Ginsberg/McCartney/Kaye/Glass/Mansfield/Ribot: Ballad of the Skeletons (1996)

 |   |  1 min read

Ginsberg/McCartney/Kaye/Glass/Mansfield/Ribot: Ballad of the Skeletons (1996)
Here's an unlikely supergroup: poet Allen Ginsberg with Paul McCartney and Lenny Kaye (of the Patti Smith Group and Nuggets fame) and others.

Now they may not have all been in the same room for this seven minute-plus piece in which Ginsberg nailed down the “moral majority”, Christian conservatives, right wing types all persuasions as well as those on the Left.

"I started it," Ginsberg told Harvey Kubernik of The Los Angeles Times in 1996, "because [of] all that inflated bull about the family values, the 'contract with America,' Newt Gingrich and all the loudmouth stuff on talk radio, and Rush Limbaugh and all those other guys. It seemed obnoxious and stupid and kind of sub-contradictory, so I figured I'd write a poem to knock it out of the ring."

The piece has a slightly convoluted gestation: McCartney accompanies Ginsberg at a Royal Albert Hall reading (with poet Ann Waldman also on the bill) and they were delighted with the result.

McCartney said if Ginsberg wanted to record it to let him know and subsequently it was recorded and produced by Lenny Kaye who played bass with guitarists Marc Ribot and Dave Mansfield.

Then McCartney added drums, guitar and organ (Ginsberg said Macca was trying to recapture the sound of Al Kooper on early Dylan records) then Philip Glass put on some piano.

There was an edit for radio by Hal Wilner but this here is the “explicit” version.

And the video made by Gus Van Sant got it onto MTV.

Ginsberg was 70 at the time, about four-plus decades older than most MTV artists.

So quite an implosion of diverse talents but one of the final hurrahs for Allen Ginsberg.

He died the following year.

For more one-offs, oddities or songs with an interesting backstory see From the Vaults.



Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

Joan Baez: James and the Gang (1987)

Joan Baez: James and the Gang (1987)

Recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Joan Baez has written very few original songs but after her painful separation in '73 from her activist husband David Harris – who had been... > Read more

Betty Everett: Ain't Gonna Cry (1957)

Betty Everett: Ain't Gonna Cry (1957)

With the great Willie Dixon on bass and other players who turned up on Ike Turner's Rhythm Kings sessions, the young Betty Everett nailed this original for the Cobra Records label in Chicago, a... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE SONGWRITERS' QUESTIONNAIRE: Mel Parsons

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE SONGWRITERS' QUESTIONNAIRE: Mel Parsons

As must be obvious to any longtime readers of Elsewhere, Mel Parsons has always been one of our favourite New Zealand songwriters. We have written favourably about her albums, interviewed her... > Read more

Various: Sideways (2007)

Various: Sideways (2007)

From Loxene Golden Disc Award albums in the 60s through the Class of 81 and the Dunedin Double (82), and the South Auckland Proud collection of 94, the breadth and texture of Kiwi music has often... > Read more