Release Party for HOWL:The Record Album
Thursday, February 22, 2018, 7:00 P.M., City Lights Booksellers, 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco
Concord Music reissues Allen Ginsberg reading HOWL on vinyl
Opening statement by Garett Caples (Poetry Editor, City Lights), and Ann Charters (BEAT Scholar)
Appearance by Bill Belmont (Producer Concord Music/Fantasy Records)
Reminisces of Allen Ginsberg and readings from HOWL by Neeli Cherkovski
Craft Recordings, the Catalog division of Concord Music, is pleased to announce a deluxe vinyl box set, celebrating Allen Ginsberg's iconic Howl And Other Poems, one of the most important pieces of modern American literature. Due out February 23rd, the collection offers Ginsberg’s recording of the poems, pressed on translucent red vinyl – reproducing the original 1959 LP release, as well as a replica of the synonymous book of poetry, published in 1956 by City Lights for their Pocket Poets series. Also included in the box set is a photo of Ginsberg from the ’50s, a reproduction of the original City Lights reading invite from 1956 and a booklet, with new liner notes by Beat scholar Ann Charters, as well as notes by poet Anne Waldman.
Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997) was one of the best-known writers of the Beat Generation as well as a leading figure in the counterculture movement. Tirelessly prolific throughout his life, Ginsberg was most closely associated with was Howl – a poetic rage against society’s conformism and capitalism, which rocked the literary world upon its publication, and has gone on to be one of the most widely performed poems of the 20th Century.
Howl is also noteworthy, as it was at the center of a high-profile 1957 obscenity trial, resulting in the arrest of City Lights publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and bookstore manager Shigeyoshi Murao. The trial stands today as a prominent case for First Amendment rights, having set a legal precedent for the publication of controversial works. Murao and Ferlinghetti were ultimately acquitted of charges, as Howl was proven to be of redeeming social importance. Two years later, Berkeley’s Fantasy Records (home to Dave Brubeck and, eventually, Vince Guaraldi and Creedence Clearwater Revival) issued a recording of Ginsberg reciting the contents of the pocket poem. Although "Howl" itself is the centerpiece of the program, each additional reading by Ginsberg is full of passion, showcasing his brilliance both as a poet and a performer. His vaudevillian delivery carries the full weight of his honest observations on life, love, spirituality and existence.
In his introduction, box set producer Bill Belmont notes that Howl "established the Beat generation of poets…as a cultural movement." He goes on to argue that “the Beats successfully transitioned the generation gap between the mid-century post-war Beatnik movement to the more culturally transformative ’60s generation. In many ways, the Beats influenced the cultural and musical era that followed.” Indeed, Ginsberg was closely associated with several musicians of the era – most famously with Bob Dylan, with whom he collaborated; but his work also has been cited as an influence by the likes of the Clash and Patti Smith, as well as more modern acts, such as Lana Del Rey and U2.
In her new liner notes, Ann Charters shares her own experiences of hearing a live reading of the poem by Ginsberg in the mid-’50s, recalling that “Courtesy shown to his listeners, and patience sharing his poetry with large audiences, were as much a part of Ginsberg as his breath. They were all essential parts of his being, a poet honored worldwide in his lifetime as the quintessential 'rebel bard.’” Decades after its recording, Howl And Other Poems remains a lively and intimate listen, and a reminder of Ginsberg’s consummate genius as both a writer and a performer.