Monday, June 05, 2006

Fiftieth Anniversary of Allen Ginsberg's Howl

I heard NPR celebrating this anniversary last weekend. They even found the earliest known audiotape of Ginsberg reciting it, some years after it was composed. Of the no doubt many parodies of the poem, my favorite is this, from the liner notes to Steely Dan's Alive in America album:

I saw the best musicians of my generation
--maybe not the best but plenty good believe me--
splattering their illegible scrawls on the fatal last pages
of criminally exploitative recording contracts
beneath the gaze of predatory mobbed up executives
regarding with displeasure the sheepish grin
of their own helpless attorney
who deserted their beloved new york metropolitan area
and tried their luck on the coast
where they couldn't even get a decent slice of pizza
who slunk off with their paltry advances
into the alien streets of west l.a.
or back to their oppressive little cell
with its vile rmi piano
who pounded away at painfully arch pop ditties
thick with already antiquated jazz chords
who forced hirsute bar-band players to learn the tunes
as if they actually liked this kind of stuff
then into the sad studio
for a mighty ten week flogging
who emerged triumphant, flawless mixes in hand,
only to discover that all was for nothing
unless they would drag themselves
from the twin cities to dixie and back
performing for intoxicated teenage boys,
yelling "boogie, boogie, we want to boogie!"
who risked life and limb in toxic all-night diners
spitting takeout meat and milkshake
on the walls of overlit elevators,
who sucked on thin crumbled joints of cheap mexican pot
sharing with stale groupies their perfunctory buzzes
opening for heavyweights like elton and sha-na-na
trapped in dressing rooms with alcoholic brits
and scary blues bands from texas
who embarrassed their species in airports and motels
annoying overworked stewardesses of a certain age
abusing the goodwill of sleepy bellboys
who straggled back to l.a. with busted equipment
only to transmit the clap to their poor girlfriends
who belatedly discovered that touring was too stressful
and then sat in nate and al's
with their blue-blazered booking agent
and their then-manager and maybe someone else
discussing future shows paying in the low four figures
who saw themselves and former band-mates
each go on to something bigger and better
the doobie brothers, boz scaggs, a season in hell,
the computer business, yuppie manhattan,
hawaii, the big roundup, whatever--

My favorite line from Ginsberg is actually from Norman Podhoretz's Ex-Friends. Ginsberg shouts at him from an apartment window, at the beginning of the Sixties: "We'll get you through your children!"


  1. quite a development do you think this will get worse

    Hamas Militants Storm Palestinian TV Facility

  2. So long as they're fighting each other and not blowing up Israeli commuter buses, I don't much care.


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