Thursday, September 17, 2009

"Jim says, 'Some destinies should not be delivered"

I don't know why this one bothers me so much; I haven't been paying much attention to his work these many years. The fact is, though, Jim Carroll seemed about due for a wider appreciation, re-appraisal... television commercials and movie cameos, like William Burroughs got. Even just listening to his music, again, it's striking, how in excess of the rewards he received his talent was.

One thing that really bothers me is how all the obits call him a punk-rocker or some such thing. From his early work with the St. Mark's Poetry Project on, his style is that of a post-, or neo-Beat poet. Jim never seemed to me to have that loser charisma that was so engaging in the Punks. He was a real poet, and he took words very seriously -- also unlike the Punks. Saying that he had more than a passing relationship with Punk is like calling Leonard Cohen a folk-singer.

Jim's musical roots were deep in the soil of the '60s -- The Rolling Stones and The Velvet Underground, for example, and a lot of metal-lite, like Steppenwolf and Blue Oyster Cult. I certainly hope to show a little bit of that with this post. The first song is "Day And Night", from Catholic Boy, co-written by Allen Lanier, keyboard player for BOC; it actually sounds a lot like something from a late-'70s Stones album. Second up is "In Thee", a really pretty Blue Oyster Cult song entirely written by Lanier, apparently about his break-up with Patti Smith, in which he quotes a line by Carroll from the first song. Then we have Jim's cover of Lou Reed's "Sweet Jane", from a bootleg recorded in Boston, Dec. 1st 1980. As usual, Carroll converts the lyrical reference to "Jim" into a "Lou", and also note the sly innuendo about Lou and chicken-fucking. Finally, we have Lou's updating of an old song, "Oh, Jim", originally included on 1973's Berlin, and (we should all be grateful for this) more recently performed as part of Berlin Live at St. Ann's Warehouse, from which this is an edited version. Whether it's about our Jim or not (and I think it is), it seems a none-too-early valediction for our hero.

4 songs for Jim

P.S. If I could think of a Patti Smith song about Jim, I would have put it in here with Jim's "Crow", to complete the circle.

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