July 14, 2008

For Bastille Day

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Bastille Day automatically makes me think of this verse about the storming of the Bastille:
Screaming in language that no one understands
Of the rights that we grabbed with our own bleeding hands
When we wiped out the bosses and stormed through the wall
Of the prison they told us would outlast us all!
It's from a song hailing the French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat in the Peter Weiss play Marat/Sade.

I first saw the play when my brother Brian played in it in a community theater production in the late '60s, but many of us elderly people know the song "Poor Old Marat" from the Judy Collins album, In My Life.

I couldn't find that on YouTube, so here's a rockier take on it by the False Prophets, from Coca Crystal's fabled NYC cable access show in 1988. (The song starts at about the 1:30 mark, and is commendably accessible.)

Full lyrics bel0w the fold!


Four years after the revolution
And the old king's execution
Four years after I remember how
Those courtiers took their final vow

String up every aristocrat
Out with the priests
Let them live on their fat

Four years after we started fighting
Marat keeps on with his writing
Four years after the Bastille fell
He still recalls the old battle yell

Down with all of the ruling class
Throw all the generals out on their ass

Good old Marat by your side we'll stand or fall
You're the only one that we can trust at all

Four years he fought and he fought unafraid
Sniffing down traitors by traitors betrayed
Marat in the courtroom Marat underground
Sometimes the otter and sometimes the hound

Fighting all the gentry and fighting every priest
The businessman, the bourgeois, the military beast
Marat always ready to stifle every scheme
Of the sons of the ass-licking dying regime

We've got new generals,
Our leaders are new
They sit and they argue
And all that they do
Is sell their own colleagues
And ride upon their backs
And jail them
And break them
And give them all the axe
Screaming in language that no one understands
Of the rights that we grabbed with our own bleeding hands
When we wiped out the bosses and stormed through the wall
Of the prison they told us would outlast us all

Marat we're poor
And the poor stay poor
Marat don't make
Us wait anymore
We want our rights and we don't care how
We want our revolution now

Why do they have the gold
Why do they have the power
Why why why
Do they have the friends at the top
Why do they have the jobs at the top
We've got nothing
Always had nothing
Nothing but holes and millions of them
Living in holes dying in holes
Holes in our bellies and holes in our clothes

Marat we're poor
And the poor stay poor
Marat don't make us wait anymore
Poor old Marat they hunt you down
The bloodhounds are sniffing all over the town
Poor old Marat you work 'til your eyes turn as red as rust

Poor old Marat
We trust in you ...

3 comments:

Norman Savitt said...

Wow!
Thanks so much for posting this!
Ah the memories...

Stephan Ielpi, the founder, front man, singer and lyricist of the False Prophets was quite an imposing figure, not the kind of person one forgets. He worked very hard at looking as weird as he could, with his super long nails, monkey skull cane, leather hat, ripped up shirts, all kinds of things hanging off of him, etc, etc, he certainly looked like the kind of person not to be trifled with, but he was actually quite friendly and amiable, he probably was a boy scout in his earlier or past life.

After Steven Taylor joined the band it was not unusual to see Allen Ginsberg, artist Erik Drooker, Ann Waldman, various Fugs and all kinds of LES (lower east side) people sit in with this interesting NYC band.

I am not sure what Ielpi is doing these days, I haven't seen him in about 5 years or so. Anybody know?

Steven Taylor has recently moved back to NYC and can be seen at the Living Theater backing up Ann Waldman, Hakim Bey and other poets. He wrote a book about his 3 or so years with this band, I think it is still in print.

Lots more info and videos here.

As per Coca Crystal, the banner hanging on the back curtain of every show read "If I Can't Dance You Can Keep Your Revolution", an Emma Goldman quote. She had many many great guests on her local access cable TV show which ran from something like 1977 to 1995, and I was very proud to be a cameraman for her on it for that last year. She has been putting up on YouTube many of her shows, you can see them here.

Happy Bastille Day to you and yours!

Anonymous said...

I don't think I've ever heard anything quite so unusual. When this work is juxtaposed against the same song as Judy Collins' rendition, it becomes truly easy to differentiate crap from craft of doing something exceedingly well.

M.A. said...

A rare find indeed. I had several False Prophets albums on vinyl back in the eighties.

The Taxidermist is quite honestly one of the most fantastic pieces of poetry I have ever listened to.

A great band and a great posting on your part!