The Godfather of the dark side of American culture?
The last epitaph in this list is the one Laurie Anderson used to profile William Burroughs in the excellent programme made for British radio, Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted.
Anderson narrates, but not in a formal manner; there’s no ‘Burroughs was born in…’ kind of stuff; she merely comments and assists with continuity; finding themes and threads of meaning in the selected clips and readings, which make up a good 80% of the half-hour programme.
The premise that Burroughs influenced many who followed in his wake is reiterated by sampling Bowie, Patti Smith and Mr. Lindsey Anderson: Lou Reed, as well as all manner of other musical sequences and noise and juxtaposing it with Burroughs’s clipped readings; creating a quixotic hallucinatory soundscape; cut-up-like, but remaining coherent enough to catch and follow insightful routines; such as the British Royal Family having to prove their worth by being forced to live in a semi in Darlington.
Concluding with the suggestion that the results be shown on television.
I wonder if Sue Townsend or John de Mol ever heard that routine.
The programme makes for an interesting introduction to Burroughs's work; but is really targeted at those who are more familiar with his art, making for a great accompaniment to the writer's other recorded works and experiments in sound.
The other recording available here was captured in 1982 at the Hacienda club in Manchester, as part of the Burroughs showcase The Final Academy, organised by David Dawson, Roger Ely and Genesis P-Orridge.
All manner of Burroughs and Beat related happenings were part of the show, including films, poetry readings and visual art installations, but the highlight of course was an appearance and performance by the literary outlaw himself; with his unmistakable drawl adding so much emphasis and onomatopoeic depth of character to the written word.
The excerpts he chose to perform - full of satire, deadpan wit and many familiar Burroughs' characters: Dr. Benway, Daddy Longlegs, the Do-Rights and the Do-Wrongs, Kim Carson, The Crying Gun, The Priest, The Blind Gun and The Wild Fruits: the craziest most deranged bunch of gun-slingers you'll ever encounter, straight off the freshly inked pages of his then latest tome: The Place of Dead Roads, the best damn western ever written (sorry McCarthy, but you just don't cut it) - segue effortlessly into one another; allowing the author to free associate with his words; generally mix it up, and have some fun.
Always a defender of the rights of the individual - whether that meant carrying a gun or shooting up in privacy - Burroughs provocatively moralizes about victim-less crime, drug use and private sexual behaviour; as well as touching on his favourite themes of addiction, violence, hypocrisy and control.
The visual omission doesn't remove anything from the enjoyment of this recording, as Burroughs wasn't really known for his stage craft or live antics.
He sits at a desk and reads like a news reader or anchor man; but his delivery is totally unlike anyone from Fox News.
But what he has to say is just as sinister.
What is not seen is the ever so familiar junky tic; the momentary grin; the death held grimace; the sneer lasting a tenth of a second, muscular synergy forcing the pursed lips to stretch and elongate momentarily across the face before rapidly returning to the dead-like default position.
(Interestingly, Cobain had noticeably adopted this tic; evident in the interviews closest to that moment he decided to vent the top part of his body.)
However, the most important thing remains: the wonderfully cynical, delineative language he masterfully created; his voice allowing the beholder to experience more visual stimulus than can ever be captured on a film or DVD.
Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted - A Something Else Production for BBC Radio 4, Presented by Laurie Anderson.
Ripped from DVD @320kbs, first broadcast March 2008.
Length: 28'06" - 64.3MB
Get it here
Burroughs at the Hacienda - ripped from The Final Academy DVD (2002) @320kbs.
Length: 35'59" - 82.3MB
Get it here