Jan and the guys at Gnostic Media and Unspun have recently done a fantastic expose of the "Lifetime Actor" known as Allen Ginsberg. If you have yet to hear their work please check out their video below:
Ginsberg responded, "They obviously have a solid communal basis..[pause]..They lasted so long, like a good marriage. That takes stability and sensibility to do. The bands that I listen to at the moment, X, Dead Kennedys, I heard Black Flag"
Less than six months later Allen Ginsberg was playing San Francisco's premier punk venue, Mabuhay Gardens.
Dirk Derkson, the legendary promoter at CBGB"s, recalls:"I told Allen Ginsberg on the night he came to the Fab Mab to see Jim Carroll that I thought punk rock was today's poetry. Two weeks after, Ginsberg showed up with his band and we put them in for a couple of nights!". Allen was already familiar with the New York punk scene - "I like The Nuns", he wrote referring to one of San Francisco's more prominent punk bands. "They're like Kabuki Theater. I've been to CBGB's 15 or 25 times but now I think that the Mabuhay is a better scene. CBGB's is a bit tired".
Ginsberg: "Ken Kesey, myself, and Peter Orlovsky, among others were initiated to LSD in experiments at Stanford Institute for Mental Health. Unknown to us these programs were secretly funded by Army Intelligence."Allen Ginsberg, Deliberate Prose: Selected Essays 1952-1995
Stanford University Libraries acquired the archive of Allen Ginsberg, in 1994. Terms of the acquisition from Ginsberg and his literary agents were not revealed.
The archive traces Ginsberg's life and career from boyhood to the present. Featured are thousands of pages of Ginsberg's literary manuscripts, hundreds of private journals, extensive files of correspondence with other writers and social activists, family documents, Ginsberg's personal library of books and audio tapes, and his business records.
"1940s to 1990s counterculture seems to be a continuation of the earlier century's Modernist Movement," Ginsberg said from his New York office. "I archived all I could of this new consciousness and saved every literary piece of paper that's been through my hands as a record of the spiritual war for liberation of form and content in poetry, bearing in mind that 'When the mode of music changes, the walls of the city shake.'
"I wanted to preserve this evidence in case of some future crackdown in cultural censorship," Ginsberg said. "I'm glad that future scholars and youngsters will have the opportunity to keep track of historical memory in the safekeeping of Stanford's libraries."
If I were a revolutionary poet who distrusted the government and I had found out that I was dosed in an experiment by the government I don't think I would entrust anything for "safekeeping" to the institution who hosted the experiment...But that's just me.
GINSBERG AND NAMBLA
By Allen Ginsberg, July 13, 1994
Ginsberg: "Attacks on NAMBLA stink of politics, witchhunting for profit, humorlessness, vanity, anger and ignorance ...
I'm a member of NAMBLA because I love boys too -- everybody does, who has a little humanity."
During a 1997 interview with The Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review, Ginsberg said, “Everybody likes little kids. … Naked kids have been a staple of delight for centuries, for both parents and onlookers. So to label pedophilia as criminal is ridiculous.”
Allen Ginsberg, Deliberate Prose: Selected Essays 1952-1995: “Prepubescent boys and girls don’t have to be protected from big hairy you and me, they’ll get used to our lovemaking in two days provided the controlling adults will stop making those hysterical noises that make everything sexy sound like rape.”
Dawn, I've been up all night answering letters
- Now to write a Poem for 360 Child Poets:
Don't Grow up like me, you never get enough sleep;
It's 6 AM, my friends are arguing, Crying in the kitchen
Sausages are smoking on the stove, the poor pigs,
Taxis are passing down Avenue A to Work Busses are grinding down the street empty
Birds are twittering on the Church Steeple, Cats yowling in the Alley.
Punk Rock's already playing on the phonograph
- It's Thursday October 4'th, time to go to bed.
Allen Ginsberg, 1979
GINSBERG ON SINCLAIR
John Sinclair was the manager for the proto-punk band MC5.
