VU Too

From the makers of Uncut magazine – a WHOLE 124 page special edition on the Velvet Underground, and their individual members. I have only taken a quick glance through it so far – but it looks pretty extensive…and dare I say possibly more insightful than the documentary?

I am still finding myself aghast that with every “Top 10/20 Films Of 2021” list I see, the VU documentary doggedly gets placed ahead of The Sparks Brothers film. The mind boggles!

Don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying the doc was shite. I’m just saying it wasn’t as good as The Sparks Brothers and in my list of top films for this year, there ain’t no way on earth I am putting the VU doc above The Sparks Brothers doc. No way, no how!

Of course, already the highlight of the whole magazine, before I have even read it, is a piece by Jonathan Richman. The love keeps blossoming, yes! Oh, yes.

A Thriller At The Cinema

I went to see Last Night In Soho yesterday – the latest feature film by Edgar Wright, the man behind The Sparks Brothers. 

I had no intention of really reviewing this film. Film reviews here I want to keep to music documentaries. And it won’t be a big review by any means, but I enjoyed this film so much, I had to talk about it.

I don’t usually do gore and violence very often and although not really touted as a horror film, I could see from the trailer shown at the cinema a few weeks back that it was potentially going to be a bit bloody. 

I bought my ticket about a week ago after having seen The French Despatch. I didn’t even take in at the time that the ticket showed Last Night In Soho having an 18 certificate. Holy heck!

From seeing the trailer I saw that Terence Stamp was in it but I was surprised to see other stellar actors like Rita Tushingham and the wonderful (and sadly departed) Dame Diana Rigg also appear. In fact, it wasn’t until Dame Diana appeared on the screen did the dedication of “for Diana” at the start of the film make sense.

A review without spoilers is going to be fun but I will try my best. All the actors were brilliant. The young cast members were great, esp. the leading roles of Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy (of Queen’s Gambit fame). 

The music was great, the plot, I thought, was great. A fabulous twist that I didn’t see coming at all. And as I say, fabulous performances from Terence Stamp, Rita Tushingham and Diana Rigg. Her last film performance as far as I am aware, and what a performance to end a wonderful career on.

I didn’t think anything was too languid, or too slow paced, or I didn’t feel there were any holes in the plot. I wasn’t watching my watch wondering when it was going to end. I feel I’ve seen things with as much gore that have had a 15 certificate. I didn’t think it was overly graphic, but there are good scares to be had in there!

I’d recommend it. If you want to hear some great music on a film soundtrack, see some fabulous acting and have a bit of a spook and a bit of a scream, go see Last Night In Soho.

Review – The Velvet Underground (Documentary by Todd Haynes)

I think this documentary ended up posing more questions than it answered. 

Firstly, it doesn’t sugarcoat the notion of Lou Reed being….well…actually perhaps they DO sugarcoat it. Because what became obvious was that to label Reed “troubled” is somewhat of an understatement. I actually started to wonder how anyone managed to work with him. Certainly John Cale was finding it difficult towards the end of his part in the Velvet Underground story “if you were nice to him, he only treated you worse”.

The one thing I’d say to Jim after seeing this film is when you say you’re not worthy of tying Lou Reed’s bootlaces – you do yourself a MASSIVE disservice, Jim Kerr. You really do! 

The film starts with a quote from Baudelaire – “Music fathoms the sky.” That immediately had me thinking of Jim for in the New Gold Dream tour program, he’s given the name “Kid Baudelaire” in brackets. Attributed from Adam Sweeting? A nickname the rest of the guys give him? Who knows?

A Warhol film image of Lou Reed appears fairly early on. Just that straight-at-the-lens, nowhere-to-hide portrait shot, the camera rolling for several minutes. A childhood that didn’t sound overly loving, but they talk to his sister Merrill and she makes the counter argument of it being easy to pin all of Lou’s troubles on his childhood and upbringing. 

Several minutes later we move on to a similar half of the screen moving image portrait of John Cale. This is how little I admit to knowing about The Velvet Underground and its individual members – I hear John Cale speak and….he sounds like he usually sounds….with a New York twang. And then, he speaks again and sounds WELSH! Like, a proper Valley boy-o! 

I know! I should know better than this. I should be more knowledgeable. A lot of the time I do feel incredibly ignorant about a lot of things. 

A lot of the film centred towards PRE-VU. Lou and John and how they got into music the way they did, their influences, and how they met and formed The Primitives. 

