and water still hold over each and every human being, only proving that this fascination we have from gold, diamonds and other shiny things only being a lure whereas we should be more focusing on, as mentioned before, water, fire, stars, planets and..loving the aliens?

David Bowie as Alex from A Clockwork Orange with a background that says a lot to me..
David Bowie as Alex from A Clockwork Orange with a background that speaks for itself.
Artwork ©Butcher Billy
Spiffy GIF Artwork ©Butcher Billy

William S. Burroughs vs Andy Warhol

Warhol’s Screen Tests

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Andy Warhol Filming Kelly’s Screen Test

Warhol directed over 400 screen tests, and they serve now and forever as a remarkable archive of the personalities of the New York art scene and the Factory. Artists, male and female prostitutes, art dealers, transexuals, collectors, critics, writers, musicians, lesbians, actors, poets, dandys, painters, sculptors, dancers, strippers, athletes, sinners and saints, servers and patrons are all very well represented, as are the celebrities of the ”Factory’s Studio System” themselves. Those series of portrait films were shot from 1964 to 1966 and each test was about four minutes long. Warhol would place his subject in front of a 16mm Bolex with instruction to face the camera until the film stopped. In many cases, Warhol would walk away from the subject as the film was shooting without any further instructions, giving them absolute freedom to be and to do whatever they wanted as long as they remained in the frame. 51RM1GR24EL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

William Burroughs never sat for a screen test. Given the hype and excitement that surrounded Burroughs during his time in New York City in 1964/1965, this is somewhat surprising. At the time, Burroughs was an underground celebrity, a perfect subject for a screen test. Yet Burroughs and Warhol did not hit it off in the 1960s. Panna Grady, a rich heiress and a groupie of underground poets and writers, took Burroughs to meet Warhol for dinner. They went to a Chinese restaurant, where Burroughs was offended by the manners of those in Warhol’s entourage. Burroughs walked out.

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photo by Victor Bockris

The personalities of the two men were quite a bit different, as must have been obvious when they met. Warhol cultivated a camp and effeminate gay persona that was the polar opposite of Burroughs’ gun-toting machismo. Burroughs’ letters of the 1950s are filled with his dislike for swishes, so coming face-to-face with Warhol must have aroused some level of distaste. Creatively, however, the two had much in common. Before their ill-fated dinner, Warhol arrived at Burroughs’ loft with a bag of tape-recording equipment. Surely this piqued Burroughs’ interest because Burroughs asked Warhol to leave the recorders at the loft.

WBS. Polaroid by Warhol
WSB in his usual banker suit. Polaroid by Warhol

I am fascinated by Warhol during the Factory years, and it is an interesting “what if” to me to wonder what a collaboration between Burroughs and Warhol would have been like. How would Burroughs have reacted to a screen test? If anybody could have out-stared a Bolex, without a doubt, it would have been Burroughs. For my part, I catch myself fantasizing about it and think that the camera would have blinked, tore up, or broke down under the strain of Burroughs’ impassive, sullen gaze or that, on the contrary, Burroughs would not even register on the film…. After all, In Mexico City, Peru, Panama, and Tangier, Burroughs stalked back alleys anonymously, melting into the shadows without leaving a trace on his surroundings. The banker’s suit and the grey hat were the uniform of the 1950s Everyman. Or maybe a Nobody. Not for nothing did Burroughs’ ability to blend in and disappear earn him the name “El Hombre Invisible.”

Face to Face

Burroughs Warhol
Andy Warhol talking to Bill, William S. Burroughs, at the Chelsea Hotel, with Victor Bockris shooting and recording. 23/10/1980

Ironically, Burroughs’ non-descript clothes became iconic by the 1970s. Immediately recognizable, precisely because he was invisible. The banker’s clothes disguised a revolutionary: a wolf in sheep’s clothing. When Burroughs returned to New York City from 1974 to 1981, Warhol was still holding court, although the Factory gave way to Studio 54. The screen tests were replaced by celebrity portraits painted for a sizable fee. Interestingly, it was at this period, when Burroughs truly broke into mainstream consciousness, that Warhol and Burroughs would connect. When Burroughs lived in New York City at the Bunker, he and Warhol met again for dinner, and the results were much more cordial than 1965. Victor Bockris who wrote A Report from the Bunker taped several of  these meetings, made all the transcripts, added his personal notes and photos as well as others by Marcia Resnick, Bobby Grossman, Jenny Moradfar and David Schmidlapp in a very interesting book that was released first under the title ”The Warhol-Burroughs Tapes”, later changed to  ”Conversations”. At first glance the conversations appear to be somehow superficial but nevertheless, because of its honesty, you still can very well get a good insight of each participant’s particular behavior ”au naturel”.  ”Conversations”gives you the same feeling that one would get from looking at Warhol screen tests; It may seem superficial at first but you get to see the real person if you wait, watch closely and pay attention without waiting for ”something” to happen. For some reason this book was controversial and I will not go into the details of why because to me, no matter what people say, it still is a very important document that would not have seen the day if it wasn’t for Bockris relentless efforts to make it happen. Let me give you a delightful example here as Bull and Warhol have an open conversation, talking sex, sharing about their ”First Time”:

Burroughs: Cocteau had this party trick that he would pull. He would lie down, take off his clothes, and come spontaneously. Could do that even in his fifties. He’d lie down there and his cock would start throbbing and he’d go off. It was some film trick that he had.

