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Lou Reed, Tom Waits, Marianne Faithfull and more performing the music of Kurt Weill

Whether for his avant-garde work of the Berlin Cabaret scene or his later Broadway scores, Kurt Weill is synonymous with forward-thinking musical theater. It’s hard to imagine the 20th Century pop canon without standards like the indelibly swinging “Ballad of Mack the Knife” or the sentimental “September Song,” and in 1985, producer Hal Wilner conceived a tribute album, featuring a lineup of talent that ranged from actual rock stars like Sting and Todd Rundgren to avant/underground figures like Henry Cow/Art Bears singer Dagmar Krause and Downtown NYC jazz figurehead John Zorn.

The album, Lost in the Stars, was the third in a series of composer tributes put together by Wilner, whose prior similar projects included the Nino Rota tribute Amarcord and A Thelonious Monk Tribute called That’s the Way I Feel Now that featured admirably counter-intuitive contributors like Was (Not Was) and Peter Frampton. Wilner’s well-received tribute series may well have helped kick off the fad for tribute albums in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s; his Stay Awake and Weird Nightmare albums, tributes to Disney soundtracks and Charles Mingus, respectively, certainly benefited from appearing towards the beginning of that long-lived vogue.

Here’s Lou Reed, doing “September Song.” He’d record that song again ten years later, and it would serve as the title track to yet another Wilner tribute to Weill. That later album was more focused on historical recordings, and aside from excellent contributions from Nick Cave and William S. Burroughs, it mostly lacked the underground appeal of Lost in the Stars.

Tom Waits doing music from The Threepenny Opera isn’t exactly a stretch, but it’s as awesome as you’d think. His version of “What Keeps Mankind Alive?” and much much more after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Little-known Lou Reed poem about ‘Janis, Jimi, and Me’ from 1971
10:04 am


Lou Reed

In the July 4, 1971, issue of Crawdaddy there appears a most curious article authored by Lou Reed, recently of the Velvet Underground, on the subject of spectacle. This poem appeared during one of the most interesting phases for Reed, after his departure from Velvet Underground but before his trip to London to record his first solo album with Rick Wakeman and Steve Howe, among others. Months before that solo album appeared on the horizon and having recently worked in his father’s accounting firm, in the spring of 1971 Reed might well have thought of himself as a “former” rock musician and more of a poet, or a hybrid of the two.

As a rock and roll musician, Reed, in the prose section of this Crawdaddy contribution, understandably isolates “spectacle” as the terrain dominated by big, famous rock groups with large-scale, expensive stage shows, what was surely the state of the art in spectacle at that moment. Is there any envy in these words, or more like an avant-garde artist’s insistence on the values of a smaller coterie?

Prancing and dancing, mincing and twisting, jerking and bumping and grinding to the incessant pounding, to the beat of the drums, as they say, and back to the burlesque houses and g-strings and fingers inserted in orifices, drugs ingested so the audience won’t miss a thing, the air thick with pot, the belly dancer with the snake round her spine, the carnavore guitar, the mountainous amps, the display of POWER, electrical power interplaying with the sinewy vibrations of the many-tentacled audience, writhing in collective spasms for the moment, waiting for the moment it will happen, and all will explode in a giant frenzy of shriek, howl and whistle, stomp, boot, clap and coo.

From this slightly contemptuous portrayal of big expensive showbiz (so very Greenwich Village of him), Reed then transitions to the question of what is the version of that spectacle scaled down to the level of the individual, rather than the group, and concludes that the natural representative of spectacle is ... the town drunk. Reed argues that the aimless patter of the dipsomaniac harks back to the oral tradition as embodied by The Iliad, and from there to the ballad as “a fine method of enlightening others and boring some, a situation which can only be termed successful when the person involved has been bodily ejected from the pub, hence, made a spectacle of himself.”

Tongue lodged firmly in cheek, Reed tells of a “ballad I found written on the men’s room wall of the Houston St. subway station,” which he claims to have memorized and intoned at “the Third Avenue Blarney Stone,” an act that caused him to be ejected from the premises. The title of that ballad is “There Are Devils Outside That Door.” Then, confusingly, Reed then switches from that song to a second “tasteless morsel” called “Janis, Jimi, and Me” that he discovered a “14-year-old derelict” singing in Tompkins Square Park. Reed insists that it should be “recited in a nasal, twanging monotone, preferably with the sounds of sniffing and supplied by a friend.”

The article ends with that ballad, a long one, with thirty verses, most of them quatrains, a poem with what appears to be two titles (both titles would fit the material equally well), a poem to which Reed assigns two different provenances (subway graffiti & the teenage derelict). Reed was working overtime to obscure his authorship of this bitter little piece of versification.

But here’s the strangest aspect of this bit of poetry: I can’t find the merest reference to it on the Internet, and that includes any reference to the Crawdaddy prose section, which is entitled “Spectacle and the Single You.” By “Google” I am also referring to plenty of full-length books about Reed and VU, of course, although that investigation is necessarily incomplete. If anyone out there is aware of this Reed composition, they’re doing an excellent job of concealing it. I couldn’t find any of the titles associated with this article in conjunction with Reed, and I also couldn’t find several of the lyrics when entered into Google as a string.

The poem itself is written in an “old-timey” mode, something akin to an Irish drinking song or a pirate shanty, or both. The poem, if it means anything, is about the perils of the local wastrel taking his or her gift for spectacle on the road in search of a wider audience, i.e. rock superstardom. The poem is about a blacksmith who joins “a minstrel show” and betrays his beloved Rosie with “that harlot Red Mary.” Eventually the poem segues to the subject of Woodstock—the spectacle to end all spectacles—and ends as a kind of joyous death dirge, complete with gongs being chimed (BONG), for the untimely demise of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, who had died about a year before this poem saw publication.

