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 Seven Year Itch?

It’s been seven years. Seven years since I became that rabid “obsessive”. Seven years since the world of Simple Minds truly opened up to me. 

I was reminded of the fact of how…embedded in this new-found “obsession” I was by a post that appeared in my FB “memories” a couple of days back.

The memory in question was going to see Nana Mouskouri at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The memory was a reminder of how wonderful that new-found obsession felt. How much I loved discovering those treasures and being floored by them and truly just not being able to get enough of them. Devouring the music greedily and just playing stuff again and again and again and wondering if I would EVER tire of listening to them. 

I worry that, over time, the love for Jim has vastly overtaken the love for the band, and for the music. It was already strikingly obvious that was probably happening in 2018 over the whole “real fans” affair and my blocking from the band FB page.

Years passed and it never seemed to get old. If anything I would get incrementally more and more obsessed. When I was out in Oz with mum in 2015/16, the music was my comfort and solace at night. I was petrified of being at my mum’s house at night. It felt like the most unsafe place to be. The only way I found I could settle myself down and try and get to sleep was to play Simple Minds on Spotify. Play them on shuffle mode. Just…the sound of the music, the sound of Jim’s voice. Sometimes I would play some interviews as well. The interview Jim had with Billy Sloan – that was a recent discovery then, and I played it often when I was out in Oz. It soothed me – and it would make me happy and also would make me cry too, because he’s being “just Jim”. Just this normal guy talking to his pal. And the thing I’d play the most – the bit of it I’d play most is this bit (it should autoplay from the correct point – if not 3min 16sec mark) – his laugh. It is just the most beautiful sound in the world to me.

The memory of that Nana Mouskouri gig reminded me how absorbed in the band and the music I was. Thinking about that coach journey home from London and listening to that Spotify shuffle mix and Boys From Brazil coming on and being in love with it! The song. The music! The lyrics. Astounded by what I was hearing. Even though I celebrate my fan anniversary on Jim’s birthday – it was closer to the end of July in 2014 when I started listening to their back catalogue intently. So by the Mouskouri gig I am maybe 8 weeks into my fandom, at most!

I haven’t felt compelled to write a post out like that and share it on SMOG for…I don’t know how long! Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call posts aside (which were just links to blog posts) – it’s been several months since I had posted like that on SMOG – probably not since sharing my mocked up mural of Jim on there. 

I think because…I’m missing it. I’m missing that joy of being a fan that is starting to erode away. The Sons/Sister 40th Anniversary pulled some of that into focus, on a personal level. But on the flip side, I am feeling quite cut off and set adrift.

Apart from SAF/SFC and bootlegs from around 1981/1982, I haven’t really been listening to too much Simple Minds at all lately. As the years of my fandom went on, I used to wonder if I would ever tire of listening to them as intently as I have done all these years. Worried what it would mean for me if that time ever came. I was never sure it ever would. A couple of times it did happen for brief periods…but it was mostly a kind of “forced circumstance” thing. Like with the “real fans” episode. When that was happening, I found it hard to listen to anything. After a time I could listen to early stuff but I couldn’t listen to later stuff. To Walk Between Worlds. It was all too attached to Jim. 

I’m worried I’ve grown tired of listening to the music. Even things I really love! Albums I really love like Empires And Dance. I’ve been looking through Spotify over the past week or so and I am finding myself thinking “Do I *want* to listen to Simple Minds? Aw naw, you’re good”, kind of thing. Then I think “well maybe I’ve just grown a bit weary of the studio stuff…what about a bootleg?” and I’ll look at my list of bootlegs and think equally “Aw, naw. You’re good.” It’s kind of terrifying me because I have never actually felt like this!

I’m worried I am too deeply entrenched into attaching my feelings for the music with other things. The vibe from the fanbase. The vibe from Jim. I mean…I’ll love Jim for as long as a summer’s day. Never seem to tire of him (though I really should – for sanity’s sake). Lord knows he probably wishes I’ll fuck off and leave him alone. I can’t erase that feeling as it is no doubt true. Either that, or he really doesn’t give a shit either way. I don’t know which feeling is the worst to grapple with – dislike or indifference?