Bockris: How’d he pull that off? Have you ever been able to come through total mental—

Burroughs: Oh, I have indeed. I’ve done it many times. It’s just a matter of getting the sexual image so vivid that you come.

Warhol: How old were you when you first had sex?

Burroughs: Sixteen. Just boarding school at Los Alamos Ranch School where they later made the atom bomb.

Warhol: With who?

Burroughs: With this boy in the next bunk.

Warhol: What did he do?

Burroughs: Mutual masturbation. But during the war this school, which was up on the mesa there thirty-seven miles north of Santa Fe, was taken over by the army. That’s where they made the atom bomb. Oppenheimer [the scientist who invented the bomb] had gone out there for his health and he was staying at a dude ranch near this place and said, “Well, this is the ideal place.” It seems so right and appropriate somehow that I should have gone to school there. Los Alamos Ranch School was one of those boarding schools where everyone rode a horse. Fucking horses, I hate ‘em. I had sinus trouble and I’d been going to New Mexico for my health during the summer vacations and then my family contacted the director, A. J. Connell, who was a Unitarian and believed very much in positive thinking, and I went there for two years. This took place on a sleeping porch, 1929.

Warhol: How great! Was the sex really like an explosion?

Burroughs: No no … I don’t remember it was so long ago.

Warhol: I think I was twenty-five when I first had sex, but the first time I knew about sex was under the stairs in Northside, Pittsburgh, and they made this funny kid suck this boy off. I never understood what it meant…

Burroughs: Made him do what?

Warhol: Suck this boy off, but I didn’t know what it meant, I was just sitting there watching when I was five years old. How did you get this kid to do it, or did he do it to you?

Burroughs: Oh I don’t know, sort of a lot of talking back and forth…

Here’s a remarkable clip of the pair chatting in the very room in which Arthur Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey! The footage is from an episode of the BBC documentary program Arena about the Hotel Chelsea and there are a couple of odd narrative elements to it, but the clip mercifully ends with Nico singing a haunting rendition of “Chelsea Girls”—in the Chelsea Hotel itself, one wonders if it was in Room 506…..

In 1974 William S. Burroughs and David Bowie got together for a little chat, documented by Rolling Stone. Here’s a particularly weird part where Burroughs and Bowie talk about the alien and reptilian nature of Andy Warhol:

Burroughs: Have you ever met Warhol?  tumblr_lpr14oTQM61qzdza2o1_500

Bowie: Yes, about two years ago I was invited up to The Factory. We got in the lift and went up and when it opened there was a brick wall in front of us. We rapped on the wall and they didn’t believe who we were. So we went back down and back up again till finally they opened the wall and everybody was peering around at each other. That was shortly after the gun incident. I met this man who was the living dead. Yellow in complexion, a wig on that was the wrong colour, little glasses. I extended my hand and the guy retired, so I thought, ‘The guy doesn’t like flesh, obviously he’s reptilian.’ He produced a camera and took a picture of me. And I tried to make small talk with him, and it wasn’t getting anywhere.

But then he saw my shoes. I was wearing a pair of gold-and-yellow shoes, and he says, ‘I adore those shoes, tell me where you got those shoes.’ He then started a whole rap about shoe design and that broke the ice. My yellow shoes broke the ice with Andy Warhol.

I adore what he was doing. I think his importance was very heavy, it’s becoming a big thing to like him now. But Warhol wanted to be clichi, he wanted to be available in Woolworth’s, and be talked about in that glib type of manner. I hear he wants to make real films now, which is very sad because the films he was making were the things that should be happening. I left knowing as little about him as a person as when I went in.

Burroughs: I don’t think that there is any person there. It’s a very alien thing, completely and totally unemotional. He’s really a science fiction character. He’s got a strange green colour.

Bowie: That’s what struck me. He’s the wrong colour, this man is the wrong colour to be a human being. Especially under the stark neon lighting in The Factory. Apparently it is a real experience to behold him in the daylight.

Burroughs: I’ve seen him in all light and still have no idea as to what is going on, except that it is something quite purposeful. It’s not energetic, but quite insidious, completely asexual. His films will be the late-night movies of the future.

