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Sex, Drugs, Books & Rock 'n' Roll

PART 1: ON DRINKING


JOHN BARLEYCORN - A novel by Jack London



John Barleycorn is an autobiographical novel by Jack London dealing with his enjoyment of drinking and struggles with alcoholism. It was published in 1913. The title is taken from the British folksong "John Barleycorn”. For anybody beset with a drinking problem, Chapter XXXIV is a harrowing reading experience - a realistic, convincing description of how the need to consume alcohol becomes so pressing and constant as to constitute a core threat to the author in the plying of his chosen trade.


"The work refused to be done without drinking . . . . When, in despair, I took my drink, at once my brain loosened up and began to toll off the thousand words”


Drinking, by then London's main life­ activity for many years, becomes the content of his art; John Barley­corn itself is the manifest proof of this encroachment.

How disruptive this fact is of London's ideas, often self-disparaging, about his art is a matter we will deal with presently. In John Barleycorn alcohol takes over on a still more shockingly explicit level: the book opens on the narrator: "not drunk ... and yet - how shall I say? - I was lighted up, I was feeling 'good,' I was pleasantly jingled”.


It is in this state that he explains to Charmian, his companion, why he had voted for women's suffrage:


"Every thought, in its little cell, crouched ready-dressed at the door, like prisoners at midnight waiting a jail-break. . . . John Barleycorn was on a truth-telling rampage, giving away the choicest secrets on himself. And I was his spokesman"


The situation is topical in John Barleycorn: for the length of two, good-sized chapters (XXXVI-XXXVII), a continued, first-person, dra­matic monolog, London documents his reflections and drinking, from being a separate sphere, progressively and ominously invades London's writing.


JOHN BARLEYCORN - Traditional Folk Ballads


The English and Scottish folk song ”John Barleycorn” dates back to the XVI century and is listed as number 164 in the Roud Folk Song Index, a database of around 25,000 songs collected from oral tradition in the English language from all over the world. It is compiled by Steve Roud (born 1949), a former librarian in the London Borough of Croydon. John Barleycorn, the song's protagonist, is a personification of barley and of the alcoholic beverages made from it: beer and whisky. In the song, he suffers indignities, attacks, and death that correspond to the various stages of barley cultivation, such as reaping and malting.

The oldest versions are Scottish. In 1782, the Scottish poet Robert Burns published his own version of the song, which influenced subsequent versions.

The song survived into the twentieth century in the oral folk tradition, primarily in England, and many popular folk revival artists have recorded versions of the song.



JOHN BARLEYCORN (MUST DIE) - A song by Traffic (1970)


There were three men came out of the West

Their fortunes for to try

And these three men made a solemn vow

John Barleycorn must die


They've ploughed, they've sown, they've harrowed him in

Threw clods upon his head

And these three men made a solemn vow

John Barleycorn was dead

[…]


CHARLES BUKOWSKI


Bukowski used alcohol as muse and as fuel, a conflicted relationship responsible for some of his darkest moments as well as some of his most joyful and inspired.


In On Drinking, we can find Bukowski’s most profound, funny, and memorable work on his ups and downs with the hard stuff—a topic that allowed him to explore some of life’s most pressing questions. Through drink, Bukowski is able to be alone, to be with people, to be a poet, a lover, and a friend—though often at great cost. As Bukowski writes in a poem simply titled “Drinking,”:



for me

it was or

is

a manner of

dying

with boots on

and gun

smoking and a

symphony music background.


On Drinking is a powerful testament to the pleasures and miseries of a life in drink, and a window into the soul of one of our most beloved and enduring writers.


Women is a novel written in 1978. It focuses on the many complications Bukowski faced with each new woman he encountered and had sexual relations with. When asked about his relationship to women, he said that they gave much more than he gave to the relationship, and this acts as a central foundation to the development of the main character, especially in the beginning of the novel.


“That's the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.”


BERTOLT BRECHT AND JIM MORRISON: ALABAMA SONG

(aka "Moon of Alabama", "Moon over Alabama", and "Whisky Bar”)


The "Alabama Song" was written by Bertolt Brecht and translated into English by his close collaborator Elisabeth Hauptmann in 1925. It was first published in Brecht's 1927 Hauspostille, a parody of Martin Luther's collection of sermons. It was set to music by Kurt Weill in 1927and reused for Brecht and Weill's 1930 opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny). The first recording of the song came out in early 1930 under the title “Alabama-Song"

The song was recorded in 1966 by the rock the Doors, listed as "Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)". Doors' cover version combine avant-garde, carnival music influences, with psychedelic.