What to make of it? Now, I’m completely ready to accept this as a Lou Reed composition. There’s only one detail that seems out of place, and that is the copyright credit after the poem, which reads, “Lyrics Reprinted with the Permission of Cowardly Lion Music.” Which is supposed to mean one of two things, that “Cowardly Lion Music” is a reference to Reed’s publishing company or that this song had appeared in a musical or something. Again, Google was no help.

It’s difficult for me to credit Lou Reed actually seeing Jimi and Janis with an un-jaundiced eye, but I wouldn’t have necessarily guessed that Reed would have written “Jesus” either, if all I knew about him was “Walk on the Wild Side” and “I’m Waiting for the Man.” The poem is in that old-timey register, which doesn’t seem all that Reed-ish, and its apparent valorization of Hendrix and Joplin is double-edged at a minimum.

There is sanctity in my domain
that separates us from evil
If you cross the door no good will come
for outside there are devils.

I was a blacksmith years ago
I made the anvil ring
But since my Rosie up and died
niether of us sing.

My children went away long ago
to far and distant shores
leaving me to beg and steal
copper pennies from the whores.

Often when it rains out
I make a spot of tea
and concentrate on consequence
and how I left Rosie.

And seeing how you look so much
as she once did before
I thought that I would tell you
There are devils outside that door.

When I was but a smirky youth
I joined a minstrel show.
I covered my face with red paint
And told a joke or two.

I thought that I was quite the lad
but experience has shown
I was only made of wood while
castles require stone.

Rosie saw my failure, clown,
and loved me with it all.
A mother’s heart beat in her breast
as it does in women all.

So I opened up a smythe shop
and shoed the horses round
till sin came on silken heels
And took my Rosie down.

Her name was Mary, what a laugh
no Virgin Mary she.
Her perfume took my breath away
and liquor made me sing.

I did for her my minstrel prance
and even got a laugh.
But the joke was on me for that night of stealth
snuffed out my Rosie’s life.

My daughter, an apprentice seamstress,
was wandering through the snow
and hearing her dear father’s song did
peer through the window.

And Savage Grace please set me loose
the night that she did see
was her own father intimately intertwined
with that harlot Red Mary.

And I like drunken sailors do
the next morning had a head
and when I went unto my berth
I found my Rosie dead.

In her hand I found a note
Crushed to her still opened eyes.
In it she’d writ in letters big
“There are Devils Loose Outside”

So you see my dear
why I’ve brought you here
Please let an old man speak
For your eyes are clear
and you have no fear
and I am far too weak
to ask but only for one thing
and it will not take long,
let an old man spill his heart
out in a little song:

“Oh fairy maid and garden rose
I’ve loved you for a time
and if I send for Black McGhee we’ll
have a good old time.

“The waters flow and dancers strut
for camaraderie now
so let’s get off to the beerman’s pub
and laugh and drink and love.

“Oh I’m a friend of Black McGhee
and he’s a friend of me
and both of us have had our sport
of life without money.

“And though our wives be black as death
we’ll always have our times,
so here’s to sport and here’s to love
and here’s to my friend McGhee.”

So you see my girl it isn’t long
to have your portrait done
I do it with my eyes and words for
of paint I do have none

But my mind has of late come obsessed
all stories sound the same.
Rain to me seems winterish
and sunshine lays no claim.

McGhee is gond, my children too
and Rosie far too soon.
while age creeps round me like a withering vine
that makes me seem the prune.

So I hope that you will understand
when I say as but before,
be careful when you leave this room
there are Devils outside that Door.

* * *

I am no longer afraid of dying
I am no more afraid of death
for I know what does await me
when I take that final step.

I will go to Woodstock Heaven
and listen to the guitars there,
all the singers who are waiting
to serenade me in the sky.

Ohhh Janis, Jimi, and me
will dance among the moonbeams and the clouds,
and no one there will ever hassle us,
it’ll just be Janis (BONG) Jimi (BONG) and me.

I no longer listen to the radio,
my favorite music is no more,
all the musicians are in the Woodstock Choir
following the manic depressives law.

There is Frankie Lymon in his Golden robe
and Brian Jones is on the flute
and Baby Huey is softly playing
in a beautiful silver suit.

Oh I’m going to Woodstock Heaven
and dance among the moonbeams and the clouds.
And no one there will ever hassle us,
It’ll just be Janis (BONG) Jimi (BONG) and me.
BONG . . . . . .BONG . . . . .BONG

Janis, Jimi, And Me: Lyrics Reprinted with the Permission of Cowardly Lion Music) (BMI). C. 1971

Here’s the page from Crawdaddy; you can see a larger version by clicking on this image.

I found this issue of Crawdaddy at the Rock Hall’s Library and Archives, which is located at the Tommy LiPuma Center for Creative Arts on Cuyahoga Community College’s Metropolitan Campus in Cleveland, Ohio. It is free and open to the public. Visit their website for more information.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Incandescent Innocent: Dean and Britta score Andy Warhol’s screen tests

At the peak of his fame and influence, from 1964 to 1966, Andy Warhol created somewhere around 500 (the number 472 popped up in my research, as seen below) so-called “screen tests.” Every screen test was a single close-up take of an individual in front of the camera lasting a little shy of three minutes—the idea was that Warhol would run them at two-thirds speed, which resulted in movies about four minutes long each. The short movies that resulted had a consistency of aesthetic feel and featured a wide variety of people, who can be roughly classified into three groups: Factory mainstays, famous people, and un-famous people. Warhol said that he did screen tests for anyone who possessed “star potential.”

As Geralyn Huxley, curator of film and video at the Andy Warhol Museum, wryly points out, “none of them appear to have been used for the purpose of actually testing or auditioning prospective actors.” Some notable people who consented to undergo the Warhol screen test treatment are John Ashbery, Marcel Duchamp, Cass Elliott, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Yoko Ono, Salvador Dalí, Donovan, and Susan Sontag.