(Full Story in: Teenage Wildlife/Beat Godfather Meets Glitter Mainman )

RECORDING MACHINES

Andy-Warhol-with-Tape-Recorder1
Andy Warhol with Taper Recorder, 1972

Despite the coldness of their first meeting, Burroughs and Warhol briefly bonded in Burroughs’ loft over the tape recorder. This machine proved central to the creative work and philosophies of both artists in the 1960s. Burroughs: “I am a recording instrument.” Warhol: “I want to be a machine.” Burroughs utilized the tape recorder from the late 1950s on. In his essay ”The Invisible Generation, Burroughs proclaims such technology as an agent for revolutionary change. Warhol relied on the tape recorder for most of his literary projects. A: A Novel is at its simplest a transcription of Warhol star Ondine talking about the events of his day. Tape transcriptions made up the bulk of Popism and The Philosophy of Andy Warhol as well. Ideally, Warhol sought to just let the tape run and present verbatim transcriptions. There would be no stopping or re-starting of the tape, no edits, no cuts. On the other hand, Burroughs aggressively manipulated the tape. He inched it backwards and forwards, recording and re-recording. He cut and spliced the tape. The resulting transcripts were heavily revised and altered. These two creative icons are on the opposite ends of the spectrum concerning the process of editing. Yet the goal is the same: a dissolving of the control of the artist, a striving for the impersonal.

bill-front

The major difference between the films of Warhol and Burroughs is, again, the cut. Burroughs’ films are full of aural and visual cuts, and Warhol uses the cut sparingly, if at all. Despite opposing editing techniques, the desire to displace the artist is the same. Of course, just the reverse occurs. Reading Burroughs cut-up texts, his personal obsessions and style shine through. The same occurs with his films. The selection of images and sounds betray his hand. He cannot help but impose his personal imprint. The same holds true for Warhol. Within the seemingly very strict parameters of the screen test, extremely individual, personal performances result. No screen test is exactly the same, even with the same subject filmed for several different tests. If you doubt this, view the several different tests taken of Baby Jane Holzer or Edie Sedgwick. Each test has its unique qualities. The personalities of the sitter show through as does that of Warhol.

Installation view of Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures at The Museum of Modern Art, 2010. Left to right, Screen Test: Susan Sontag (1964), Screen Test: Dennis Hopper (1964), Screen Test: Kathe Dees (1964), Screen Test: Edie Sedgwick (1965), Kiss (1963–64), Screen Test: Lou Reed (1966), Screen Test: Kyoko Kishida (1964), Screen Test: Baby Jane Holzer (1964), and Screen Test: Donyale Luna (1964). © 2010 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, a museum of Carnegie Institute. All rights reserved. Photo: Jason Mandella
Installation view of Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures at The Museum of Modern Art, 2010. Left to right, Screen Test: Susan Sontag (1964), Screen Test: Dennis Hopper (1964), Screen Test: Kathe Dees (1964), Screen Test: Edie Sedgwick (1965), Kiss (1963–64), Screen Test: Lou Reed (1966), Screen Test: Kyoko Kishida (1964), Screen Test: Baby Jane Holzer (1964), and Screen Test: Donyale Luna (1964). © 2010 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, a museum of Carnegie Institute. All rights reserved. Photo: Jason Mandella

UPPERS, DOWNERS & WITHDRAWALS SYMPTOMS

Watching the films of Burroughs and Warhol from a drug perspective, I feel that their styles could have been reversed. The drug of choice for Warhol and his art was amphetamine, while Burroughs preferred heroin. One would expect rapid cuts of image and sound from Warhol, and yet it was Burroughs’ cut-up films that reflect the speed freak’s sense and sensibility. Conversely, Warhol films like Sleep and Empire seem to capture the perspective of the junkie on the nod. Burroughs famously wrote in Naked Lunch that while on junk he could stare with interest at his shoe for hours. What would Burroughs have thought of a movie like Empire? Given his interest in editorial manipulation, Burroughs might have found it boring, preferring instead a movie like Chelsea Girls with its split-screen projection. Burroughs’ fascination with multiple perspectives hammers home the point that the world he described is largely seen through the lens of withdrawal. The kicking junkie is besieged by sensation. Spontaneous orgasms, crawling flesh, runaway thoughts. Burroughs’ art, cinematic and literary, captures and reproduces the experience of withdrawal more than the sensation of the fix. The hardcore addict fails to experience the euphoria of heroin in the same manner as a first-time user. Part of the kick is trying to recapture that initial rush. Burroughs’ strong sense of nostalgia stems in part from the longing of the addict for the first fix.

As Warhol was making screen tests in the 1960s, so in a way was Burroughs (along with Brion Gysin, Anthony Balch, and Ian Sommerville). Towers Open Fire (1963) opens with a long static shot of Burroughs which mirrors the portraits Warhol would begin creating a year later. In Guerrilla Conditions, later to become the basis for The Cut-Ups (1966), Burroughs introduced chance / found techniques similar to Warhol’s. Barry Miles writes, “The Cut Ups was literally that, with four reels of film being cut into twelve-inch lengths and assembled in rotation by a lab technician… No artistic judgment was made, and Balch was not even present.” The similarities to the restraints imposed on the screen tests are obvious.

