In a 12,000 word essay, “Bob Dylan’s Beat Visions (Sonic Poetry),” that appears in the upcoming book, “Kerouac On Record: A Literary Soundtrack,” I explore how Bob Dylan was profoundly influenced by the Beat writers, and especially Jack Kerouac.
The book is being published by Bloomsbury and will reach book stores online and off on March 8, 2018. Rock’s Back Pages will be publishing an excerpt from my essay, and the April issue of Mojo magazine (see full review below) includes a rave review that says in part: “Among the strongest in a strong lot are Michael Goldberg’s examination of Dylan’s lit roots and Kerouac’s own musicological piece — ‘The Beginning Of Bop’ – that attempts to capture jazz in words – and succeeds.”
Nice to be mentioned in the same sentence as Kerouac!
In addition my Dylan piece, I also have an interview with writer (and one time rock critic) Richard Meltzer in which he talks at length about Kerouac.
The book also contains essays on the influence of Kerouac on a number of musicians including Tom Waits, the Grateful Dead, Jim Morrison, Van Morrison, Patti Smith and others. And there are excellent pieces about the influence of jazz on Kerouac’s writing style.
As we get closer to the publication date I’ll share more about this fascinating book.
Some might find this silly, which it is, but it’s kinda funny too. Caricatures of Bob Dylan and Tom Waits on the cartoon, “Family Guy”:
As Bob Dylan tells it, he would let Tom Waits know in advance about the theme of an upcoming “Theme Time Radio Hour” and soon enough a cassette would arrive in the mail from Waits with the eccentric singer offering up some obscure but relevant info. Hear Waits talk about carrier pigeons, sacred body parts in rural China, the roots of the expression “baker’s dozen” and more.
Listen to Dylan and Waits:
[Rolling Stone has a great review of my book in a recent issue. Read it here. There’s info about True Love Scars here.]
It’s one hundred years after William S. Burroughs’ birth. To celebrate, the New York Times has published two intriguing essays regarding what the Times calls the “so-called literary bad boys.”
James Parker writes:
It’s the question every writer faces, every morning of his or her life: Am I Malcolm Gladwell today, or am I Arthur Rimbaud? Do I sit down with my pumpkin latte and start Googling, or do I fire a couple of shots into the ceiling and then stick my head in a bucket of absinthe? Which of these two courses will better serve my art, my agent, my agenda? Old hands are ready with the answer: If you want to stick around, kid, if you want to build your oeuvre, you’ve got to be — in the broadest sense — sober. You’ve got to keep it together. There’s no future in going off the rails. “You go in dutifully, slavishly, and you work,” commanded Norman Mailer, his head-buttings long behind him. “This injunction is wholly anti-romantic in spirit.” But his sternness communicates the strain, does it not, the effort required to suppress the other thing: the room-wrecker, the Shelley inside, the wild buddings of Dionysus.
This is where the literary bad boy lives today, at any rate — in the mind of the writer…
Rivka Galchen writes:
In the seventh grade I admired a charismatic, witty girl who had a particular way of writing her lowercase a’s. After some practice, I took to writing my lowercase a’s in the same fashion. Sometimes we find ourselves emulating a trait that’s merely proximate to something wonderful — you can wear a white suit every day, but it won’t get you any closer to revolutionizing American journalism. Emulating that girl’s charisma or wit would have involved much more work, and trying to think and write like the best of the “literary bad boys” can be near on impossible. The handwriting, or the suit, are manageable.
And I would argue that certain traits we associate with the “literary bad boy” — traits we spend the most time excoriating or lauding, with excoriation and laudation amounting to almost the same thing — are more like the handwriting or the suit than the essential substance. They have little to do with the genuinely countercultural thinking or the intelligently transgressive prose. Instead they are, upon inspection, just the fairly straightforward qualities of persons with more financial or cultural or physical power who exercise that power over people with less. There’s nothing “counter” about that, of course; overpowering in that way implicitly validates things as they are, and implies that this is how they ought to be. So I presume that when we value literary-bad-boy-ness — and there is a lot to value there — those traits wouldn’t be, if we thought about it, the essence of bad-boy-ness; those traits aren’t even distinctive. They’re just trussed-up versions of an unfortunate norm.
Even William Burroughs mocked that idea of a literary bad boy. In his oft quoted short story, “The Lemon Kid,” he wrote: “As a young child Audrey Carsons wanted to be writers because writers were rich and famous. They lounged around Singapore and Rangoon smoking opium in a yellow pongee silk suit. They sniffed cocaine in Mayfair and they penetrated forbidden swamps with a faithful native boy and lived in the native quarter of Tangier smoking hashish and languidly caressing a pet gazelle.” The passage is funny, hyperbolic and also somehow psychologically accurate. Audrey dreams of the trappings of a writer, not of writing. Burroughs’s language illuminates the covert dream within the dream: the moneyed associations of Mayfair and the yellow pongee silk suit, and the de facto purchasing of a person whitewashed into the term “a faithful native boy.” The transgression in the fantasy is revealed to be a self-flattering illusion; the real fantasy, nested inside the manifest one, is the standard and childish desire for dominion….
