Beat Poet Allen Ginsberg (1926 – 1997) put together his first music album ‘First Blues‘ over a series of studio visits between 1971 – 1983. The initial decision to go into the studio to record was largely down to Bob Dylan who at that time Allen had not seen for several years. That all changed when they were re-united at a friends wedding and their friendship developed again. Dylan provided the music on that first recording session and they put together six hours worth of recordings on which Ginsberg performed his William Blake melodies for songs such as ‘Nurses Song’:
They didn’t record again until 1976 by which point John Hammond, Sr; took on production. It was Hammond who discovered Billie Holiday and he also recorded Dylan’s first album for Columbia. With rough cuts agreed (including all the rude ones) the next step was to make quality studio masters. Allen had been recording many of his songs solo at the Chelsea Hotel with the famous Harry Smith and his Wollensack recorder so some magic was provided by a number of musicians. They included the talented Arthur Russell on cello who used to live in the same apartment building as Ginsberg as well as David Mansfield who Ginsberg met during Dylan’s Rolling Thunder tour. Ginsberg described Mansfield as a “19-year-old Botticelli faced genius musican”, he played on piano, violin, guitar and mandolin…the results are pretty spectacular compared to those rare solo recordings which featured on the Folkways release “First Blues: Rags, Ballads and Harmonium Songs” accompanied by Ginsberg’s hand-pumped harmonium from India.
Hammond wanted to put the album out but the corporate label heads steered away as a result of Ginsberg’s openly gay references. It finally saw the light of day in 1983. At least he still got his first real feel of rock stardom, something he longed for, when Joe Strummer of the Clash asked Allen along to a performance and asked him backstage to help with a song. At a later performance they asked him on stage where he sang to a crowd of 8,000 screaming fans.
This re-issue will be release on Ginsberg Recordings in vinyl as well as digital and according to Brooklyn Vegan a party is being thrown in NYC by the label to celebrate on January 16 at Housing Works Cafe (126 Crosby St.) “with Ginsberg’s “friends, collaborators, relatives and co-conspirators” Lou Reed, Anne Waldman, Ambrose Bye, CA Conrad, Steven Taylor, Hettie Jones, Arthur’s Landing, and others.”
A few track samples:
Sample tracks order:
Put Down Yr Cigarette Rag
Prayer Blues – 1972
Father Death Blues