Lead singer Jim Morrison reportedly altered the second verse from "Show us the way to the next pretty boy" to "Show me the way to the next little girl”.


VERSION BY BERTOLT BRECHT (1925)


Oh, show us the way to the next whiskey bar!

Oh don't ask why, Oh don't ask why!

For we must find the next whiskey bar

For if we don't find the next whiskey bar,

I tell you we must die!

Oh moon of Alabama

We now must say goodbye

We've lost our good old mamma

And must have whiskey

Oh, you know why.


Oh show us the way to the next pretty boy!

Oh don't ask why Oh, don't ask why!

For we must find the next pretty boy

For if we don't find the next pretty boy

I tell you we must die!

Oh moon of Alabama

We now must say goodbye

We've lost our good old mama

And must have boys

Oh, you know why.


Oh show us the way to the next little dollar!

Oh don't ask why, oh don't ask why!

For we must find the next little dollar

For if we don't find the next little dollar

I tell you we must die!

Oh moon of Alabama

We now must say goodbye

We've lost our good old mama

And must have dollars

Oh, you know why.


VERSION BY THE DOORS (1967)

Well, show me the way

To the next whiskey bar

Oh, don't ask why, Oh, don't ask why

Show me the way

To the next whiskey bar

Oh, don't ask why, Oh, don't ask why

For if we don't find

The next whiskey bar

I tell you we must die, I tell you we must die

I tell you, I tell you, I tell you we must die


Oh, moon of Alabama

We now must say goodbye

We've lost our good old mama

And must have whiskey, oh, you know why

Oh, moon of Alabama

We now must say goodbye

We've lost our good old mama

And must have whiskey, oh, you know why

Well, show me the way to the next little girl

Oh, don't ask why, Oh, don't ask why

Show me the way to the next little girl

Oh, don't ask why, Oh, don't ask why

For if we don't find the next little girl


I tell you we must die, I tell you we must die

I tell you, I tell you, I tell you we must die


Oh, moon of Alabama

We now must say goodbye

We've lost our good old mama

And must have whiskey, oh, you know why


PART 2: ON TAKING DRUGS


“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.” William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell


Mescaline induces a psychedelic state similar to those produced by LSD and psilocybin, but with unique characteristics. Subjective effects may include altered thinking processes, an altered sense of time and self-awareness, and closed- and open-eye visual phenomena.




ALDOUS HUXLEY - The Doors of Perception (1954)


1—”To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and the inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with survival or to a human being obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally, by Mind at Large – this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone and especially to the intellectual.”


2— “The mind was primarily concerned, not with measures and locations, but with being and meaning.”


3— “But the man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less cocksure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable Mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend.”


4—“Other persons discover a world of visionary beauty. To others again is revealed the glory, the infinite value and meaningfulness of naked existence, of the given, un-conceptualized event. In the final stage of ego-less-ness there is an “obscure knowledge” that All is in all – that All is actually each. What the rest of us see only under the influence of mescalin, the artist is congenitally equipped to see all the time.”


5—“Most visualizers are transformed by mescalin into visionaries. Some of them – and they are Perhaps more numerous than is generally supposed – require no transformation; they are visionaries all the time.”



VELVET UNDERGROUND - Heroin (1967)


