Kerouac-Kicks Joy Darkness – article for Borders’ Magazine
26/06/2011 § Leave a comment
Kerouac-Kicks Joy Darkness is a spoken-word tribute with music to the writings of Jack Kerouac through readings of his material (including a few previously unpublished pieces) by such Beat luminaries as Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and William Burroughs; alternative music figures such as Michael Stipe, Eddie Vedder, and Patti Smith; and actors like Johnny Depp and Matt Dillon. Here David Greenberg, co-creator of Rykodisc’s Voices spoken-word recordings series, describes some of the special circumstances that went into the creation of this landmark recording.
by David Greenberg
For Kerouac-Kicks Joy Darkness, I asked producer Jim Sampas (nephew of Kerouac and literary representative to the Kerouac estate) to take the listeners deep into Kerouac country. Instead of allowing artists to pick their favorite passages of Jack’s writings, which could have heavily weighted the release down with the well-worn passages from his famous fiction, Jim carefully selected the pieces to create an exploration of Kerouac’s many styles and methods of writing.
Kerouac wrote brief limned snatches of poetry (he called them “poems”), in addition to his long, breathless fiction (which he considered poetry even though they accumulated millions of words over hundreds of pages). Within his many notebooks, Kerouac took his hand to emulating the energy and bop joy he found in great jazz solos by writing “choruses” of poetry he called “blues.” He also detailed intricate recountings of dark, yet playful passages from his dreams in short snippets of thought bursts he called “dreams.” Kerouac took long excursions of thought in magazine articles as well. All of these styles have found their voice on Kerouac-Kicks Joy Darkness.
Sampas always knew that many of his musician friends were influenced by Jack’s writings, and he wanted to mix the two together to see if he could make it work. After viewing a concert Sampas produced which included Morhpine’s Mark Sandman and Jim Carroll in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I took the project to Rykodisc. A later concert held by NYU in the fall of 1995 became the site of the first recording session, with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman and Odetta joining the stage with Lee Ranaldo, Graham Parker and David Amram. The very last session for the album was literally recored at the last minute when the mastering process was halted so that Matt Dillon and bassist Joey Altruda could make their way down to This Way Studios in New York City to lay down their performance.
Sampas was allowed to delve into the archives of the estate of Jack and Stella Kerouac to pull a few unpublished pieces. Perhaps the most important piece is a larger work, entitled “America’s New Trinity Of Love: Dean, Brando, Presley” read by comedian Richard Lewis. Richard did his home work before going into the studio and laying down his indefatigable and expansive version of Jack’s perceptions of men, women, and a new way of loving. Lewis brings an actor’s sensibility to drag emotion and character out of the unspoken subtext to create a performance full of spontaneous energy and crackle.
The recording process was not without some strange convolutions. Allen Ginsberg was set to read all ten choruses of the unpublished “Brooklyn Bridge Blues” at the Town Hall Concert. Unfortunately, when being faxed to the poet that evening the last pages of the poem stuck together and only nine choruses arrived at Ginsberg’s office. Ginsberg notes this before his reading to leave a sense of mystery in the air as to how the poem finally ends up. Singer songwriter Eric Andersen signed up for the project just days later and wanted to read Kerouac in various places throughout New York City. I offered the 10th chorus to him if he could bring his DAT recorder to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge and read it there. His performance caps the release, finishing the poem cycle started by Ginsberg earlier in the program with a resigned and earnest delivery, blowing a blues over cars as they speed to the city and away toward Brooklyn over Roebling’s bridge.
[ed. note: Sadly this sentence is no longer true for so many reasons.] Kerouac-Kicks Joy Darkness (Rykodisc, 1997) is available for listening at all Borders Book Music Cafe stores. Look for this title in the “This and That” listening theme in our music stores.
