In February of 1982, Allen Ginsberg arrived in Los Angeles and called up his friend Bob Dylan. According to Steven Taylor, a guitarist who was traveling with the poet, Ginsberg was eager to book some studio time. Dylan obliged, and agreed to foot the bill for the studio costs on the condition that Ginsberg would pay the musicians. The two met at Dylan’s Santa Monica studio and, as Taylor remembers it, jammed for 10 hours.
Journalist and producer Pat Thomas tells the full story of that session and of Ginsberg and Dylan’s lengthy shared musical history in the liner notes for The Last Word on First Blues, an upcoming collection of the Beat icon’s little-heard recordings as a singer-songwriter. The three-CD set includes the entirety of First Blues – a topical and often satirical 1983 Ginsberg double LP drawn in part from 1971 sessions that also included Dylan – plus assorted previously unreleased Ginsberg recordings from the Seventies and Eighties. Though Ginsberg wrote much of this material and handles lead vocals throughout, Dylan turns up frequently on the set, contributing vocals and playing various instruments. “Do the Meditation Rock” – the first track to surface from Ginsberg and Dylan’s epic 1982 Santa Monica jam, now streaming below – affords the rare opportunity to hear Dylan playing bass.
Also heard on the track are Taylor on acoustic guitar, Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue collaborator David Mansfield on mandolin and guitar, and Rick Rosato – who played on the Shot of Love tour – on drums. “If you want to learn how to meditate/I’ll tell you now, ’cause it’s never too late,” Ginsberg talk-sings at the outset of the upbeat folk-rock song, kicking off a lengthy list of increasingly absurd instructions for achieving higher consciousness.
The Last Word on First Blues is out May 20th from Omnivore Recordings. Other artists featured on the 35-track set include jazz multi-instrumentalist Don Cherry, avant-garde cellist Arthur Russell and folk luminary Happy Traum.