Allen Ginsberg, Deliberate Prose: Selected Essays 1952-1995 (HarperCollins, 2000) p.40.: “In Detroit there is a rock and Jazz Impresario named John Sinclair, who was a poet much beloved by Charles Olson. In 1965, we had a big poetry meeting in Berkeley, and Ed Sanders, Anne Waldman and John Sinclair were invited specifically by Olson to represent the younger generation. Sinclair had an organization in Detroit called the Artists’ Workshop, which published huge mimeographed volumes of local poetry, as well as pamphlets by correspondents. He put out a long anti-communist manifesto (Prose Contributions to the Cuban Revolution) that I wrote in 1960 about the Cuban Revolution, a sort of challenge to the spiritual foundations of it saying that it was too materialistic. So he wasn’t exactly a riotous red. His main thing though, his main “shtick,” so to speak, was uniting black and white in the otherwise tense, riot-torn areas of Detroit, through the Artists’ Workshop, because there was collaboration between black jazz musicians and white jazz musicians, black writers and white writers, black poets and white poets. It was a kind of heroic effort, actually.”
Ginsberg came to rally support for Sinclair's non-profit, the Artists Workshop many times. In the film Ten for Two: The John Sinclair Freedom Rally, Ginsberg opens the ceremony with a ritual chant on his harmonium. The benefit was headlined by John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Stevie Wonder, Bobby Seale, Allen Ginsberg and Archie Shepp which drew some 15,000 people to Crisler Arena on the University of Michigan campus on December 10th 1971, Sinclair wrote "to demand freedom for this writer, who had by then been incarcerated in the Michigan prison system for 29 months of a 9-1/2 to 10-year sentence for possession of two marijuana cigarettes". "On Monday, December 13, 1971, three days following the John Sinclair Freedom Rally at Crisler Arena, appeal bond was granted by the Michigan Supreme Court, posted by the Rainbow People’s Party, and I was returned to my family, friends, and fellow radicals in Ann Arbor. Our prolonged assault on the state’s draconian marijuana statutes (dating back to 1965 and the formation of Detroit LEMAR) had resulted, just the day before the rally, in a welcome restructuring of the drug laws by the Michigan legislature."
These guys get laws repealed by throwing a concert, unbelievable.
GINSBURG AND THE STIMULATORS
Rose said:"Well, I met Allen a long time ago, about 1964, I was living in this crazy dinky kind of collective called Kerista, a sort of benign Manson family [sic] . There were about eighteen people living in a store front on Ludlow Street [on New York's Lower East Side], and one day Allen came by…I didn't have a clue who he was, although I'd read Howl and been wildly impressed, so when this oddball beard guy appeared & was so sweet, I got down & laughed & sat on his lap & tickled (him) and asked him his name. Allen was pretty surprised I think that some school girl liked him, just for being a fine guy." "So, he said, "If you ever need a place to stay, come over to my flat", (5th Street then and Avenue C), and I did, for a year or two. He was always like Uncle Allen, the guy you borrow a cup of sugar from down the hall. Sweet. But he worked always, hard, every day. Locked in the bedroom. Refuse(d) the phone - Wrote for two to three hours - Always reminded everyone to WRITE DOWN THEIR DREAMS"...
"I think of Allen at his farm in Cherry Valley, Allen in gumboots, Allen eager for rock & roll, Allen being considerate to all the folks who ask him for favors, Allen being a dirty dog with all the pretty boys. I love this guy".
Allen's accompaniest, Steven Taylor, turned Allen on to The Clash and was also in the band The False Prophets.
Steven Taylor: "I did hang out a bit with a band called The Stimulators in New York City who included Denise Mercedes, who was Peter Orlovsky's girlfriend but also a really good guitar player, who was also a friend of Mick Ronson and Bob Dylan. Bob gave her a guitar and Mick gave her a Marshall amp and she went and played with Rat Scabies (of The Damned) for a while [in 1978] in England. And when she came back.. she had become a different musician and had become very powerful..and started this terrific band..."
The Stimulators (and later Steven's own punk band, The False Prophets) were constant visitors and guests, during those years, at Allen's Lower East Side New York apartment.
His connect to (indeed, subsequent recording with) The Clash (the result of him being turned on to them by Steven) further consolidated his "punk cred".
Steven again: "You know, you think of punk as a sort of rock 'n' roll purist, in the sense that you see it as an alternative voice, a democratic voice, an opportunity for the under-privileged to speak. And he [Allen] saw it that way too, and he was much more articulate about it than I could ever be... Yes. Primitive. A notion of a kind of neo-primitivism which he was interested in, where he would talk about, say, the punk kids walking around with feathers in their ears, going back to a kind of native American sense, or their understanding of neo-primitivist anarchist politics, and doing it, doing it yourself. DIY...which he connected..to underground cinema of the 1950s and 1969s, and to poetry too.."