I don't know just where ______________

But I'm gonna try for __________, if I can

'Cause it makes me feel like I'm a man

When I put a spike into _________

And I'll tell ya, things aren't quite the same

When I'm rushing on my run

And I feel just like Jesus' son

And I guess that I just don't know

And I guess that I just don't know


I have made the ______________

I'm gonna try to nullify ___________

'Cause when the blood begins to flow

When it shoots up the dropper's neck

When I'm closing in on death

And you can't _________, not you guys

Or all you sweet girls with all your sweet talk

You can all go ____________

And I guess I just don't know

And I guess that I just don't know


I wish that I was born _____________________

I wish that I'd sail the darkened seas

On a great big clipper ship

Going from ____________here to that

On a sailor's suit and ____________

Away from the ___________

Where a man cannot ______________

Of all of the evils of this town

And of himself, and those around

Oh, and I guess that I just don't know

Oh, and I guess that I just don't know

Heroin, be the death of me

Heroin, it's my wife and it's my life

Because a mainline to my vein

Leads to a center in my head

And then I'm better off than dead


Because when the smack begins to flow

I really don't care anymore

About all the Jim-Jim's in this town

And all the politicians makin' crazy sounds

And everybody puttin' everybody else down

And all the dead bodies piled up in mounds


'Cause when the smack begins to flow

Then I really don't care anymore

Ah, when the heroin is in my blood

And that blood is in my head


Then thank God that I'm good as dead

Then thank your God that I'm not aware

And thank God that I just don't care

And I guess I just don't know

And I guess I just don't know


PART 3: ON SEX, DRUGS & ROCK’N’ROLL


THE DOORS: Roadhouse Blues (1970)


A roadhouse is a typical American small mixed-use premises built on or near a major road in a sparsely populated area or an isolated desert region that services the passing travellers, providing food, drinks, accommodation, fuel, and parking spaces to the guests and their vehicles.

When Jim Morrison got drunk and became “Jimbo”, he liked to sing blues numbers at The Doors jam sessions. This in one of the songs he came up with at one of those inebriated sessions.

If there was an actual roadhouse that inspired this song, it was probably the Topanga Corral (see picture), a windowless nightclub in the counterculture enclave of the Topanga Canyon, where Jim Morrison lived. To get to the venue you had to take a road full of twists and turns - you really did need to "keep your eyes on the road, your hand upon the wheel.”

Topanga Corral burned down in 1986. There was a cabin behind it that many sources say Morrison bought for his girlfriend, Pamela Courson. This could be what provided the line, "In back of the Roadhouse they got some bungalows.”


Keep your eyes on the road

Your hand upon the wheel

Keep your eyes on the road

Your hand upon the wheel

Yeah, we're going to the Roadhouse

Gonna have a real-

Good time


Yeah, the back of the Roadhouse

They got some bungalows

Yeah, the back of the Roadhouse

They got some bungalows

And that's for the people

Who like to go down slow


Let it roll, baby, roll

Let it roll, baby, roll

Let it roll, baby, roll

Let it roll

All night long


Do it, Robbie, do it

You gotta roll, roll, roll

You gotta thrill my soul, alright

Roll, roll, roll, roll, a-thrill my soul

You gotta beep a gunk a chucha

Honk konk konk kadanta

Each ya puna ney cha

Bap pa lula ni chao

Pao pati cha

Ni saong kong

Yeah, ride

Ashen lady

Ashen lady

Give up your vows

Give up your vows

Save our city

Save our city

Right now


Well, I woke up this mornin'

And I got myself a beer

Well, I woke up this mornin'

And I got myself a beer

The future's uncertain

And the end is always near


Let it roll, baby, roll

Let it roll, baby, roll

Let it roll, baby, roll

Let it roll

All night long


Three years before dying, the former The Doors’ founder and keyboardist Ray Manzarek (1939-2013) gave the following interview to the Irish journalist and writer Eoin Butler


Having lived through the madness of the 1960s you seem to have come through it a remarkably stable and well-adjusted man. Well, I was the oldest member of the Doors. It was always my job to hold things together. I was the Apollonian instinct to balance out Jim Morrison's Dionysian madness. But I took LSD. I opened the doors of perception, learned that life is infinite, that creation is the energy of a divine creator.

Well the picture of him that emerges from the Danny Sugerman book and the Oliver Stone film is of a talented guy who was also a pretty mean drunk. That's largely correct. I think that what people have to realise is that Jim was first and foremost a poet, writing about deep, dark Freudian secrets. Walking along the Venice Beach in southern California talking about philosophy and art and our favourite saxophone players. That's the guy I put a rock'n'roll band together with.

He was 27 when he died. It may seem an odd question, but has your relationship with him changed at all over the years? No. It's still a love-hate relationship. That is to say, I love him. But I hate him for dying. It was Jimbo – the alter-ego of Jim Morrison, that dark, Irish drunk – who took himself to Paris. And Jimbo that killed my friend Jim Morrison. And I hate that Jimbo.

Riccardo Zambon

BABYLON LINGUE STRANIERE

17th June 2022

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