I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness

2016 is the 60th anniversary of the publication of Allen Ginsberg‘s Howl – a seminal piece of work that changed the world of poetry and one could argue, that it changed America

Now, i could go on about his influence on Kerouac and the other Beats but it’s the personal things that mean so much more to me

Like the time I was playing at the Henry Miller Memorial Library in the Big Sur in California. I met a guy who grew up in San Francisco but his family had a cabin by Bixby Creek Canyon close to Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin where Kerouac wrote “The Big Sur”.

A beautiful man who took me for a walk down the canyon, under Bixby Bridge and onto the beach he played on as a kid.  He told me some amazing stories but my favourite was the time he was walking to the beach as a young man and saw someone stark naked on Ferlinghetti’s cabin porch, just stood there, looking out – starkers – “A tall hairy man” he described him to his father.  It was Alan.


When I’ve played with Philip Glass and Friends, we always finishes the show with “Footnote to Howl by Alan – It makes an amazing climax to the show and allows everyone involved to come on stage and share in the reading of the poem.  Usually, he gets Patti Smith to read it but when Patti isn’t with us, he asks me to read it – What an honour and what an amazing poem – Here’s Pattie performing it with tibetan monks for a special visit from the Dalai Lama

And finally, My Gaffer, Dr John Cooper Clarke told me a story about him and Alan Touring the UK and Johnny introduced Alan to his mum. Alan said it was a pleasure to meet her and described Johnny as “One of the most polite men he’d ever met” – Johnny was really pleased by this and explaining this to me he said, “What else does a mother want to hear?  It’s the greatest compliment that can be given to a mother about her son”.  And on reflection, he’s probably right.

Yesterday was the  Anniversary of that famous reading of Howl in Berkley and today we are celebrating it with a Beats Day in Luton.  The day celebrates Allen Ginsberg, his life and his poetry

The day looks like this

2pm – Opening of Beat day by Jeff Towns who introduces the day and his

2.15pm – Allen Ginsberg and GUERRILLA TV – New York filmmaker David Shulman in conversation with Jeff Towns. They will explore David’s 1990 film and show rare footage of Ginsberg narrating the introduction.

3.05pm – Black Breton: White Negro – Ideas of Race in Jack Kerouac’s writings: talk by Professor Daniel Williams.

3.45pm – Ah! Sunflower – British writer, documentarist, film maker and poet, Iain Sinclair introduces a screening of his seminal film of Allen Ginsberg in London in 1967.

4.30pm – Break

5.00pm – Mike Garry – Live dynamic performance poetry. A passionate Mancunian, his “Saint Anthony” on YouTube is read by Iggy Pop. He performed backed by New Order at New York’s Carnegie Hall. He has just written the libretto for a new Phillip Glass commission.

5.45pm – American Smoke – Iain Sinclair talks about his Travel/memoir across America in search of Beats, described by The Guardian as “grippingly haunted”.

6.30pm – A rare screening of No More to Say & Nothing to Weep For – A fine filmic eulogy to Allen Ginsberg.

7.30pm – Howl – a live performance with Ceri Murphy as Ginsberg reading the poem accompanied by graphic illustrative projections.

8.30pm – Round table summing up with Iain Sinclair, Dan Williams, Mike Garry and David Shulman, who will discuss the topics raised – chaired by Jeff Towns.


It looks like an amazing day & tickets are still available, so come and join us and for more info and a 10 time better blog than mine, have a look at what my mate Jeff Towns is saying as he’s arranged the day – http://ginsbergblog.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/fridays-weekly-round-up-260_18.html?m=1

One thought on “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness

  1. Looks like a fantastic day, Mr Garry, unfortunately an impossibility for me, but all the best for it. And thanks for sharing your own anecdotes from Big Sur. I recently showed my 13 yr old daughter the YouTube video of Macca accompanying Ginsberg at Albert Hall — Ginsberg reading A Ballad of American Skeletons.

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