In 2008 the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh approached Dean and Britta to “create soundtracks” for 13 of the screen tests and perform them on stage. As members of Luna, a band that had toured with the Velvet Underground in 1993, Dean and Britta (who are doing kind of a version of Lou and Nico anyway, eh?) were a highly apropos choice for the project. In 2010 it became an album called 13 Most Beautiful… Songs For Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests (there is also a DVD).

The track titles on the album are very redolent of the Factory as well as the general VU scene: “Silver Factory Theme,” “Teenage Lightning (And Lonely Highways),” “Incandescent Innocent,” and “Knives From Bavaria.” In addition to much original Luna-esque music of the gorgeous and dreamy variety, the album featured covers of Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Keep It With Mine” and VU’s “I’m Not a Young Man Anymore.”

In 2012 LuxeCrush asked Dean and Britta about the project:

LuxeCrush: How did this “13 Most Beautiful…” project, pairing your music with Andy Warhol stills, come about? I love the interdisciplinary film/music idea!

Wareham: We were approached by Ben Harrison at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh; he described the hundreds of films that the Museum had access to (Warhol made 472 Screen Tests) and asked could we pick thirteen of them and create soundtracks to perform live on stage.

LuxeCrush: What is your favorite Warhol art work, moment or saying? And did either of you ever get to meet Andy?

Wareham: Neither of us ever met Andy. But I love watching him answering interview questions. Where most artists are trained to give long-winded theoretical explanations of why they paint a particular way, he would just say “because it’s easy.” Warhol never ceases to amaze me. We are used to seeing the same famous images again and again (Marilyn, Coke Bottles, soup cans, etc.), but there is so much more, from his early drawings for department stores to his late paintings, paintings for children, TV shows, films. He had a way of turning things upside down.

Lots of lovely and stirring videos of Dean & Britta scoring the screen tests after the jump…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Wild Angel,’ the 1976 album Lou Reed produced for his college roommate
07:23 am


Lou Reed
Nelson Slater

In 1976, Lou Reed produced Nelson Slater’s debut LP, Wild Angel. In the early 60s, both men had attended Syracuse, where they were bandmates and, according to at least one source, roommates. The two rockers would have gravitated toward one another, according to Velvet Underground guitarist Sterling Morrison, who recalled:

Syracuse was very, very straight. There was a one percent lunatic fringe.

The album’s back cover reproduces a note from Slater, introducing the singer to his audience. Recording artists used to do things like this.

I first knew Lou when we played together in a band at school in upstate New York. We kept in touch, and the last time I ran into him in San Francisco he decided it was time to unleash me on the world. This is what we came up with on my first album. Hope you find something nice within.

Nelson Slater
March 1976

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Wild Angel to anyone who likes Reed’s 70s work. The band consists mainly of players from Reed’s Coney Island Baby and Rock and Roll Heart albums (namely, bassist Bruce Yaw, drummer Mike Suchorsky, saxophonist Marty Fogel, and guitarist Bob Kulick), and Reed himself is all over Wild Angel, playing guitar and piano and singing backing vocals. To my ears, Slater’s voice falls somewhere between Daryl Hall’s and David Byrne’s, which sounds more pleasant than you might imagine.


Reed and Slater performing together
Victor Bockris’ Reed biography, Transformer, has only this to say about Wild Angel:

After finishing [Rock and Roll Heart], however, Lou managed to muster the energy to produce an album, called Wild Angel, for a friend of Lou’s at Syracuse, Nelson Slater. “That was one of the best things I’ve ever done,” Reed commented. “RCA released it to about three people, I think. So no one very much noticed it. I think we sold six copies.” The critics who picked up on it singled out a track called “We” as a great showcase for Reed’s production talents.

In 2011, around the time he released his second album, Steam-Age Time-Giant, Slater discussed his career in an interview with WFMU. He attributed the poor showing of his debut, at least in part, to the S&M imagery in Mick Rock’s cover photo, and said that the final mix of Wild Angel was a disappointment:

I was in San Francisco at that time, and I had an incredible demo tape that I got RCA interested in, and things were cooking, and I actually signed with the label, and I needed a producer who wouldn’t produce, you know? My ideas are maybe a little difficult for a conventional producer to really get into. So, after looking for a producer for about a year, talking to Lou [about] the frustration I was having, he said, ‘Why don’t I try.’ [...] [The album was] a great disaster. The mix wasn’t quite representative of what we actually recorded. To me, it was way too soft.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
The Shades: Is this mystery acetate Lou Reed’s lost first recordings?
07:58 am


Lou Reed

Now, if the question in the title seems like one of those click-baity lead-ons, where the article holds some “jaw-dropping” reveal, let me get this out of the way right now: it’s a question I’m actually asking and don’t have the answer to.

Several years ago, I was digging for records at some thrift shops in a small South Carolina town when I happened upon a filthy milk-crate, stuffed with what most record collectors would call “acetates,” but what even more persnickety record collectors would correct you into properly identifying as “lacquers.” These lacquer discs are generally one-off cut discs. When you find them out in the wild, in most cases, they are booth-recordings made of families singing Christmas carols or sending messages to loved-ones overseas. Every now and then you get lucky and find a “dub-plate” or a demo disc. On this particular day, I scored. I found a small crate full of unissued demo discs from the doo-wop era.

The discs in this haul weren’t dated, but could be musically dated between, say, 1957 and 1964. They varied stylistically from straight doo-wop to rockabilly to pop jazz vocal. Most of the discs were cut at 78 RPM, but a few were cut at 45. This seemed to be an odd mix of items collected at one time by someone involved in the music business. None of the artists named on the labels were identifiable as artists who had ever “made it.” It seemed to literally be a box of “rejects.”

Unfortunately the crate had seen years of poor storage conditions and a third of the discs were totally destroyed with their emulsion cracked, chipped, and falling off the platters. Most of the remainder were coated in palmitic acid which is a chemical reaction that takes place due to improper storage and leaves a white filmy coating all over the playing surface. I was able to meticulously clean up the discs using an ammonia-based solution recommended by professional archivists.

