William S. Burroughs “Sings” R.E.M. and The Doors, Backed by the Original Bands

The nineties saw a lot of alter­na­tive bands not only wear their influ­ences on their sleeves, but also bring them up on stage and into the stu­dio. William S. Bur­roughs was one such lumi­nary, appear­ing on Tom Waits’ 1993 The Black Rid­er, a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Kurt Cobain titled “Priest They Called Him,” and Sep­tem­ber Songs, a 1997 Kurt Weill trib­ute album fea­tur­ing the likes of PJ Har­vey, Nick Cave, Elvis Costel­lo, and Lou Reed. In 1996, Bur­roughs got togeth­er with R.E.M. for a cov­er of their “Star Me Kit­ten” from ‘92’s Auto­mat­ic for the Peo­ple. In the track above, hear Bur­roughs recite Michael Stipe’s lyrics over the band’s instru­men­ta­tion. The record­ing comes from an album called Songs in the Key of X: Music From and Inspired By the X‑Files, which includ­ed Frank Black, Soul Cough­ing, Foo Fight­ers, and PM Dawn. Bur­roughs intro­duces his ren­di­tion by cit­ing a much more clas­si­cal source for his cabaret approach to the song: Mar­lene Diet­rich. “Not one of my favorite peo­ple,” he mum­bles, dourly. See per­haps why.

Bur­roughs didn’t only work musi­cal­ly with con­tem­po­rary alt bands in the ’90s, and he had a long, illus­tri­ous record­ing career sev­er­al decades pri­or. In a mash-up that brings togeth­er a band clos­er to Bur­roughs’ prime, hear the beat writer’s rhyth­mic dead­pan of Jim Morrison’s “Is Every­body In?,” backed by the sur­viv­ing Doors. Despite the orig­i­nal play­ers, it’s still a very ‘90s pro­duc­tion (though released in 2000). From a Doors trib­ute album called Stoned Immac­u­late, the song sits, some­what uncom­fort­ably, next to cov­ers and inter­pre­ta­tions by Stone Tem­ple Pilots, The Cult, Creed, Smash Mouth, Days of the New, and Train, and a bit cozi­er next to stal­warts like John Lee Hook­er, Exene Cer­ven­ka, and Bo Did­dley. Bur­roughs’ is the stand-out track among many that also fea­ture the Doors as a back­ing band, although in an acid-jazz production–with sam­ples of soul music and Mor­ri­son himself–that may sound a bit dat­ed. But Bur­roughs is as dry as ever, under­lin­ing the sheer creepi­ness of Mor­rison’s poet­ry in a trib­ute that also high­lights the debt Mor­ri­son owed him.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

William S. Bur­roughs Explains What Artists & Cre­ative Thinkers Do for Human­i­ty: From Galileo to Cézanne and James Joyce

Pat­ti Smith Shares William S. Bur­roughs’ Advice for Writ­ers and Artists

“The Lost Paris Tapes” Pre­serves Jim Morrison’s Final Poet­ry Record­ings from 1971

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • garethdm says:

    Thatis cool. Fans should also know that he worked with Bill Laswell’s Mate­r­i­al project in the late 80s — a great album called Sev­en Souls (since reis­sued in an expand­ed ver­sion on Trilo­ka Records). Bur­roughs intones apoc­a­lyp­tic visions over Laswell’s dark, Arabesque psy­che­del­ic jams. Here’s a tasty sam­ple: nnhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQc3T45pRWY

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