John Sinclair – Beatnik Youth CD

John Sinclair - Beatnik Youth
While many know John Sinclair as the White Panther firebrand who stoked the MC5’s insurrectionary manifesto, or drug bust victim released after John Lennon’s high-profile intercession, his roots stretch back to jazz and the beats, as writer, avant-garde champion and poet. Sinclair’s large legend allows him to travel the world, collaborating with like-minded souls; a living embodiment of the original free spirit that fought to emancipate a generation, one of the few left still flying the freak flag as high as he can hoist it.

Since the early 90s, Sinclair has released albums of his poetry, but Beatnik Youth is the high-profile statement he’s been meant to make all his life. This poorly served generation needs it: that militant energy which released the bats in the 60s is crucially booted into the 21st Century in a riotous celebration of personal freedom, cultural trailblazers and, frankly, marijuana.

Sinclair’s core cohorts are producer-bassist Youth and The Dirty Strangers’ singer-guitarist Alan Clayton (plus engineer-keyboardist Michael Rendall). Different tracks also feature Howard Marks, Zodiac Mindwarp, Mark Stewart, Primal Scream, singer Angie Brown and one Beef Pilchards. Between insidious soul choruses over diverse backdrops, Sinclair barks, growls, rails, coos and guffaws with a roaring animated passion undimmed by his 70-plus years. Moods straddle the smokily atmospheric (Testify, Sitartha), balls-out rockers (Ain’t Nobody’s Business, 1965-composed doper anthem Good Stuff) or free-form cinematic (Brilliant Corners homaging Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs). Everybody Needs Somebody’s motorik carries Sinclair’s infamous (Thelonious) Monk In Orbit poem, while the Primals-driven Culture-Cide (hijacked from Youth’s recent Mark Stewart sessions) becomes a weed-for-all riot with Howard Marks gleefully piling in. That Old Man is a spirits-lifting reflection on growing old disgracefully, concluding that this old man is “still alive and kicking”. A rare delight all round. – Kris Needs


Good Stuff
Everybody Needs Somebody
Change My Life
Ain’t Nobodys Bizness
My Buddy
That Old Man
Brilliant Corners
Red Dress (Ruby My Dear)

You can find John Sinclair in the Iron Man shop here:

They call him “The Big Chief”. From Detroit to New Orleans and from Los Angeles to Amsterdam, John Sinclair is still the cigar-chomping, king-size, psychedelic old-gangster poet, a living legend, a veteran of the counterculture, a survivor of the Marijuana Wars, and one of the last bohemians still standing. As a co-founder of the Detroit underground newspaper The Fifth Estate, manager of punk godfathers MC5, and Chairman of the White Panther Party – described on Wikipedia in these modern times as “a far-left, anti-racist, white American political collective founded in 1968 and dedicated to ‘cultural revolution’” his mark on the boho rock & roll underground has been unique.

In 1969, with Richard Nixon in the White House, Vietnam in chaos in the wake of the Viet Cong’s near-suicidal Tet Offensive, and American cities still scared and scarred from urban riots, even the comparatively harmless agitprop pranks of White Panther “cultural revolution” had those in power reaching for their metaphoric – and sometimes actual – revolvers. Authorities remembered how John had organized the MC5’s playing outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the only band actually able to perform before Mayor Daley’s rabid police department violently derailed the massive anti-Vietnam war rally with teargas, billy clubs, and helicopter support.

John was deemed a danger to society and set up like a bowling pin. After handing a couple of joints to a hassling hippie who turned out to be an undercover narcotics agent, John found himself on the bad end of a ten year jail term. At the same time though he became a cause celebre. Free John Sinclair became one more battle cry in an embattled era. Protests, propaganda, and a giant concert in Ann Arbor headlined by John Lennon and Yoko Ono ultimately resulted in John’s release in November 1971. Lennon even wrote a song about him called ‘John Sinclair’ which he included on his ‘Sometime In New York City’ album.

In common with much that happens with John, a meeting with producer Youth (Paul McCartneys ‘Fireman’, Primal Scream, The Verve etc & Killing Joke bass player) that sowed the creative seeds was a matter of stoned synchronicity. As Track Records boss Ian Grant tells it , “Alan Clayton told me he had ‘John Sinclair coming round tomorrow.’ I said “the John Sinclair”. One night Zodiac (Mindwarp) was on the bill the Dirty Strangers and Youth was very taken with John. “I want to make a jazz album with John”. Since then, the two met at Youths house whenever he was home, and when John was in the country, and recorded the album.”

And – through the course of those recordings – John, always so associated with the 1960s, took a serious step into the ways of the 21st century, with the same intoned poetry (he even tells the tale of Thelonious Monk on acid), but with melodic backing vocals, highly inventive production, even a nod to hip-hop, but still remembering his first loves of blues, be-bop, and classic rock & roll. Beatnik Youth is one more step in the Big Chief’s long zigzag trip that seems set to continue all the way to the far blue horizon. Summing up John Sinclair, you can only say with certainty that the beatnik goes on.

Guest on the album include, Howard Marks, Keith Levine, Bobby Gillespie, Brian James, Angie Brown, Zodiac (Mindwarp), Jesse Wood, Mark Stewart, Alan Clayton and Youth plays bass on all tracks.

12 page booklet with sleevenotes by Mick Farren and John Sinclair

You can find John Sinclair in the Iron Man shop here: