Reports from the Bibliographic Bunker
Jed Birmingham on William S. Burroughs Collecting
#4: The Urgency Press Ripoff Edition of Time — Roy Pennington (1972). An Installment in Jed Birmingham’s series of the The Top 23 Most Interesting Burroughs Collectibles.
The Urgency Press Rip-Off bootleg of Time speaks for itself. Preach it, Roy!
This edition of TIME MAGAZINE by W. S. Burroughs is bought for you courtesy of Ugency Press Rip-Off using anarchist duplicator (a machine wih x a mond of its own). 5 runs of 99 copies each wre printed of which at least 20 wrer cocked-up and given away the rest you gotta pay for. We would have put the staples in the usual way , but the original had wider pages . . . anyway it is quite appropriate . . . at the risk of giving the game away allow me to explain: the column headings are sequitors, but often in reverse. What goes up, can go down.
This work is a fine early example of the cut-up technique which burroughs has no disowned (see his recent interview in rolling stone) probably because it is too artificial. nevertheless we can find many familiar landmarks in the following pages. a medley of all his works. Even the inimitable Col. Sutton-Smith, a pre-echo of Burroughs in old-age retirement. (the arch exponent of the DO-EASY do it yourself get it together based on domestic rituals (see forthcoming rip-offs) . . . . . .
finally a woed from out sponsors::: U P R O intend to bring out a further collection of low-availability burroughs artivles (e.g. the Mayfair articles not used to pad-out ‘The Job’) plus a phenomenological critique of language based on the dictum KILL THE WORD BEFORE THE WORD KILLS YOU and the writings of Korzibski (the great russian semanticist) Also a collection of the lyrics of the Soft Machine plus cartoons. All low quality runs as wre not in this for the money (i think). Remember, anyone could have done this, but we did. Remember anyone could sign [signature of William Burroughs]
p.s. this edition specially prepared in hurry for bickershaw festival as the sun was shining in sunny brighton hope it shines for you too. any enquiries to: roy pennington, c/o Arts B 9post-grad, Sussex University Falmer.
p.p.s ?this is a typographical error ?
Amen, brother! The Bickershaw Festival ran from May 5-7, 1972, with an incredible group of performers including: Hawkwind (with Lemmy, RIP you silver machine), Dr. John, The Incredible String Band, Donovan, Cheech and Chong, The Kinks, Flaming Groovies, Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Country Joe McDonald and The Grateful Dead. The sets by Captain Beefheart and The Grateful Dead were allegedly legendary. The Festival may well have been one of the wettest on record, but Roy’s Rip-off, published for and distributed at the Festival, sure fucking shines. With this DIY blast, think of the day-glo Blast from back in the futurists, pounding over the loudspeakers, Roy takes center stage in Burroughs’ bibliography and defiantly drops the mic while the echo of his call to action hangs in the air.
“All low quality runs as wre not in this for the money (i think). Remember, anyone could have done this, but we did.”
Amateur: a person who engages in a pursuit, especially a sport, on an unpaid basis. Some may dismiss Roy’s publications as amateurish. It is easy to flip through the Rip-off Time and toss it off as unprofessional. But when did being an amateur become a negative? And why so? Nowadays everybody wants to get fucking paid. Everybody wants a job title and health insurance. Everybody wants an office and office hours. Everybody seeks to wear a business suit and go to work. If they do not exactly seek it out willingly, they are willing to settle for it. Why would you ever want to make academics, publishing, or art a J-O-B? All you need is love. Amor. Amateur: engaging or engaged in without payment; nonprofessional. Note: the key word here is nonprofessional , not unprofessional. Somehow being an amateur has become equated with conduct unbecoming to the team. It has become a personal foul. How about doing it for the love of the game? For sport. Publishing, art, and academics are not about job security, but living on the edge and working from the margins. Yet not being on the sidelines. It is not that amateurs are not in the game; they just make their own rules. Or more accurately they refuse to engage in point-shaving. Amateurs will not throw the game for a few bucks. Publishing, art and academics are not about getting paid or getting laid, but just about the joy of playing.