Music for Robots is a new EP that Squarepusher made with robots. “The Z-Machines are three robots created by Japanese roboticists with the purpose of performing music that’s too advanced for the most skilled human musicians,” Pitchfork reports. “There’s a guitarist robot with 78 fingers and a drummer with 22 arms.” About working with the Z-Machines, Squarepusher said in a statement: “In this project the main question I’ve tried to answer is ‘can these robots play music that is emotionally engaging?’ I have long admired the player piano works of Conlon Nancarrow and Gyorgy Ligeti. Part of the appeal of that music has to do with hearing a familiar instrument being ‘played’ in an unfamiliar fashion. For me there has always been something fascinating about the encounter of the unfamiliar with the familiar. I have long been an advocate of taking fresh approaches to existing instrumentation as much as I am an advocate of trying to develop new instruments, and being able to rethink the way in which, for example, an electric guitar can be used is very exciting. Each of the robotic devices involved in the performance of this music has its own specification which permits certain possibilities and excludes others – the robot guitar player for example can play much faster than a human ever could, but there is no amplitude control. In the same way that you do when you write music for a human performer, these attributes have to be borne in mind – and a particular range of musical possibilities corresponds to those attributes. Consequently, in this project familiar instruments are used in ways which till now have been impossible.” — Pitchfork
AC/DC Heading Into the Studio: AC/DC singer Brian Johnson told a Florida radio station that the band will be going into the studio in Vancouver this May. The band is also planning a 40th anniversary tour for later this year. — Rolling Stone
Tom Waits Pens Song For Bluesman John Hammond: John Hammond’s new album is called Timeless and includes a song Tom Waits wrote specifically for Hammond called “No One Can Forgive Me But My Baby.” “He came to a recording date I was doing in San Francisco in 1992,” Hammond said. “John Lee Hooker had sat in to do a duet with me, and Tom Waits appeared out of nowhere and said, ‘I have a song for you, man.’ It was about 20 minutes long, with everybody in the Bible coming down to the river. I said, ‘Gee, you know, it’s a great song, but I don’t think I could do anything like that.’ He said, ‘Oh, you don’t like that one?’ So he goes into the control room.” About ten minutes later, according to Hammond, Waits returns with a new song he’d just written. “So I did it,” Hammond said. “He had left by the time we completed it, and so I sent him a cassette of it. And I hadn’t heard from him for a while, so I called — and he had it on his answering machine. I guess he liked it.” — NPR
Spoon’s Britt Daniel Has A Second Side Project: Britt Daniel isn’t content to Lead Spoon and play guitar in Divine Fits. Now he’s got a third band, Split Single that includes Daniel on bass and backing vocals, frontman Jason Narducy (ex-Verbow, also of Bob Mould’s band) and Superchunk/Mountain Goats drummer Jon Wurster. The group’s debut album, Fragmented World, will be out April 1, 2014. Check out a trailor for the album below. — Pitchfork
Lost album from Johnny Cash: As I previously reported, Johnny Cash recorded an album with producer Billy Sherrill in the early ’80s but the album was shelved when Cash left Columbia Records in 1986. That will change on March 25, 2014 when the album, Out Among the Stars, will finally be released. Here’s another track off it. “I’m Moving On” Bincludes vocals from Waylon Jennings:
The Notwist Return With New Album: Close To The Glass is the new album from the German electro-pop band, The Notwist. Read more about it and listen to the whole thing at NPR’s First Listen. — NPR
Hip-Hop Collaboration: New song, “97.92,” from Sacramento’s Trash Talk and Brooklyn rappers Flatbush Zombies. — Stereogum
Plus a mini-documentary on Trash Talk from Pitchfork:
-– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-
Tom Waits has abandoned his Robert Wilson theatrical collaboration, “Death Car,” according to a spokesperson for Waits, but Waits remains involved with director Aaron Posner and Teller’s (of Penn & Teller) production of the Shakespeare play “The Tempest,” to which Waits and his wife Kathleen Brennan are contributing songs and music.
“Death Car” is based on the story of Bonnie and Clyde. The production was to premiere at the Royal Theater in Copenhagen on November 7, 2014, but has now been pulled from the Royal Theater’s 2014 schedule, according to the Danish newspaper Metroxpress.
Waits’ “agent” told the Royal Theater “he does not feel that he can complete the project as planned,” Metroxpress reported.
“It was a huge shock. It was completely unexpected,” the play’s producer Nicolai Vemming told Metroxpress.
