William S. Burroughs - Let Me Hang You - Cassette

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William S. Burroughs
Let Me Hang You


Near the end of his life, William S. Burroughs was recorded reading some of the most shocking sections of “Naked Lunch,” his 1959 fever dream of a novel, which follows the descent of a drug addict into the underworld, for a release that paired the passages with experimental music. The world may not yet have been ready for such an experience.

“The project got buried and put out of print very quickly,” said the producer Hal Willner, a longtime Burroughs associate who helped record that abridged audiobook, which was released by Warner Bros. (and pops up now and again on eBay).

But more than 20 years later, those surreal recordings — which featured music from the guitarist and composer Bill Frisell, along with the pianist Wayne Horvitz and the violist Eyvind Kang — are getting a second life as an album with an assist from the independent musician King Khan, best known for his raucous live shows as an eccentric punk and soul frontman. Billed as psychedelic spoken word, “Let Me Hang You” (Khannibalism/Ernest Jenning Record Co.) will be released on July 15 via King Khan’s new label, with updated ambient accompaniment for the author.

The album finds Burroughs, who died at 83 in 1997, doing the “unspeakable portions” of “Naked Lunch” — think sex, drugs and defecation — in pop-song-length chunks across 13 tracks, using a variety of amusing voices and a lot of foul language. The focus was sections of the novel “that we found very funny in an outrageous way,” Mr. Willner, 60, said.

“Some see him as this true avant-gardist and not at all a comedian,” he added of Burroughs. “But it’s accessible as well as being avant-garde and sophisticated.”

The producer revived the recordings that became “Let Me Hang You” — which the album’s liner notes describe as being “abandoned and collecting dust on a musty shelf as forgotten as a piece of rancid ectoplasm on a peep show floor” — recently with Mr. Khan in mind as the composer who could finish the job.
A1The Exterminator
A2Manhattan Serenade
A4This You Gotta Hear
A5Disciplinary Procedures
A6The Afterbirth King
A7Lief The Unlucky
B1Let Me Hang You
B2Islam Incorporated
B3The Queen Bee
B4Clem Snide The Private Asshole
B5Gentle Reader