The Nova Convention

The Nova Convention

(2 LPs, Giorno Poetry Systems GPS 014-015, June 18, 1979)

Side One

  1. Terry Southern: Vignette of Idealistic Life In South Texas 1:25
  2. William S. Burroughs: Keynote Commentary/Roosevelt After Inauguration 5:52
  3. John Giorno: Entering The Sky 13:30
  4. Patti Smith: Poem For Jim Morrison/Bumblebee 11:45

Side Two

  1. William S. Burroughs: Benway 3:40
  2. Philip Glass: Building 3:04
  3. Brion Gysin: Kick That Habit/Junk Is No Good Baby/Somebody Special/Blue Baboon 7:06
  4. Frank Zappa: The Talking Asshole 5:25
  5. William S. Burroughs: from The Gay Gun: "This Is Kim Carson" & "Just Like The Collapse Of Any Currnency"/The Whole Tamale 13:27

Side Three

  1. William S. Burroughs: What The Nova Convention Is About 2:35
  2. Ed Sanders: Hymn To Aphrodite From Sappho 8:50
  3. John Cage: Writing For The Second Time Through Finnegans Wake 14:15
  4. Anne Waldman: Plutonium Ode/Skin Meat Bones 6:35

Side Four

  1. Laurie Anderson & Julia Heyward: Song From America On The Move 12:50
  2. Allen Ginsburg & Peter Orlovsky: Punk Rock/Old Pond/Feeding Them Raspberries To Grow/Nurses Song 13:00
  3. William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Timothy Leary, Les Levine & Robert Anton Wilson: Conversations 7:10

Recorded at The Nova Convention
NYC, December 1-2, 1978

The Talking Asshole (from Naked Lunch)

(William S. Burroughs)

re-issued on You're A Hook (1984) and Cash Cow (1993)

Performed at The Nova Convention, NYC
December 2, 1978

Emcee: Just sending up for the great uh, Frank Zappa.

FZ: Hiya. How you doin' tonight? All right, um, as you know, I'm not the kind of a person that reads books, I've said this before many times, I'm not fond of reading. But, I do, I have in the past made exceptions, and uh, one of these exceptions was this part of the, the book that, I'm sure you know, called Naked Lunch, and I've received permission to read the part about the talking asshole. So . . .

Before I do, uh, I've discussed with Mr. Burroughs before we came out here some of the details that led to the construction of this section of the book. I asked him where he got the idea for this part, and he said that it was derived from the ventriloquist scene in The Dead Of Night, if you know that film. And I had a little bit of trouble following that, for a moment there, until he made it all very clear to me by saying that uh, it was like uh, when you have a ventriloquist dummy and suddenly the dummy starts talking for you. And so, with that introduction, I start on page 132, and it goes like this (ahem.):

Did I ever tell you about the man who taught his asshole to talk? His whole abdomen would move up and down, you dig, farting out the words. It was unlike anything I ever heard. This "ass-talk" had a sort of gut frequency. It hit you right down there like you gotta go. You know when the old colon gives you the elbow and it feels sorta cold inside, and you know all you hafta do is "turn loose"? Well, this talking hit you right down there. A bubbly, thick, stagnant sound. A sound you could smell. This man worked for a carnival, you dig, and tos tart with, it was like a novelty ventriloquist act. Real funny, too, at first. He had a number he called "The Better Oh", that was a scream, I tell you. I forget most of it, but it was clever, like, "Oh, I say, are you still down there, old thing? 'Nah, I had to go relieve myself!'"

After a while, the ass started talking on its own. He would go in without anything prepared and his ass would ad-lib, and toss the gags back at him every time. Then it developed sort of teeth-like little raspy incurving hooks, and started eating. He thought this was cute at first, and built an act around it. But the asshole would eat its way through his pants, and start talking on the street, shouting out it wanted equal rights. It would get drunk, too, and have crying jags, nobody loved it, an'— and wanted.. and it wanted to be kissed, same as any other mouth. Finally, it talked all the time, day and night. You could hear him for blocks, screaming at it to shut up, and beating it with his fist, and sticking candles up it. But nothing did any good, and the asshole said to him, "It's you who will shut up in the end, not me. Because, we don't need you around here any more. I can talk, and eat, AND shit".

After that he began waking up in the morning with a transparent jelly like a tadpole's tail all over his mouth. This jelly was what the scientists call "un D.T.", undifferentiated tissue, (herr) which can grow into any kind of flesh on the human body. He would tear it off his mouth and the pieces would stick to his hands like burning gasoline jelly, and grow there. Grow anywhere . . . on him . . . grow anywhere on him a glob of it fell.

So finally his mouth sealed over, and the whole head would have amputated spontaneous.. did you know there is a condition occurs in parts of Africa, and only among negros, where the little toe amputates spontaneously?

Except for the eyes, you dig? That's the one thing the asshole couldn't do, was see. It needed the eyes. But nerve connections were blocked and infiltrated and atrophed, so the brain couldn't give orders any more. it was trapped in the skull, sealed off. For awhile, you could see the silent helpless suffering of the brain behind the eyes, then finally the brain must have died, because the eyes went out, and there was no more feeling in them than a crab's eye on the end of a stalk.


Notes & Comments

The Nova Convention

Giorno Poetry Systems GPS 014-015
Released 06/18/79
Recorded December 1-2, 1978 [Zappa's appearance was 12-2-78]

Side One
Terry Southern: Vignette of Idealistic Life In South Texas
William S. Burroughs: Keynote Commentary/Roosevelt After Inauguration
John Giorno: Entering The Sky
Patti Smith: Poem For Jim Morrison/Bumblebee

Side Two
William S. Burroughs: Benway
Philip Glass: Building
Brion Gysin: Kick That Habit/Junk Is No Good Baby/Somebody Special/Blue Baboon
Frank Zappa: The Talking Asshole
William S. Burroughs: from The Gay Gun: "This Is Kim Carson" & "Just Like The Collapse Of Any Currnency"/The Whole Tamale

Side Three
William S. Burroughs: What The Nova Convention Is About
Ed Sanders: Hymn To Aphrodite From Sappho
John Cage: Writing For The Second Time Through Finnegans Wake
Anne Waldman: Plutonium Ode/Skin Meat Bones

Side Four
Laurie Anderson & Julia Heyward: Song From America On The Move
Allen Ginsburg & Peter Orlovsky: Punk Rock/Old Pond/Feeding Them Raspberries To Grow/Nurses Song
William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Timothy Leary, Les Levine & Robert Anton Wilson: Conversations

BTW, it's an extremely long double LP at almost 131 minutes.

(Thanks to Biffyshrew for information on the Nova Convention LP.)

"SwinginPig" (February 20, 2002):

Hello there, you can download the FZ lecture at the Nova Convention (1978) at :

This is a lecture entitled "The Talking Asshole" (5:25), an excerpt from the book "The Naked Lunch" by William Burroughs. There are also other lecture by artists such as William Burroughs, Laurie Anderson, Patti Smith, Philip Glass, John Cage and many others.


The Nova Convention

Nova Convention, 1978

Little Stevie Blunder, February 21, 2002

Ohh My Gawd!

I was at that show at the iNtermedia Theatre in Greenwich Village in 1978—I think Patty Smith was playing clarinet while Frank read it? It was fabulous; Laurie Anderson, Bill Burroughs, Patty Smith, Timothy Leary . . .

I'll check it out NOW!


Ted Morgan, "Crowd Control: Patti At Nova Convention In Late '78", Literary Outlaw: The Life And Times Of William S. Burroughs, 1988

The Nova Convention took place on November 30, December 1, and December 2, 1978, with the principal performances being held on the last two days at the Entermedia Theater, on Second Avenue and Twelfth Street, which had in the fifties been the fabled Phoenix Theater. Attending were an odd mixture of academics, publishers, writers, artists, punk rockers, counterculture groupies, and an influx of bridge-and-tunnel kids drawn by Keith Richards, who made the event a sellout . . .

Saturday night the Entermedia was packed, largely with young people waiting to see Keith Richards. There was a small hitch, however, which was that Keith Richards had cancelled. He was having problems as the result of a heroin bust in Toronto, and his office convinced him that appearing on the same program with Burroughs was bad publicity.

But the show had to go on, and the composer Philip Glass, playing one of his repetitive pieces on the synthesizer, was thrown to the wolves. The disappointed kids who wanted Keith Richards shouted and booed. Then Brion Gysin went on amid cries of "Where's Keith?" and found himself hoping that the riot would not start until he had done his brief turn.

In a last-minute effort, James Grauerholz had recruited Frank Zappa to pinch-hit for Keith. He volunteered to read the "talking asshole" routine from Naked Lunch. But as Zappa was preparing to go on, Patti Smith had a fit of pique about following him. James did his best to make peace, saying "Frank has come in at the last minute, and he's got to go on, and he's doing it for William, not to show you up." Patti Smith retreated to the privacy of her dressing room, and Zappa got a big hand, because that's what they wanted, a rock star.

Still, no one had explained Keith Richards' absence, and it was Patti Smith who gamely bit the bullet. She came out in a fur coat and a pair of genuine iguana-skin cowboy boots. When she announced that she was going to tell a story, a heckler shouted, "Tell it to the iguana." [...] On this occasion, she did the heroic thing, telling her audience, "I know you guys came in to see Keith . . . well, Keith ain't here . . . he's in a plane right now between L.A. and Toronto . . . he asked me to tell you all that if anybody wants their money back they can come and get it right now . . .," and she pulled some bills out of her pocket, but there were no takers. Although ill with bronchitis and running a fever, she hadn't stood them up. She couldn't sing, but she noodled around on the clarinet.


You're A Hook

The 15 Year Anniversary Of Dial-A-Poem (1968-1983)

You're A Hook

"You're a Hook"—The 15 Year Anniversary of Dial-a-Poem (1968-1983)
06/18/84 Giorno Poetry Systems records (#GPS 030).

