Burroughs and Cobain, 1993


William S. Burroughs and Kurt Cobain's "The 'Priest' They Called Him" (1993). After meeting Cobain, Burroughs commented to his assistant:

"There’s something wrong with that boy; he frowns for no good reason.”


  1. Still have my original “Priest” CD from the 90’s, one of my all time favorite artistic odd couple team ups. 

  2. I believe this was taped in Lawrence, KS. My home-away-from-home town… I recorded an album at the Black Lodge in Eudora a few years ago and saw quite a few bits of Burroughs memorabilia on the walls there. I think this may have been one of them… Burroughs was also known to hang out with several well known folks from the Austin, TX and El Paso, TX music scenes (Butthole Surfers, Ministry, etc), which makes much sense because of his attachment to that area. Watching this fills me with much pride for Lawrence, KS, because it is such a vibrant and embracing area socially, culturally, and spiritually. If you have any contempt for Kansas as it is portrayed in the media often, you will be surprised by how much different Lawrence is from the rest of the state — even the most populous areas near KC, Topeka, and Wichita… Lawrence bleeds blue, not red.

    1. Followed the link to Amazon and saw Tim Kerr records — which only strengthens my point.  Tim Kerr records was working with several bands in the area, one of my favorites being Zoom.

      This is a video from a recent reunion show. Good stuff.

      1. Cool! I’ve never been to Lawrence but I’ve heard that the creative community there is unexpectedly vibrant and amazing. It wasn’t an accident that WSB’s longtime companion James Grauerholz chose Lawrence to live after leaving NYC then eventually dragged Burroughs there too.

    2. According to this article Burrough’s monologue was recorded in Lawrence, whilst Kurt’s guitar was later overdubbed in Seattle. 

      They didn’t actually meet during the recording process, and it was only about a year later that they managed to meet in person.

  3. “There’s something wrong with that boy; he frowns for no good reason.”

    Burroughs always had the gift of creating a snap shot of a character without loading up the description with adjectives.  “Junkie” is full of these characters, which Burroughs introduces and throws away after one scene.  Maybe he thought he might never write another book, so he just wanted to get all these characters out of his system.

    “…….Norton was trying to improve his English and achieve a smooth, affable manner. Affability, however, did not come natural to him. In repose, his expression was sullen and mean, and you knew he always had that mean look when you turned your back…..”

      1. Google any of this to find a pdf of junkie on line 

          I began dropping into the Angle Bar every night and saw quite a bit of Herman. I managed to overcome his original bad impression of me, and soon I was buying his drinks and meals, and he was hitting me for “smash” (change) at regular intervals. Herman did not have a habit at this time. In fact, he seldom got a habit unless someone else paid for it. But he was always high on something — weed, benzedrine, or knocked out of his mind on “goof balls.” He showed up at the Angle every night with a big slob of a Polack called Whitey. There were four Whities inthe Angle set, which made for confusion. This Whitey combined the sensitivity of a neurotic with a psychopath’s readiness for violence. He was convinced that nobody liked him, a fact that seemed to cause him a great deal of worry.
                One Tuesday night Roy and I were standing at the end of the Angle bar. Subway Mike was there, and Frankie Dolan. Dolan was an Irish bay with a cast in one eye. He specialized in crummy scores, beating up defenseless drunks, and holding out on his confederates. “I got no honor,” he would say. “I’m a rat.” And he would giggle.
                Subway Mike had a large, pale face and long teeth. He looked like some specialized kind of underground animal that preys on the animals of the surface. lie was a skillful lush-worker, but he had no front. Any cop would do a doubletake at sight of him, and he was well known to the subway squad. So Mike spent at least half of his time on the Island doing the five-twenty-nine for jostling,.
                This night Herman was knocked out on “nembies” and his head kept falling down onto the bar. Whitey was stomping up and down the length of the bar trying to promote some free drinks. The boys at the bar sat rigid and tense, clutching their drinks, quickly pocketing their change. I heard Whitey say to the bartender, “Keep this for me, will you?” and he passed his large clasp knife across the bar. The boys sat there silent and gloomy under the fluorescent lights. They were all afraid of Whitey, all except Roy. Roy sipped his beer grimly. His eyes shone withtheir peculiar phosphorescence. His long asymmetrical body was draped against the bar. He didn’t look at Whitey, but at the opposite wall where the booths were located. Once he said to me, “He’s no more drunk than I am. He’s just thirsty.”        
        Whitey was standing in the middle of the bar, his fists doubled up, tears streaming down his face. “I’m no good,” he said. “I’m no good. Can’t anyone understand I don’t know what I’m doing?”
                The boys tried to get as far away from him as possible
        without attracting his attention.
                Subway Slim, Mike’s occasional partner, came in and ordered a beer. He was tall and bony, and his ugly face had a curiously inanimate look, as if made out of wood. Whitey slapped him on the back and I heard Slim say, “For Christ’s sake, Whitey.” There was more interchange I didn’t hear. Somewhere along the line Whitey must have got his knife back from the bartender. He got behind Slim and suddenly pushed his hand against Slim’s back. Slim fell forward against the bar, groaning. I saw Whitey walk to the front of the bar and look around. He closed his knife and slipped it into his packet.
                Roy said, “Let’s go.”
                Whitey had disappeared and the bar was empty except for Mike, who was holding Slim up on one side. Frankie Dolan was on the other.
                1 heard next day from Frankie that Slim was okay. “The croaker at the hospital said the knife just missed a kidney.”
                Roy said, “The big slob. I can see a real muscle man, but a guy like that going around picking up dimes and quarters off the bar. I was ready for him. I was going to kick him in the belly first, then get one of those quart beer bottles from the case on the floor and break it over his sconce. With a big villain like that you’ve got to use strategy.”
                We were all barred from the Angle, which shortly
        afterwards changed its name to the Roxy Grill.

  4. Wow, that brings me back. Used to have this on as background music at my friend Shawn’s place all the time when I was young. I’d somehow forgotten about it until now. Amazing how the first chord of the guitar just brought a ton of memories rushing back.

    1. “The Junkie’s Christmas” (video) and “The ‘Priest’, They Called Him” are slightly different twists on the short story “The Junky’s Christmas”, from his short story collection Interzone; it was published in 1989, but I think most of the stories were written in the 50’s and 60’s.

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