Hear 130 Minutes of Charles Bukowski’s First-Ever Recorded Readings (1968)

Charles_Bukowski_smokingCharles Bukows­ki smok­ing by Tyre­nius

We enjoy the work of Charles Bukows­ki here at Open Cul­ture, but recent­ly we’ve weight­ed our atten­tion toward his late work. And I mean his very late work, like the last poem he ever faxed. So today we turn to the very back of Bukowski’s back pages, for 130 min­utes of the can­tan­ker­ous yet odd­ly hope-filled poet and nov­el­ist’s first-ever record­ed read­ings, all avail­able at Ubuweb. They come, as the site says, “culled from tapes made by Bukows­ki at his Los Ange­les home in 1968 for biog­ra­ph­er and rock crit­ic Bar­ry Miles, long before the author had begun reg­u­lar pub­lic read­ings.” Few would expect the behav­ior of a shrink­ing vio­let from the likes of Bukows­ki, but this occa­sion found him “so shy he insist­ed that he record alone. He reads both poet­ry and prose, gets thor­ough­ly drunk dur­ing the record­ing, and bitch­es about his life, his land­lord, and his neigh­bors.”

This mate­r­i­al all comes the album At Ter­ror Street and Agony Way, com­mer­cial­ly issued in 2000 but now out of print. Now that it has made its way to the inter­net, you can enjoy such vin­tage, lean Bukows­ki cuts  as “The State of World Affairs” (“The Hol­ly­wood hills stand there, stand there, full of drunks and insane peo­ple and much kiss­ing and auto­mo­biles”), “I Can­not Stand Tears” (“There were sev­er­al hun­dred fools around the goose who broke his leg, try­ing to decide what to do, when the guard walked up and pulled out his can­non”), and “I Want­ed to Over­throw the Gov­ern­ment” (“The weak­ness was not Gov­ern­ment but Man, one at a time, that men were nev­er as strong as their ideas, and that ideas were gov­ern­ments turned into men; and so it began on a couch with a spilled mar­ti­ni and it end­ed in the bed­room”).

You can hear the whole thing, in all its spir­it­ed (in both sens­es of the word) glo­ry on Ubuwe­b’s Bukows­ki page, which also offers such choice record­ings as 1969’s 70 Min­utes in Hell, 1973’s Poems and Insults, and 1980’s Hostage.

Find more of Bukowskis’s 1968 record­ings at Ubuweb.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Read­ing of Charles Bukowski’s First Pub­lished Sto­ry, “After­math of a Lengthy Rejec­tion Slip” (1944)

Lis­ten to Charles Bukows­ki Poems Being Read by Bukows­ki Him­self & the Great Tom Waits

So You Want to Be a Writer?: Charles Bukows­ki Explains the Dos & Don’ts

The Last (Faxed) Poem of Charles Bukows­ki

1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.