We’ve been waiting for this book for a long time. We first got sight of it when publishing an extract in the Route newspaper a dozen years ago. And then in 2005 our work with Simon Warner on Howl for Now was all part of the same continuum. But here, finally, in 2013, ladies and gentleman, the opus is complete…
A NEW volume by journalist and lecturer Simon Warner exploring the interaction between two of the most powerful socio-cultural movements in the post-war years – the literary forces of the Beat Generation and the musical energies of rock music – has been published by Bloomsbury.
In Text and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll: The Beats and Rock Culture, Warner examines the interweaving strands, seeded by the novelists Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and others, in the 1940s and 1950s, and cultivated by most of the major rock figures who emerged after 1960 – Bob Dylan and the Beatles, David Bowie, the Clash and Kurt Cobain, to name just a few.
Warner, who teaches Popular Music Studies at the University of Leeds, has conducted a series of major new interviews with participants and commentators. These exchanges support a sequence of longer articles outlining the links between these two artistic worlds – from Dylan’s long friendship with Ginsberg to Patti Smith’s Beat credentials, from Tom Waits’ homages to Kerouac to the wider place of women musicians within this broader history and reflections on the soundtrack to the recent On the Road movie.
Comments the author: ‘It seems unlikely that the thinking musical stars who arose from the mid-1960s would have possessed the confidence or authority to express themselves so directly and ambitiously without the Beats’ ground-breaking work in the previous decade. Dylan took much from their poetry, Lennon absorbed their political activism and Bowie and Patti Smith adopted their artistic techniques.’
Early responses to the collection have been positive. Jonah Raskin, a significant US historian of the Beat Generation, has described Warner’s book as ‘electrifying’. Leading UK rock writer and Waits biographer Barney Hoskyns says that the new edition is ‘exhaustive and illuminating’.
Beat poet and cultural historian David Meltzer believes the volume is ‘a major contribution’.