We gave a party for the gods…and the gods all came. – John Giorno.
I’ll admit it. Hüsker Dü were the draw for me here, or more specifically their contribution, a devastating Metal Circus outtake, “Won’t Change,” equaling or outpacing anything on that classic 1983 ep. This entire album is worth downloading for that song along, but if you’re anything like me this compendium of songs having previously appeared on a myriad of Giorno Poetry Systems releases (a synopsis of what GPS entails follows in italics after my essay) will reward you otherwise as well. In essence, Cash Cow corrals an inadvertent “who’s who” of the post-beatnik syndicate, with most of the participants hailing from ground zero itself, New York City. First and foremost, it introduced me to John Giorno himself, a somewhat confrontational poet who rubbed elbows with Andy Warhol in the early ’60s and generally speaking his reputation and inspiration snowballed from there.
William Burroughs factors in significantly to Giorno’s life, and he contributes text from Naked Lunch and then some. Laurie Anderson’s spoken word soliloquies are particularly jarring thanks to some eerie vocal manipulations, Patti Smith gets deep, and Frank Zappa reads a portion of Burroughs, you guess it, Naked Lunch. Giorno himself makes a brief appearance, of course. His startling “Hi Risque” is a lascivious AIDS-era lament that’s almost certain to implore your attention.
And there’s more music as well. Cabaret Voltaire and Philip Glass were never my style, but their inclusion amidst the proceedings is fitting. Buster Poindexter’s “Totalitarian State,” is relevant today as it ever was, and Glenn Branca’s clangy, sixteen minute piece “Bad Smells” is surprisingly approachable.
Cash Cow isn’t for everyone, particularly those with a strictly ‘pop” palette, but I got more out of this than I expected, and maybe you’ll come away a little more enlightened too. I’ve included a bonus John Giorno spoken word monologue, which happens to be a sheer favorite of mine. An explanation of Giorno Poetry Systems (penned by the man himself) and full tracklist follows:
Giorno Poetry Systems (was) a non-profit foundation under which many projects were born. The record label called Giorno Poetry Systems eventually built up a catalog of 40 titles, ushering poetry onto the radio alongside rock, jazz, etc. for the first time. The Dial-A-Poem service, begun, in 1968, was a huge success. Not only did we ourselves get millions of calls, we inspired the creation of dial-for-stock market info and dial for sports-info services, etc. We also foreshadowed by a generation the explosion of 1-900 telephone promotions, not to mention the delivery of the Internet over phone lines. we produced poetry videos, videopaks and films. We formed bands and toured like the rock’n’ rollers. We displayed poetry on the surface of ordinary objects, producing silk-screen and lithograph Poem Prints. We established the AIDS Treatment Project in 1984.
But in 1965, even before founding Giorno Poetry Systems, I began recording my friend William Burroughs, starting with tape experiments at his Centre Street loft and with Brion Gysin at the Hotel Chelsea. Before the year was out, with my earlier inspirations turning into tangible performances, electronic events and sound pieces at a show at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, I began Giorno Poetry Systems.
01-Cabaret Voltaire – Ride Baby Ride
02-William S. Burroughs – The Do Rights and Naked Lunch
03-Debbie Harry – Moroccan Rock (Pipe Of Pain)
04-Buster Poindexter – Totalitarian State
05-John Giorno – Berlin & Chernobyl, Hi Risque
06-Husker Du – Won’t Change
07-Laurie Anderson – Song From America On The Move
08-Philip Glass – A Secret Solo
09-Patti Smith – The Histories Of The Universe
10-Coil – Neither His Nor Yours
11-Diamanda Galas – Eyes Without Blood
12-Glenn Branca – Bad Smells
13-Frank Zappa – The Talking Asshole
plus: John Giorno – We Got Here Yesterday
Articles Origin: VA – Cash Cow: The Best of Giorno Poetry Systems (1993, ESD)