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The Lion For Real - Allen Ginsberg

Part Number AG-01
The Lion For Real - Allen Ginsberg
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The Lion For Real

Track Previews

 

Contributing Artists

The Lion For Real
Allen Ginsberg

With

  • Mark Bingham
  • Michael Blair
  • Ralph Carney
  • Bill Frisell
  • Beaver Harris
  • Arto Lindsay
  • Lenny Pickett

Produced by

  • Hal Willner
  • and others

Executive Producer

  • Michael Minzer For Paris Productions
Produced by: Hal Willner
Executive Producer: Michael Minzer
Mark Bingham appears courtesy of Dog Gone Records, Inc.
Bill Frisell appears courtesy of Elektra/Asylum/Nonesuch Records
Arto Lindsay appears courtesy of Virgin Records America, Inc.
Lenny Pickett appears courtesy of Carthage Records
Rob Wasserman appears courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
Recorded and mixed by Rob Wasserman
Recorded at A&R Studios, New York
Additional recording at Bearsville Studios, New York and Sorcerer Sound Studios, New York
Mixed at Bearsvill Studios, New York

Sleeve Notes

The Lion For Real
Produced by: Hal Willner
Executive Producer: Michael Minzer

1. Scribble (0:48)

Words: A. Ginsberg / Music: M. Blair
Allen Ginsberg, as published in COLLECTED POEMS 1947-1980, Published by May King Poetry Music (BMI)/Copyright Control
Casual note, a long melancholy affectionate 1956 thought about the late irascible Bay Area anarchist Poet, Kenneth Rexroth, might be 4 AM in the soul that Michael Blair's music mirrors.

2. Complaint Of The Skeleton To Time (3:02)

Words: A. Ginsberg / Music: G. Windo
Allen Ginsberg, as published in COLLECTED POEMS 1947-1980, Published by May King Poetry (BMI)/Copyright Control
1949 lyric influenced by Thomas Wyatt's My Lute, Awake! & Wm. Butler Yeats' Crazy Jane-part of The Shrouded Stranger of the Night concept conceived same time as Kermac's Dr. Sax. Gary Windo's free jazz sounds a variant of drunken Mexican Day of Dead dancing skeleton band.

3. XMas Gift (1:49)

Words: A. Ginsberg / M. Bingham
Allen Ginsberg, as published in COLLECTED POEMS 1947-1980, Published by May King Poetry Music (BMI)/Copyright Control
The calm Princetonian world of XX Century science, a hint of Psychedelic Cosmic Consciousness discussing the Universe's origin (as Buddhist wd say 'Unborn'), a flash of comfy Country Club and odd awakening to the Bomb 1972. I was too Shy to rebuke kind Mr. Einstein for this hideous karma. Mark Bingham's strains carry this literal dream.

4. To Aunt Rose (3:29)

Words: A. Ginsberg / Music: M. Ribot
Allen Ginsberg, as published in COLLECTED POEMS 1947-1980, Published by May Kind Poetry Music (BMI)/Knockwurst Music (ASCAP) admin. By Bug Music
A memory flash 1958 Paris. My favorite Aunt Rose (19009-1940) took car of me weekends when my mother was ill-Books named are my late father Louis Ginsberg's. It was a big event to publish a volume of poetry those days! Rose Gaidemak died of septicemia. Note delicate music box time travel invention by Marc Ribot.

5. The Lion For Real (5:44)

Words: A. Ginsberg / Music: G. Windo
Allen Ginsberg, as published in COLLECTED POEMS 1947-1980, Published by May King Poetry Music (BMI) Copyright Control
Sound effects by Richard Fussco (thanks to WDST; Woodstock, NY)
'Be mute for me, Contemplative Idol': epigraph from Tristan Corbiere's last stanza, Rhapsody of a Deaf Man. Retrospective account of a .mystical experience' 1948 described elsewhere (Paris Review interviews: Writers at Work 3'd Series, Penguin, NY 1986), the Lion representing Divine Presence. I then thought it necessary to break thru the wall of reality & confront God Eternity Death face to face. Five years later Tibetan Lama Dudjom Rinpoche advised me, 'If you see something horrible, don't cling to it; if you see something beautiful, don't cling to it.' Ironic Quatrain structure switching to prayer last stanza roughly follows Corbiere's poem's dynamics. Gary Windo's circus sax announces the poem's burlesque symbolism, Beaver Harris's drum follows the drama.