[BTW, Here’s all the information included in the disc in very tiny type at the end of the booklet, coming after the complete text of all the Kerouacian writings. Very verbose texts—and complicated to boot—owing to both Kerouac’s way with words and our need to have every little snicket of punctuation that Jack hammered into place, all of which was somehow layed out very nicely by Ms. Barbara Longo. I believe Jim and I, with the whole shebang needing to fit into a CD booklet, dealt Barbara a possibly losing task that she winningly completed; not without some residual emotional fallout, which I will leave at that…a remark open-ended and dangling.]
KEROUAC-kicks joy darkness
Produced by Jim Sampas | Associate Producer: Lee Renaldo
Special thanks to John Sampas, literary representative, the Estates of Jack and Stella Kerouac, and to David Greenberg at Rykodisc. Kerouac legal representation: George Tobia, Jr., Burns & Levinson, Boston, Massachusetts
All paintings and drawings (except for “Skid Row Wine”), and the photograph on page 17, copyright 1995, 1997 the Estates of Jack and Stella Kerouac, reprinted with permission. All other photography by Allen Ginsberg, © copyright by Allen Ginsberg, courtesy of Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles (reprinted with permission). “Skid Row Wine” drawing by Ralph Steadman, © copyright 1996 Ralph Steadman, reprinted with permission
A&R Voices Series/Product Management: David Greenberg
Package design by Barbara Longo
Research by Sonya Kolowrat and Barbara Longo
Mastered by Danny Caccavo, This Way Studios, NYC
Thanks to: Rachel Reisman, Leah Singer, Catherine Nagy, David Stanford, Don Rose, Paul Dickman, Burns & Levinson, Michael Gottfried, Anthony Fitzpatrick, Anthony Sampatacacus, Claire Paicopolis, James G. Sampas, Betty Sampas, Helen Suprenant, Virginia Tobia, Lucy Brown, Sean Slade, Pete Minnelli, Deborah Fuller, Bruce Corckum, David Agnew, Dana Cook, David J./Love and Rockets, Rick Streicker, Paul Barclay, Gloria Boyce, Wendy Laister, James Grauerholz, Bob Rosenthol, Tim O’Heir, Ilana Mondschein, Gary Smith, Dan Gillian, Eileen Whelihan, Mike Leahy, Bertis Downs, Meredith Williams, Colleen Cumbs, Henry Wrenn-Meleck, Deborah Klein, Peter Leak, Ralph Steadman, Sarah Jackson/Sobel Weber Agency, Mary Kohl, Graham Parker, David Amram, Bill Morgan, Luce Strummer, Helen Kelly, New York University, Howie Altholtz, Peabody & Brown, The Poetry Project, Sterling Lord, Spine Records, Brian Dunton, Ray Farrell, Lowell Celebrates Kerouac!, Dennis McNally, Christopher, Meredith and everyone at Fort Apache, David Cook, Arnold Kim, Bob Holman, Bill Adler, Chris Whent, Raymond Foye, Len Freedman, Josh Blum, Rani Singh, Hillary Johnson, Shauna O’Brien, Greg Lapidus, Chris Porter, Kosmo Vinyl, Larry Zucker, The Town Hall in New York, The Middle East Cafe, Washington Square Films, Andrew Smiles, Ann Charters, Ron Whitehead (White Fields Press), Bob Sharrard, City Lights Books.
“Kerouac” (words by Mark Sandman, music by Mark Sandman & Billy Conway). Published by Pubco/Head With Wings Music (BMI). All rights for North & South America controJled and administered by Pubco. All rights for the rest of the world controlled and administered by Rykomusic Ltd. (PRS). Morphine appears courtesy of Rykodisc
“My Gang” (words by Jack Kerouac, music [“Field Recording # 1”] by Michael Stipe) Published by Duluoz Publishing, Inc. (ASCAP)/Night Garden Music (BMI) adm. by Warner Tamerlane Music. ℗ 1997 R.E.M. Athens/Ltd. Michael Stipe appears courtesy of Warner Bros. Records and R.E.M. Athens/ltd.
