Monday, 28 October 2013

despite all the amputations

I've said it before elsewhere and often, but this is my blog and I'll repeat myself if I want to!

The Smiths were a band who, from the age of 11 to 16, meant the world to me. To this day, when I listen to 'How Soon Is Now?', I'm immediately transported back to my bedroom in my parents' house - picture this: I'm a borderline pretentious brat and I'm revising for my English Mock Exams.

There has never been and will never be a band who meant - and continue to mean - so much to me as The Smiths did then. Despite the amount of guff that Morrissey continues to spout.

However, my favourite band of all time is The Velvet Underground.

Over the course of their four officially released albums, they expanded the vocabulary of rock music - literally changing the sorts of things that rock bands could talk about, and sonically, changing the musical tools they could use to say it. From baroque art-pop to rabid bludgeoning noise to inner-city portrait chamber poetry to perfect rock-pop songs in four albums.

Plus they wrote the book on how a cool band should look.

But I think the main thing they brought to the party was, they were the first rock band to say NO.

I was talking to my wife about the story that when they first started, they had a regular gig in a New York coffee shop. The manager of the place told them that if they ever played The Black Angel's Death Song again, they would be fired on the spot.

So they did (an extended version at that). And they were.

My wife said, 'but what did the manager expect, saying that to a band?'

The thing is, before the Velvets, rock bands were grateful to be there and they said 'yes'.

I love the Beatles, but they were nice company guys you could take home to meet your mum, even with the drugs and the hair. And probably because they went to the right schools, even the Rolling Stones were viewed as naughty little boys at the height of their drugs-bust infamy.

The Velvets and Lou Reed were legendarily ungrateful, contrarian and curmudgeonly, and the POWER of young people being ungrateful and demanding the stage, saying NO as soon as F*CK YOU, led (directly and indirectly) into all the great musical genres which have followed.

And don't think that NO is necessarily a depressing or difficult word - Lou Reed and the Velvets' "no" was a positive and powerful statement of intent, it was a question as well as a rejoinder, a position of power.

An opening-up of options rather than a closing-down of negotiations.

Lou Reed has died at the age of 71. He's kind of been the poster boy for grumpy old musicians in recent years, and I still can't get my head around the album with Metallica.

But maybe that's my problem - to be his age and still be questing for a new expression of the art he saw and heard in his head - that's something we should be so lucky to aim for.

RIP Lou Reed
2 March 1942 – 27 October 2013

back to more health-related navel-gazing soon!


swisslet said...

He was awful when I saw him at the Albert Hall a few years back; totally unconcerned by his audience and just grooving with his band. That said, they're an all-time top 5 act for me and the guy wrote "Pale Blue Eyes", FFS. The thing that I've been thinking the most over the last 24 hours is that I can't get my head around the fact that the 19 year old me, in my infinite wisdom, decided to go and watch pre-debut album release Suede at Glastonbury on the Other Stage instead of the reformed Velvets play the Pyramid. I didn't even stop to listen much when I walked past them on the way back up the hill and they were playing "Venus In Furs". If I could give the 19 year old me a good talking to about that, I really would. I've not seen Suede since, but the point is that I still could as NO ONE IS DEAD.
Lou Reed = legend. Also, this.

stevedomino said...

ha - i saw that DailyMash thing!

top of my list for 'shoulda-woulda-coulda' gigs i missed has to be Bill Hicks at Sheffield University, where i was studying.

the reason why i didn't go to one of the last UK dates by a comedic genius who would die of pancreatic cancer a year or so later?

i couldn't be arsed.

(blushes with shame and continues with the self-flagellation)

Ms. CrankyPants said...

Like you and my ill-fitting pants post, I have little to say about this, as I never was cool enough to listen to the Velvet Underground. I spent the 80s rocking to Air Supply and Duran Duran. Anyway, sorry such an important influence on you has died. That's all I can bring to THIS party. (But crank up the Air Supply, and I can bring LOTS to the party. And nothing says "party" like Air Supply.)

Anonyms said...

I knew of Velvet Underground, but I did not know VU until later in life, some years back, I finally heard some late 60's live Velvet Underground... Provided a nice escape in my mind while cultivating this new life with MS post dx. Collected most bootlegs during this period that are very dear to me now...

A person or music can become an integral part of you in those times when you are trying to fill the gaps.
Part of Lou is a part of me.

Listening to a few songs today, Pale Blue Eyes gave me a chuckle having optic neuritis in both eyes to go along with blue eyes and pale retinas.

Thanks for this unexpected write up. Did not expect to see this in list of my ms blogs.

stevedomino said...

CrankyPants - your comments are always welcome here!

but Air Supply drew a memory blank from me - i checked on Wikipedia and realised my brother used to have a copy of Chart Hits 82 which included "Even The Nights Are Better" (no. 42 in the UK so not quite a Chart Hit) - still no clearer but will have a listen at lunchtime.

Anonyms - thanks for stopping by and sharing. if you want more music related posts, see the couple of posts i did on a "they also served" thread - more to add, obviously!

Ms. CrankyPants said...

Oh, THAT'S embarrassing. I hope, if you've listened to them by now, you realize I was being sarcastic about "nothing says PARTY like Air Supply" - they are a much-maligned and very sappy band. That said, I have their greatest hits CD -- IN MY CAR (not even buried in a closet somewhere). Why do routinely make morfifying confessions on this blog??? Damn you!

stevedomino said...

i just listened to some Air Supply - i've got to be honest, it wasn't good.

but it did lead me to this amazing video for "Even The Nights Are Better"!

when it starts it's like it's heading for some kind of homoerotic explosion - then they almost get run over by two 'Hot Chicks' (as they're walking by a CLAM BAR. just me? ok) - you can almost hear the gals arguing about which one gets stuck with the short guy. also love the fact that the theme park they go to on their date is deserted - so good!

Cranky - i say that there are no Guilty Pleasures, you either like something or you don't. so carry on enjoying The Supply - crank it up and open the windows!

and if this blog is the lucky recipient of these 'confessions' (such as they are), then please keep coming back!


Ms. CrankyPants said...

That video was FANTASTIC! (And you have a keen eye, noticing subtleties such as the CLAM BAR...)

p.s. Their BEST song is "All Out of Love" -- I secretly dedicated it to a nerdy boy in high school, whom I ignored until he moved away. I then realized he might have been THE ONE. Alas, it was too late. Thank you, Air Supply, for so beautifully warbling about my private heartache.