I am more intrigued in considering a film like Bill and Tony(1972) as a Burroughsian screen test. The movie consists of the image of Burroughs mouthing Balch words, and Balch doing likewise to Burroughs’ words. Balch and Burroughs experimented with merging images to form a composite person. Burroughs was very interested in such superimpositions. Burroughs states, “Anthony Balch and I did an experiment with his face projected onto mine and mine onto his. Now if your face is projected onto somebody else’s in color, it looks like the other person. You can’t tell the difference; it’s a mask of light.” He states further, “Another experiment that Anthony and I did was to take the two faces and alternate them twenty-four frames per second, but it’s such a hassle to cut those and replace them, even to put one minute of alternation of twenty-four frames per second on a screen, but it is extraordinary.” Burroughs and Gysin also played with such techniques in The Third Mind experiments. The New Reformers photographs, produced in connection with the Colloque de Tanger in 1975, utilized such superimpositions. In 1971, Jan Herman visited Burroughs and Balch at St. Duke Street in London. At this time, the two men were making Bill and Tony and performing the experiments Burroughs describes above. Herman took part in these experiments and recorded a session on videotape. The results are available exclusively on RealityStudio.    

Bill and Tony
Bill and Tony

As the video shows, Burroughs introduces montage to the screen test. Montage, collage, assemblage, like the cut-up technique, all center on the cut. In the screen tests, Warhol avoided the edit, the physical cut. The duration of the movie was dictated by the length in feet of the packaged roll of film. No takes, no director yelling cut, no splicing of the film. On the other hand, Burroughs urged a generation to cut up everything. Film, text, audio tape all was fair game for the scissors. Warhol and Burroughs’ editing techniques differed but their goal of depersonalization (and eventual failure to achieve those goals) were the same. Fucked up glases

Both Warhol and Burroughs were well exposed to the world of experimental film from Russian avant-garde film of the 1920s to Surrealist film of the 1930s to the New American Film of the post-WWII era. Warhol was a fixture at The Filmmakers’ Co-op and a friend of numerous underground filmmakers like Jonas Mekas, Jack Smith (before their falling out), Willard Maas, and Marie Menken. These filmmakers were subjects for screen tests. Through Gysin and Balch (who distributed European soft-core films), Burroughs would have been exposed to a number of experimental films. I suspect Burroughs and Warhol were well aware of each other’s films as well. Towers Open Fire was completed in 1963 before the underground film boom of the next year. Much of what became The Cut-Ups were filmed around that time. Sections of The Cut-Ups were filmed in the Chelsea Hotel in 1965, the year Warhol and Burroughs first met. Given his connection with Mekas and others, Warhol may have heard about Burroughs’ film experiments as early as 1963. Interestingly, despite Burroughs’ absence from Warhol’s films, particularly the Screen Tests, they are Burroughsian in spirit (alternatively Burroughs’ films are Warholian) as both men had similar obsessions and interests. Burroughs’ films of the mid-1960s have images of young men in bed, of static portraits, of artwork being created in Factory-type fashion.

One day a young man appeared at the Factory introducing himself as Julian Burroughs, the son of William Burroughs. The man was in fact Andrew Dungan. Here is the real actual story of what happened, as told by the man himself (see comment section for current post):k2-_c9c41bfe-6fc0-4986-8472-5243420d5111.v1

”I was drafted into the army in 1966 and deserted in June 1967. In October, after the March on the Pentagon in Washington D.C. I arrived in NYC. Walking down the street I met Warhol and Paul Morrissey by chance and they asked me to be in a movie that evening. They had asked me my name and I did give him my fugitive name which I had constructed from the knowledge that he did have a son, (who oddly enough I later met as he was a friend of my brother), and I felt it would get me off the hook if I was busted by the FBI agents presumably looking for me. Well, we made the movie that night and I sort of got along with Andy and Paul and the others and, being straight, was passed around among the females in the entourage. Heady experience, but the heavy paranoia of living in NYC made it difficult. Still, I hung out, dined on the Warhol tab at Max’s Kansas City, and came up with the concept for Lonesome Cowboys- based on Romeo and Juliet, hence Ramona and Julian in the film. The police did get word I was connected with Warhol and I got out of town to Paris in April 1968. Lived there for six years before getting an amnesty when Nixon got his pardon, saw Andy a few times, but returned to California, and have led my quiet life here in LA though I still am in contact with people like Viva. Saw William Burroughs once and told him my story and he enjoyed it. But it was really a chance encounter not a con or an attempt to get into the Warhol scene.”

