If you have ever seen any of those low-budget “Under Review” made for DVD rockumentaries, then you know that they follow a fairly tried and true formula: Almost no music by the group or performer the doc is about, approx 5 minutes of archival film clips in the course of 90 minutes and usually a bunch of crazed loner rock critics you’ve never heard of, yakking it up about their favorite rock groups. Often the interviewees are fairly tangential to the subjects, but not always. The range from awesome (the one on the early days of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention was excellent) to awful.
In The Velvet Underground: Under Review, they managed to nab TWO actual members of the Velvet Underground, Maureen Tucker and Doug Yule—both Reed and Cale, predictably sat this one out—which elevates this way above most of the others ones. Even longtime VU fans might learn something new here. For instance, I’ve listened to the VU for 36 years now and I didn’t know that Maureen Tucker didn’t play drums on Loaded because she was pregnant. Every copy of that album (and the CD) credits her on the back—your copy and mine—but it’s not her drumming, it’s Doug Yule, studio engineer Adrian Barber, a session drummer named Tommy Castanaro and Billy Yule, who was still a high school student (It doesn’t sound even remotely like Mo Tucker on Loaded as I found listening to it the day after I watched this doc). You also hear Mo talk about how she stripped down her drum kit to get a more primitive, less busy, sound. And Yule, who always gets short shrift in the VU saga, gets plenty of onscreen time to discuss his role in the band (How many of you reading this know it’s him singing “Candy Says” and not Lou Reed?). I’ve never seen an interview with him and I was very pleased to see his participation in this film. If you’re a VU fan, this film is absolutely worth your time.