50th Anniversary of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" Court Ruling -- Fantasy Has Original Beat Poetry Recordings


Sign in to view read count
1993's 'Howls, Raps & Roars' box and the 1998 reissue of 'Howl and Other Poems' contain Ginsberg's original recordings made for the venerated Bay Area label

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- Allen Ginsberg wrote his epic poem “Howl" in mid-'50s San Francisco and Berkeley, and the rest is literary history. The work, first read in public in 1955 and published in 1956 before emerging victorious in a 1957 court ruling that it was not obscene, has been hailed as one of the most important poems of the 20th century, and it inspired a wave of Beat poetry. Fantasy Records became the unofficial audio home of the movement, documenting not only Ginsberg but several other poets of the day.

October 3, 2007 marks the 50th anniversary is of the court's decision finding that the work had “redeeming social importance." The ruling has been the “guideline" for books and music since then. Al Bendich (a partner in Fantasy inc and ACLU lawyer at the time) with Jake Erlich won the case.

The Howl and Other Poems vinyl LP was first released in 1959, repackaged for the burgeoning hippie generation in 1969, and remained in print until 1985, when the company ran out of vinyl LPs. Knowing that the compact disc would be the configuration of the future, Ginsberg and Fantasy Records' Bill Belmont began discussions on how to best preserve the recording. Their conversations continued through November 1996, when the two laid out plans for the current CD reissue. Ginsberg died in 1997, but by then plans were afoot to have longtime friend Anne Waldman write a timely perspective on his work, and to include a photo of the poet pointing to the building in which “Howl" was written.

The 1998 reissue of Howl joined Fantasy's definitive collection of Beat poetry, Howls, Raps & Roars: Recordings From the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance, released in 1993. The four-disc collection features not only Ginsberg's “Howl" but other poets and performers of the day: Lenny Bruce, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Kenneth Roxroth, Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovski, John Wieners, Philip Lamantia, Lew Welch, Philip Whalen, Michael McClure, David Meltzer and Kirby Doyle.

According to box set annotator Ann Charters, “Howl" “was conceived as a poem [Ginsberg] would create for himself, for what he called his 'own soul's ear and a few other golden ears.' This would allow him the freedom to write openly about his homosexuality. But when Ginsberg first performed “Howl" in public on October 7, 1955 . . . he found the audience so fervently sympathetic to the words that he discovered his unrecognized talents as a performance artist as well."

Fantasy's Bill Belmont adds: “Ginsberg's performance artistry can be gleaned through this wealth of recorded output, thanks to Fantasy Records, which has kept both the single- volume CD and box set in print to honor the 50th anniversary of the 1957 case which had been brought against Lawrence Ferlinghetti owner of City Lights Books which he successfully won against the San Francisco Police and U.S. Customs who had labeled the poem 'obscene'. It was by all accounts a landmark 1st Amendment case. Fantasy has always been proud to have and continue to be associated with Allen Ginsburg and the ongoing American literary traditions of irreverence and spontaneity."

This story appears courtesy of conqueroo.
Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.

For interview requests or more information contact .

Post a comment


View events near Los Angeles
Jazz Near Los Angeles
Events Guide | Venue Guide | Get App | More...

Jazz News

All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.