The idea of a doppelganger of this type always appealed to Warhol (who probably got that from Dali who was obsessed by doubles and copies). He played such tricks himself. Before all that took place Warhol had already sent Allen Midgette (who sat for a screen test) on a speaking tour of the United States posing as Warhol himself in October 1967 before the time of the Julian Burroughs hoax. Most famously, Edie Sedgwick had dyed her hair silver and accompanied Warhol to parties and openings as a female version of Warhol. Quite possibly, the hoax perpetrated on the Factory inspired Warhol to try it himself, although forgery and impersonation were already staples of the Factory aesthetic. In any case, Warhol cast Dungan / Julian in Lonesome Cowboys and Nude Restaurant. So indirectly Burroughs was a Warhol superstar. Burroughs appeared on Saturday Night Live, was the Godfather of Punk, was profiled in People. Such flash and recognition captivated Warhol. The pinnacle of this type of attention would be the Nike ad in 1994 that capitalized on Burroughs’ iconic status in the realm of, not Punk, but Cyber-Punk. Burroughs may never have set foot in the Factory but his presence was felt there and bled into Warhol’s films of the period. Similarly in the screen-test feel of Bill and Tony, Warhol proves to be a ghost in the machine in Burroughs’ films.

This article is largely inspired by Jed Birmingham and his ideas on the cinema of Burroughs and Warhol. The links have been updated and some have been added but you don’t have to check every single one of them although I really made a big effort to make this interesting to people who aren’t that much into this kind of stuff.

''Reptilian Burroughs'' by Charles Burns
”Reptilian” Burroughs by Charles Burns

Sources:

The Cut-Up Films:

William Buys a Parrot (1963)
Bill and Tony (1972)
Towers Open Fire (1963)
Ghost at n°9 (Paris) (1963-72)
The Cut-Ups (1966)
The Junky’s Christmas (1966)

William Gibson

Cyberspace. A Consensual Hallucination.

william-gibson

Also known as the Noir Prophet of the Cyberpunk subgenre, William Gibson is an American Canadian science fiction novelist. In his short story, Burning Chrome (1982), Gibson used for the first time and invented the term cyberspace and later used the concept as a base for his debut novel, Neuromancer (1984). Gibson served as an iconographer for the information age before the wide spread of the Internet in 1990s. William Gibson is also associated with very accurately predicting the rise and upcoming popularity of reality television, video games and the World Wide Web. In 1999, The Guardian stated William Gibson as the most important novelist of the past two decades. His vast array of works includes authoring ten acclaimed novels, above twenty short stories in addition to making contributions to various major publications. Pressing a strong influence on the works of other science fiction authors, academics, technology and cyberculture, Gibson has also extensively collaborated in the fields of performing arts, music and film on different projects.neuromancer-fanart2

William Ford Gibson was born on March 17, 1948 in Conway, South Carolina. However, he spent most of his childhood in Wytheville, Virginia where he moved with his mother after the death of his father at an early age. Leading a disturbed childhood in isolation, Gibson wanted nothing more than to become a science fiction writer by the age of 12. An anthology he bought on Beat writing at the age of 13 exposed Gibson to the works of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs creating a profound interest in the genre. Frustrated by his constantly poor academic performance, Gibson’s mother sent him to the Southern Arizona School for Boys in Tucson, Arizona. However, Gibson dropped out of the school before graduation at the age of 18 following the death of his mother. He travelled around and immersed himself in the counterculture. In 1967, Gibson moved to Canada where he spent many weeks of joblessness and homelessness before appearing in a CBC show about the hippie culture in Toronto. Also in Toronto, Gibson met Deborah Jean Thompson. The two travelled together and got married in 1972, settling in Vancouver, British Columbia.In an attempt to qualify for generous student financial aid, Gibson attended the University of British Columbia earning a Bachelor’s degree in English. The exposure to various forms of fiction and literature thoroughly enlightened Gibson, encouraging him to compose his first short story, Fragments of a Hologram Rose. Gibson further strengthened his writing skills following a master’s degree in hard science fiction. At a science fiction convention in Vancouver in 1980, Gibson met punk musician and author John Shirley who not only encouraged Gibson to pursue writing as a full time career but also became his lifelong friend. idoru_clothing_3_by_muzaker-d30nayh

 

Most of Gibson’s early writings are works of near future science fiction with influences of cybernetics and cyberspace. Most famous of these are the short stories ”Burning Chrome” and his first novel, ”Neuromancer’. Following the success of Neuromancer, Gibson produced many other interesting works such as ”Count Zero” (1986), ”Mona Lisa Overdrive” (1988), ”The Difference Engine” (1990), ”Virtual Light” (1993), ”All Tomorrow’s Parties” (1999), ”Pattern Recognition” (2003), ”Spook Country” (2007) and ”Zero History” (2010) and ”Idoru” (1996).