Even with the gentle, careful cleaning most of the discs had suffered the elements, as well as the scuffing of being thrown around in a crate without sleeves. Some cleaned up better than others. I ended up selling most of the lot in a series of eBay auctions during a cash-strapped, lean time. (Full disclosure: I attempted to sell the disc we’re about to discuss, but the reserve wasn’t met - thankfully, I was able to hang onto it!)

I was discussing some of the crate’s bounty on a 78 RPM collectors’ forum, because there were so many interesting unknown groups. In the discussions, one of the discs raised an eyebrow. This 78 RPM lacquer of The Shades performing “Talkin’ Guitar” and “All Day Long.”

The reason for the raised eyebrow was because the name of Lewis Allan “Lou” Reed’s first band was none other than “The Shades.”

I had been aware of Lou’s first band being “The Jades,” as I already owned their 45 on Time Records, but apparently, as was pointed out to me on that forum, The Jades started out as The Shades.

According to this interview with Phil Harris, Reed’s Jades bandmate, there was at least one other group operating in that region, at that time, under a similar name:

OL: Do you know exactly why The Shades had to change their name to Jades?

PH: I believe there were a few groups that came out when we did and a lot of them wore shades during their performances. I think Shad wanted us to be somewhat different from another group wearing shades and got away from that name.


So here we begin to have a mystery. This is a demo recorded in New York, the right region, at what (without a date on the label) we can assume is around the right time for this to be Lou Reed’s group. Or then again, it could be another group from the same time and general location. The songs on the lacquer are not musically similar to the smoother single released by The Jades, but do feature similar instrumentation and, like The Jades, are obviously white guys attempting an R&B style; and sure, it may be total wishful thinking on my part, but those monotone vocals sure do have a Lou-ish feel to them.

Whether or not this is Reed’s group, I think it’s a massively cool record in its own right. It’s musically raw and primitive with a “Las Vegas Grind” sound I’m a sucker for, and its scarcity makes it an important piece to preserve whether it’s Lou Reed or some random bunch of yahoos from Hoboken.

Posted below, you will find truncated excerpts from the two songs on the lacquer. The sound is a bit rough. If for no other reason, the purpose of putting this out there is to see if someone comes out of the woodwork and remembers this group and can identify the members. The comments section is open to arguments for or against this being the great, lost, first Lou Reed recording. Regardless, it’s a neat piece of musical history that’s no longer rotting in a crate someplace. If this isn’t Lou Reed, then we get so many more questions! Who are these dudes?! Where did they end up? The stories are out there, and someone’s been waiting to tell them! Maybe it’s you?

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Advanced Genius Theory: David Lee Roth, Val Kilmer, 80s Lou Reed were just too advanced for mankind

During my stretch as a student at the University of South Carolina (Go Cocks!), I attended classes with six individuals who would, for better or worse, go on to have a profound influence on the way we as a culture experience music. 

Four of those dudes formed Hootie and the Blowfish:
The other two were the think tank behind Advanced Genius Theory.

Wikipedia explains this theory:

The theory, developed by Jason Hartley and Britt Bergman, maintains that seemingly bad and confusing artists are actually still producing excellent works today, despite critic and fan belief. The hypothesis is based around a few key musicians (only individuals), namely Bob Dylan, Sting, David Bowie and (most-critically) Lou Reed. At one time, these musicians wore sunglasses, leather jackets and mullets when it was un-ironic to do so. Musical artists must at least have a self-portrait on one of their album covers, displaying their sunglasses or hairstyle (e.g. Street Hassle, Infidels, Aladdin Sane). The basic tenets are:

You must have done great work for more than 15 years.
You must have alienated your original fans.
You must be completely unironic.
You must be unpredictable.
You must “lose it.” Spectacularly.

Advanced Genius Theory essentially boils down to the notion that truly cutting edge work by great artists is typically misunderstood at the origin of creation, and that when those artists eventually attain public acceptance and later produce seemingly terrible material it is not so much that the new material is in actuality bad - but that the artist has advanced to the next level and it’s the audience who has yet to catch up.

Advanced Genius Theory was adopted and exposed to a wider audience by celebrated author Chuck Klosterman where it has since remained a hotly debated premise in music crit circles.

Sadly, this week Advanced Genius Theory founder Britt Bergman himself advanced from this mortal coil at the age of 43.

I had a chance to speak with Jason Hartley, the theory’s co-founder and author of The Advanced Genius Theory: Are They Out of Their Minds or Ahead of Their Time?

Britt was more than a contributor to the Advanced Genius Theory, he was the reason it exists. He and I had known each other as children through a basketball league, but we went to different schools. In tenth grade, we reconnected in French class because he listened to Bauhaus and I listened to Black Flag. One day I went over to his house to listen to music, and he played The Velvet Underground & Nico. I knew Lou Reed a bit, but I didn’t know anything about VU because I had grown up on classic rock. After that day with Britt, The Doors just didn’t seem so mysterious anymore, though I still liked them and didn’t see why I shouldn’t just because another band was better. So while he exposed me to music most people had never heard, I made it a little easier for him to admit that he liked classic rock (including The Doors). Our high school years were a mix of Sisters of Mercy and Foghat, Captain Beefheart and Steely Dan, the Circle Jerks and Lynyrd Skynyrd. We were cool with all of it.

But one thing we could not understand: how did Lou Reed get so terrible in the 1980s? In particular, where did the slick, drum-machine powered, antiseptic Mistrial come from? One day in college at a Pizza Hut, we figured it out. If Lou Reed was ahead of his time when he was in the Velvet Underground, he must be still ahead of his time now and we were just like all the people who didn’t understand VU. Everything clicked into place. He didn’t suddenly start sucking, he was just beyond our comprehension. One of us said, “it seems like he has lost it, but really he has advanced.” We started listening to his solo stuff, including Mistrial, and loving it. Jokingly at first, but then completely sincerely. This opened up a whole world of music we had rejected before without truly listening to it. Who were we not to give Bob Dylan the benefit of the doubt? If David Bowie wants to do a duet with Mick Jagger, isn’t it possible that he knows a bit more about what is good than we do?