GINSBERG AND HARLEY FLANNAGAN
NAMBLA member Allen Ginsberg states that he lived with Harley as a child and that they had been friends "since he was a year old"
Harley Francis Flanagan is a founding member and former bassist of the NYC Hardcore Punk band Cro-Mags. At age 12, Flanagan was the drummer for The Stimulators, an early NYC punk band.
Here is the story of Harley Flanagan's Poetry book, published when he was 9 years old, in his own words (typos included) and how or why Allen Ginsberg wrote the forward:
"I have often been asked about the book of poetry I did when I was a kid with the introduction by Allen Ginsberg. Well this is the story..."
"When I was a kid in the early 70's me my mother and my stepfather traveled to Morocco, and while living there at the foothills of the Atlas mountains I wrote and drew two short stories, it wasn't poetry at all. One was about a Shopkeeper his donkey and a bee,, the other was a story made up only of drawings involving a sabertooth tiger family and some sort of mammoth or elephant and their fight for survival."
"Maybe a year or two after I had drawn this little book and stapled it together, for what ever reason this Danish press called Charlatan Press decided it was amazing child art or something to that effect and wanted to put it out, so ( much to my embarrassment) it came out nearly 3 years after I had drawn and written it."
"Allan Ginsberg was a friend of my mother and my family, I had known his since birth he did the introduction for it."
"The funny thing is Allen one of the most important writers of his age he did the introduction for the book and if you look at the cover you'll notice that the press spelled his name wrong!"
"This book is very rare and was on display in the children's museum of NY right next to the original copy of Winnie the Pooh, My Mother was extremely proud and went there to take pictures of the display."
"I have seen it on Ebay for up to $700 so if you ever get your hands o a copy hold on to it.
They are very rare."
"Thats the story."
A young Harley pictured above with Harry E. Smith(NOTICE THE BACKGROUND: "BOYS" AND A PYRAMID)
HARLEY THE FIRST AMERICAN SKINHEAD
Harley having head shaved in Ireland pictured above
The Clash "Ghetto Defendant"
A midtempo dub take on the pathos of heroin addiction and underclass angst, features a cameo spoken-word vocal from Allen Ginsberg, who co-wrote the song with Joe Strummer. The poet joined the Clash on stage during the New York leg of their tour in support of the album.
As Allen recounts it: " (In 1981) I was listening to a lot of punk, and I'd heard about The Clash from Steven Taylor. I went backstage once at their 17-night gig at Bonds Club on Times Square and Joe Strummer said, "We've had somebody say a few words about Nicaragua and (El) Salvador and Central America [they were promoting their album Sandinista at the time], but the kids are throwing eggs and tomatoes at 'im. Would you like to try?". I said, "I don't know about making a speech, but I've got a punk song about that." Simple chords, we rehearsed it five minutes and got it together".. "They led me onstage at the beginning of their second set, and we launched right into the guitar clang. It's punk in ethos and rhythmic style for abrupt pogo-dancing, jumping up and down, but elegant in the sense of having specific political details. First stanza drags a little, but there's one point where we all get together for two verses, an anthem-like punk song. Only one tape exists [not entirely true, actually] taken off the board. They gave me a copy and it's been sitting around all these years like a little toy."
- and again: "So, we rehearsed it for about five minutes during the intermission break and then they took me out on stage. "Allen Ginsberg is going to sing". And so we improvised it. I gave them the chord changes.".."It gets kind of Clash-like, good anthem-like music about the middle. but (then) they trail off again. The guy, who was my friend (Charlie Martin?) on the soundboard, mixed my voice real loud so the kids could hear, and so there was a nice reaction, because they could hear common sense being said in the song. You can hear the cheers on the record..."Capitol Air" was written (in 1980) coming back from Yugoslavia, oddly enough, from a tour of Eastern Europe, realizing that police bureaucracies in America and in Eastern Europe were the same, mirror images of each other finally. The climactic stanza - "No Hope Communism, No Hope Capitalism, Yeah. Everybody is lying on both sides.." We didn't play the whole cut because we didn't have enough time, but they built up a kind of crescendo, which was nice, when the whole band came in".