All of that I found good. Sterling Morrison remains a mystery. Moe Tucker seems a very lovely woman. Doug Yule seemed a very fitting replacement for John Cale. 

It flowed well up to the point we got to when Warhol became involved and Nico joined the group. Then, for me, the documentary became a bit…rushed. It spent a lot of time on the preamble but then not much time on the Velvet Underground itself, once a modicum of success came.

Also, whenever they played Venus In Furs, it was DEAFENING! Venus In Furs was ssooo much louder than anything else within the audio, other Velvet songs, people speaking, etc, etc. It was a real wallop to the ears.

I kind of came away a bit…unfulfilled by the experience. I wanted more and something different. I probably wanted to learn more about Lou Reed than I did. I certainly wanted to learn more about the band than I felt I did. 

What I did learn though (or had confirmed to me) is:

  • The Velvet Underground are definitely punk. They are the TRUE pioneers of punk. Forget the “avant garde” schtick, although that does apply too. They’re punk.
  • John Cale is Welsh (I know! Lol).
  • Lou Reed was a douche canoe (at least at that time) and I honestly don’t know how anyone worked with him.
  • Delmore Schwartz was a massive influence on Reed.
  • Jonathan Richman is a sweetheart, and just about the only person to say something nice about Lou. And it explained why The Modern Lovers’ Roadrunner is ssooo much like Rock ‘n’ Roll to me. (Though it is meant to be a homage to Sister Ray – shows you how familiar I am with Sister Ray!)
  • Nico was a drifter. Lost, trying to find purpose in her life.
  • Warhol gave us “celebrity” and fame for fame’s sake. He’d love Love Island and Big Brother, and probably Gogglebox too.
  • Without Warhol no one outside of NYC would have heard of VU.

So, last night, in bed. Wanting to listen to some music to help me drift off to sleep, did I choose the “Banana Album”? Or White Light/White Heat? Or The Velvet Underground (aka album three)? Or Loaded? 

Nope!

I chose to listen to The Modern Lovers – the original set of recordings from 1972 that were finally released in 1976. 

And to paraphrase words from Roadrunner “I’m in love with Jonathan Richman”. We could all do with keeping that childlike wonder. Oh, man. Even in the documentary – you just want to reach in through the screen and hug him!

In summary of the Velvet Underground documentary. Did I enjoy it? To a degree. Did I find it insightful? Again, to a degree. Did I enjoy it as much as the previous music documentary I saw (The Sparks Brothers)? Naw.

If I was to give it a mark out of 10 – where the Sparks Brothers doc gets a firm 10/10. The Velvet Underground documentary gets a 7/10. The best bits were the interviews with John Cale, Moe Tucker, Jonathan Richman and Mary Woronov. 

It wasn’t quite what I had hoped for or anticipated. For one I didn’t expect to come out of a Velvet Underground documentary thinking “Aawww, Jonathan Richman – he’s sssooo sweet!” Lol

Can I recommend it? I guess. If you’re a REAL diehard Velvets fan, it probably isn’t going to give you much more of an insight in all honesty. Novices interested in the band and the period and wanting to know more…you might learn some stuff, but for me personally, it didn’t completely fill the remit.

And so, I shall leave you with this, influence of an influence that leads to an influence. And I love a fade-in!

The Velvet Underground Documentary – Coming Soon

UPDATE: Oct 5th – saw a review in the latest Rolling Stone. Thought I’d post it here.

Looking into what was coming up for viewing at the Glasgow Film Theatre, I spied this!

When I was at the Living Proof screening last week, I decided to secure a ticket for one of the screenings of it. I’ll be seeing it in a couple of weeks time and I’m looking forward to it. And if I’m honest, I am also looking forward to being able to enjoy being in a cinema or theatre without having to wear a fucking mask all the time! I know it’s for the greater good and I genuinely have no problem with that. But I need to wear distance glasses these days and so I either put up with my glasses fogging up or I decide to take them off so I can “see” a bit better. That bit of it really sucks. And…it does still feel really breath inhibiting to be indoors for a few hours and wearing a mask. It just does.

Anyway, just thought I’d mention this Velvets documentary here as we all know what a massive influence the Velvets and Lou Reed has been on a certain James Kerr, esq. and to the music of Simple Minds as a whole.

This is STILL my favourite SM cover along with Street Hassle. The emotion in Jim’s voice is just beautiful. It just proves what an influence that the Velvets and Lou have been on them for my fave SM covers to be VU and Lou Reed compositions.