Reports from the Bibliographic Bunker
Jed Birmingham on William S. Burroughs Collecting
A true Burroughs vinyl rarity just sold on eBay: a signed copy of Nothing Here Now But the Recordings issued by Industrial Records ($330/9 bids). This gets into territory I know little about, but it seems to me that signed Burroughs LPs are very unusual. The most famous signed Burroughs LP would have to be the limited edition “The Priest They Called Him” released in 1993 by Tim Kerr records. There is a picture disc of 5000 copies ($100/$150 from booksellers) as well as a signed copy. On this record, Burroughs reads accompanied by Kurt Cobain’s guitar. Both Burroughs and Cobain signed the back of the vinyl. Cobain signed “Cohbain.” These records appear on eBay quite often. More information on this would be appreciated.
In any case, I have not seen too many signed Burroughs records. This copy of Nothing Here Now But the Recordings was signed near its release in 1981 for a Los Angeles record store owner. The signature is very nice and the provenance is great. Jeff Gold of Record Mecca offered the record on eBay. According to Rolling Stone, Gold is one of the top five rock memorabilia collectors on the planet along with Paul Allen. Go to RecordMecca.com to see the article. Apparently, Gold owns Jimi Hendrix’s record collection with doodles and annotations. Paul Allen owns Hendrix’s guitar from Woodstock. In addition, check out the website for other rock items for sale. Rock enthusiasts and bibliophiles should be blown away by the incredible items for sale. I found the Velvet Underground material very interesting and worth the trip.
As for the LP in question, Nothing Here Now is an expensive record unsigned. It is up there with the two Call Me Burroughs LPs. I see copies routinely crack $100 on eBay. I have not been able to get one, but the recordings on the LP are similar to the final CD of the William Burroughs set on the Giorno Poetry Project and the LP Break Through in Gray Room. Nothing Here Now documents Burroughs’ tape experiments in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It is an incredible peek into the goings on at the Beat Hotel with Gregory Corso and Brion Gysin. This record accompanies Minutes to Go and The Exterminator and demonstrates the early use of the cut up technique. Genesis P-Orridge, founder of Throbbing Gristle, salvaged these recordings from Burroughs’ archives and was responsible for their preservation and release. The recordings highlight Burroughs’ influence on concrete poetry and industrial music. The recordings also spotlight Burroughs’ link with the sound experiments of Carl Weissner and Henri Chopin who published Burroughs on vinyl and in magazines in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
In my mind, Burroughs vinyl is an essential part of a Burroughs collection. Best of all, Burroughs recordings are great fun. There is nothing like Burroughs’ voice and his readings are lively affairs. Nothing Here Now is especially important for a collection specializing in work from 1953-1965, like mine. As this auction shows, there must be others out there who think the same thing.