Joe Strummer announced to the crowd: "Yeah, we have something never before seen - and never likely to again either. May I welcome President Ginsberg, come on (out) Ginsberg!"
PT: Did you improvise on Combat Rock?
AG: Yeah, they asked me to get on the mike and sing basso profundo (they wanted the voice of God), and then I started singing Sanskrit, and Mick Jones said, "More Sanskrit!, More Sanskrit! Then I ran into them again at Red Rocks (in Morrison, Colorado) and sang with them again at Pier 84 (in New York) and sang with them one night there. We're supposed to make a single together, sooner or later, if they stick together [editorial note - this never took place]
PT: What do you think of their political views?
AG: They're fine. They're alert and active and they're interested. And that's why they were interested in that song.
PT: People have been accusing them of selling out.
AG: Well, what does that mean? It doesn't mean anything. It's like an empty accusation. The wider spread they can get their message the better, I think.
PT: How does the new wave/punk movement relate to (Jack) Kerouac and the Beats ?
AG: We were a continuation of the old Bohemian movement - the 'twenties and all that. I think the hippies and then punk and new wave and all that is just a continuation of the old Bohemian movement. Every generation is a little bit wrong, but it's mostly right in trying to break out and start over again, and start at the ground and build something new and just not get smothered by the last generation's solidification of a fresh idea. I think it's great, that's why I was happy to work with them (The Clash) - Allen Ginsberg
JELLO BIAFRA AND GINSBERG
Jello Biafra @ Ginsberg's apartment, photo seen above (photo and caption by Ginsberg)
caption: "Jello Biafra head of Dead Kennedys rock band, visiting N.Y. after obscenity trial (won by hung jury) over Art Illustrations to his"Frankenchrist" album. "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" and "Too Drunk to Fuck" were earlier Punk underground hits. He was touring, lecturing on Reagan-era Censorship moves. Late nights the "rebounding from the want ads, surprised scrutinized by candid surveillance camera", recovering from flu, his open briefcase in small bedroom, pens clipped on to strap, old backstage tour passes posted inside, October 6, 1987"]
From an interview with William Ryan, 1981:
AG: "The very frank statement of the planet condition by the Sex Pistols amazed me when they sang,"No future for you,/ no future for me." It’s exactly what people thought unconsciously — just like people were thinking in the 'Sixties when(Bob) Dylan sang, "You’ve thrown the worst fear that can ever be hurled/ the fear to bring children into the world". It’s just that somebody, finally, said it. So, I think that The Clash, with their Sandinista album and songs like “Washington Bullets,” is making a clear statement.”
[H.R.Giger - Work 219:LandscapeXX, (Penis Landscape), 1973. Acrylic on paper on wood 70 cm x 100 cm - (poster included in the packaging of the Dead Kennedy's album, Frankenchrist" (1985)]
But then, four years later, when the PMRCwitch-hunt was kicking in, and Biafra was being hounded by, indeed actively prosecuted by, the powers-that-be, the LA City Attorney's Office, over the insertion (sic) into their album-packaging of a controversial poster (a reproduction of "Penis Landscape" by H.R. Giger),
(2006, from an interview in Punk News):
and, the previous year, in Arthurmagazine:
[Jello Biafra at The River City Reunion, 1987 - Photograph byRosemary Marchetta
Biafra (from an interview, in 1987): Itwas nerve-racking, reading my stuff at the River City Reunion in Lawrence Kansas. It was a celebration after twenty years of countercultural movement. They hadWilliam Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, Ed Dorn, John Giorno, oh, lots and lots of people. One of the last segments was me co-billed with Timothy Leary. I went on first, and never had I realized what a horrible writer I was when I was (until I was) trying to read tothat audience, knowing Ginsberg, Waldman and the rest (of them) were all in the crowd.
Ginsberg said: "The great thing about rock ‘n roll was that it was an expression of personal opinion that could alter the culture. Then it got absorbed by the mainstream, so now you have your bubblegum music again. The Washington wives (of the PMRC) aren’t attacking the industry itself which is dominated by local promotion men using cocaine and money to pay off dee-jays. They’re attacking the last bastion of marginal, alternative, non-monolithic, expression, these bands on the fringes like the Dead Kennedys, they’re not attacking the big companies, they’re attacking these little independents that can’t fight back."
