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Allen Ginsberg, Revisited by His Right-Hand Man: Pt. 2

Allen Ginsberg and Bob Rosenthal Rosenthal and Ginsberg.

Earlier this week, Allen Ginsberg’s secretary of 20 years, Bob Rosenthal, shared memories of his former employer – some of which will be included in a memoir he recently completed, “Straight Around Allen.” Speaking to The Local at Ginsberg’s former apartment on East 12th Street, where the two worked alongside each other for so long, he recalled the great poet’s daily routine, his tastes in literature and music, his mail and telephone communications, and his ways with money. Today, in our second installment, Mr. Rosenthal talks about Ginsberg’s social sphere during his two decades in the so-called poets building. Check back tomorrow for still more from this candid interview. 

Allen’s East Village
People would always call Allen and say, “Allen, come to my shangri-la in Hawaii,” and here or there. He would never go. A vacation for Allen was coming back and having nothing to do in the East Village. He would often go to the poetry readings at St. Mark’s. He loved the mushroom barley soup at the Kiev. And The New York Times – he just loved it. He hung around Tompkins Square, wrote a lot of one-line poems about skinheads there. And he was a natural. I think because he always felt free here. Read more…

After Ginsberg Disc, More From Russell

Arthur RussellCourtesy the Allen Ginsberg After the Tuesday release of a collaboration between the poet Allen Ginsberg and the musician Arthur Russell (above), a record company now plans to issue more previously unreleased music by Mr. Russell.

As previously reported on The Local, a new 12-inch single featuring a rare Allen Ginsberg-Arthur Russell collaboration was released Tuesday from Audika Records and Press Pop Music. But fans of Mr. Russell will be excited to hear that there’s more unearthed material on the way.

“There are a few things people haven’t heard that I want to get out,” said Audika Records founder Steve Knutson in a recent interview with The Local.

Mr. Russell, an East Village resident who died in 1992, collaborated with the Talking Heads, Studio 54 resident DJ Nicky Siano, and minimalist composer Philip Glass, among others. His diverse discography — ranging from avant-disco and experimental pop, to ethereal cello compositions and folk-tinged love songs — touched on many facets of the New York downtown scene in the ’70s and ’80s, and has been widely acclaimed.

Over the next six months, Mr. Knutson plans to “go full circle” with two additional never-before-heard releases, focusing primarily on smaller releases of Mr. Russell’s avant-disco work. One of those avant-disco tracks, “Let’s Go Swimming,” is currently being mastered. Mr. Knutson plans to release the remastered original 12-inch version (which he says “sounds better than the original”) backed with previously unreleased material.

Mr. Russell recorded “Let’s Go Swimming” several times. A reverb-laden, cello-based rendition of “Let’s Go Swimming” previously appeared on the 1986 album “World of Echo,” and an Arthur Gibbons mix of the “mutant disco” version appeared on 2004 compilation “The World of Arthur Russell” from Soul Jazz Records. But the original has yet to be released.

Mr. Knutson, who also manages Rough Trade Records in North America, founded Audika in 2003 for the sole purpose of releasing material from Russell’s archives. Focusing primarily on the musician’s experimental pop output, previous Audika releases have included the posthumous collections “Calling Out of Context” (2004) and “Love is Overtaking Me” (2008).

Though Mr. Knutson never met Mr. Russell, he has been an avid fan since the mid-‘80s, when he first heard the Walter Gibbons mix of Russell’s “Schoolbell Treehouse.” Knutson said it changed his life. “It was like what I’d been waiting to hear all my life,” he said. “I thought it was one of the most incredible things I’d ever heard.”

A Ginsberg Collaboration Rediscovered

Arthur RussellCourtesy of The Allen Ginsberg Trust Arthur Russell began collaborating with Allen Ginsberg in the 1970s with Mr. Ginsberg often reading his poetry over Mr. Russell’s instrumentals. The new track was recorded in 1977.

In 2003, Audika Records founder Steve Knutson was digging through a Long Island City storage-facility when he struck tarnished, cassette-tape gold. The space held the archives of late East Village avant-garde composer Arthur Russell, and Knutson had found, albeit in horrible condition, “Ballad of the Lights,” a five-minute 1977 collaboration between Russell and the poet Allen Ginsberg.

Now, an individual record release will highlight the work of the two East Village cultural icons for the first time. The track, which will be released Oct. 19 was recorded in New York with Mr. Russell’s band The Flying Hearts, and Mr. Ginsberg on vocals. The track will be available on 10-inch vinyl via Japanese label Press Pop as well as digitally on iTunes via Audika Records.
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