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.

Sunshine And Darkness

The only thing that seems to make me happy right now is to endlessly listen to Jonathan Richman. It’s these kind of things that make me wonder whether I am on the spectrum because of my silly, confused traits.

I need an outlet. I need to vent. This is what this place is for, for me personally, beyond it being a tenuous Simple Minds blog, and more broadly a general music blog, and even broader still, a review, interview and generalised art and creative space – it’s a personal space too.

A space for me. When wanting to be insular is too unhealthy. I can bottle things up and let things fester.

Anyway…where am I going with this? I don’t know.

I guess I was just…I was travelling along okay, you know? Not on the highest of highs…but at a fairly decent equilibrium. The odd dip through the day. One’s mood can change from minute to minute, can’t it? But on the whole, as of Saturday, October 23rd, I was … “stable”.

Then I got a message which arrived during one of those little “dips”…and that was it. 

I can’t go into detail about it. But I probably should. I have not spoken to the sender of the message since then. So upset and angry by it as to just dismiss it and them. So, how do I explain it without going into detail? How do I explain my mood and slide downwards if I can’t elaborate? I don’t know. 

I feel unable to confront the persons/people concerned. 

To be honest, the person I am most angry with is myself. I should have been more upfront about my feelings and fears. And here lies the paradox! 

But…I was quiet, because I felt as though my feelings and my fears would not be considered or would be dismissed. People were putting faith in me to do something that I didn’t feel equipped to handle and didn’t really know much about to be honest. I was happy to do the groundwork and try and do something with it – but it put the fear of god into me! If it went shit, if it fucked up, it would be MY head on the chopping block – not theirs! And if I did fuck up…who would be hardest on me for my fuck up? ME!

Jim’s post about “Absolute Beginners” was timely…but a little too late. 

I don’t feel as though I learn anything. I just constantly make mistakes I never learn from. I see all my faults and all my foibles and I never know how to make them right! 

Okay…let’s start over.

People put their faith in me. Some people who do that I get genuine good feelings from and never question why they do it. They are just good, virtuous people who see the inherent good in everyone. I used to think I was like that too. Believed the inherent good in people.

But others I find myself questioning why they put their faith in me, why they would want to have dealings with me, or associate with me because I feel I have nothing to offer them in return. So then I believe they must have motives. WHY are they being nice to me? For what purpose? Perhaps they are just…a different type of person? So, I use my “inherent good” glasses and dismiss any doubts or niggles I may have. Anything that is otherwise screaming “PROCEED WITH CAUTION!” at me. 

It was around mid July. We had been going through the saga with the cats and both of us (myself and my OH) were going through ill mental health. My OH has been going through mental health issues for…nearly the whole time we’ve been together. Prior to that. A long time. I didn’t start to recognise my own mental health issues until we had been together almost 10 years. 

To cut it to the quick – both of us had suffered with varying degrees of mental ill health for quite some time now. 

In mid July, we were both at breaking point. Several factors compounded the issue.

Right at this point in proceedings, I was “bestowed” (for want of a better term) a task. This task seemed absolutely MONUMENTAL to me! Did I confess this to the bestower? No! Heaven forbid I should seem weak and incapable – the things I believe this person thinks of me. So I put on my guise. Made a joke of it “hey, I can’t even organise a piss-up in a brewery, but if you want me to give it a go, I’ll give it a go.”

I’m in tears writing this just reliving how on earth I was going to execute this thing!

No other input. Nothing else came my way…just a “here’s this. See what you can do. There’s a good girl. Cheerio!” And because it came to me when it did, it just sent me spiralling down further. So I sat on it. I sat on it, petrified to speak out and say “I can’t do this!” – fear of being weak. Fear of compounding everything I think these people think of me. 

Some weeks back, some clarity came my way. A deadline. I felt I had a bit of breathing space. The past couple of weeks I started to feel able to at least try and tackle it. Make tentative steps as to what I needed to do to get this thing under way.