And I wish there was some news or just SOMETHING coming along! It’s a long wait until March! Not from this point in time – but from the time the wait has started. And I know Simple Minds have taken breaks like this in the past – but they haven’t been forced upon them, or us as fans. With gigs and the music industry starting to get back on its feet now, the lack of anything from SMHQ feels like a gaping chasm! 

Was it just me that found it highly ironic in Jim’s post about (potentially) having tea with Colin Hay last week that he mentioned watching Hay’s online gigs? I mean, really? Talk about rub it in, right?! To be fair – I have watched only one of these kind of gigs – a Field Music one, and it suffered technical problems, so it isn’t something that overly appeals to me. And I am guessing, and had guessed from very early on that the idea of this kind of thing didn’t appeal to Jim much and that SM fans had a snowball’s chance in hell of seeing anything like it from them. Fair enough. I wasn’t going to push the argument. But where was the imagination? Where was something that said, “well, we could do THIS!”, etc?! So, we got a little performance for Christmas – for charity, so that was great, and some Spotify playlists from Jim until he escaped his Glasgow lockdown prison? And I KNOW they’ve been working, so…why not throw us something from those sessions? Why not? In the meantime we get reschedule after reschedule and the Oz/NZ fans get a full tour cancellation. 

Jim…can you not appreciate how disheartening it has been for us?! Is loyalty NOT a two-way street? It is great to have you at least corresponding with more regularity. But this is why I felt so disheartened at seeing your reply to Colin Hay last week. It shows you’re looking at the band FB page and if you are looking – why not engage with us more?! 

We love you and we’re missing you. We’re missing seeing you live. And it seemed like you were going to start engaging with us again. A post back in early August titled “White Hot Days” seemed to show a little bit of interactivity with a couple of fans and I thought, “Oh, he’s back! He’s really back!” And, as I say it’s been great that you’ve been posting more of late, but…

Anyway…I’m pissing in the wind. As if you visit here and will see any of this anyway. 

I’m scared that my passion is waning. That my love for this band is dying out. I mean, surely this is the death knell, right? When you no longer feel that compelled to listen to the music any more? 

Do I still ogle Jim? By heck I do! Do I listen to him talk? Listen to interviews and watch videos? The interviews, yes! The music videos…sometimes. 

This is genuinely the first time I have felt this…waning in the passion of listening to the music. For the past week listening to anything else but Simple Minds. 

I had been through a similar thing with David Bowie. Before Simple Minds, Bowie was my “go to” for everything. And I listened to him A LOT…and it waned when they came along. I listened to Bowie less because I had SM. But now I barely listen to either of them.

That memory of Boys From Brazil on the coach ride home is such a wonderful, special memory. I don’t want creating new memories like that to come to an end.

Interviewland – The Boss and The Piraña.

There are a few interviews I have neglected to highlight here – because my blog is slack and too Kerr obsessive to think of much else. Lol

ANYWAY!

Bruce has been interviewed and the result is a three part podcast of discussion. You can find the link to the SHOUT podcast HERE

Also, Mr Francis Xavier Gallagher (aka Soundman Confidential) has gotten round to interviewing old Chuckie B – and you can take a listen to that one HERE

Also there was a second part to Kenny Hyslop’s interview with Neil Saint for the Retropopic Radio station. You can find the links HERE

Priptona, out! 👋🏻

Rock Secrets – Jim Kerr and Billy MacKenzie

This book was produced by Virgin Records in 1982, and asked rock and pop stars of the time a standard Q and A. About 40 of them were printed in the book, including one “mystery star” who if you could name and send in a postcard to Virgin with your answer, you could win a cash prize.

I couldn’t work out who it was. I’ll share the relevant pages in the days to come, so you can have a go at solving the puzzle.

I had seen the one of Jim shared on Twitter some months back and I had genuinely thought I’d posted about it here but seemingly hadn’t.

I certainly remember the “lips, hips and quick wit” turn-ons making an impact and me thinking “well, I’ve got one out of three”. Lol. The only thing I have ever liked about myself are my lips.

I think he should have specified that the “hips” need to be slim and not child-bearing.