Bickershaw was largely a hippie festival, but the Urgency Time is pure garage rock and proto-punk. It is defiantly DIY and lo-fi. For me, it is more beautiful than one of the lettered editions of Time, which are now on the market as art objects for more than $18,000. Roy does not mess with the fine press and that is fine with me. This ain’t no disco; this ain’t no fooling around. This is raw power, printed with a heart full of napalm. Pure passion, pure fun. The Time bootleg is a richer reading experience. That’s for sure. This is what publishing should be. The bootleg Time is a zine before the glory days of zines in the 1980s/1990s. Most of the copies of My Own Mag that I own were Roy’s personal copies and you can see the influence of Nuttall, such as in the manner of stapling, in Roy’s publications.
The only problem I have with Roy as a publisher is that he did not complete his list of projected works. His only other completed work (if there are others, somebody please fill me it ASAP), The Mayfair Acadamy More or Less, is another masterwork of the Mimeo Revolution. Roy infiltrated the British Library, ransacked its archives and shared his treasures with the world, a true pirate. The fear of piracy is not the danger of being plundered or walking the plank, but that the pirate offers an alternative society or economy. Pirates are not lawless, but they do play by their own rules. Roy is on a mission. He is Captain Mission. Burroughs understood the value of that, but does he condone it? You can talk about Nike ads and Viking book deals all you want, but where Burroughs stood (or whether he attempted to stomp them out) on publishers like Roy is the real measure of whether Burroughs sold out on his ideas and ideals or not.
Such acts by Roy are largely considered unprofessional. Roy is the amateur as agitator. Protest and rebellion have likewise become professional and commercialized. They do not make you throw up in disgust. They are meant to be consumed. Protest is an industry and a big business. Likewise rebellion should not be a charity. Raising hell has been replaced by the constant need to raise funds or the desire to make money. Pro vs amateur. DIY or die. I am not recommending that you take your ball and go home, but I would like to remind you of how fun it was way back when to play pick up with whoever happened to be in your local neighborhood park. Nobody plays pick up anymore for fear of being kidnapped. Or arrested. It is no longer legal to have your big brother watch over you in the park. All the activities of kids and adults, be it protesting or playing baseball, must be organized and supervised by professionals.
Roy’s taste is impeccable. He rightly saw The Job as a con perpetrated on the public and the publishers. As for the charge of padding, Burroughs is guilty and not just in The Job. In addition, Roy was one of the few who understood that The Soft Machine was a work of poetry. (Roy may speak of the band not the book, but my list is full of what ifs. I will misread Roy in order to get to the book of my dreams.) If only he would have put the Olympia Press edition back before the eyes of readers, it would no doubt have made my top five Burroughs collectibles. I merely keep the Mayfair Acadamy off my list in order to give others a chance. Anything Roy did is a shot of pure joy and adrenalin.
You see, reading Burroughs and specifically Naked Lunch I never once felt that I could write like him. He did not inspire me to become a writer. It was a prophet/disciple relationship. I came to Burroughs to listen and to learn. To sit at his feet. The best Burroughs, the most inspiring were the cut-ups. That was possible and worth doing. The cut-ups are DIY. If the cut-up made writing seem within my grasp (I only need to grab hold of the scissors), Roy made publishing seem doable and more importantly he filled me with the desire and energy to try it myself. I wanted to stand side by side with Roy. I wanted to print with him in protest. I wanted to sit and talk with him in a pub. DIY, god knows, it is Time. The time is right. Hurry up, it’s time. Time to get moving. Time and technology changes but the urge to do it yourself and free the word from all control does not. Roy’s manifesto and his publications were the primary inspiration for the Bibliographic Bunker, Mimeo Mimeo, and Planned Obsolescence Press. DIY publications lead by example and Roy is one of my most important teachers. Roy seemed to be having such a good time, yet he seemed to be on an important mission. An undercover assignment. Roy’s rules of publishing: (1) it should be fun and (2) it should be dangerous. Publishing is serious play. On the other hand, corporate publishing (or institutional academics or the art market) is just a fucking business; it is a dead-end job. The Mimeo Revolution and Roy Pennington say take this job and shove it; I am going to take some Time for myself.