  1. John Giorno—(Last Night) I Gambled With My Anger and Lost 9:12
  2. William S. Burroughs—Old Man Bickford 2:08
  3. Laurie Anderson—Song From America on the Move 6:55
  4. Philip Glass—A Secret Solo 2:17
  1. Lenny Kaye—No Jestering 4:17
  2. Patti Smith—7 Ways of Going 6:14
  3. Jim Carroll—The Basketball Diaries 3:28
  4. Frank Zappa—The Talking Asshole 5:24
  5. Allen Ginsberg—Father Death Blues 3:44

Side 1 (20:50)

JOHN GIORNO (Last Night) I Gambled with My Anger and Lost (9:12) Words by John Giorno & Music by Charlie Roth/Produced by Lenny Kaye/Charlie Roth: synthesizer, Lenny Kaye: guitar, Paul Dugan: bass, David Donen: drums/Engineering by Roddy Hui/Recorded at Greene Street Recording, New York, August 1983

WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS Old Man Bickford from "The Place of Dead Roads" (2:08) Recorded at Kabuki Theater, San Francisco, February 25, 1983

LAURIE ANDERSON Song from America on the Move (6:55) Recorded at The Nova Convention, New York, April 29 1977

PHILIP GLASS A Secret Solo (2:17) Recorded at Big Apple Studios, New York, April 29, 1977

Side 2 (23:20)

LENNY KAYE No Jestering (4:17) Lenny Kaye: vocals & guitar, Ivan Kral: bass, Bruce Brody: keyboards, Jay De Dughterry: drums, Patti Smith: emcee Recorded at The Place, Eugene, Ore., May 9, 1978

PATTI SMITH 7 Ways of Going from "The Histories of the World"/Recorded at St. Marks Church, New York, January 1, 1975/Fire of Unknown Origin/Lenny Kaye: guitar Recorded at The Nova Convention, New York, December, 1978 (6:14)

JIM CARROLL from "The Basketball Diaries": 1962, and the Coach Told Me to Take Off My Shirt, and August 7, 1965, The Celia Sisters/Recorded at Griorno Poetry Systems, New York, March 30, 1969 (3:28)

FRANK ZAPPA The Talking Asshole (5:24) Recorded at The Nova Convention, New York, December 2, 1978

ALLEN GINSBERG Father Death Blues (3:44) Produced by Roma Baran & Allen Ginsberg/ Allen Ginsberg: vocals & harmonium, David Amram: french horn & flute, Jon Sholle: bass and electric guitars, Arthur Russell: cello, Steven Taylor: vocals & acoustic guitar/Engineering by Gregory Shifrin/Recorded at ZBS Media, Fort Edward, New York, February 28-March 1, 1981/Courtesy of Hammond Music Enterprises, thanks to Hank O'Neal.

This album was made possible by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The New York State Council on the Arts, Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, and Elyse & Stanley Grinstein.

Executive Producers: John Giorno & Gregory Schifrin
Associate Producer: James Grauerholz
Engineering by Bobby Hielecki
Designed by George Delmerico

Copyright (c) (p)1983 by Giorno Poetry Systems Institute, Inc.
222 Bowery, New York, N.Y. 10012

Cash Cow

The Best Of Giorno Poetry Systems 1965-1993

Cash Cow

Best Of Giorno Poetry Systems, 1965-1993
04/13/93 catalog# ESD 80712
Running time: 72:28 (even though the label reports 73:20)

  1. Cabaret Voltaire—Ride Baby Ride 7:13
  2. William S. Burroughs—The Do Rights and Naked Lunch: 5:58
    The Laboratory has been locked for 3 hours solid
  3. Debbie Harry—Moroccan Rock (Pipes Of Pain) 4:22
  4. Buster Poindexter—Totalitarian State 3:51
  5. John Giorno—Berlin & Chernobyl, Hi Risque 3:25
  6. Husker Du—Won't Change 1:52
  7. Laurie Anderson—Song From America On The Move 7:58
  8. Philip Glass—A Secret Solo 2:19
  9. Patti Smith—The Histories of the Universe 7:44
  10. Coil—Neither His Nor Yours 2:48
  11. Diamanda Galas—Eyes Without Blood 2:42
  12. Glenn Branca—Bad Smells 16:25
  13. Frank Zappa—The Talking Asshole 5:27

Naked Lunch, The Musical

William S. Burroughs & FZ
Photograph by James Hamilton

Fabulutz (November 15, 2003)

The DVD release of David Croneneberg's film based on the William S. Burroughs novel includes a short essay by Burroughs hisself about the film project, in which it is written (on whatever it is he wrote it on back then):

"In 1979 Frank Zappa came to me with the concept of 'Naked Lunch' as an off-Broadway musical. This struck me—and still does—as a pregnant idea, but it was not to be."

William S. Burroughs, letter to Brion Gysin, September 14, 1979

Frank Zappa was just here and took me to see The Best Little Whore House in Texas, a musical that has run for over a year. Interesting since I hadn't seen a musical in years. It's a soft audience. They laugh at anything. Not that the show was all that bad. It has some funny scenes. It seems that Zappa is interested in doing a musical on Naked Lunch. Interesting idea I think.


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The transcription was originally included at Reverend Neve's Zappa Page
This page updated: 2023-12-23