“Dream: Us kids swim off a gray pier …” Steven Tyler appears courtesy of Columbia Records
“Skid Row Wine” (words by Jack Kerouac, music by Maggie Estep, Mark Ashwil1, Tim Bradee, Louis Echavarria, Bill Bronson) Published by Duluoz Publishing, Inc. (ASCAP). Maggie Estep appears courtesy of Mouth Almighty/Mercury Records.
“Dream: On a sunny afternoon…” (words by Jack Kerouac, music by Helium) Published by Duluoz Publishing, Inc. (ASCAP)/Loud Pink Bird Songs (ASCAP). Helium appears courtesy of Matador Records.
“MacDougal Street Blues” (words by Jack Kerouac, music by Joe Strummer) Published by Duluoz Publishing, Inc (ASCAP)/EMI Virgin Music, Inc. (ASCAP).
“Brooklyn Bridge Blues” Allen Ginsberg appears courtesy of Mouth Almighty/Mercury Records.
“Hymn” (words by Jack Kerouac, music by Eddie Vedder, Campbell 2000 & Sadie 7) Published by Duluoz Publishing, Inc. (ASCAP)/Innocent Bystander (ASCAP)/Publisher Pending (BMI). Eddie Vedder appears courtesy of Epic Records.
“Old Western Movies” (words by Jack Kerouac, music by tomandandy) Published by Duluoz Publishing, Inc. (ASCAP)/andyandtom (SESAC).
“Silly Goofball Pomes” (words by Jack Kerouac, music by Gregory A. Hormel) Published by Duluoz Publishing, Inc. (ASCAP). Juliana Hatfield appears courtesy of Mammoth Records/Atlantic Records.
“The Moon” (words by Jack Kerouac, music by John Cale) Published by Duluoz Publishing, Inc. (ASCAP). John Cale appears courtesy of Hannibal Records, a Rykodisc label.
“Mad road, driving …” (words by Jack Kerouac, music by Come) Published by Duluoz Publishing, Inc. (ASCAP)/Weak Lung Music (BMI). Come appears courtesy of Matador Records.
“Letter 10 John Clellon Holmes” (words by Jack Kerouac, music by Lee Ranaldo and Dana Colley) Published by Duluoz Publishing, Inc. (ASCAP)/Sonik Tooth (BM!) adm. by Zomba Songs, Inc. Lee Ranaldo appears courtesy of DGC Records.
“Pome On Doctor Sax” (words by Jack Kerouac, music by Anna Domino) Published by Duluoz Publishing, Inc. (ASCAP).
“Mexico Rooftop” (words by Jack Kerouac, music by Rob Buck, Daniel Chauvain) Published by Duluoz Publishing, Inc. (ASCAP). Rob Buck appears courtesy of Geffen Records.
“The Last Hotel” (words by Jack Kerouac, music by Patti Smith) Published by Duluoz Publishing, Inc. (ASCAP). ℗ 1997 Arista Records, Inc. Patti Smith appears courtesy of Arista Records. Thurston Moore appears courtesy of DGC Records.
“Mexican Loneliness” (words by Jack Kerouac, music by Joe Gonzalez, Pablo Calogero, Joey Ahruda) Published by Duluoz Publishing, Inc. (ASCAP).
“Angel Mine” (words by Jack Kerouac, music by Inger Lorre) Published by Duluoz Publishing, Inc. (ASCAP). Jeff Buckley appears courtesy of Columbia Records.
℗ & © 1997 Rykodisc except as otherwise noted. All Rights Reserved.
Text from Pomes All Sizes, copyright 1992 the Estate of Jack and Stella Kerouac, John Sampas, Literary Representative. Previously unpublished texts copyright 1997 the Estate of Stella Kerouac, John Sampas, Literary Representative. Text from Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1940- 1956 copyright 1995 the Estate of Stella Kerouac, John Sampas, Literary Representative. Text from Book Of Blues, copyright 1995 the Estate of Stella Kerouac, John Sampas, Literary Representative. Textfrom Visions Of Cody, copyright 1972 the Estate of Jack Kerouac. “Ode To Jack” copyright 1997 Hunter S. Thompson. All rights reserved, used with permission.