6. Refrain (3:29)

Words: A. Ginsberg / Music: Michael Blair
Allen Ginsberg, as published in COLLECTED POEMS 1947-1980, Published by May King Poetry Music (BMI) Copyright Control
Among the earliest writing in this suite, echoing late Yeats' style. "Shadow changes into bone,"was my Kerouackian motto 1948, intending to say that eternal prophetic intuition (shadow) will turn out to be real (bone). Having heard Blake's voice I was headed for the booby-hatch for a season. Michael Blair's arrangement's midnight reflectiveness fits this rhyme's mood & meter.

7. The Shrouded Stranger (3:15)

Words: A. Ginsberg / Music: Marc Ribot
Allen Ginsberg, as published in COLLECTED POEMS 1947-1980, Published by May King Poetry Music (BMI)/Knockwurst Music (ASCAP) admin. by Bug Music
A Blakean Lyric, drawn from a childhood boogeyman sex dream under Paterson, N.J. choo-choo train Broadway overpass, my best 1949 rhymed poem, Kerouac liked the genius of "I hide & wait like a naked child/Under the bridge my heart goes wild." Marc Ribot's setting captures the railroad shufflebones wispy phantom rhythm - rill this version I never realized the stranger's gasping graveyard groan was a Hungry Ghost's hopeless cry for sexual help.

8. Gregory Corso's Story (2:17)

Words: A. Ginsberg / Music: Bill Frisell
Allen Ginsberg, as published in COLLECTED POEMS 1947-1980, Published by May King Poetry Music (BMI)/Fritz-Tone Music (BMI)
A little anecdote the poet Corso told me around 1951, Bill Frisell's delicate setting turns around this memory of buried innocence.

9. Cleveland, The Flats (2:58)

Words: A. Ginsberg / Music: R. Carney
Allen Ginsberg, as published in COLLECTED POEMS 1947-1980 Published by May King Poetry Music (BMI)/Copyright Control
Spoken originally to tapemachine driving thru ephemeral Cleveland's Industrial flats June 1966, bewilderment at 'The Fall of America' in Vietnam Wartime, what will future generations think? The collage concludes with Mantra to Buddha's human aspect as Sakya family wiseman, followed by Highest Perfect Wisdom Mantra: 'Gone gone totally gone totally gone over the top, wakened mind, So, ah! ' -Ralph Carney's setting fits free-verse open form modem poetry style to variable melancholy cadenced musical phrasing.

10. The End (2:04)

Words: A. Ginsberg / Music: M. Ribot
Allen Ginsberg, as published in COLLECTED POEMS 1947-1980, Published by May King Poetry Music (BMI)/Knockwurst Music (ASCAP) admin. by Bug Music
A psychedelic condensation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, scary & somewhat theistic in conception, in continuous rhythm as if there were a great being like Father Fisheye at the end or bottom of the 1960 Universe. Marc Ribot's music's appropriately eerie.

11. Stanzas: Written At Night In Radio City (5:07)

Words: A. Ginsberg / Music: L. Pickett
Allen Ginsberg, as published in COLLECTED POEMS 1947-1980, Published by May King Poetry Music (BMI)/Lenny Pickett Music (ASCAP)
I was working graveyard shift 1949 as copy boy Associated Press office writing midnight stanzas, Thomas Wyatt mode, analyzing money, sex, hipness, heroism etc. somewhat uncannily prophesying 'back to the Land' & Beat fame. Lenny Pickett built sophisticated multiple wind instrument cadenzas timed around my one-shot solo recitation he took home from studio to work with.

12. Sunset (1:42)

Words: A. Ginsberg / Music: L. Pickett
Allen Ginsberg, as published in COLLECTED POEMS 1947-1980 Published by May King Poetry Music (BMI)/Fritz-Tone Music (BMI)
Written riding on Susquehanna train N.Y. to New Jersey, newly out of mental hospital visiting home in Paterson in 1949 one dusk, realizing a sad gentle fact that night here brings day elsewhere on the Planet. Bill Frisell muses into sunrise with clear birdsong.

