The stage is dark, the mood of the crowd is boisterous, they are noisy and physical, jostling and pushing, looking for stolen kicks, for a rush, for a stolen high injected into the atmosphere by a tall thin man with golden strawberry shoulder length hair, that he plays with often, pushing it back from his beautiful pale translucent thin face. The golden man reaches down from the crowd to press his hand in theirs, to seal some kinda telepathic bargain where he will do the junk, and like the Ghost of Nod’s Past, will take them on a fantastical flying trip around the Bowery shooting galleries and alleys, without ever having to risk a knife in the ribs, safely on the floor of whichever club they were playing. This band is the original lineup of Jim Carroll, Brian Linsley, Terrell Winn, Wayne Woods, and Stevie Linsley.
His arms are long and white and spindley. He glows luminescent on the stage, a beat junk poet. If Kerouac had been born a little later, he would have been up on that stage, the lead singer, with Neal Cassady on drums, driving the motor of the rhythm section with his hep cat Colorado beatnik boho road jive. Hunke would be on rhythm guitar, playing counterpoint to the ghost of Rimbaud taking lead duties with a two single coil telecaster, and a three way switch. The bass player can’t change. The bass player, Wayne Woods is the dirty fuel that this performance of Lorraine runs on.
Five men stand on the stage, but only Jim can really be seen to start with, the rest of them providing the beat for his prologue to the song, yet they are still interconnected by this Angel with the Brooklyn accent, with some strange hint of the south at certain points in a hiccup of pure distilled cool affectation. He is the flower that weaves between these men who have knelt at the altar of sex, drugs and rock and roll, and participated in the locomotion of suffering in order to bring forth the creative-jewels that form between the fingers of Lorraine.
A heartbeat thud of a drum starts up Strong, anticipating, building tension. The audience are being led onto the rollercoaster, the road, the Beat Trip with Jim Carroll and his band. Lenny Kaye played guitar in later years, but tonight it is the original band, and they immediately slide into the song. The song sounds well practiced, so well worn but brimming with arcane energy, this song belongs to this band.
The stage is dark, spotlight on Carroll as he starts to weave his telepathic passion, dealing adrenaline, junk dreams, slow dreamy sex barely moving of the kind junkies unnaturally falls into, between a thread of rock and roll grind and drive, and the rush of living a life chasing death down into doorways and alleys in NYC.
Jim looks so vulnerable as if he will never withstand the onslaught of feeding NY junk dreams cheap to this hungry crowd of freaks, heads and a few curious folk out for a good time. The hypnotic heartbeat, mother-womb of the junk pulse, dying only to be reborn just to die upon the streets. Thud. Thud. Thud. The anticipation of the score reel the audience in. Thudthud Thudthudthudthud, heart rate rising as the blood rises in the barrel, only to find yourself in the ‘square with seven blonde women’. The audience is invited into a parasitic experience, vicarious dope shooting, the audience primed through dark and beat, is then taken to opium dream world, where the skin of the women is so pale and translucent, ‘you know their fathers must be wealthy.’ We cannot meet Lorraine until Jim has taken us through the gates, until we know what she is chasing, and what the ‘song across her eyelids’ means to her. ‘Stray. Birds’ Rise.’ sings Jim taking us down to the slow dropping of Heroin-time. Forget Heroin as being the archetypal perfect junk song, what would a speed freak know about it, anyway? Lou didn’t love smack. Jim Carroll, though, he knows what he is talking about.
Jim starts his incantation in strictly balanced speed, feeding the audience their dose carefully, the word-shamen knows his craft. With this transfusion of experience the audience is primed and ready for their wild ride around the scene with Jim, taking us under his smack-doctor wings.
His Lorraine moves out from the group of women to approach Jim, complaining that she has to ‘make it all look better’ when she ‘lays down on it’. Here is our guide, fixing junk problems. Death turns up the heat, the audience, Lorraine, the band, the junk, is all draining too much from him. Jim’s white freckled hands, quavering voice, his thin face and hair that glows orange in the spotlight looks as if he is going to disintegrate under the weight of the vision, the room and everybody outstretched feelings pulling towards him, draining Jim dry of words, and beat-ed-ness and power. The shaman is giving too much of himself.
This is when the magic happens: the bass player, heavy, muscled, naked from the waist up, palely bulging, joint hanging out between his lips exuding violent machismo, boiled down testosterone, brute strength, and a sweat, spunk, man-piss and junk scent of protection over Jim. He is the white light to the black flower. He comes into vision as Jim’s speedball visions come into focus. The beat and the band move slowly, menacingly into our field of vision and interest: coalesing, solidifying, stage still dark. Jim starts to draw energy from his band and his voice settles, gets stronger, louder, he is retrieved from the tomb and is ready to rock and rumble. As Jim gives the band the signal, kicks his leg back and jerks his body towards the mic stand, the band and lights explode into life.