Jello can be heard on JELLO BIAFRA AND The Melvins
"Enchanted Thoughtfist" recounting an evening at Ginsbergs apartment for dinner and feeling outplace because his literary refrences don't go far beyond cartoons.
"I am a product of the television age
Zoom in on what's important
Get the point right away
A modern lack of patience
Is it a virtue?
Hardly ever read books
Devours easily few"
"I say it again
We all believe what we want to believe
Don't just question authority
"Felt I had to confess
In Ginsberg's apartment
My literary background's mostly songs and cartoons
He said 'Oh, that's just fine'
I sort of felt relieved
But when I hurl my word bombs
How much should be believed?"
"Say it again We all believe
What we want to
Don't just question authority
Don't forget to question me"
Well Jello, I've been doing some questioning... I've been questioning you Mr Biafra and you sure have some questionable associations
Ginsberg made a film of his home movies titled, HOUSEHOLD AFFAIRS That features an appearance by Jello Biafra, screenshots from film shown below:
LEARY AND GINSBERG
The second-part of an in-depth interview with Michael Horowitz, Timothy Leary’s longtime archivist, recently appeared. The first (posted back in November 2015) can be seen here.
The second, brings Allen in to the picture (Lisa Rein, the Archives digital librarian, is the interviewer):
LR: What was the dynamic between Ginsberg and Leary? MH: The synergy between them was powerful. There's a book devoted to their psychedelic partnership, White Hand Society. It went back to the Harvard period when Allen and Peter were subjects in the psilocybin experiments. Allen's messianic enthusiasm for psychedelics was equal to Tim's, and brought him to New York City to turn on his Beat friends and jazz musicians. He introduced Tim - still a semi-straight academic - to the hipster culture. Tim had a sexual awakening on psilocybin with a beautiful model. Everyone loved the magic mushroom pills for their life-changing insights and shattering revelations, as well as their spiritual and sensual sides.
LR: Allen was a practicing Buddhist . What did he think of Tim's alliances with the Weathermen and the Black Panthers? MH: Their friendship was tested publicly, when Ginsberg, like Ken Kesey and others, challenged the militancy of Leary's "Shoot to Live" mantra. For Allen, who was getting heavily into Tibetan Buddhism, meditation was a necessary revolutionary discipline; political action without spiritual consciousness led to the same dead end. Allen put out these ideas in an interview in the Berkeley Barb. Tim responded with "An Open Letter to Allen Ginsberg on the Seventh Liberation", defending the idea of armed self-defense and explain(ing) his new philosophy…"
Here's Allen's initial response (on being contacted, while Leary was in exile, by the Leary camp):
[Allen Ginsberg to Michael Horowitz , August 14, 1970 - "Dear Bo - [Horowitz had introduced himself as "Bodhisattva M.Horowitz"] — Kerouac used the Bo of Hobo for American Bodhisattva… Hey Bo! - Your plans sound excellent and I just pray you are a steady solid quiet cat who can safeguard & index & prepare mss. like a lovely scholar over years. When you have any specific word for me to put in anywhere please do call on me. I wrote a short 3-page addenda to Jail Notes mss. which together with earlier extensive essay on Tim in Village Voice can serve as a lengthy preface to the book, all dignified, like. Your letter if you follow up is really a bright ray. Allen G.”]
GINSBERG AND JIM CARROLL
Allen Ginsberg had a personal relationship with New York poet and diarist Jim Carroll and was considered by Carol to be a huge influence on his writing as well as having . Carroll met Ginsberg as a teenager and they eventually became close friends. Carroll’s poems began to be published in literary magazines in the late ‘60s, including in The Paris Review. His work influenced musician Patti Smith, whose 1975 album Horses is widely considered a forerunner to the New York Punk Rock scene.
THURSTON MOORE ON GINSBERG
Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth(on Colorado Public Radio): "I'm interested in looking at (Allen) Ginsberg as a writer who had a passion for activism and going up against oppression in societies, constantly going around the world, to India, Europe and South America, and learning about those cultures and wanting to see where the love is and where the oppression is and exposing it. It was not until I got into studying his life and work in my late forties and fifties that I realized how significant he is not only to American culture but global culture. He single-handed funded a lot of the counterculture through his success…He was everywhere. If there was a movement going on in the counterculture he wanted to be there. He wanted to be where the action was. I don't blame him, it's better than sitting at home and watching TV."
