Monthly Archives: March 2012

Trail: Harry Potter and the Beat Generation of Death

Daniel Radcliffe, the titular star of one of the most profitable movie franchises in Harry Potter, has certainly been making a few determined moves to disentangle himself permanently from the tentacles of Voldemort now that the long-running wizard and potions saga has reached its cinematic conclusion.

After making some well-received stage appearances in 2007 in Peter Schaffer’s powerful, horse-blinding drama Equus, in both London and New York, including challenging nude scenes to boot, even before J.K. Rowling’s fantasy fest had ended its film cycle, Radcliffe has also featured in the recent screen chiller, The Woman in Black, to more luke-warm notices.

But it is his next project that will perhaps see the young Briton tested most – playing a gay American in a true-life murder mystery. No, it’s not CSI: Hogwarts with a gender twist, but an adaptation of the events outlined in the Jack Kerouac/William Burroughs collaboration And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, a rare, two-scribe novel penned in the mid-1940s but one that did not see the general light of day until 2008.

For most Beat aficionados, however, the action in the story centres on those real-life events of 1944 when David Kammerer was stabbed and killed by Lucien Carr, in a bid, we have always been led to believe, to fend off the victim’s homosexual advances to the younger man. The fact that Kerouac would then become embroiled in the events that followed – he hid the murder weapon and was arrested as an accessory – has become a key part in the early Beat chronology.

In the movie, entitled Kill Your Darlings, Radcliffe dons the spectacles once more to portray Allen Ginsberg. Carr, who would serve two years in jail for what the press of the day dubbed ‘an honour slaying’, is played by Dane DeHaan, Kammerer is Michael C. Hall, Burroughs comes to life in the hands of Ben Foster, while Kerouac is reincarnated by Jack Huston. The film, currently in production on the Manhattan streets and directed by John Krokidas, is slated for a 2013 release.


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Review: Heath Common & The Thin Man – Bohemia

Poetry and pop? Beat and rock’n’roll? Over the last half-century, several generations of rockers and rappers, folkies and freaks, melodists and mavericks, balladeers and beat-boxers, have tried to distil the essence of the art of Kerouac and Ginsberg, Burroughs and Ferlinghetti, and embroider it, re-shape it, re-cast it, with the riffs and licks of popular music.

In fact, few of the true giants – from Dylan to Lennon, Waits to Strummer, Patti Smith to Kurt Cobain, Stipe to Bono – have been immune to the notion that those revolutionary Fifties wordsmiths had something quixotic, something energising, to add to rock music at its more radical edges.

Whether it has been Beat’s literary style – its rolling, insistent momentum or the jolt of its fragmented verse – or merely its clarion call to freedom and the open highway, the pulse of the prose, the spark of its language, has remained an ongoing inspiration to younger hordes wielding electric guitars and rebellious vim.

That enduring, picaresque spirit is a frequent presence on Bohemia, a new album by a band of salty survivors from England’s north who take pieces of that potent Beat narrative, insert iconic figures from the popular cultural landscape, spout urban legends and churn in ancient myths, and weave them all with craft and charm in a ten-track debut odyssey.

Heath Common and The Thin Man are the principal wizards behind this eccentric yet alluring project, joined by a gang of seasoned and adept troubadours who add their atmospheric flavours to a string of imaginative set-pieces: tales of the weird West and timeless Bible fables, incidents from downtown New York City and even inner city Manchester, all brought to impressionistic life by some eclectic, rootsy, bluesy, folksy tunescapes.

The soundtrack has hints of Cooder’s Buena Vista adventure, taints of another Ry work-out in Wenders’ Paris Texas, yet also the twinkle and tinkle of Tales from Europe and the dark melancholy of Yiddish klezmer with all the barbed wire embers that evokes. This is spoken word with a worldly-wise, even world-weary, eye, but its sage-like tones hint enticingly at the long, deep drift of an alternative history.

As for the Beat influence on the collection, Neal Cassady, the frenetic hero of On the Road, makes a cameo appearance in ‘A New Bohemian’, the words of poet Gary Snyder form a portion of ‘Why Truck Drivers Rise Earlier than the Students of Zen’, legendary street musician Moondog crops up in ‘The Angel of New York’, a Beat-linked comedian is at the heart of ‘I Don’t Want to Be Lenny Bruce Anymore’ and there are yet more subterranean nuggets to unpick in the folds of the text.

But if you’re looking for some rock gods in the pages of this Pynchon-esque fantasia, look no further than Lennon in the nostalgic, even valedictory, ‘Candlestick Park’ or Keith Richards in ‘Performance (The Toronto Bust in Waltz Time)’, who, to add another layer to this saga, was actually heading, as star guest, to the Nova Convention, a major Manhattan tribute to William Burroughs, when his notorious drug arrest occurred.

In short, Bohemia is an ambitious compendium of boho snapshots riddled with reference to the literary and the musical, offbeat monologues to be recited around campfires of the mind, dreams to be decoded by the light of a mandolin moon, fairy stories for a new millennium, twisted tales engagingly unwound to the twang and spittle of a Soho saloon.

Heath Common & The Thin Man’s Bohemia is released on Platform 54, Summer 2012. Visit: http://www.heathcommonandthethinman.com

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