Sardonically Speaking…

I know that from seeing the Velvet Underground documentary my feeling on Lou Reed was left being quite….disparaging. There was little positivity to be gained from how he was portrayed in that. A remarkable writer and intellect, yes…but not a person you could imagine yourself wanting to spend much time with.

Jim talking about the paradox within the construct of time – a minute feeling like an hour, and vice versa? I could imagine a minute in the presence of a “not in the mood” Lou Reed would feel like hours.

Then I watched this this morning. And yes, he is being a sardonic asshat but he is also being very humorous in a good way. He’s incredulous at the amateurish nature of the interviewer. Poor guy! I feel for him. But unless he got this interview right at the very last minute – WHY hadn’t he done his research?!

It left me feeling … and I feel awful almost for saying it – because there is a sense of schadenfreude watching it – warming to Lou. That he obviously did mellow somewhat over time. That is very apparent to me watching this clip.

The title of the video is slightly misleading…

Reflect What You Are

I wish I was everything he is reflected right back, but I am the antithesis of all that he is.

He is light, and he is beauty.

All those Halloween pieces of work I made? They were just bits of fun. Meaningless guff! He’s not the devil, or DraKERRla, a fallen angel, or any of that nonsense.

Not an angel fallen – but one with wings to fly. Heaven sent.

Light in the dark.

Air.

Sunshine.

Beauty.

Intelligence.

An inspiration.

Pure joy.

A smile. A laugh. The sun. Radiating beauty….everywhere. But especially in my dark heart.

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.

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.

David on Lou – 1997

It must have been the time of David’s 50th Birthday Bash.

It’s not until I watch something like this do I forget just how much I miss him.

What a beautiful brain he was. I am always floored by the intelligence that just DRIPS off him.

A Little Night Music – Marc, Lou And Jim Too

I’m still doing a little toe-dip into Bolan and T Rex at the moment. Just a couple of tracks per night. Nothing too taxing or deeply absorbing. I’m not fully immersing myself into the whole thing. Not like I have done in recent times with other musical explorations – Roxy Music, Talking Heads, Magazine – nothing quite of that ilk. But I might end up doing that.

Last night I played 20th Century Boy. I am just really loving the whole vibe of that song. How it starts with that kind of false start. Like, someone trying to kickstart a motorbike and the engine stalling, not ticking over on the first and second pedal pushes. And then it begins and there’s that fabulous gospel choir soul backing vocal wall of sound and such a fabulous rocking guitar riff.

Earlier in the evening before bed, the OH mentioned The Slider. It wasn’t one of his songs I knew at all, so I played it next. It’s quite a slow funk for him. Quite different to what I had expected to get from Bolan. Esp. the singing of it, and the pace. Still a very sexy thing. I have to say the thing I am coming away with from listening to T Rex these past few nights is just how sexy the songs are. Yeah, they may not have the deepest lyrical content, but by word they are sexy!

Towards the end of the song I’m thinking “Oh, I could imagine SM covering this now. Jim, the way his voice is these days…this would be sssoooo frigging sexy!” And then I was like, you know…actually…this is Prince! I hear Prince’s sound all over this track! I’m sure Bolan must have been an influence on The Purple One. I could just hear it SO CLEARLY on The Slider. I could sssooo imagine Prince covering it.

After those couple of tracks, I decided to move on to something else. But..what to listen to? I just never know where I want to go these days. All I know is right now, I have very particular tastes and feelings about Simple Minds. I don’t want to play this mix. And right now, as much as I absolutely ADORE the albums, I am avoiding going to Sons/Sister or Empires and Dance, or New Gold Dream. I play the song itself – New Gold Dream…the German Mix or the Alternate Mix, but I hardly play anything else right now.

I decided on Lou Reed. I didn’t want to go the Velvets route. The previous night I had listened to Nico’s Chelsea Girl album, so I didn’t want to go back to any Velvets stuff. I wanted Lou solo. But not Transformer. I love Transformer…but I know it fairly well. I didn’t want Berlin. No “Oh, Jim” tonight. What had I not played? Moving along chronologically, I’d never listened to Sally Can’t Dance – so that’s what I decided on. I got to Kill Your Sons and started to drift off to sleep. Spotify then did its usual thing of playing a mix of other contemporary artists of Reed’s. I can’t remember too much of who else it was playing but in my semi-conscious state I was enjoying what was being played. I was driven awake by a song that started to play called Range Life by a band called Pavement. I’d never heard of it (the song) or them (the band) before but I really liked it. I thought it was a track from the 70s until towards the end of the song, they started namedropping bands like Smashing Pumpkins in the song.

The next song that played was a track of Lou’s. It was called Vanishing Act. I was really loving how sparse and low it was. I put the screen back on to see the album it came off. It’s off The Raven. An album of Lou’s from 2002. All inspired by Edgar Allan Poe if the tracklisting of the album is anything to go by. It’s a long album – some two hours long! By this time it was already 3am, so I wasn’t going to switch listening to the album.

I actually wanted some Minds. I wanted Jim’s voice. But what? I look through all the SM content on Spotify. The only thing that is kind of pulling me in is Silver Box. I think about playing it. Skipping the first two tracks and just going in from Here Comes The Fool. Actually…live. Live is what I want. Then a brief internal dialogue “Oh, yeah…Art & Talk has put up another bootleg today. The one from Werchter, 1984. The bit that I played of it earlier today, sampling a snippet of Up On The Catwalk, it sounded damn good. Let’s give that a listen!” So off I went to YouTube.

I was really enjoying it. I was particularly enjoying the original arrangement of Book Of Brilliant Things and hearing all the lyrics that no longer get sung on the current version of it. I don’t get why it has changed so much from how it was…but hey, it isn’t up to me, is it. And plenty of other fans love that old “5 to 1” version of it. And I do appreciate all that Mick added to it with that opening of it on the OUAT tour. There was just such lovely things with this version from Werchter. Jim’s intro of it, “We grew up last year. Let’s grow up together.” Aawww! And just him singing “my heart beats like the wheels of a fast train”. I just feel sometimes the way the song got rearranged that it lost some of its beautiful sentiment. But Kerr would no doubt tell me to “do one” and “stoap talking keech”. Lol. Sorry, Sir!

Anyway…the night got later and as much as I was really enjoying it, I started to drift off during Waterfront. I cannae BELIEVE I didn’t hear New Gold Dream! Lol. I shall listen to it again later on. In the meantime, here it is linked below.