Thurston Moore: "My favorite is when he would come up at the CBGB's stage in the 1970's. He would go up there with his harmonium and Peter Orlovsky with his banjo, and they would do Tibetan mantra or hillbilly songs to an audience wanting to see The Dead Boys or something. It was completely unapologetic. This was their neighborhood, they were there first! I remember being a nineteen-year-old sitting in the audience at CBGB's thinking: "The nerve of this guy! He just comes in and does this in a punk rock club!." He thought punk was amazing. He wrote a poem about it called "Punk Rock Your My Big Crybaby"
Allen and Steven Taylor in Allen's kitchen (437 East 12th Street) in New York, discussing "hardcore", the music immediately following punk.
Here below is a transcript:
"AG: ...(which) leaves it open to any kind of polymorphous perverse, at best, and is a kind of declaration of independence from social identity, or reassertion of a personal stamp of their own social identity, also there’s a political implication of subversion and rebellion against the rigid moral (morale) of the financial, sexual, commercial, rules and regulations imposed by the American government, or the Russian government, or the Czechoslovakian government, or whatever government is trying to repress individual intelligence, (and) delightfulness (?). So it seems to be, like, a way that almost anybody educated, or not educated, can propose their own genius, and, I think, evading all the social demands of education and of reading and of...
ST: ...bourgeois virtuosity?
AG: well no, social accomplishment, but going back to some natural state of genius where unobstructed delight, or unobstructed feeling, can be expressed and recognized, so (somewhere) where people (otherwise thwarted) where kids... that are otherwise thwarted, can actually find intellectual expression of their highest feelings, their, most extreme feelings, and sometimes, sometimes their highest feelings, or recognize, sometimes, their lowest feelings... And for those of us who are already hyper-intellectualized, and hyper-socialized, it also gives them a way of getting out of the straitjacket of their rigid discipline, and joining in with the hoi-polloi, and joining in with the lower classes, in some kind of Dionysian abandon, awakening the otherwise-sleeping spirit of (the) middle-class kids who come out to hear..or encouraging the ecstatic emotions of people already kind of aware of their channels of expression(s).."
But still it’s a little bit too noisy
ST: too loud?
AG: yeah, for my ears, yeah….
We once again draw your attention to Steven's book, False Prophet: Field Notes From The Punk Underground, published in 2003 from Wesleyan University Press.
GINSBERG AND RAM DASS DISCUSSION
AG: ...as an alternaive. It proposed a complete annihilating void.
ED: A nothingness and that’s part of what the punk rock and all that is a kind of resonance about, isn’t it?
RD: A kind of an emptiness, it’s all free but the whole.. the hedonism of the 70’s, is that all that's going on?.
AG: I think it’s a protest against the emptiness. I don’t think it’s a going along with the emptiness. It’s an ironic state(ment), it’s an ironic comment. I think it’s very healthy.
RD: I agree.
AG: It’s an enactment of the social proposition of empty void. You see the words for the Sex Pistols were “No future for you/No future for me”.
AG: ...as the most frank and artistic and political statement made at that time.
AG: ...a couple of years ago They were saying that, because of the Bomb, because of the economics in England, there is “No future for you”
RD: What are you gonna do when you grow up? You’re just not.. it’s irrelevant.
AG: Yeah, so I think it was like the new wave and punk movement, I think was a..like the Beat thing. I think it was a healthy individualistic statement of character.
AG: …, and a certain aesthetic intelligence - and also a revolt..
AG: Peter Orlovsky my friend had – has – a girlfriend [Denise Mercedes] who lives with us who has a new wave punk band [The Stimulators], playing at CBGB’s and Max’s (Kansas City).
RD: Yeah, I met her.
AG: And I saw it was like a.. a Catholic school-girl who had no future, except as a typist, becoming an artist. And the dress was art.. I was amazed by the art of it. Like theater, it was theater, basically.
AG: Punk was theater. It wasn’t people making themselves grotesque for.. but it was street-theater.
RD: Right on.
AG: .. and I don’t know if it was seen as theater but it was definitely theater.
RD: It was only scary because it had so much kind of.. It threatened so much existing cultural mores
AG: Well it blew my mind because I was saying that the Beatniks did their street-theater with their beards and their things, so.. but what are these people doing? - they don’t even have beards, they don’t even have bangles, they’re wearing purple hair!
RD: Safety-pins going through their cheeks!
