more to come...
|THE BRILL BUILDING
NOTHING IS LOST
Around the same time The Fugs were putting the final Swiftian touches on such timeless classics as Saran Wrap and CocaCola Douche in some dank Lower East Side hovel, Carole King and Gerry Goffin were huddled in a tiny room deep in the bowels of the greatest songwriting Mecca in the western world - The Brill Building - writing He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss), a song just as subversive and dangerous as anything bellowing forth from the jowls of their proto-Beat brethren downtown. It was a brutal love song made all the more brutal by Phil Spector's cinematic production. Always at his best when evil was loitering nearby, he took a desolate voice (unmovable in the conviction that the man who'd beaten her had done nothing wrong) and wrapped it in a shimmering shroud of isolation. Spector's netherworld genius was in full bloom here. This song had long been drawing me down deep, where the silvery lines of Love and Right and Wrong recklessly criss-cross like razors on a Saul Bass movie poster, dangling at the edges for a moment before racing down into the dark. Only a great song can open such an abyss. Only a great song can make us want to dive in. And I wanted it bad.
Fast-forwarding to 1984, I find myself onstage with The Fugs ("The 1984 Fugs" - their first performance in 15 years) at the terrifyingly filthy Bottom Line Cabaret in NYC. Every known species of vermin called this place home. Backstage before the show, in a dressing room sardine-packed with artists and Beat heroes and groupie-cum-novelists, it seemed like half the cockroaches north of the equator were drag-racing across the walls. The 60's had spilled out onto the floor like syrup and no one dared move an inch. It seemed as though Everyone was there. Most of them are long gone now. There was Julian Beck looking like death, Burroughs looking like a pillar of salt, Corso looking like a clown, Gysin looking oh so stoned, beautiful Tuli under his Morning Morning glow, Abbie Hoffman under a halo of paranoia... Everyone. The whole wrecking crew and all the bit players. The counter-culture trenches had been torn open for one last group-grope, and all the once-and-future ghosts were rushing in, jockeying for position. The famous ones, the infamous ones, and the unsung great ones for whom fame proved ever elusive. All of them, equal now.
I sat in my corner, silent amongst the demi-gods, watching and listening. The room sounded like a Firesign Theater record. The cockroaches had invaded the potato chips and pretzels. I tried to kill the biggest one, but Tuli stopped me. "They gotta eat, too!", he said. Then a strange face appeared at the threshold, dark and sullen. Not a beautiful face, but there was something oddly beautiful in its sadness. How strange it is that the saddest things are so often the most beautiful.
A silence fell hard on the room. Men stood up and offered their chairs. Women averted their eyes. Like a Queen she floated about as if on wheels, and like the tail of a long white wedding gown on a rainy day, she dragged her silences behind her in the mud, as the guests looked on in pity. Soon someone was whispering to me in a tone deep with reverence; "Kramer, I'd like you to meet Jan Kerouac". We chatted mindlessly for a few minutes. Nice to meet you. How are you. I've been traveling. How long have you known Tuli. Isn't he the greatest. I don't stay in any one place too long. It makes me nervous. Are you doing any more shows after tonight. I like the road. It's comforting, I guess. How's the food here. Four shows in two nights. Wow. Wow. Well, I have to go now. Nice to meet you. Oh, I already said that. OK. Bye.
And at that moment, as though she had intuitively felt that I could stand it no more, she moved on. That dense pit of sorrow in her eyes, buried so deep, yet swimming so joyously on the surface. She was a salmon on her way upstream, to that shallow place where everything happens all at once. I saw the whole thing playing out in my head. A screw tightened behind my heart. Up comes that same old abyss, accompanied by that same old echo... He Hit Me. Poor Jan. But it wasn't some lover who'd beaten her down. Life itself had punched her lights out. I tried not to think about it, but my brain got stuck there like a fog. It wasn't going anywhere. Then the fog lifted up and above the room, and when the cloudy fingers were done brushing the dark chords away, she was gone.
Ginsberg leaned toward me and cleared his throat as once again the room fell into reverence like a giant falling into mud. "You know, The 60's always held the most violent and lasting creative and social upheavals, in government, in the arts, in everything. No matter which century you were studying. The 1760's, the 1860's, the 1960's. Just look it up!", he howled.
Or was it Tuli Kupferberg who said that. No, it was definitely Allen. Damn. I wish i could be sure. Everything's criss-crossing again...everything so blurry now. How I miss Tuli and his tome-home on Avenue of the Americas. All those cobwebs of books, and not a single one unread! Thousands upon thousands of them, stacked over 50 years high and holding up the ceilings! Rockets of words, shattering the heavens like Pynchon's bloody arc, screaming across the sky! Pioneers! O Pioneers! All those beautiful books...Who is reading them now!
Each of these ten immortal songs was originally released between 1960 and 1966 - a golden, hermetically sealed pinpoint in time, sandwiched by the end of the witch hunts of the 50's and the psychedelic dawn of the Summer Of Love, 1967 - when deep inside a nondescript office building on Broadway just gutters away from the pimps and pushers and peepshows, a handful of very special people wrote some very special music that will never ever die, and the cultural monuments they created there will far outlast the building they wrote them in.
1960-1966. A lot happened to the world in those seven years, and a lot happened to me in the seven years it took to complete this LP. Everything Changes. Nothing is Lost.
-KRAMER, May 2012