13. Hum Bom! (4:00)

Words: A. Ginsberg / Music: S. Swallow
Allen Ginsberg, as published in COLLECTED POEMS 1947-1980, Published by May King Poetry music (BMI)/Wonderbuns, Inc. (BMI) admin. by Mayflower Music
Written at Atlanta 1971 interracial Vietnam Peace Protest, based on Shivite ganja-smoker mantra to Creator/Destroyer, performed as sound poem 1984 at Folk City. Don Cherry alchemized my complaining downer cry 'Whom Bomb?' by turning it around, "You don't wanna bomb! Who Said Bomb?" & I picked up how to transmute the bomb fear mode to straightforward constructive suggestion: "We don't bomb.' Steve Swallow surprised me, sophisticating raw paranoia into laid-back disco propaganda.

14. Kral Majales (5:11)

Words: A. Ginsberg / Music: M. Bingham
Allen Ginsberg, as published in COLLECTED POEMS 1947-1980, Published by May King Poetry Music (BMI)/Copyright Control
I was elected King of May 1965 as poem describes, I was kicked out of Prague, wrote this on airplane to England; same week found myself in Croyden Hotel room with Dylan & the Beatles, later stood on Thames Embankment watching poet Dylan flash Subterranean Homesick Blues key phrases on display cards for his historic Dont Look Back movie camera.
This poem's closest to poetic ideal of a majestic cadenced proclamation. Ralph Carney's Circle of Fifths continuously evolves in horns' circular breathing (like Australian Aborigines' Didgerey Doo) matching voice-text power to make the most perfect poetry music recording I've done- unobstructed exaltation, every syllable chanted conscious.

15. Guru (3:30)

Words: A. Ginsberg / Music: S. Swallow
Allen Ginsberg, as published in COLLECTED POEMS 1947-1980, Published by May King Poetry Music (BMI)/Wonderbuns Inc. (BMI) admin. by Mayflower Music
Brief poem writ rising from a summer afternoon nap on Primrose Hill's grass, overlooking London's misted skyline 1965. Steve Swallow's music suggests the same galactic vastness of Space & Time. Listen hard, we buried the 'Guru' in the music.

16. Ode To Failure (2:45)

Words: A. Ginsberg / Music: M. Blair
Allen Ginsberg, as published in COLLECTED POEMS 1947-1980, Published by May King Poetry Music (BMI)/Copyright Control
The most recent poem (1980) on this record. Michael Blair's music changes with shiftings of thought, & punctuates my phrasing. Whitman from Song of Myself: "Vivas to those who have fail'd/And to those whose war-vessels sank in the sea!...Not a mutineer walks handcuff'd to jail but I am handcuff'd to him and walk by his side,/I am less the jolly one there, and more the silent one with sweat on my twitching lips.' Vladimir Mayakovsky: "Die, my verse, die, like the rank & File,/as our unknown, unnumbered, fell/in storming heaven" (At Me Top of My Voice, 1930. Tr. Herbert Marshall). Yes I failed, everyone born dies, accepting failure makes success of life.

17. C'mon Jack (2:42)

Words: A. Ginsberg / Music: S. Swallow
Allen Ginsberg, as published in COLLECTED POEMS 1947-1980, Published by May King Poetry Music (BMI)/Wonderbuns, Inc. (BMI) admin. by Mayflower Music
Prairie Prince, Ree Styles, Joel "Jet" Tornabene, Michael McLure, Todd Rundgren, Vince "No Problem" Wellnick
A slight poem, erotic fantasy 1976, troublesome honest journal notation I prized for its objective humor and buried it among 837 pages of Collected Poems. I first spoke it at a Naropa Institute reading with the Ven. Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, afterward asked him what he thought considering our motto 'First thought best thought.' -He said, thoughtfully, that I might be careful when reading such poems in some public situations since this truthfulness might provoke ignorant aggression. I was a little jolted when Steve Swallow had the wit to score it as a laid back sophisticated disco number slyly turning up the heat on this genre in LA. to include Todd Rundgren's back beat handclap.
As this Note is written, a more traditional text, the poem Howl, is at issue in a constitutional challenge to one Sen. Jesse Helms' recent law directing Federal Communications Commission to prohibit any work supposed by them 'Indecent' from aethereal broadcast over Radio-TV.

