Wednesday, March 19, 2008
William S. Burroughs: Uncommon Quotes
As deeply as William Burroughs' words lacerated my consciousness from exposure on the printed page, it wasn't until I finally heard him read that the tumblers all fell into place for me. The implacable rhythms, the dry-as-parchment humor, the impeccable timing, the flat Midwestern drawl as familiar as the lines in my farmer relatives' faces.
Many of Burroughs routines and audio experiments were released over the years on John Giorno's Giorno Poetry Systems label (many of which are now available as free downloads courtesy Ubu.com, or on this boxed set), but this is, as far as I know, the only full-length recording of a complete single reading ever commercially released. (A brief, edited excerpt from this performance appeared on the Giorno compilation Smack My Crack.)
The performance was dedicated to the recently-deceased Brion Gysin, a frequent collaborator of Burroughs', and the occasion finds ol' Bull Lee at his most mordant, insightful and heartfelt, his routines burnished like a well-worn cane.
This reading, nearly an hour in length, was recorded September 11, 1986 at Fort Worth, Texas' now-defunct Caravan of Dreams, a one-time haven for experimental music and performance that had hosted numerous events featuring Burroughs, Gysin, and Ornette Coleman, and originally released this recording on its own label.
Many of Burroughs' recordings have been reissued over the years, but this one has been out of print for decades. If there's a demand I might make other rare recordings available, such as the abridged books-on-tape recording of Naked Lunch; leave a comment if you want to see it here.
Download Uncommon Quotes here; scans of accompanying booklet (with essay by Robert Palmer) here.