Over the years we developed what became the Advanced Theory, and so when I started freelancing at Spin Magazine, I brought it up one night. Everyone dismissed it, but then over the next few days, someone would come up to me and say, “is Prince Advanced? What about Elvis Costello?” I would patiently explain to them why or why not, but they were usually unsatisfied with the explanation because they didn’t understand the rules. At the time Chuck Klosterman was a contributor to Spin, and someone told him about the Advanced Theory (I wasn’t working there anymore). A bit later, he was talking to his editor at Esquire about possible column ideas, when Sting came on. I believe Chuck said, “oh, he’s Advanced,” then explained what that was. The editor thought it would make a great column, so Chuck called me up to ask if it was okay, then interviewed me. His article mentioned Val Kilmer as the most Advanced actor, which earned Chuck an invitation to visit Val in New Mexico. I’m told David Lee Roth wanted to know if he was Advanced.  Eventually I wrote The Advanced Genius Theory, which expanded the theory to include actors, scientists, writers, and anyone else who was great for a while, then (seemingly) embarrassingly bad. All of this is thanks to Britt Bergman, who as I wrote in the book’s dedication, invented Lou Reed for me.

Read more about Advanced Genius Theory here. And in the meantime enjoy some “Advanced” Lou Reed in memory of Britt Bergman…

“The Original Wrapper”:

“My Red Joystick”:

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Lou Reed: ‘The Beatles were garbage’ and the Doors were ‘stupid’
11:33 am


The Beatles
Lou Reed

This 1987 interview released by PBS two days ago as the latest installment of its marvelous Blank on Blank series, features Lou Reed in perhaps his best interview form—and the man was a notoriously difficult interview. He’s impatient, imperious, cranky, dismissive of others, and sure of his own self-worth, putting down the Beatles and Doors and, frankly, every other musician in the world.

For, you see, the Velvets were out to “elevate the rock & roll song and take it where it hadn’t been taken before.” (Sure, the Beatles didn’t have anything like that on their resume.) In a particularly damning bit, Reed shits on Jim Morrison’s legendary and influential outfit:

From my point of view … the other stuff couldn’t come up to our ankles, not up to my kneecap, not up to my ankles, the level we were on, compared to everybody else. I mean they were just painfully stupid and pretentious, and when they did try to get, in quotes, “arty,” it was worse than stupid rock & roll. What I mean by “stupid,” I mean, like, the Doors.

The Doors were a great band, but anyone who had a Doors-obsessed roommate in college will understand where Reed’s coming from here.

The capper is surely Reed’s audible contempt as he consigns the consensus world’s best rock and roll band to idiot fodder: “I never liked the Beatles. ... I thought they were garbage. If you say, ‘Who did you like?’ I liked nobody.”

I’m sure on other occasions Reed showed more respect for the creativity of others, but not on this day…....

With thanks to David Gerlach!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The occult book that inspired the Velvet Underground’s ‘White Light/White Heat’
06:47 am


Lou Reed
Velvet Underground
Alice Bailey

The cover of Alice Bailey’s 1934 book.
Recently, I was reading a feature about Jonathan Richman in a 1986 issue of SPIN. This startling (to me, anyway) quote from Lou Reed jumped off the page:

One of my big mistakes was turning [Richman] on to Alice Bailey, that’s where that insect song comes from. I said, “Do you know, Jonathan, that insects are a manifestation of negative ego thoughts? That’s on page 114.” So he got that. That’s a dangerous set of books. That’s why Billy Name locked himself in his darkroom at Andy Warhol’s Factory for five months.

Wait a minute: Lou Reed was interested in Alice Bailey? Like, the theosophist Alice Bailey? Like, the musician Lou Reed, from New York City? Magic And Loss, okay, but I can’t hardly believe that the Lou Reed I’ve listened to for most of my life ever gave a flying fuck about esoteric matters. And that’s why Billy Name became such a recluse? Shut the front door, I said to the 1986 issue of SPIN; surely, Lou was pulling the journalist’s leg, putting him on, taking the piss.

How little I know. As it turns out, not only was Reed genuinely interested in Bailey’s work, but the Velvets’ “White Light/White Heat” was inspired by Bailey’s A Treatise on White Magic. That “white light goin’ messin’ up my mind” wasn’t just the rush of speed; Lou was singing about some heavy astral shit! Rock historian Richie Unterberger developed the Reed/Bailey connection while researching his White Light/White Heat: The Velvet Underground Day-by-Day. Here’s Unterberger’s take on the song’s relationship to Bailey’s teachings, and to Reed’s occult interests:

Specifically, “White Light/White Heat” is often assumed to be about the exhilarating effects of crystal methedrine amphetamines, and Reed does say the song “is about amphetamines” in his 1971 interview with Metropolitan Review. But an equally likely, and perhaps more interesting, inspiration is Alice Bailey’s occult book A Treatise on White Magic. It advises control of the astral body by a “direct method of relaxation, concentration, stillness and flushing the entire personality with pure White Light, with instructions on how to ‘call down a stream of pure White Light.’” And it’s known for certain that Reed was familiar with the volume, as he calls it “an incredible book” in a November 1969 radio interview in Portland, Oregon.

Additionally, in his “I Was a Velveteen” article in Kicks, Rob Norris remembers Reed explaining “White Light/White Heat” as one example of “how a lot of his songs embodied the Virgo-Pisces [astrological] opposition and could be taken two ways.” Norris, who would get to know the band personally at the Boston Tea Party, also thinks the “white light” concept might have informed another of the album’s songs, “I Heard Her Call My Name.” “He was very interested in a form of healing just using light, projecting light,” says Norris today.