“The problem is linked to the music,” Vemming said. “When all this being said, I am grateful to Tom Waits makes the assessment that he can not reach to complete on time, and that he will not deliver a bad product. He feels bad about it, but the decision is taken.”
Robert Wilson is still working on “Death Car,” which was also to be performed in Germany, Norway and The Netherlands.
Meanwhile, “The Tempest” will premiere at The Smith Center for Performing Arts in Las Vegas in early April of this year.
Experience Prospero’s wizardry as never before in this startling production, featuring magic created by Teller (of the legendary duo Penn & Teller). When shipwrecked aristocrats wash up on the shores of Prospero’s strange island, they find themselves immersed in a world of trickery and amazement, where Tom Waits’ Dust Bowl balladry and Teller’s magic animate the spirits and monsters.
-– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-
A demo tape that the owner claims is Tom Waits’ first recordings was sold at Recordmecca today for at least $4000.
The seven-song tape includes one that Tom Waits never rerecorded or released, “Tornado In My Soul.”
Here’s the info that was posted at Recordmecca:
An unreleased and undocumented 1971 Tom Waits demo tape, including the never recorded song “Tornado In My Soul.” This tape came from the collection of Waits’ first manager, Herb Cohen, with “Tom Waits Demos Tape 1″ on a card taped to the box front, and song titles in an unknown hand. The back of the box has crossed out song titles of tracks by the Michigan band The Litter.
The seven demos include the completely unknown song “Tornado In My Soul” and unreleased, alternate demo versions of tracks that appear on Waits’ debut Closing Time and The Early Years and The Early Years Vol. 2 cd‘s. The tracks are:
1. Pancho’s Lament – Unreleased version with spoken introduction, different lyric from The Early Years.
2. My Old 55 – Unreleased version with spoken introduction, piano backing instead of the guitar on The Early Years.
3. Tornado In My Soul – Unreleased and undocumented song.
4. Rockin’ Chair – Unreleased version with spoken and sung introduction and different lyric to The Early Years.
5. Virginia Avenue – Unreleased version with different lyric to The Early Years.
6. Rosie – Never released as a demo and different to Closing Time version.
7. Mockin’ Bird – Unreleased spoken introduction, similar to version on The Early Years Vol. 2 but possibly a different take.
To our knowledge, this tape is completely uncirculated and previously unknown. A truly unique and historic artifact from the earliest days of Waits’ recording career.
A professional digital transfer of the tape is included. Note: We are selling this as an artifact only, and no rights to release or duplicate this tape are included nor implied.
-– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-
Photo from Robert Wilson’s Instagram page of the Royal Danish Theater.
Tom Waits and Robert Wilson are staging a play, “Death car,” based on the story of Bonnie and Clyde, according to The Eyeball Kid.
The play is scheduled to Premiere on November 7, 2014 in Copenhagen.
Apparently they’re casting the play right now. This went up the other day on Robert Wilson’s Instagram page:
“#casting #BONNIE & #CLYDE with Tom Waits in #Copenhagen at the #Royal #Danish #Theatre”
Here’s The Eyeball Kid’s translation of a press release from the Danish Royal Theatre:
The production Death car reunites Tom Waits and Robert Wilson, who collaborated on productions like The black rider and Woyzeck, for the first time in 14 years.
Death car is inspired by the story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, a romantically involved couple of bankrobbers that defied authorities and caused a national media frenzy in the US in the 1930’s.
Their dramatic life is packed with feaurures that continue to fascinate present day audiences all over the world: a sheer lack of respect for banks and authorities, fast cars, weapons, violence, a love story, a desperate escape and their inevitable death.
The play is produced by Nicolai Vemming / UnlimitedArts in collaboration with the Royal Theatre and a number of international partners.
The play will move on to Germany, Norway and The Netherlands following the Copenhagen run, according to a Danish paper.
Blind Willie Johnson had a voice that could burn the skin off your back. When he sang he might as well been gargling with rocks. He made Howlin’ Wolf sound like Frank Sinatra. His gospel recordings are legendary. Most famous, perhaps, is “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground,” or maybe “John The Revelator.”
“Johnson’s music was charred with purgatorial fire — more than sixty years later, you can still smell the smoke on it,” wrote Francis Davis in his book, “The History of the Blues.”
Now a tribute album is in the works. Tom Waits is contributing covers of two songs: “Soul of a Man” and the amazing “John The Revelator.” Lucinda Williams checks in with “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” the Cowboy Junkies recorded “Jesus Coming Soon,” and there are contributions from the Blind Boys of Alabama, Luther Dickinson, Rickie Lee Jones, Sinead O’Connor and more.
To fund the project, producer Jeffrey Gaskill is using Kickstarter. For more of the story, or if you’re interested in checking out what you get for what you give, head to this Kickstarter page.