And then, I get this message. The message that tells me “thanks, but we’re doing something else with this now. All the best.” Was I relieved? Not really. What I was was devastated. And what I have been for the past 4 days is…gutted and angry. 

Had I wish I’d been upfront? Had I wish I’d been brave enough to say “Woah! Thanks, but I can’t do this.” Maybe. But…we’re told to push ourselves, to take ourselves out of our comfort zone to achieve things, right? Well, here I was, trying to push myself out of my comfort zone. And just when I was getting prepared to make inroads into it – BAM!! Rug pulled from under me. 

The past 4 days I have been sick. Sick, upset and angry. And I know those involved around it will be dismissive, because that is how it has always felt. I’m “oversensitive”. Or I’m “overthinking”. No! You know what I am? A HUMAN FUCKING BEING, WITH FEELINGS – WHO IS SICK OF HAVING THEIR FEELINGS DISMISSED!

I did this to myself – because I was too scared to stand up to what I would think was another dismissive waving of the hand. Either made to feel weak for admitting that at the point it came to me it was too much for me to handle, or a shirking of responsibility or a dismissal of concerns with a “ah, come on, you can do this in your sleep” denial.

And I know I need to let go of it. I now need to just…be Zen and let it go. Let it drift off away and not think about it any more. 

There is so much more I want to say and wish I could say…but I am best to keep the rest within. It would only be dismissed – so I might as well be the one to dismiss it. 

I still don’t know where I am going with this post. 

The title? Because I wanted to talk about the only thing filling my days with light right now is Jonathan. Dear, sweet Jonathan. 

Jim is there too, of course. Some things never change. So, there has been Halloween themed fan “art”…with Mr Kerr in varying dark roles, usually the devil – I think DraKERRla may be to come (my erogenous zone has always been my neck – I find vampire films highly erotic).

Last night’s music was a mix of sunshine and darkness. Sunshine from Jonathan and the Modern Lovers. “Monologue About Bermuda” from the album “Having A Party With Jonathan Richman” is just about my most favourite thing in the world right now. I can’t stop smiling every time I hear it – even through the tears.

Before that I played Roadrunner (Twice) and then Roadrunner (Once). I think I prefer once to twice. There’s a rawness to “Once” that I prefer.

After having my mood lifted for that little bit of time – I shifted to Magazine and listened to Secondhand Daylight. I bloody LOOOOOVE this album. All of it, but particularly the end block of Permafrost, Give Me Everything and I Love You You Big Dummy. That I can listen to something so dark and wallow yet be equally uplifted I find magical. And I am laying in bed, listening away and thinking at certain intervals “Man, how great is John McGeoch?!” And then it’s “Man, how great is Barry Adamson?!” and then for Howard, and for Dave Formula.

And I eventually fell asleep hours later, still wishing I could have seen Magazine and Simple Minds touring together. 

“To sleep, perchance to dream.”

Jim’s Shirt And Jonathan Richman In Detroit – Bookie’s Club 870

I was looking around eBay earlier wanting to see what Jonathan Richman/Modern Lovers stuff is up there. There’s a lot of stuff that’s in the USA, sadly, which would make it very costly to get sent to here.

This one really piqued my interest! I love original gig posters like this. Even more of a surprise was to see that Jonathan and TML were playing the Bookie’s Club 870. I don’t think Simple Minds ever played there, but as you can see from the photos from Virginia’s site, Jim had a Bookie’s Club 870 shirt. Where he got it from? Who knows? Probably nicked it off someone? They played the Royal Oak Theater in Detroit in March, 1981 – but the Bookie’s Club 870 is several miles away. There was a few days break until the next gig though, so maybe they stayed in Detroit and caught a gig at the Bookie’s?

If only Jim would remember. If only I could ask him!

Alas.

Anyway…

I love seeing these kinds of links. These silly little things make me happy.

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!