Dancing About Architecture: Music about Writers

A selection of music inspired by writers and their writing… Not songs about the act of writing; songs about the writers behind the writing.

Marion Brown

“After time in Paris and touring Europe, Brown returned to Atlanta, where a surge of creativity flowered like dogwood: Beautiful and bright, but burnt at the tips. Inspired by the stark Southern reflections in Jean Toomer’s epic work Cane, and his own birthplace enlightenment, Marion Brown released a trilogy of records dedicated to Georgia: Afternoon of a Georgia Faun (1970), Geechee Recollections (1973) and Sweet Earth Flying (1974). (The latter two remain out of print.) Adorned with pastoral poetry and folksong, these albums evoke a Southern experience.” (Lars Gotrich)

BIKINI KILL – Bloody Ice Cream

The Sylvia Plath story
Is told to girls who write
They want us to think
That to be a girl poet
Means you have to die

Who is it that told me all the girls who write must suicide?

I’ve another good one for you
We are turning cursive letters into knives



Today is July 25 and it’s my birthday. I’m 54. This song is called Frank O’Hara Hit. And it’s by this band I started called Chelsea Light Moving. Right now we’re whipping around Europe playing some summer love-cry gigs. I wanted to release this song by the end of July because it’s a meditation on that month through history in events that define a lot of what mytho-romanticizes my heart, both broken and blessed at the moment. On July 25, 1965 Bob Dylan with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band delivered to rock n’ roll the dissident soul of folk music and poetry. For many it was already a viable meeting but Dylan set it on fire for the world to see. And he was famously cursed and booed by the gatekeepers of old ways wariness. The song he sang was Phantom Engineer (later titled It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry). On July 24, 1966 the NYC poet Frank O’Hara was struck by a dune buggy while hanging out on Fire Island, and died the next day. O’Hara knew poetry in all it’s formalist glory and like John Cage’s ear to music liberated it for writers for an unending time. In his essay Personism: A Manifesto (published in Leroi Jones’ Yugen magazine in 1961) he writes, “I don’t … like rhythm, assonance, all that stuff. You just go on your nerve. If someone’s chasing you down the street with a knife you just run, you don’t turn around and shout, ‘Give it up! I was a track star for Mineola Prep’…As for measure and other technical apparatus, that’s just common sense: if you’re going to buy a pair of pants you want them to be tight enough so everyone will want to go to bed with you. There’s nothing metaphysical about it.” On July 26, 1943 Mick Jagger was born in Dartford, Kent, England and would become the 20th century’s erotic pinup for the unsafety of teeny bop girls everywhere preaching the gospel soaked blues of African-American music that their parents were most likely frightened to death of. His skill in getting it and keeping it together and continuing to honor the magic that rocks the fuck out when Howlin’ Wolf hit the mic is what inspires every tantalizing facet of real rock n’ roll. On July 29, 1966 our hero Bobby Dylan crashed his motorbike while taking it for a spin in Woodstock He had just recorded three lightning rod LPs (Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde), a book of writing (Tarantula) and was taking a breather between a just finished nine month world tour (where he was facing audiences half pissed at his “Judas!” betrayal of folk purity) and readying for sixty-four American gigs booked by money hog Albert Grossman. He was amphetamine skinny and breathing high-octane annunciation. He returned to us a man in control of his image and he provocatively crushed celebrity underfoot like a shitty Marlboro. Let us kiss our lovers gently in July as the lathered sunrays of August take us into contemplation and a sweet trust to a future we will always fight for. In rock n roll, soul, tenderness and piety.

Thurston Moore,
Commune di Santo Stefano di Sessanio, ITALY
July 25, 2012

Archie Shepp “On This Night (If That Great Day Would Come)”

Title track of Archie Shepp’s On This Night (ABC Paramount, 1967), a tribute to W.E.B. Dubois with Shepp’s revolutionary lyrics sung by Christine Spencer, Archie Shepp on piano and tenor, Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Henry Grimes on bass, Rashied Ali on drums and Joe Chambers on tympany. On the back it says: “… Archie Shepp, the age of the cities, an urban traveller with good senses (heart, ear) …” LeRoi Jones. Theme tune of the Association of Musical Marxists.

Comet Gain – Herbert Huncke (more info)

“Who is Herbert Huncke? When I first knew him I saw him in what I considered the ‘glamorous’ light of a petty criminal and Times Square hustler who was experienced in the ways, thoughts, and activities of an underground culture which is enormously extensive. The attempt to dismiss him because of his social irresponsibility is something that I was never able to conceive as truthful or productive. I saw him as a self-damned soul—but a soul nonetheless, aware of itself and others in a strangely perceptive and essentially human way. He has great charm. I see that he suffers, more than myself, more than anyone I know of perhaps; suffers like a saint of old in the making; and also has cosmic or supersensory perceptions of an extraordinary depth and openness.”

Allen Ginsberg

WETDOG – Jane Bowles (listen here)


The Smiths – Sheila Take a Bow (for Shelagh Delaney)

In an interview published in the 7 June 1986 issue of the NME Morrissey said: “I’ve never made any secret of the fact that at least 50 per cent of my reason for writing can be blamed on Shelagh Delaney who wrote ‘A Taste Of Honey’. And ‘This Night Has Opened My Eyes’ is a Taste Of Honey song – putting the entire play to words.”

John Cale – Graham Greene

The Go Betweens– The House That Jack Kerouac Built

A young David Bowie sleeping in front of his painting of Yukio Mishima

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