Review: Stunning new album about Kerouac with lyrics by Harrogate beatnik poet

Harrogate musician-poet Heath Common has played a key role in the success of a stunning new album based on the life of the legendary author of On The Road.

By Graham Chalmers
Friday, 29th April 2022, 2:54 pm
Updated Friday, 29th April 2022, 3:12 pm
The Kerouac Lives! team - Pictured back row, from left, Simon Warner, John Hardie and Heath Common. Front, from left, Patrick Wise, Jessika Mae and Malcolm Webb.
The Kerouac Lives! team - Pictured back row, from left, Simon Warner, John Hardie and Heath Common. Front, from left, Patrick Wise, Jessika Mae and Malcolm Webb.

Following the world premiere of Kerouac lives! in Hebden Bridge earlier in the year to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the famous Beat writer, the official album of the event has now been released.

Including eight new songs with music by John Hardie and words by Heath Common, the collection is already being acclaimed by reviewers.

Sign up to our daily Harrogate Advertiser Today newsletter

Released on adventurous Essex-based label Hi4Head Record, the album’s two main performers are vocalist and artist Patrick Wise, who also provides the stunning paintings on the album cover, and talented young BRIT School graduate Jessika Mae.

With an intelligent but passionate mix of biographical first person and third person lyrics and a variety of musical styles from rock to jazz, the album has much of the feel and intensity of Songs for Drella, Lou Reed and John Cale’s 1990 tribute to the late Andy Warhol.

Boasting big melodies throughout, standout tracks Bowery Beat, We Are Taking Sides and Me and Dean are akin to what you might expect from Manic Street Preachers if they were asked to write a stage musical.

If asked what would be required to turn Kerouac Lives! into a populist hit from an artistic triumph, the obvious answer would be a couple of extra songs promoting the wonders of On The Road, in particular, and giving a hint of Kerouac's sheer genius and his attraction for successive generations of young reader, as well as all his troubles and tragic decline.

Kerouac Lives! is a collaboration between leading Leeds University academic, author and renowned Kerouac expert Dr Simon Warner, northern songwriter John Hardie and Heath Common.

The live production was premiered at Wadsworth Community Centre at Hebden Bridge on Friday, February 4, 2022

Kerouac Lives! album is available on CD from hi4headrecords.com and is also available digitally online from Spotify and all the usual sites.