Incidentally, Reed wasn’t the only major ‘60s rock artist influenced by Bailey; Kinks guitarist Dave Davies discusses white light energy in his autobiography Kink, which reprints a couple extended quotes from Bailey’s books. Also interested in “white light” was Lou’s friend from the Factory who ended up doing the White Light/White Heat cover, Billy Name. According to Reed’s unpublished 1972 ZigZag interview, Name “got so far into it he locked himself in a closet for two years, and just never came out…I know what he was doing because I was the one who started him on the books [by Alice Bailey on magic], and we went through all fifteen volumes.”


In this excerpt from The Velvet Underground Day-by-Day, Unterberger gives a detailed account of Reed’s 1969 interview with Portland radio station KVAN. Here’s the relevant passage:

The Velvets will later be portrayed as a kind of ultimate anti-psychedelic group, but are in fact very much people of their time. Reed even steers this particular discussion in a direction that would find favor with the most spaced-out of hippies. He’s just had his aura read, he says, and had his previous incarnations revealed by a ‘reverend’ in Los Angeles, where “they told Doug, for instance, if you have long hair, you should always get it trimmed a little, get the ends cut off, because you’d pick up spiritual wasps.” (For the record, Lou’s aura was white, with “some blue, some green.”) Reed also reveals that he’s had 1,143 past lives. “Geez, that’s a lotta lives,” the deejay replies.

Reed goes on to hint at the origin of the “white light” he sings about in ‘White Light/White Heat’ when he reveals that he has recently been investigating a Japanese form of healing in Los Angeles that’s “a way of giving off white light … I’ve been involved and interested in what they call white light for a long time.” He briefly talks about Alice Bailey and her occult book A Treatise On White Magic, another likely source of his interest in white light. “It costs like ten dollars, unfortunately,” he notes apologetically. (Reed’s interest in such matters might later seem rather unlikely, given his hard-bitten, realist image. But Rob Norris recalls discussing “angels, saints, the universe, diet, yoga, meditation, Jesus, healing with music, cosmic rays, and astrology” with Reed in the late 60s in an article for Kicks magazine. Furthermore, he recalls Reed being a member of the Church Of Light in New York, which studied Bailey’s work as part of its theosophical teachings.)

Lita Eliscu’s 1970 Crawdaddy interview with Reed, “A Rock Band Can Be A Form of Yoga” (reprinted in All Yesterdays’ Parties), also mentions Reed’s interest in Bailey’s writings—to wit, “The teaching planned by the Hierarchy to precede and condition the New Age, the Aquarian Age.” News to me. Despite the song’s obvious beauty, I always figured Lou was merely being snide in the chorus of “New Age.”

Here’s a frenzied “White Light/White Heat” from one of the Velvets’ Boston Tea Party shows in 1969:

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Lou Reed’s collaboration with KISS
06:04 am


Lou Reed

Decades before Loutallica, there was KISS’s Music from “The Elder,” “the best concept album ever” (Julian Cope). There are a lot of strange things about Music from “The Elder”: recorded with an orchestra and a choir, collecting triumphant songs that sound more like the Who than KISS, the album is the soundtrack to an imaginary movie. Also, three of its songs boast lyrics by Lou Reed.

KISS recorded Elder with big-time 70s rock producer Bob Ezrin, who had produced a number of superb Alice Cooper records, along with KISS’s own Destroyer, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and Reed’s Berlin. (It’s always fun to compare the strings on Reed’s “Sad Song” with those on Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.”) In the words of the “official authorized biography” KISS: Behind the Mask:

In a last-ditch effort to regain their popularity and break new artistic ground, KISS reunited with Destroyer producer Bob Ezrin for 1981’s Music from “The Elder.” The concept, initiated by Gene Simmons, centered upon a young boy’s rite of passage, a heroic life’s journey through personal discovery, doubt, and ultimate self-realization.


At some point during the lengthy sessions for Elder, a phone call was placed to the King of New York. This upbeat quote from Paul Stanley doesn’t make it sound like Lou’s contribution to the project was, shall we say, labor-intensive:

Lou was so into our “Elder” project, that when we called and explained it over the phone to him, he said, “I’ll get back to you in an hour”. And he called back an hour later with good basic lyrics to “Mr Blackwell”, “World Without Heroes”, and a lot of other stuff that hasn’t been used yet.

I think the finest of the album’s three Lou songs is “Dark Light,” which wound up on the B-side of the first single, but then I’m partial to Ace Frehley. The A-side of the first single was reserved for “A World Without Heroes.” Now, if Lou Reed spent more than ten minutes writing this turkey, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. Below, KISS humiliate themselves on the ABC cult comedy series Fridays.

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Primitive: Lou Reed’s pre-Velvet Underground recordings
03:13 pm


Lou Reed

Some seldom heard early recordings of a recently-out-of-college Lou Reed made during his pre-Velvet Underground days as a staff songwriter and performer at Pickwick International Records, a cheapy record company that did “cash-ins” based on current fads and dance crazes.

These four tracks recorded in 1964 showed up on a 1979 Velvets bootleg called “the velvet underground, etc.” This particular bootleg, which came from Australia, was once a record collector’s holy grail, along with its companion volume, “the velvet underground & so on.” Now you can easily find both of them on audio blogs.

“You’re Driving Me Insane” by The Roughnecks:

More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The nicest Lou Reed interview you’ll ever see
05:26 am


Lou Reed
Flo & Eddie
Midnight Special

So the story goes like this: In the spring of 1978, shortly after he’d released the amazing LP Street Hassle, Lou Reed was asked to host an episode of NBC’s late-night music program The Midnight Special. Reed was asked to submit lyrics to the songs he wished to perform, and, quelle fucking surprise, NBC balked at airing some of them. Rather than alter his work, Reed declined to appear, no harm done, except that an episode that could have been an all-time classic was instead ultimately hosted by—hold on to your lunch—Journey.

