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

The Bassline Boys: Warbeat; Germany Calling (1989)

The Bassline Boys: Warbeat; Germany Calling (1989)

Odd what turns up in a record collection left in my care. While moving a few boxes of old vinyl I found a swag of stuff my oldest son had left behind when he lit out for Over Seas. He has... > Read more

Jerry Butler: Mr Dee Jay, I Got A Heartache (1968)

Jerry Butler: Mr Dee Jay, I Got A Heartache (1968)

Jerry Butler, one of the greatest soul singers to emerge out of Chicago, came up through the usual route: gospel in church, inspired by Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers, formed a group (the... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

JACKIE CHAN'S POLICE STORY (1985) AND ARMOUR OF GOD (1987): On a collision course with disaster and fame

JACKIE CHAN'S POLICE STORY (1985) AND ARMOUR OF GOD (1987): On a collision course with disaster and fame

Disappointed when his first film in the US market (The Protector) flopped, the great martial arts-comedian Chan returned to Hong Kong where he'd got his start and made Police Story, a violent but... > Read more

Lee Scratch Perry: Heavy Rain (On U Sound through Border)

Lee Scratch Perry: Heavy Rain (On U Sound through Border)

If the renegade Perry's Rainford album of earlier this year – produced by Adrian Sherwood – seemed to signal some final statement from the dub master then it was yet another piece... > Read more