Was going to write about David Cameron today, but decided against it, goodbye and good riddance to the dodgy ***** to say he wont be missed is an understatement. I have spent a dreary wet afternoon in West Wales instead immersed in Call Me Burroughs a spoken word album by the author William S. Burroughs, that was originally released in June 1965 by The English Bookshop in Paris and later by ESP-Disk' in New York. Call Me Burroughs marks not only the recorded debut of William Burroughs, but also for many the first encounter with his inimitable incredible voice.
Drug addict, gun enthusiast, cat lover, convict, conjurer, queer iconclast, long have I been a huge admirer, I've carried Uncle Bill's writings and the knowledge of his struggles, failings and accomplishments with me for the entirety of my adult life,who I first discovered in my teenage years, this consumnate flouter of norms and consensus reality who became one of the most enduring icons of the counterculture and our times. He has had an enormous influence on others too,from the Beats to punk rock, and even hip hop, no other figure today is so widely considered the epitome of cool.
His book Naked Lunch" stands with Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" and Allen Ginsburg's "Howl" as the seminal texts of the Beat Generation. With its harrowing scenes of junkie depravity, its view of postwar America was the most extreme of all the Beats.
Burroughs wrote all of his books under the influence of drugs,principally heroin, alcohol, marijuana and methadone, despite this, his genius for surreal black comedy tempered with hard, practical thought never deserted him. Though he chronicled all its horrors and tried various treatment programs, Burroughs in some real sense chose addiction; it was his entree to the street slang and chronic desperation of the noir lifers who occupied his fiction from “Junkie” (1953) on. When he died at 83 in 1997, his friends reportedly tucked some heroin and marijuana along with his .38 into his coffin.
Call Me Burroughs features the author reading from Naked Lunch, The Soft Machine and Nova Express, three of his best-known works that utilize the cut-up method developed by Burroughs and his artist cohort Brion Gysin. An eerie,haunting, powerful deadpan drawl guides the listener through sci-fi innerscapes, narcotic nightmares, reports from the edge of the apocalypse. Phantasmagoric passages echo real experiences roaming the streets of Mexico, the West Village, Tangiers.
The excerpts which, read as short stories, are independent and do not require listener to be familiar with the novels and follows the exploits of junkies, prostitutes, doctors, and others as they move through grisly underworlds without concern for the borders between reality and hallucination. By turns, they are blackly funny and deeply sinister, often within the same piece.
Burroughs believed that language and image were viral and that the mass-dissemination of information was part of an arch-conspiracy that restricted the full potential of the human mind..With cut-ups, Burroughs found a means of escape; an antidote to the sickness of ‘control’ messages that mutated their original content. If mass media already functioned as an enormous barrage of cut-up material, the cut-up method was a way for the artist to fight back using its same tactics.
Call Me Burroughs came to fruition modestly, reportedly the idea of Gaît Frogé, owner of The English Bookshop in Paris, with Ian Sommerville engineering the readings on a tape machine belonging to Brion Gysin. Frogé enlisted poet-artists Jean-Jacques Lebel and Emmett Williams for liner notes and in April of ‘65 1,000 copies were pressed.Recorded in his instantly recognizable, craggy and clipped mid-western drawl at the English Bookshop, Paris, France in 1965.
It's reach was initially limited, though it fell into famous hands, and it certainly made quite an impression that year. The album would go on to have a wide influence, particularly in England. Barry Miles, in his liner notes for the 1995 Rhino re-release, says, "The Beatles may have been the soundtrack to 1965 for the beautiful people of swinging London, but to the cognoscenti there was something even cooler to listen to." :
"It's in all the best homes, my dear," said Brion Gysin, and he was right. At the height of the '60s, Call Me Burroughs was an essential record. The Beatles all had copies and subsequently Paul McCartney included Burroughs on the sleeve of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Art dealer Robert Fraser bought ten copies to give to friends such as Brian Jones and Mick Jagger. Marianne Faithful and Keith Richards' dealer had copies, as did numerous painters and writers.It remains a personal favourite of mine. If you manage to get yourself an actual copy the CD booklet contains a wealth of information about Burroughs, the manner in which these recordings were made, and about the Beat community in Paris in the 50's and 60's, as well as including the liner notes of original 1965 edition of the album.
For the rest of his life,Burroughs recorded a number of solo projects, in addition to collaborating with everyone from John Cale, Laurie Anderson , Tom Waits, Material, Disposable Hero's of hypocrisy , REM and Kurt Cobain.He remained a spoken-word performer and visual artist until his death in 1997.Call Me Burroughs is also the title of a authoritative new biography from Barry Miles, essential reading if you want a more detailed look at William Burroughs work, I am pleased to say that my own bookcases are already full with books by and about him, plus his literary friends and acquaintances.
Anyway I include a link to a recording of the LP at the bottom, hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
All composition by William S. Burroughs
"Bradley the Buyer" – 6:24
"Meeting of International Conference of Technological Psychiatry" – 4:56
"The Fish Poison Con" – 6:59
"Thing Police Keep All Board Room Reports" – 1:25
"Mr. Bradley Mr. Martin Hear Us Through the Hole in Thin Air" – 4:16
"Where You Belong" – 6:38
"Inflexible Authority" – 10:45
"Uranian Willy" – 1:59
Tracks 1 and 2 from Naked Lunch; 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8 from Nova Express; track 6 from The Soft Machine.
William Seward Burroughs - Call me Burroughs
Some earlier posts of mine on the great man :-