But Midnight Special did something exceptionally cool. Instead of just letting this matter pass quietly, they invited Reed on as a guest, in an interview segment hosted by Turtles/Zappa madcaps Flo & Eddie, specifically to talk about exactly why he wasn’t serving as the program’s host that night, and in the process they discussed censorship in broadcast media and the validity of “shock value” in pop music! At a generous seven and a half minutes long, the segment covered a lot of ground, and astutely at that. Perhaps because they were fellow weirdo musicians, Flo & Eddie got a genial, reflective Lou Reed, not the notoriously spiky prick who could and would unhesitatingly annihilate interviewers.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
Cranky Lou Reed interview from 1975 is full of hilariously nasty gems
‘Lou Believers’: Sonic Youth in the weirdest Lou Reed ‘tribute’ you’ll ever see
(B)Lou’s on first? Dangerous Minds sparks clash between Blue Man Group and Lou Man Group!

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Three DVD box set pays tribute to Lou Reed, Velvets, Iggy, Bowie and punk

Seemingly just as Lou Reed left this earth, I noticed this box set on Amazon called Lou Reed Tribute from Chrome Dreams, a UK company that has put out some cool DVDs (this one, Frank Zappa, Keith Richards, etc.) and some stuff that puzzles me (Springsteen, Prince, Britney Spears?).

I wasn’t sure about it but it had three DVDs in a nicely designed box and it was so inexpensive that I had to get it. I had just learned about another product of theirs that looked great, a double DVD documentary about Zappa and Beefheart called When Don Met Frank: Beefheart Vs. Zappa, only to read in the reviews that it was a total ripoff and that it was two old documentaries repackaged in one set without any mention of this anywhere on the product. I was prepared for the worst.
Surprisingly, these were actually pretty good! First up is The Velvet Underground Under Review—yes, the awful title sounds like a science project, but inside is a concise and interesting documentary featuring interviews with at least one person I’d never seen interviewed before (Norman Dolph, who did their first demo acetate that’s been floating around the last few years and is, in fact, on eBay now for $65,000). I really liked the Billy Name segments as he was actually there on the inside in those early days, which they go into pretty deeply, including the pre-Velvets Pickwick Records budget-goofy rock ‘n’ roll recordings Lou was doing, which I love (and which were not all goofy as there was some true garage greatness in there as well). Also great are the Moe Tucker and Doug Yule interviews.

It had a good approach and really, I can watch stuff like this all day.
The second DVD is The Sacred Triangle: Bowie Iggy & Lou 1971-1973. I really enjoyed this one, though as I started to realize, Chrome Dreams is a bit of a “quickie” company and similar people were overlapped in this and the other DVDs making me realize that these were probably not originally intended to be watched back to back. This also has some amazing interviews, and again really delves into the early days of Bowie’s more whimsical period in the sixties when he was already obsessed and ripping off (and covering) The Velvet Underground, having been given one of the first and only pre first album demo acetates in 1965 or ‘66.

It goes into great detail about Bowie’s “cool beginnings” when the cast of Andy Warhol’s play Pork were in London and looking for bands to see and decided to go see an unknown David Bowie because he was wearing a dress on his then-current album cover. These people (Tony Zanetta, Cherry Vanilla, Wayne County and Leee Black Childers) all became Mainman Ltd., the bizarre company that ran most of Bowie’s affairs and mutated him into Ziggy Stardust in no time. Seeing Leee Black Childers (R.I.P.) interviewed, with him in his rockabilly best and with a big Band-aid® on his forehead said it all as far as who he was and how much he gave a fuck, one of the first true punk rockers, ever.

Similarly but multiplied by a hundred is Wayne, now Jayne County (“now” meaning for the last 35 years or so!) who is amazing in a huge red chair with a wild matching red outfit, makeup and her trademark fishnet stockings over her arms like long gloves, talking matter of factly about what really went down. Everyone knows Jayne County as a glam and then punk rock innovator, but we forget (or some don’t know) that Jayne was a real Warhol Superstar along with Candy Darling, Holly Woodlawn and Jackie Curtis. And Jayne starred in Warhol’s Pork (as Vulva, a characterization of Viva). The interviews with Angie Bowie, as always, are insane and classic. This DVD was really great and informative about my favorite small moment in rock n roll. The only annoyance is that they didn’t know who Cherry Vanilla is, and they talk about her a lot as she starred in Pork but kept showing a photo of someone else every time they referred to her!
The last DVD, Punk Revolution NYC: The Velvet Underground, The New York Dolls and the CBGB Set 1966-1974 is also really great, surprisingly. Believe me, with a title like this, where I come from this should be a real groaner, but it wasn’t. Not to discredit some of the interviewees, but I think that a lot of bigger names wouldn’t talk to Chrome Dreams, or couldn’t, so they had to dig deeper and get some people that did not become famous, but certainly are people I know that most definitely deserve to be interviewed and put a new spin on a now pretty tired subject. So it actually worked in their favor.

A good “for instance” is Elda Stiletto (Gentile), someone I knew and someone who is the perfect bridge to the exact time frame of this documentary. Elda was married to Warhol Superstar Eric Emerson. Emerson started pretty much the first glitter band in NYC, The Magic Tramps, only to be steamrolled by the New York Dolls and all that came in their path. Eric Emerson was also the upside down figure on The Velvet Underground and Nico LP’s back cover, who sued hoping to get some quick dough, but was foiled when he just caused the LP to be delayed, first with a big sticker covering him, then with his image being airbrushed out of the photo entirely. (Why none of this was mentioned is beyond me.) Elda Stiletto then went on to form The Stilettos with Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, a sort of “glitter doo wop” group that morphed into Blondie after all the other girls were gotten rid of. Two of the other gals in The Stilettos were Tish and Snooky who would go on to sing in The Sic Fucks and founded Manic Panic, a small punk store (that is now a large corporation—I was their first employee!) on St. Marks Place (just a few doors down from where The Dom was, where The Velvets played, later to become The Electric Circus where The Stooges and many others played).

