Deep Dive: Jim Carroll, PRAYING MANTIS
Today we celebrate the birthday of the late, great Jim Carroll, who once roomed with Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, found fame with his 1980 album CATHOLIC BOY and its single, “People Who Died,” and whose tough teen years led to an autobiography – not to mention a subsequent movie adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio – called The Basketball Diaries. Since there’s a decent chance you were already aware of those things, however, we’re going to honor the day of Carroll’s birthday by talking about something that most definitely flew under the radar when it was released: the spoken-word album he released for Giant Records.
Released in 1991, PRAYING MANTIS was recorded predominantly at St. Mark’s Church in New York City, with the only exception being the opening track, “Fragment: Little N.Y. Ode,” which was knocked out in the studio. The album has been described as a de facto greatest-hits collection of Carroll’s poetry, in that it features material from previously-published efforts like Living at the Movies, The Book of Nods, and Forced Entries, but there’s also a track entitled “The Loss of American Innocence” which was improvised, a fact which becomes more impressive when you realize that it’s almost 14 minutes long.
As anyone who’s heard his music already well knows, Carroll was always more of a talker than a singer, so PRAYING MANTIS feels like the natural extension from his albums with The Jim Carroll Band. If you’re a fan of Carroll’s music but you’ve never heard it before, you might be surprised at how familiar it feels.