Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Jim Carroll died last Friday. It was really the sound of his voice that got me - a dope-sick quavering that made whatever he was saying turn into some excruciating truth. These days, it's easy to see him read his poetry on YouTube, but in the early 80s that kind of thing was still pretty exotic in San Diego - spoken word albums by the dial-a-poem poets with pictures of people like Laurie Anderson and Burroughs goofing with canes and vaudeville suits.
By then Carroll had been famous for a decade and everybody had copies of "Catholic Boy," his first record with the Jim Carroll Band. "People Who Died," a punk rock ode to his lost friends, sounds like a different song now that he's dead. I'll never see the California Theater down at 4th and C in quite the same way, having just learned that the abandoned 1927 theater was the site of Carroll's "first rock n roll performance" with the Patti Smith Group - right here in San Diego.
I have fond memories of the California Theater. A cousin of mine played there when I was little. My parents took me to see his concert (a co-bill with Art Garfunkel!) and he promised to take me "on tour" sometime. He never did. But I wound up in a band that played the California Theater in 1988, 10 years after Carroll's performance. It makes me think about all the memories a building like that holds. And about all the memories of Jim Carroll that people carry.
And it really makes me want to hear the two Sherlock Homes stories he recorded in the early 2000s. I can't imagine a more fitting voice than his - a voice resonant with dope and sex and crime and love and suffering and redemption, the voice you hear in between the songs on the "Velvet Underground: Live at Max's Kansas City" (because he's holding the damn microphone!) - to animate Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's words for a book on tape!