Quick wit? Yeah, I fucking wish! Yeah, he’s seen how “quick-witted” I am in front of him. Lol. More like “fuck-witted”. Nope! I’m the kind of person who thinks of a great come-back or put down HOURS after the event…or even the next day. No “quick wit” here.

So…decent lips, hips the size of a house and a slow, dumb fuck. Catch of the century! Lol

Oh…those boots! We agree on them, Jim.

“The cafes of Europe”! Hark at you! Mr Glasgow! Lol. I do love the inverted snobbery you’d sometimes exude. oh, why the hell not! Who could blame you? I’d be doing the same.

I would dream of a couple of hours in a tearoom with you. Sipping lapsang souchong and eating finger pieces and the loveliest, airiest scones – seeing as you don’t “do” dairy – what’s in place of the clotted cream, Mr Kerr? I’m having clotted cream on mine…with the most delicious wild Scottish raspberry jam. Cream first!

Yes. I still have such daydreams. My subconscious certainly wouldn’t allow me to have such wonderful imaginings during my sleep. I never dream about you now. Even in my sleep, too much “reality” creeps in.

Anyway…Stuart Holland posted Jim’s Q and A on SMOG and reminded me of it. I then went back to Twitter to hunt down exactly where this thing came from and found the source. Amazingly, someone was actually selling a copy on eBay, so I grabbed it.

I might share one or two others some time, but for now, here are Jim’s and Billy MacKenzie’s…

The Local Authority

I started listening to the Bitter Sweet Symphony experimental offshoot – or “curveball” (if you will) of the main weekly “Are You Not Entertained?” podcast last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. Let me explain…

I confess that it isn’t something I listen to regularly (the AYNE podcast) as, well….I’m not majorly into sport, and certainly NOT football, so unless they talk more about the sport I can get a handle on, or like (cricket, snooker, darts, strongman events, curling, figure skating – I admit that is a crazy mixed bag…but I like what I like! Lol) … I’m gonna be kind of all-at-sea listening in regularly.

Jim has been on the show a couple of times, so when he highlights that fact, I’ll tune in.

At the start of the New Year, Jim posted on SM FB to talk about Billy Sloan and informed us fans of the offshoot to the AYNE podcast in which hosts Roger and Grant had interviewed Billy with a view of having a regular feature that explores the marriage of sport and music in people’s lives. Billy agreed to be their first guest. And what, with Billy being Billy – as with some Scots who, give them a subject they can get their laughing gear around and they’ll talk the leg off an iron chair about it – Roger and Grant really got their money’s worth with Billy! And a life of brilliant anecdotes they felt unable to cut and truncate. The whole interview so worthy of airtime, they decided to air the whole thing but break it up into two parts.

Billy and I at Oran Mor after the Caezar gig in 2018. Photo taken by my good friend, Ronnie McGhie

I listened to part one last night. And I am really looking forward to hearing part two tonight.

The first thing that made me just think “eeeeh!” was hearing that Billy started out his journalistic career just down the road…like LITERALLY just down the road in Springburn! Springburn had a local rag (the Springburn Times – I’ve no idea if it still exists, I’ll assume not, but I’ll look into it) and so he started out with them and sister local rag the Bishopbriggs Times.

It’s a small world!

The first part of the podcast was 55 minutes. The second part is coming in at 1 hour 45 minutes. I mean, strap yourselves in, peeps! Lol. But, it’s gonna be some ride. Just listening to first part last night and hearing the story of his afternoon hanging out with Muhammad Ali in London was just…crazy stuff.

The link to both parts is below. Enjoy!

Bitter Sweet Symphony – Billy Sloan Part One

Bitter Sweet Symphony – Billy Sloan Part Two

P.S. Don’t forget Billy still is very much right in the throng of things and is still very much the authority on music here in Scotland and in Glasgow in particular and has his own weekly show on BBC Radio Scotland on Saturday nights at 10pm GMT.

Aussie Ogling…

This arrived in the post today…of particular interest for this Aussie SM fan. I need to cast my professional ogling eye over it and see what’s what.

Some things I have seen before, others not. I am hoping for a surprise or two. We’ll see.

I hope there’ll be something good to share. It’s Kerrsday after all. Fingers crossed!