No Maps for These Territories

cyberpunk

No Maps for These Territories is a brilliant independent documentary film made by Mark Neale focusing on the speculative fiction author William Gibson. It features appearances by Jack Womack, Bruce Sterling, Bono, and The Edge and was released by Docurama. The film had its world premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival in October 2000.

Science fiction author William Gibson is best known for 1984’s Neuromancer, a novel often credited with jump-starting the cyberpunk genre. Set in a virtual landscape of rapid-fire connections and published long before the World Wide Web extended its tentacles into your home and mine, Neuromancer quickly established Gibson as a visionary in certain circles (though the novel drew on many influences, from Raymond Chandler to William S. Burroughs to Philip K. Dick). Coining the phrase “cyberspace” cemented Gibson’s reputation, and a penchant for being reclusive didn’t hurt either.

In his new documentary on Gibson, No Maps for These Territories, director Mark Neale has loaded a limousine with digital video cameras and strapped his subject into the back seat for a whirlwind ride through millennial America. As Gibson ruminates on his life and work and pontificates about our rapidly changing times, Neale layers pertinent imagery and found footage over the author’s talking head to create a digital collage. He messes with the passing landscapes and street scenes we see through the limo’s windows, often speeding them up or adding pixilated images, presumably as a visual metaphor for the information superhighway or the accelerating pace of modern life. A New Age-y wash of techno music accentuates the road-to-nowhere vibe.

Gibson’s is not the only face we see. For some reason – perhaps because Neale designed the multimedia presentation for their Zoo TV Tour – U2 members Bono and The Edge are on hand to read from the author’s work and offer observations like “Neuromancer is a rock and roll book.” Gibson’s fellow cyberpunk pioneer Bruce Sterling (Crystal Express, Heavy Weather) turns up as well, to offer some slightly more heady analysis.  P1016554v2 lorez

The meat of the film, however, is Gibson talking about all things Gibson, and if you’re not on his wavelength – if phrases like “posthuman” and “postgeographical” make you go “postal” – you may begin to feel like a cab driver with a chatty passenger you just can’t seem to ditch. But for those interested in the issues he touches upon – everything from the future of technology to the pros and cons of drug use – No Maps for These Territories proves to be a diverting 88 minutes. Some of Gibson’s most interesting musings are autobiographical – describing the arrival of television in the form of an intermittent test pattern he would watch in awe-stricken anticipation of things to come, or telling his draft board that his ultimate ambition in life was to take every mind-altering substance known to man. He often comes off like one of the loopy denizens of Richard Linklater’s Slacker – at one point recalling the moment he heard that Michael Jackson had married Elvis Presley’s daughter and realized that his job of being a science fiction writer had just gotten more difficult.

Scott Von Doviak

William S. Burroughs and Kurt Cobain: A Dossier

The Priest They Called Him

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Cobain greatly admired Burroughs, instigating their collaboration on The “Priest” They Called Him and visiting the Beat legend at his home in Lawrence, Kansas. And while Burroughs does not seem to have been especially impressed with the music of Nirvana, he was greatly saddened by Cobain’s suicide. Here is the story.

At Timberland Library [high school senior Kurt Cobain] discovered S.E. Hinton and William Burroughs, whose work would have an increasing influence on Cobain’s life. He read Burgess admiringly and J.D. Salinger without complaint. Cobain hated Scott Fitzgerald, whose critical resurgence was in decline, neither liked nor understood Faulkner and couldn’t talk about Hemingway without losing his temper. – Christopher Sandford, Kurt Cobain

Allen [Ginsberg] wasn’t always a good judge of talent. The Kerouac School rejected Kurt Cobain’s application, but they accepted mine. Go figure. Life isn’t just unfair, it’s weird. – Sam Kashner, author of When I Was Cool: My Life at the Kerouac School, in a Powells.com interview

When the tour hit Rotterdam on the first of September [1991], it was almost with a nostalgic wistfulness that Kurt approached the last show. He was wearing the same T-shirt he’d had on two weeks earlier — it was a bootlegged Sonic Youth t-shirt — which had gone unwashed, as had his jeans, the only pair of pants he owned. His luggage consisted of a tiny bag containing only a copy of William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, which he had found in a London bookstall. – Charles R. Cross, Heavier than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain

Kurt’s got a literary bent, and jokes that he likes “anything that starts with a B. I think I like Burroughs best, and I’m into Bukowski and Beckett.” He’s a fan of William Burroughs’ dense style, and admires the “cut-up” writing technique he pioneered in the ’40s, calling it revolutionary. – Katherine Turman, Smells Like… Nirvana

In the autumn of 1992 Burroughs and Cobain collaborated on The “Priest” They Called Him. (Listen to an excerpt.)

