Saturday, 17 January 2009

Born to Go

One of the most important writers and thinkers of the twentieth-century?
Immoral pornographer?
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


michaelDUSTdevil said...

got to love the man... pure genius... Mxxx

Get a Haircut & Disappear said...

Thanks so much, this is fantastic. Incidentally, I have the same photo at the top as my wallpaper for my computer and for a split second something weird had happened.

roy rocket said...

Ah, those mysterious forces...

His [bad] spirit lives on; a true survivor

Anonymous said...

Yeah, coulda placed this comment at the most recent post but, since there's a new dealer of aural addictions, why not stick it with the junkie's trib. The plural - please note - was used, as our various tastes overlap quite a bit - and I thank you: Thanks for the even greater push toward having to acquire that 1TB as the system strains with each KB incoming. [electronic wheezing noises] Thanks for the unending agony of the continued realization that there is not enough time in four lifetimes, let alone the one we each are allotted, to preview even a miniscule amount of what has been acquired. Yes, just when one is becoming content to wallow futilely in the belief that the end of all this compiling may be near, that the cure may be in sight, Along Comes Mary - or Roy, or Whoever's Next - to slap your face and by domino effect, your mind, into harsh reality. Thanks for the wake up call to sleep some more.


PS. The word verification for this comment was 'ingests' - nice to share.

roy rocket said...

Your paradoxical synthesis is perplexing. To sleep: perchance to dream. But as De Quincey noted, those who live with cattle, dream of cattle.
Shanti, roy

J. Sterling Ellison said...

While I had no trouble d/ling the Burroughs reading, I couldn't, after many attempts, get the Laurie Anderson file. Thanks, though, for this post. The more WSB the better.

roy rocket said...

Just tested the link and all seems to be ship-shape...
Maybe try again; any continued problems and I'll re-up it, but I think it's okay now; maybe it was suffering from a temporary glich.
Regards, roy

Anonymous said...

link's fine mate & cheers for this,i missed the radio 4 doc first time round.x

K. Telle said...

I wonder if you've heard of the new doc? Here's a link to my blog post about it. The film is very good.

There is also an interview w/ the director here:


roy rocket said...

Thanks for the nod.

The BBC showed a fairly decent doc a few years back - part of the Arena series, if you know British TV - but this project looks interesting.
I wonder where it's at now?


edlorado said...

thanks for sharing!