With the volume, the lights and the senses raised, brought into life by Jim the Doctor, the black of the blub, Jim dressed in black, the balls of the band on bass dominating and pushing the guitars towards each other, bullying them, literally bowing the rhythm guitarist down to the floor. The bass player, Wayne Woods is aptly named. This man is not so much an immovable oak tree, the motherfucker is the entire forest. If you watch him closely, he provides both muscle to Jim, protecting him for the band and the audience, providing Jim with the framework that he needs in order to his beat jive thing. In return the cock of the walk, demands space for the most domineering bassline in my performance top ten. Wayne Woods or Entwhistle. Right here Woods give the great man a run for his money. Woods by a pelvic thrust, but only this song. As much as Jim’s words takes the audience on their trip, this trip would be gutless without Woods, he is integral, symbiotic, warriorlike, elevated. Woods is on fire. I almost feel sorry for the rest of the band, but they put in a good atmospheric showing, giving both the creep and the soaring rock and roll flight of a rush in full bloom. If I could choose one club to frequent, it would be one where the Jim Carroll Band is in charge of Friday nights.
Jim takes us for a trip across Lorraine’s day as he chases her around spying on her. Our junky It’s A Wonderful Life Angel finds Lorraine sick, because she is ‘kicking down her habit”, towards the ‘blood upon Lou’s carpet’, in alleyways where Sally and Lorraine are ‘doing it together’, getting well, and planning to start up their bands so they can take to the stage too. The guitar solo and the noise, the driving jackhammer bass, the aggro drums, with the play and interplay between the band, while Jim takes a break and the boys brew up this strange brew, gathered in a circle, passing in and out of the song and each other’s orbits, take us to Lorraine who is at the back seat of the cinema where Jim finds Lorraine sweetly reaching out for him as he ‘sticks her with (his) finger’. Hey, no judging, that is positively romantic for this world. Jim knows ‘that bitch was feeling better’, Jim couldn’t be happier for her, “Go Lorraine!” he shouts. Jim wants Lorraine to start her band, to prove that life on it is like being on the left hand of God, he wants her to ‘get straight’, stay well and let him chase her around town as she leaves a trail of blood wherever she goes.
The performance is so perfect, so passionate. It looks right, from the dark stage, to the simple harsh light, to the simple black top which allows Jim to melt into the darkness, to the topless brutal bass player, and guitars which are versatile enough to switch between atmospheric sound effect and heavy rock grind. The audience are drawn so far in their reaction is perfect. They are there with Lorraine, and from what they are seeing on it, they “know the stage is God’s Left Hand’ as they are seeing this strange magick wrought upon it. This is the forging of the golden calf: we know it is wrong, we know it is deadly, we know that we shouldn’t do it, but it is just so powerful. It’s ok. We don’t have to. Jim, the junk-martyr put his life on the line for us instead. Still, when you throw strange incense upon the fire and sing about the stage being God’s life hand, while rigging the crowd up to a monster rush, it is hardly surprising when dark magic happens.
And The Worst….#10 Hollywood Vampires People Who Died Cover of the Jim Carroll Song
The above is a must see performance, for anyone who has been subjected to the utter bilge of Johnny Depp ‘singing’ Carroll’s People Who Died with the otherwise fun Hollywood Vampires, and the wonderful Alice Cooper and is wrongly led to believe that Jim Carroll’s music isn’t worth playing. I am actually kinda angry with Johnny, for a friend of Hunter S Thompson, you would think he would have more respect for Jim Carroll’s writing and art than to totally utterly fuck it up so half-assedly.
He is an actor, he can enunciate damnit, speak the fuck up, and at least make a stab at getting the rhythm of Jim’s rap. This song meant something to Carroll, just watch the version he did with Lou Reed towards the end of his life. Jim’s voice is cracking with emotion, you can see the pain on his face, and hear the desperation in his words. Jim is pleading with us, begging us to remember his friends, these people who died. This shit means something more than some actor playing rock star, even if he has taught himself to play some pretty boringly standard lead guitar. These riffs are straight out of the teach yourself butt-rock in 13 days playbook.
Boring, Johnny, boring! (as said in the voice of Johnny Rotten to Sid Vicious). Even the most lame-ass cover band could do better. As for the ill-advised ‘poetry’ he ad-libbed onto the end, it was just embarrassing and totally lacking respect for the song and Jim Carroll’s memory, and not only that, it is just a really horrible performance, unenjoyable and cringeworthy. You would think Johnny could act better than this, but he really looks as if he just really can’t be assed.
8.5/10 for Jim Carroll Band. 10/10 for Jim and Wayne Wood
0.3 out of 10 Hollywood Vampires version of People who Died. Minus 10 out of 10 for Depp who is shockingly insufferable playing rock star here.