Cobain himself was an acknowledged fan of Burroughs’ oeuvre and first met with his hero in culture-space on a recording entitled The “Priest” They Called Him. This EP is constructed from a reading by Burroughs (recorded at his home in Lawrence, Kansas on 25 September 1992) overdubbed with Cobain’s guitar accompaniment (recorded in November 1992, at Laundry Room Studios in Seattle). Cobain later faxed Burroughs asking if he would play a crucifixion victim in a video for Nirvana’s forthcoming “Heart-Shaped Box” single. Burroughs declined but a meeting between the two was arranged and took place at Burroughs’ home in October 1993. – New Dawn Magazine

“Narcotics have been systematically scapegoated and demonized. The idea that anyone can use drugs and escape a horrible fate is an anathema to these idiots. I predict in the near future right-wingers will use drug hysteria as a pretext to set up an international police apparatus. I’m an old man and I may not live to see a solution to the drug problem.”

Interviewer: How did you get on with William Burroughs when you recorded together recently?

Cobain: That was a long distance recording session. [Laughs] We didn’t actually meet.

Interviewer: Did he show a genuine awareness of your music?

Cobain: No, we’ve written to one another and we were supposed to talk the other day on the phone, but I fell asleep — they couldn’t wake me up. I don’t know if he respects my music or anything; maybe he’s been through my lyrics and seen some kind of influence from him or something, I don’t know. I hope he likes my lyrics, but I can’t expect someone from a completely different generation to like rock’n’roll — I don’t think he’s ever claimed to be a rock’n’roll lover, y’know. But he’s taught me a lot of things through his books and interviews that I’m really grateful for. I remember him saying in an interview, “These new rock’n’roll kids should just throw away their guitars and listen to something with real soul, like Leadbelly.” I’d never heard about Leadbelly before so I bought a couple of records, and now he turns out to be my absolute favorite of all time in music. I absolutely love it more than any rock’n’roll I ever heard.

Interviewer: The song you’ve recorded together makes references to shooting up, and Burroughs’ own history of drug-taking is no secret. Were you worried that this collaboration might throw the spotlight on press rumours that you’ve had considerable experience with hard drugs yourself?

Cobain: I don’t think it’s any secret any more, it’s been reported so much for so long. I really don’t care what anyone thinks about my past drug use — I mean, I’m definitely not trying to glorify it in some way. Maybe when I was a kid, when I was reading some of his books, I may have got the wrong impression. I might have thought at that time that it might be kind of cool to do drugs. I can’t put the blame on that influence but it’s a mixture of rock’n’roll in general — you know, the Keith Richards thing and Iggy Pop and all these other people who did drugs. I just thought it was one of those things that you do to relieve the pain, but… As I expected before I started heroin, I knew at the beginning that it would become just as boring as marijuana does. All drugs, after a few months, it’s just as boring as breathing air. I’ve always lied about it because I never wanted to influence anybody, I didn’t want anyone to consider the thought of doing drugs because it’s really stupid. – Martin Clarke, Kurt Cobain: The Cobain Dossier

I’ve collaborated with one of my only Idols William Burroughs and I couldn’t feel cooler”. – Kurt Cobain, Journals

Courtney returns, so we head back downstairs and, after a little difficulty trying to get the tape deck to work, myself and Courtney sit cross-legged on the floor. An avalanche of records surrounds us; Sub Pop singles of the month, Kleenex, Opal, Mudhoney, even Suede is here, PJ Harvey’s “Rid Of Me” is on the turntable, and a few books are scattered on the carpet; John Steinbeck, Jean Paul Sartre, William Burroughs’ Queer. Kurt grabs a book by Leonard Cohen, looks at us bemusedly and retreats upstairs.” – Brian Willis, “Domicile on Cobain Street,” NME, 24 July 1993

What “Heart-Shaped Box” meant to Kurt is best surmised by the treatment he wrote for the song’s video. Kurt envisioned it starring William S. Burroughs, and he wrote Burroughs begging him to appear in the video. “I realize that stories in the press regarding my drug use may make you think that this request comes from a desire to parallel our lives,” he wrote. “Let me assure you, this is not the case.” But exactly what Kurt hoped to achieve by casting the writer was never clear. In his attempt to convince Burroughs to participate, he had offered to obscure the writer’s face, so that no one other than Kurt himself would know of his cameo. Burroughs declined the invitation.” – Charles R. Cross, Heavier than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain

Cobain visiting BurroughsThe journals sketch the evolution of the video’s symbol-laden, elliptically autobiographical narrative. At first, it was to star William Burroughs, whom Cobain evidently revered as a long-lived defier of convention (overlooking the fact that Burroughs survived only because he switched from heroin to marijuana early on) and for his aleatoric compositional technique, morbid mythology, and sardonic W.C. Fieldsian cynicism. Here was the first scene, expressing Cobain’s sense of himself as repository of Burroughs’ artistic spirit: “William and I sitting across from one another at a table (black and white) lots of Blinding Sun from the windows behind us holding hands staring into each other’s eyes. He gropes me from behind and falls dead on top of me. Medical footage of sperm flowing through penis. A ghost vapor comes out of his chest and groin area and enters me Body.”