Producer Notes

During the summer of 1986 I met Michael Minzer who runs Paris Records in Dallas. Michael always had a major interest in literature and produced many concerts and recordings of poetry and music. He was looking for someone to produce an album with Allen Ginsberg for his company - Michael had already recorded Allen performing Blake's "Nurses Song" with Steven Taylor and the Garland Chamber Symphony for a compilation album "Made Up in Texas"(1986) and was ready to record a full album with Allen. Familiar with some of my multi-artist tribute productions, Michael thought I'd be the right person to do this project.

I knew much of Allen's work. I've seen him read from his works a number of times and owned a few of his recordings including "Kaddish" (1963) on Atlantic Records, "First Blues" (1982) a double album on John Hammond's label, and "Howl" (1959) on Fantasy. Those records worked wonderfully in their own way (basically documenting the moments) - but I felt that this record should be something different. Ken Nordine's "Word Jazz" records were spoken word LPs, yet came across as music albums. I wondered if an album with Allen could do the same thing. It was a challenging project and always looking to get involved in potentially dangerous situations, I took Michael's offer.

At the first meetings, Allen seemed suspicious. He obviously had gone through some strange experiences with making records before, and that I had only some general conceptual ideas didn't really help. A few months later an album that I produced for Marianne Faithfull ("Strange Weather") was released and Marianne played the record for Allen at the Naropa Institute in Colorado where they were both teaching. Allen liked the album and with some encouragement from Marianne, he became enthusiastic about our project. Shortly thereafter an approximate recording period was scheduled.

To start, both Minzer and I read Allen's complete works, now easily available in two volumes by Harper & Row. We each made a list of about twenty poems that we thought would work well with music. Allen picked about eighty. One night he read almost all these to me in his apartment accompanied by a neighbor screaming out of his window to shut up. We then decided on about fifty poems to consider. Next I called about a dozen of my favorite composer/musicians that I felt would be right for the project, gave some his collected poems, and invited them to A&R Studios in New York to hear Allen record.

Ginsberg read poems that we picked out, with additional requests from the musicians, for about six hours in the studio while we sat in the control room - an amazing night. We gave the evening's tape copies to musicians and invited them to pick about three poems and compose music. We met separately later that week and picked the best poems for each to work on.

The week that we spent recording went extremely well. Each night everyone would arrive between seven and eight in the evening and pieces would be presented by the composer, rehearsed and recorded with Allen reading the work live. Then we'd go to the next composition. After the first performance broke the ice ("Refrain"), everyone's nervousness disappeared and the sessions went by quickly and smooth. We averaged four poems recorded each night. Character contrasts were great, from an insane Gary Windo arranged number to a beautiful Steve Swallow composition within a few hours; personalities from Beaver Harris to Arto Lindsay would float in and out of songs. Allen, who was never quite in a situation like this before, adapted quite well and kept everyone's spirits high. At the end of the week, we had twenty-one numbers recorded, of which we decided to complete all but one.

Chris Blackwell and Kim Buie of Island Records heard the results and immediately wanted to release it to start a series of spoken word great poet/musician collaborations on their newly formed Jones label. After a few sequence changes and interesting debates on what tracks to delete, the record was finished.

Thanks go to everyone associated with this project. Of special mention is Joel Tornabene who put Michael Minzer and myself together, Joe Ferla for being alive, Fran Tose for her help at the start of the album, Marianne Faithfull for her valuable friendship, and especially Allen Ginsberg for putting himself and his art in our world and taking the chance. I still don't know what the reaction will be, but hope the enjoyment that went into the record shows.

I'll be seeing you.
Hal Willner

  • Artist: Allen Ginsberg
  • Label: Paris Records
  • Produced By: Hal Willner
  • Executive Producer: Michael Minzer For Paris Productions
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