Also interviewed are Suicide’s Alan Vega, Richard Lloyd from Television, Leee Black Childers and Jayne County, this time in the most insane outfit ever! She’s on a big black couch, reclining on her back, facing the camera completely covered in a ton of black fabric so she looks like a demented floating disembodied head! Ha ha!! To top it all off she’s wearing a black witchy wig and crazy electric blue makeup that is just insane looking. She never fails to blow my mind! They also talked to Richard Hell, Ivan Julian from The Voidoids, photographer Roberta Bayley, Danny Fields and more. There was oddly, no mention of The Ramones!

Ultimately all three DVDs come off like extremely dry BBC docs and there is a lot of overlap, but it doesn’t totally take away from the experience. The punk DVD just suddenly says “End of Part One” and stops, which is annoying because it actually was good. Where is part two? Sprinkled throughout these documentaries are critics like Robert Christgau and Simon Reynolds, biographer Victor Bockris and other experts.

Below, here’s the lead doc, The Velvet Underground Under Review. The quality is “eh” so you might want to get the DVDs. The Lou Reed Tribute DVD box set sells for less than $20 on Amazon. Used it’s under $10.

Posted by Howie Pyro | Leave a comment
Cranky Lou Reed interview from 1975 is full of hilariously nasty gems
08:41 am


Lou Reed

Oh, my…. Hell hath no fury like Lou Reed in close proximity to a journalist who has gotten on his bad side. I’d imagine a good chunk of the DM audience has already seen the hilarious clip of Lou Reed being royally unhelpful to some Australian journalists in 1974…. my first exposure to that footage was before a Morrissey show I saw in Dublin in 2009, it was part of the pre-gig entertainment.

This desultory interview from 1975 isn’t as well known, but it deserves to be considered in the same league as that Australian clip. It’s odd footage because it’s almost uncut raw footage, we get to see a dude with a boom mic several times—a couple times at the start or end of a take, the camera might zoom off crazily to one side, etc.

The best bits come right around the middle, when Lou and his interviewer engage in a series of one-liners that are somehow vaguely reminiscent of an ill-tempered Abbott and Costello routine:

LR: Don’t believe what you read.
I: No, I don’t.
LR: Don’t believe what you see.
I: Is it true that you wrote Sally Can’t Dance in the studio?
LR: If I say so, I guess….
I: But did you?
LR: I wasn’t there!
I: You were there.
LR: No I wasn’t. Dougie [Yule] did it.
I: Are you happier as a brunet?
LR: Ahh…. are you happier as a schmuck?
I: I’m no schmuck.
LR: I’m no brunet.
I: You were blond last time.
LR: No I wasn’t.
I: You were.
LR: I was a bleach blond.
I: A bleached blond.
LR: Trashy blond.
I: You looked younger as a blond.
LR: Well, you look older.
I: I’m not a blond, though.
LR: I know, it’s worse.

At one point, in response to an admittedly inane query about Berlin, Lou says, “It was a long time ago. I’m obsessed with Metal Machine Music.” So the interview was perhaps in support of what is widely considered one of the more prominent eff-yous in recording history, a fact that informs Lou’s contrary attitude, perhaps? (Or else it was for Lou Reed Live, which also came out in 1975.)


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Watch Laurie Anderson’s dog Lolabelle improvise her own experimental music
09:29 am


Lou Reed
Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson loved her dog Lolabelle. Upon Lola’s passing, Anderson created a lovely sculpture of her ashes in memoriam. She delivered introspective monologues about their relationship. She put on concerts for dogs with Lola sharing the stage (for the record, the music is actually kind of interesting—structureless, but very tonal, and not entirely composed of high pitched whistles inaudible to the human ear). Anderson even sent Lola to music therapy, the adorable results of which you can see below.

Billing itself as “Common Sense Counseling for Dogs and their Humans,” Dog Relations NYC is a sort of Montessori-style obedience school, and as far as I know, they’re the only pet service with a testimonial from Laurie Anderson and the late Lou Reed and on their homepage—apparently dog behavior counselor Elisabeth Weiss has quite the magic touch.

Elisabeth was one of the key people in helping maintain the spirit and integrity of Lola’s life. Everyday Lola looked forward to her time with Elisabeth. It was a great relationship that we all rejoiced in. Elisabeth is a kind dog genius. Her help cannot be overestimated and went far beyond what one can buy. Lolabelle loved her. We all loved her.

Lolabelle’s musical ventures were categorized by Dog Relations NYC as Occupational Therapy—she had actually been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, but honestly I’d imagine this is the sort of thing that might just calm any nervous little terrier. At any rate, she looks genuinely rapt by her own keyboard skills. On the first video, she is receiving no instruction from a human. The second is a collaboration of sorts for Rock n Roll Rescue, a benefit for Art For Animals.


Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
The Making of an Underground Film: Edie Sedgwick, Andy Warhol and a ‘topless’ Velvet Underground

There is simply too much pork for the fork in this wild CBS Evening News report on the then-new phenomenon of “underground films” from New Year’s Eve of 1965/66.

Seen here are Piero Heliczer filming the Velvet Underground, along with testimony from Jonas Mekas, Stan Brakhage, Andy Warhol, a gorgeous young Edie Sedgwick, Al Aronowitz (the rock journo who introduced The Beatles to Dylan—and pot), Willard Van Dyke of the Museum of Modern Art, Chuck Wein, even shirtless and bodypainted Lou Reed and John Cale. Angus MacLise, who was still in the group when this was shot makes an appearance as well.

I think it’s safe to say that this is probably the first and so far at least, only time an excerpt from a Stan Brakhage film was ever shown on The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.

Thank you Michael Simmons!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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