AG: Well, actually most of them wore them just in the clothes and it was baby-diaper pins, actually ..
RD: (Oh God!)
AG: …I found.. someone gave me one.. and it was a baby-diaper pin, you know.. to put it to wear here [Allen, laughing, indicates his lapel]
RD: To wear (t)here! [laughing] - oh well, that's a whole different level of the game..
AG: Well, no, some very intelligent kid, that looked outrageous...
RD: ..(that) I met in front of the Mudd Club, (and he said) “I adore your poetry, have a pin!” and put it on me - "joining the younger generation"!
RD: That’s very funny.
AG: And I said, "What kind of horrible type of pin is that?, and he said, "it's a baby-diaper pin, didn't you realize?"
RD: So what else was there?
AG: The ecological, Apocalyptic Bomb, threat, teaching both mortality and the disregard of the tenderness of the human form...
RD: Yeah, that’s right.
AG: ...and so symbolizing the whole impulse of organized classical society that had brought itself.. of rationalistic society, that had created this, chaos. And that, with all the computers, and all the wise generals, and Oxford-degrees, and confabulations, and cocktails in Zurich, what it had brought about, was - what everybody says - from the grandmamas, to the old Wall Street pundits, to the young punks - looks like it could be the end! So that meant that a dymystification of history, and of governments, and of authority, and authorities, and economics, and so that meant that everybody had to start thinking for themselves. And the second thing was a recognition of the interdependency of nature, the Eco.. (what is known as the Ecology movement) and a greater sensitization to plants..dolphins [sic]
From 1981 Naropa class:
Student: How about new wave (Punk), do you think that could change the…
AG: I think it (already) has - new wave. I think new wave (punk) is a definite step forward. It makes, it.. Like (the) Beat thing made use of a lot of early elements, from (William Carlos) Williams and (Marsden) Hartley and (Walt) Whitman. The new wave and punk sensibility struck me as a major cultural trans-shifting, a rejection of the Beat sentimentality and heart and hyper-political anger and activism (the anger part). The rejection of the.. See, the new wave thing (which is interesting, between you and me, actually), the new wave thing put down the Beat thing, because it was too political, because it tried self-righteously to save the nation without first saving itself, without first examining its own clarities and conscience and aggression, without first resolving its own aggressive tendencies. The Beatniks went out to save the.. to lay a script on the nation. And the new wave people said.. or to me, that is.. - who was it? the guy that David Bowie worked with? the American?
Student (CC): Lou Reed?
AG: Yeah. Not (Lou) Reed, the other guy.
Student (Randy Roark); (Brian) Eno?
Peter Orlovsky: Izzy Pop?
AG: Iggy Pop
Peter Orlovsky: Iggy Pop
AG: I had a funny conversation with Iggy Pop just on this subject, and he said, "You guys are all over". No, "You guys blew the shot"
Student (CC): Iggy Pop's just..
AG: Well, of course it's pride, but he doesn't have to be the greatest…
Student (CC): No..
AG: … or the rightest…
Student (CC): … but..
AG: …it's core sample opinion, which was probably a typical new wave opinion.
Student (CC): Well these roots go back to the Velvet Underground and…early rock 'n roll..
[The Velvet Underground]
Student (CC): Elvis (Presley) shaking his hips
AG: Well, his roots go back to Beatnik days, actually - Iggy Pop. But anyway, growing up, he said, "You guys blew it". And he never said how, but I figured it was just basically that thing of overtly going out finger-pointing, he thought. I thought it was a bit harsh. I said, "Wait till you get yours", myself, I said, "Wait until you grow up and be famous - and really famous, and have to face getting to be forty (sic) and having to deal with the nation as dealing with the nation. What were you saying?
Student: Well, I just (thought you were saying that he…)
AG: No, I was saying that (the) new wave was putting down the Beat imagery
AG: (And) for good reasons, I think. You know, why not? You need another generation to invent its own, not just for sentimental reasons, but to correct the abuses of the old, or the impurities of the old
Student: But do you really think that new wave is really into the inner self?
