The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive


(for a project on al's music)


al wilson

after many years the past fragments, crystallizes, events
disconnect but retain uncanny coherence. i'm not sure whether i,
or al, was living in somerville or cambridge at the time in the
60s when we were all there, i'm not sure whether i was living
with n---- at the time but it was before clark and aram. al was
driven and poor, i remember he wore one outfit of clothes and
when an article, shirt or sock, would wear out, it would be
replaced, and i remember him being sickly and his apartment full
of garbage. his playing was uncanny, he made me _hear_ delta
blues in a way i had found inconceivable before. he made me
_hear_ an out of tune guitar and taught me how to tune and he
made me _hear_ the chords of a charlie parker solo as he recited
their names full speed on in real time. i couldn't hear harmony,
i could hear electric and he called me a city blues player,
himself a country. i had a car and drove him around. we were i
think at club 47 and he was to go on and no one could find him,
he was sleeping under a urinal in the men's room. the body was
always there in its absence. there was a killer junkie in the
area who had killed some people he thought were doctors, he
followed the lights on in the middle of the night. it was late
and al was sleeping and heard _scratching_ at the door and
threats and went out the back way and saw the guy, the hole was
covered with the junkie's shit, he was trying to get in, al's
light was on. al went back in /the back door/ to get money for
the payphone, to call the cops, he called me. so i went around,
there was that shit and _blood_ in the all and i stayed with al
that night, we were scared. so i was probably living alone
elsewhere then. he was always wheezing, asthmatic, allergic, he
was always brilliant, single minded, took me over to john
fahey's, fahey was thinking of bringing out a record of my music
but thought it too repetitive, which i'd created that way for
him. so fahey and al must have been in town just then like that.
we also met guitar nubbit, i think that was with al, maybe not,
but i remember listening to him in a small house. everyone was
poor and i had a car and everyone seemed strung out against what
was to be the later catastrophe of the 60s or was it the 70s.
and son house and something about newport and al had this soft
voice quietude and it was him that i looked to for guidance and
separation. and i went back like a good boy to providence and al
was a comet i read about. i'd been driving through cambridge
with him and ran a light and he thought that wrong and insisted
i back up through the intersection in the dark cold night, and
wait so i did, and i think someone else might have been in the
car. i remember bringing up national guitars for him and others
from providence, they were around and not expensive. so i was
terrified backing up but did it so. always there seemed death
around and the more i heard the music the more i knew i couldn't
play it or anything like it again and so i went on elsewhere
into other sounds and media, burying myself. al could play
anything he wanted, he belonged in the music, in its heart, and
why the hell did he have to die when death was all around.

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