Burroughs wouldn’t do the video, so Cobain used a generic old man on a cross and pecked at by crows. To him, birds also symbolized old men advocating death: “Me–old man,” he writes. “Have made my conclusion. But nobody will listen anymore. Birds [are] reincarnated old men with tourrets syndrome . . . their true mission. To scream at the top of their lungs in horrified hellish rage every morning at daybreak to warn us all of the truth . . . screaming bloody murder all over the world in our ears but sadly we don’t speak bird.” Clearly, Cobain spoke bird. – Seattle Weekly

In October 1993 Cobain met in Burroughs in Lawrence, KS.

During this first week of the tour, Alex MacLeod drove Kurt to Lawrence, Kansas, to meet William S. Burroughs. The previous year Kurt had produced a single with Burroughs titled The “Priest” They Called Him, on T/K Records, but they’d accomplished the recording by sending tapes back and forth. “Meeting William was a real big deal for him,” MacLeod remembered. “It was something he never thought would happen.” They chatted for several hours, but Burroughs later claimed the subject of drugs didn’t come up. As Kurt drove away, Burroughs remarked to his assistant. “There’s something wrong with that boy; he frowns for no good reason.” – Charles R. Cross, Heavier than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain

Image of Kurt Cobain and William BurroughsBurroughs describes the meeting… “I waited and Kurt got out with another man. Cobain was very shy, very polite, and obviously enjoyed the fact that I wasn’t awestruck at meeting him. There was something about him, fragile and engagingly lost. He smoked cigarettes but didn’t drink. There were no drugs. I never showed him my gun collection.” The two exchanged presents — Burroughs gave him a painting, while Cobain gave him a Leadbelly biography that he had signed. Kurt and music video director Kevin Kerslake originally wanted Burroughs to appear in the video for “In Bloom.” – Carrie Borzillo, Nirvana: The Day-By-Day Chronicle

“I’ve been relieved of so much pressure in the last year and a half,” Cobain says with a discernible relief in his voice. “I’m still kind of mesmerized by it.” He ticks off the reasons for his content: “Pulling this record off. My family. My child. Meeting William Burroughs and doing a record with him. – Rolling Stone Interview, 25 October 1993

Cobain killed himself on 5 April 1994.

In Lawrence, meanwhile, William Burroughs sat poring over the lyric sheet of In Utero. There was surely poignancy in the sight of the eighty-year-old author, himself no stranger to tragedy, scouring Cobain’s songs for clues to his suicide. In the event he found only the “general despair” he had already noted during their one meeting. “The thing I remember about him is the deathly grey complexion of his cheeks. It wasn’t an act of will for Kurt to kill himself. As far as I was concerned, he was dead already.” Burroughs is one of those who feel Cobain “let down his family” and “demoralized the fans” by committing suicide.                                                                                                           –Christopher Sandford, Kurt Cobain

A group calling itself “Friends Understanding Kurt” faxed a press release to various news organizations, claiming a “string of suicides associated with the [dream] machine since the 1960s.” The press release stated after he obtained one of the devices, “Kurt immediately commenced a habitual, perhaps maniacal use of the Dream-machine, then took it with him to his and Courtney’s shared Seattle mansion where he stationed himself with the device in a room above the garage.” It stated the Dream Machine was found in the room where Cobain died, although police and medical examiner reports contradict that. Nevertheless, the claims were widely published. William S. Burroughs, who knew Cobain and had collaborated with him, dismissed such speculation as “nonsense…” The Cobain story was ultimately proved to be a hoax. – John Geiger, Chapel of Extreme Experience

An old diary of mine from my love affair (marriage) surfaced at Sanctuary today. I read it. I miss being loved by a husband very much… there were pictures of Kurt in there… pictures of Kurt walking with William Burroughs. I really miss him. – Courtney Love, Dirty Blonde: The Diaries of Courtney Love

A source that wishes to remain anonymous provided these pictures of a painted collage that Burroughs sent to Cobain for his 27th birthday, less than two short months before the singer’s death.

Painting by William Burroughs Painting by William Burroughs Painting by William Burroughs
Published by RealityStudio on 18 February 2007. You can download a Russian version of this dossier translated by Boyroid, who also provided a letter that Kurt Cobain sent to Burroughs asking him to appear in a Nirvana video.

William S. Burroughs Radio

in dub
Click and tune in to Slacker (free Internet) Radio for more WSB and other Beat artists audio tracks/music albums/spoken words

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

paulwilliam1212
Click image for original post on Dangerous Minds

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. 

BBC Documentary Burroughs Narrated by Iggy Pop

Click for Burroughs' Dead City Radio
Click for Burroughs’ Dead City Radio