Student: It seems more, to me, to be pretty much into the violence of the society, rather than an inner peace of the soul
AG: It's pretty complicated. Both ways. For one thing, I don't think the Beat group was actually political, to begin with. (Jack) Kerouac, (William) Burroughs, myself, Peter (Orlovsky) and Gregory (Corso), although we were occasionally involved in "politics", if you heard Gregory's poem "Bomb" last night (sic), it wasn't political in any recognizeable form by the politicos of the 'Fifties or 'Sixties, because it was rising above the bomb to say that the only answer to the bomb was beauty - not anger, not fight, not fear - that you had to surpass the bomb in imagination in order to beat the bomb, if you're going to beat it at all and not even care whether you beat the bomb, if you're going to beat the bomb. You have to renounce trying to compete (with) the bomb, if you're going to compete with it. Just like you have to renounce enlightenment if you want to be enlightened, according to traditional theory
Student: Do you think that (punk) new wave (music) has God or has respect…
AG: No, no, no, no. I think they've dispensed with the notion very wisely (though they may have dispensed with the heart also, unwisely)
Student: Yeah, I think they have..
AG: But not really, because you hear a lot of great stuff from (the) new wave (bands). The Clash, certainly, are totally political, totally heart-felt, I would say. To have to exist in a tough world they might appear tough, but they're very very generous - totally. That was my experience of them, singing with them - total generosity and self-sacrifice for a spiritual cause, for a political-spiritual cause.
Student: But Allen, don't you think that adolescence (in) every culture is a testing of yourself to discover yourself. And the anger...
Student: …the anger in punk is that most of these kids grew up in suburban environments that are just incredibly dead, more..
AG [pointing to the class]: All these kids did too.
Student: Well, I don't..
AG: Not that there's so many kids here..
Student: It's also a mistake to speak of it in such a monolithic way. The punk movement in England was very very working-class.
AG: Yeah, yeah.
Student: Yeah. So it was very different to what happened in the States.
AG: Yeah.. we're just talking about what we were thinking about here about the American punk.
Student: But even in terms of that..
Student: ..I think there's still a breadth of..(a spectrum..)
AG: Yeah, there's a whole bunch of punks that are just following the five-and-ten-cents-store fashion at this point. It's like what they see in the…
Student: How about the lyrics (of) like Costello (I think that's his name)
AG: Elvis Costello
Student: His song, "There's no future" (that's (part of) the lyrics of it)
AG: Those are the change… the Sex Pistols
Student: The Sex Pistols
AG: "No future for you, no future for me"
AG: "No future for me, no future for you". Well, you know.. but I dug that, as being the frankest political statement of the decade. That the middle-class and military was preaching that we have a future if we trust them and if we trust the American Way, and if we trust the normal middle-class conspicuous consumption consumer society. And (that) if you go through school and behave and do it right, and don't interrupt, and don't get up on the stage and take others' place, you'll be alright, and you can get a job later on, and be whatever it is, and (get) insurance. And, particularly in England, where the Sex Pistols came out, with total unemployment for blacks (well, sixty percent unemployment for blacks, and thirty-five percent unemployment for white kids), and, actually (in) England, as (William) Burroughs (had) described (it), "a fish caught in a shrinking pond", it was an actual statement of fact. And only until the English recognize that will they ever be able to have any kind of future, until they can hit bottom mentally and recognize where they're at.
So I thought it was a useful social statement, though likely to be misinterpreted (like Jerry Rubin's "Kill your parents" - which was actually an elevated thought, but misunderstood a little, by him even) - he said (he said himself that he thought that was a mistake, because he didn't understand the effect).
Student: Yeah.. I'd just.. with the whole new wave/punk movement, I would just like to see more vision
Student (CC): Well I'm not sure if there is any vision.
AG: Well, you've got to write some new wave lyrics. That's what I'm doing. I'm writing new wave lyrics to lay on a trip - that visionary trip - to do something about it.
Student: (The music that I) hear in my head is more (interesting)
AG: Don't just sit there, do something about it!
Student: Yeah, it's more futuristic.
AG: You and (CC) ought to form a rock 'n roll band, dance in front of it. Yes? (sorry, I interrupted you).
Student: No, that's all
AG: Do it! But you can't do it by just talking about it. You got to do it. That's basically what I object to in your method - you talk about it, but you don't do it. And if you do it, then you have to formulate exactly what there is to do, and what you can do and what you can't do, and what you can do with other people and what you can do without other people, and then you form a community of doing it. The process of doing it forms the community itself. That was the theory of the 'Sixties - that in the organization of doing it, you find affinities and people you can work with and make friends with and see every couple of years..