Posts Tagged ‘ Roxy Music ’

LOU REED REMEMBERED

Lou Reed Remembered

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Yesterday October 27th was just another Sunday morning apart from the fact disorientation had set in due to the official arrival of winter with the clocks going back encouraging me to get up at an hour unthinkable a few years back. The only other thing slightly out of the ordinary was the fact I had an overwhelming urge to listen to Lou Reed’s Berlin album.

Usually an album which requires a certain mood as it is a dark, despairing and harrowing listen with little recommendation or redemption for any of its protagonists, even if its message is cloaked in some of the most awe inducing beautiful music ever recorded. Suffice to say it requires melancholic tendencies and I was far from feeling even remotely down; quite the opposite in fact. Melancholy, despair and shock arrived  only a few hours later however as I would be overwhelmed with feelings of sadness  when news of Lou Reed’s death, at the age of seventy one, began to filter through on social media and was later sadly confirmed as fact.

 Two days previously had seen an internet hoax reporting Reed’s death spread like wildfire before it was announced he was alive and kicking. As far as anyone knows at this stage he wasn’t even showing signs of the symptoms which eventually claimed him so some scepticism met the original Sunday reports of his death. In hindsight this made the news even sadder as on one of his last days on earth he had to deny he had died then forty eight hours later he was actually gone for real. In some ways this was typical Lou- rising to a challenge-who many had predicted wouldn’t live through the seventies never mind into his seventies.

 Like many others of my generation my introduction to Reed came through that font of all knowledge, David Bowie, when he tried to resurrect the faltering career of his idol by co- producing his album Transformer with Mick Ronson. Many evenings were spent with a select, elite group of friends lounging on bean bags applying nail polish, smoking mentholated cigarettes and contemplating sex in the hall as we listened to this album with its tales of decadent New York and colourful characters- Candy, Holly, Jackie and Little Joe- who we discovered were real and, at the time, all  very much alive.

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 Other favourites were the New York Dolls, early Roxy Music, The Sex Pistols and Bowie but Lou seemed darker and more dangerous- look at how his made up panda eyes glared past and through you on Transformer’s metallic cover- promising a subterranean demi-monde where it was always after midnight and debauched glamour was the entry code. On top of all this he was the best singer ever and he couldn’t even sing. Perfect!

 Transformer provided a perfect point of entry to Reed’s work and before long I investigated and discovered his Velvet Underground back catalogue which totally blew my mind. To the point I still refer to their debut The Velvet Underground and Nico as my all time favourite album. It had everything; sex, drugs, sado-masochism, twisted love songs, thrashing guitars, Reed’s throwaway drawl, Nico’s Germanic icy cool and Andy Warhol’s Factory people. Here was a record which inhabited a universe all its own and unlike Bowie’s exotic characters Reed’s subject matter actually existed. Oh, how I wanted to be there!

 Discovering Lou Reed was akin to finding a guiding light in my life. He spoke to me through the medium of song in a way I could never envisage my father speaking to me. Lou understood and prevented me from feeling I was wrong when my surroundings were screaming at me otherwise. ‘White Light/ White Heat’, ‘Candy Says’, ‘What Goes On’,Kill Your Sons’, ‘Sad Song’ and ‘Satellite of Love’ are just some of the songs embedded in my emotional hard drive eternally. How also can I forget the perfect chords of ‘Sweet Jane’ or the auto biographical Rock ‘n’ Roll’? As for the blistering assault of the seventeen minutes of mayhem that is ‘Sister Ray’, which at its denouement still leaves me feeling drained, exhilarated, confused, relieved and hyperventilating all at once; well it may be a cliché but they really don’t make them like that anymore.

 Lou Reed meant something not just to me but to so many others and he will continue to mean something. At some time we all have to take a walk on the wild side hitching a ride on a satellite of love and obviously Sunday October 27th was when Lou felt that final beckoning tap on the shoulder calling him. I could go on but really I have only one thing left to say and that is ‘Thank You ’.

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BRIAN ENO

Brian Eno- Movements

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Brian Eno is a pivotal figure-also a surprisingly physically diminutive one- in modern music with his DNA coursing through its veins whilst his sticky fingerprints are all over it and the fact that, since the mid-seventies, he has assumed more and more of an invisible peripheral role only serves to make him all the more enigmatic. Entering the fray playing synthesizer and tapes with Roxy Music-who can forget that TOTP performance of ‘Virginia Plain’ with Eno, at the opposite end of the stage from Bryan Ferry, hunched over his synthesiser in fantasy fur and lurex gloves twiddling knobs like some crazy rock and roll professor beamed in from Planet Xenon? – before collaborating with David Bowie during his most fruitful and experimental phase of his career and rounding the decade off by producing Talking Heads , taking them into unchartered waters.

 In the interim he had a solo career and invented –or at least lent a name to- ‘ambient’ music which had previously not been considered an art form or entity in its own right. Subsequent decades have seen him work with other artists most notably U2 and James although the least said about Coldplay the better.

 This hour long talk about ‘Music’ was as varied and off the wall as his career however and his occasional diversions from the topic in hand provided both highlights and insights whilst the smooth luxury of his voice ensured he held our attention throughout.  At the denouement of his talk I felt he was only getting started and could have listened to him for another hour at least.

 Opening by informing us that certain cultures –including some parts of Africa- don’t have a word for music but do have a word for dance we are taken on a Enoesque take on the form through the ages. Interesting stop offs were the first ‘Synthesiser’, a Telharmonium, which required thirty seven train carriages alone to transport it from town to town. Upon reaching its destination it then had to plug into a major power source such as a telephone exchange so the towns inhabitants just had to lift their receiver off its cradle to hear the strange sounds coming from the musician playing from the train.

 The role of the producer-perhaps what Eno himself is best known and established as- was looked at closely with pioneering names such as George Martin and Phil Spector recognised for their legendary and groundbreaking achievements in this field and raising the role to an art in itself; giving an artist’s recorded artefacts a life of their own, vacuum packing them into a form which does not exist outside its own manifestation. Audiences and their crucial role were also brought into the discussion-a great photo of Iggy Pop crowd surfing illustrated the difference between the reverence of a classical concert and the irreverent and spontaneous nature of a rock and roll one- as well as a look at Elvis and his legendary and, for its time shocking, pelvis which introduced a new form of audience participation concentrating on the corporeal rather than the cerebral.

 Along the way an amusing tale about his one and only time as a hired session hand when the New Seekers-of all people- enlisted his services. If ever there was an incongruous pairing then this was it and it is hardly surprising the fruits of this collaboration never made it past the studio. This is probably for the best but it would make for interesting listening.

 Eno managed to make all this sound effortless-his honeyed tones provided some assist here- and was thoroughly charming and engaging throughout. An hour was no way long enough for him to cover his subject as thoroughly as he wanted to but he still managed to cram so much into this time and in no way did anyone feel cheated.  Definitely a Festival 2013 highlight for me.

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