Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Jack Kerouac, Joe Strummer Collaboration

Jack Kerouac is one of those authors whose work is highly polarizing: people either love it or loathe it. I'm squarely in the former camp. I first picked up Kerouac's breakthrough novel, 1957's On the Road, when I was in my early 20s. Like countless young people who read it before me, I found the novel inspiring: its loose, stream-of-consciousness prose colorfully weaving the tale of a cross-country adventure in an America that no longer exists. It was wildly romantic.
A young Jack Kerouac, on a New York City street in the 1950s.
Image via Tumblr

After On the Road, I went on to read The Subterraneans, Desolation Angels, and The Dharma Bums. (I also tore through Joyce Johnson's Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir, in which she provides intimate details about a lesser known side of Kerouac - a perspective that could only have been gained by being his lover, which Johnson was for a brief period in the late 1950s.) In addition to these and other works, Kerouac was also a prolific writer of poetry. Many of his poems found their way onto a spoken word tribute album, titled Kerouac: Kicks Joy Darkness.

Released in April 1997, Kerouac: Kicks Joy Darkness features numerous noteworthy artists, each of them offering a unique interpretation of the Beat writer's work. One contributor to the album was Joe Strummer, the late musician, singer, and songwriter who's best known for being the co-founder of, and driving force behind, the British punk rock band The Clash. For Kerouac: Kicks Joy Darkness, Strummer added a beat-laden musical track to an actual recording of Kerouac reading one of his poems, "MacDougal Street Blues." This collaboration of sorts, which has a duration of two minutes and forty-eight seconds, is the ninth track on the album. You can listen to it in the YouTube clip below. The words to "MacDougal Street Blues" are posted below the video.

"MacDougal Street Blues"
by Jack Kerouac

Written in Jim Hudson's window lookin' out on MacDougal
Summer of 1954, when he left me his whole apartment
He went away with his girl someplace.

Parade among Images
Images Images Looking
Looking - 
And everybody's turning around
& pointing -
Nobody looks up
and In
Nor listens to Samantabhadra's 
Unceasing Compassion.

No Sound Still
S s s s t t
Of Sea Blue Moon
Holy X-Jack

Night - 
Instead yank & yucker
For pits & pops

Look for crashes
I know, sweet hero,
Enlightenment has Come
Rest in Still

In the Sun Think
Think Not
Think no more Lines -
Straw hat, hands a back
He exam in atein distinct
Rome prints -
Trees prurp
and saw

The Chessplayers Wont End
Still they sit
Millions of hats
In underwater foliage
Over marble games
The Greeks of Chess

Plot the Pop
of Mate
King Queen

- I know their game,
their elephant with the pillar
With the pearl in it,
Their gory bishops
And Vital Pawns -
Their devout frontline
Sacrificial pawn shops
Their stately king
Who is so tall
Their Virgin Queens
Pree ing to Knave
The Night Knot
- Their Bhagavad Gitas
of Ignorance,
Krishna's advice,

The game begins -

Go home, Man

- So tho I am wise
I have to wait like

Lets forget the strollers
Forget the scene
Lets close our eyes
Let me instruct Thee
Here is dark Milk
Here is Sweet Mahameru
Who will Coo
To you Too

As he did to me
One night at three
When I w k e i t
P l e e
Knelt to See
Realit ee
And I said
'Wilt thou protect me
for 'ver?'

And he in his throatless
deep mother hole
Replied ' H o m '

For more on the tribute album Kerouac: Kicks Joy Darkness, go to THIS LINK.

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