Thursday, January 5, 2012

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xxxi)

In early June of 1971 the block on Bleecker Street where AJ lived had not yet been gentrified and it looked like a block on which Bowery bums were more likely to hang out and live than would newly affluent yuppies or young Wall Street stockbrokers from the suburbs. Since the bell to the loft in which AJ then lived with his womanfriend or wife did not work, I had to yell on the street “Hey, AJ!” in order to gain entry into the building, before walking up the stairs to the door to AJ’s loft.

After AJ looked out the window of his loft and let me into the building, and I then walked up some stairs, I soon found myself inside AJ’s large loft. AJ and the one or two other freaks he was talking with seemed to be stoned on pot and, after I introduced myself to AJ, he quickly passed me a joint. Predictably, the vinyl album that was being played on AJ’s stereo system in the loft during my visit was Dylan’s then recently-released New Morning album.

There wasn’t much furniture in the loft. But there seemed to be a lot of papers related to Dylan there and copies of Dylan’s Tarantula book. AJ’s womanfriend or wife at the time, a hip-looking woman in her 20s who would have been considered physically attractive by most men and seemed to be some kind of artist, was also in AJ’s loft at the time, although I did not converse with her.

After I mentioned that I was on welfare at the time, AJ mentioned that before he dropped out of the straight world and became a Dylanologist he had held this 9-to-5 straight job at some Manhattan employment agency. But, after seeing how the private employment agency he worked for helped its Manhattan corporate clients discriminate against African-American job applicants or ripped off the job-hunters it did find jobs for, he had felt compelled to quit that job.

Since AJ had come to feel that by 1971 there were so many freaks in the United States that “freaks were now an ethnic community,” when I visited him in early June of 1971, AJ was hoping to get some kind of cable show airtime for a show that would have programming designed for a “freak ethnic community” audience. And, if AJ did get such a cable tv show, it seemed like he was open to having me sing the “A Millionaire” and “Livin’ On Stolen Goods” protest folk songs on such a tv show.

As far as being my “manager” for free, AJ indicated that he thought some kind of master tape that was mixed would probably be needed in order to get some record company interested in recording the protest folk songs. But he’d keep his eyes open for some music industry person who might want to record the songs at some point, and let me know if any interest developed. In the meantime, we agreed that I would mail him cassette tapes (that I recorded on my cheap portable cassette tape recorder) of any new protest folk songs that I might write over the next few years.

Still high from the joint AJ had given me when I left AJ’s loft and was back down on Bleecker Street in front of the building in which he lived, I realized that AJ seemed to be involved simultaneously in so many different Movement projects and activities that he probably wouldn’t really find much time to approach Folkways, Vanguard or Electra or some other record company about recording any of the protest songs I had written. But in June 1971, AJ seemed like both a fun guy and like someone with whom it would be fun to share some of my writing and some of the protest folk songs and folk love songs I wrote during the 1970s—even if no vinyl record album of the songs ever developed from our non-financially-based counter-cultural relationship.

Ironically, by the Fall of 1971, AJ’s Dylan Liberation Front/Rock Liberation Front and the Yippies’ political/cultural freak activism had apparently attracted the attention of John Lennon, after Lennon moved from the UK to Manhattan. And the former Beatle multi-millionaire (who by the early 1970s had written “Working-Class Hero” and decided that he wanted to then write protest rock songs and attempt to now use his musical and songwriting skills to generate more revolutionary mass consciousness among his fans rather than to just entertain them in an “art for art’s sake” way) began to help bankroll some of the Yippies’ anti-war activism and concretely support and promote the anti-hip capitalist perspective of AJ’s Rock Liberation Front.

So AJ (although still interested in things like underground culture and the 1970s Weather Underground, for example) seemed to then feel that it was more politically productive to spend his limited time encouraging Lennon to continue supporting the Yippies and anti-war activism and the Rock Liberation Front in late 1971 and in 1972, rather than to spend much time in a probably doomed attempt to get the protest folk songs of unknown working-class people like myself onto some Folkways, Vanguard or Elektra vinyl record.

But, coincidentally, it was only after AJ and the Dylan Liberation Front had demonstrated at Dylan’s house in the West Village in May of 1971 that Dylan, subsequently, ended up writing a protest folk song, “George Jackson,” that protested against the African-American revolutionary political prisoner, intellectual and writer being slain by guards at San Quentin Prison in California in August 1971.