Show #208: Kerouac, Robert Fripp, and T.S. Eliot on Rare Groove Vinyl

This week we feature almost an hour of poetry and music on original analog vinyl—some rare groove stuff. We begin with poet/novelist Jack Kerouac reading his poems “Blues and Haikus” and “Hard Hearted Old Farmer.” He recorded these tracks on a Hanover LP called Blues and Haikus (released September 1959), which followed up his first album with Steve Allen, Poetry for the Beat Generation (also released in 1959). Kerouac, like many Beat poets, loved jazz. Jazz was a musical analogue to their poetry and rhythmic cadence, and an art form they emulated and aspired to. Kerouac even wrote a poem called “Charlie Parker.”

Pianist/composer Steve Allen hosted a popular and very cool TV program back then, and he put Kerouac in the studio with tenor players John Haley “Zoot” Sims and Al Cohn, two jazz musicians who often worked and recorded together. An insider familiar with the recording once told me that although Kerouac wanted to record an album with these two famous saxophonists, the Cohn-Sims duo weren’t exactly on fire to do the gig. They probably didn’t even know who Kerouac was. It was just a small gig to make a living. When the recording session ended, Kerouac hoped to hang out with his sax idols, but Cohn and Sims took their paychecks, then said goodbye and split. Kerouac was very disappointed. Nevertheless, the album still makes for great listening, and it’s fun to hear the sax men riff on the poetry.

Rhino Records Word Beat reissued all the Kerouac sessions years ago as a box set, on CD and vinyl. The recording we hear, however, is the original analog album that some unknown person put on my desk one day along with other rare Kerouac albums. I never found out who that magnanimous person was. Legendary Impulse Records producer Bob Thiele (think Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders, Sonny Rollins) produced the album.

The second rare groove vinyl record we’ll hear is by Robert Fripp and the League of Crafty Guitarists from 1986, which only came out on vinyl and was never reissued. Fripp, known mostly for his work with King Crimson, recorded The Lady or the Tiger with spoken word by Toyah Wilcox, based on a 19th century story by an obscure American writer named Frank R. Stockton (1834-1902). The album cover depicts Wilcox as a mermaid in a fountain, with Fripp looking bespoke in a tuxedo.  When Fripp visited Morning Becomes Eclectic on January 19, 1989, he inscribed my copy of the album with the words, “To Tom—Pre-Raphaelite Husband.” My buttons burst.

The final featured album on today’s show is the original 1965 Argo Records monaural release of T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the poems upon which the popular musical was based. There is yet another new production of Cats on Broadway as I write.

Most famous for his poems “The Waste Land” (first published in 1922, same year as James Joyce’s Ulysees) and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” the American-born Thomas Stearns Eliot would read the silly Old Possum poems to friends at parties. They preferred hearing this lighter, fun fare over the heavier stuff. Eliot lived in England for most of his adult life, but never affected a British accent. His American accent always sounded a little strange to me. It’s not exactly a stentorian delivery but the poems make up for it.

It’s fun to pull these old rare vinyl from the library and share them with you. I hope you enjoy them.

Rhythm Planet Playlist for 4/28/17

  1. Jack Kerouac (ft. Zoot Sims & Al Cohn) / “American Haikus” /The Beat Generation: His Complete Albums/ Music On The Road
  2. Jack Kerouac (ft. Zoot Sims & Al Cohn) / “Hard Hearted Old Farmer” / The Beat Generation: His Complete Albums / Music On The Road
  3. Robert Fripp, Toyah & The League of Crafty Guitarists / “The Lady or the Tiger” / The Lady or The Tiger / Editions Eg
  4. T.S. Eliot / “The Ad-dressing of Cats” / Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats / Trunk Records