Posts Tagged ‘ Velvet Underground ’

JUST AN OBSERVATION 2013

Just An Observation Monday December 30th
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Christmas has been done and dusted then –although I suspect a few credit cards will need dusted down to pay for it- and 2013 is drawing to a close whilst 2014 is hovering on the horizon. It seemed fitting then that on the last weekend of the year should be spent watching Edinburgh stalwarts The Rezillos play a secret warm up gig at the Parlour bar in Leith in preparation for their supporting slot at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations in Princes Street, where the Pet Shop Boys are headlining.
Saturday’s gig however confirmed The Rezillos as thrilling as they were thirty odd years ago. It was a thrilling ride all the way with classics such as ‘Can’t Stand My Baby’, ‘Good Sculptures’, ‘Destination Venus’ and of course their breakthrough hit ‘Top of the Pops’. There was also a storming version of ‘River Deep Mountain High’ which if they play on Tuesday is more likely to blow the main act off the stage than the high winds which did the last time the electronic duo were supposed to play this gig and are no doubt also anticipated this time.
The band were tighter than I remember them and as front person Faye Fife manages to somehow exude the attitude lacking in bands a third of her age whilst still retaining her dignity and kudos. It was also the perfect way to spend that Saturday between the hinterland of Christmas and New Year where death by gluttony and shit television seems inevitable.
As far as the television schedules over the holiday period are concerned I didn’t expect much but was still disappointed at just how bad the choices were. But then out of seemingly nowhere-BBC4 actually- in the sea of mediocrity there was ‘Never Mind the Baubles: Christmas with the Sex Pistols’ wherein the scourge of the establishment-according to the outdated press ideologies of the time- and catalysts for the punk revolution played a benefit gig for the children of striking miners. It was a reminder-and occasionally it is needed- that here was a generation who hoped to sweep away the lies and hypocrisy of the previous ones but were crucified by the press in the process.
It was also a reminder that even though the agenda was serious it was also a hell of a lot of fun and this was borne out by footage of Johnny Rotten smeared in cake belting out the lyrics to ‘Bodies’-surely their most controversial song at that time- whilst a bunch of kids jumped around joining in on the chorus of ‘Mummy, I’m not an animal’ with more verve and feeling than they could ever apply to ‘Away in a Manger’. This was by far my favourite television moment of the year and ranks up there with any other all time favourites. It certainly-along with the Rezillos gig two days later- kicked this still beating punk heart into quick time.
Elsewhere it has been a sad year for major losses. Nelson Mandela’s passing will definitely be seen as the world’s biggest loss of 2013 and stands in stark contrast to the divisive feelings which ran through the UK when Margaret Thatcher bowed out in April. One has a legacy which dwelt on creating a unified nation whilst the other seemed to deliberately perpetuate disharmony and division. Two different types of leaders who at one point in the eighties were polar opposites and adversaries but it is Mandela I hold in highest regard and whose legacy I hope continues to grow and acted upon. For Thatcher’s legacy there is no need to look further than George Osborne and the cast of ‘Made In Chelsea’.
At least in Scotland there is a chance in 2014 of voting for independence and do away with the possibility of a Tory government ever making decisions for us when they have no representation or interest in anything north of the border.
Another loss this year which was a major blow was that of Lou Reed in October when the rock and roll pioneer succumbed to complications after a liver transplant a few months earlier. It is safe to say that Reed was a pivotal figure in music presaging the whole glam-particularly influential to its leading light David Bowie- and the punk movements. It is also safe to say he introduced realism into a genre which previously had still dealt in frivolity and even those who challenged this, such as Dylan, still felt obliged to cloak their true meaning in poetic garb. Reed cut through all this and his attitude was an indifferent and irreverent ‘so what?’ which is still as powerful today.
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If 2013 can be said to belong to any one individual then I would say that the aforementioned David Bowie is definitely the prime contender for that title. Entering the fray unobtrusively and with no fanfare on the morning of his 66th birthday by lunchtime he was global news. That he followed this up with his best album in over thirty years and the V&A retrospective exhibition of his life and career merely propagated his presence, importance and relevance.
His unassuming entry back into the spotlight was probably one of the best marketing strategies ever. In a world where you know via Twitter when Lady Gaga has belched or Tom Cruise has farted the fact this major star can record and release an album with no-one knowing anything about it is short of a miracle. By not making a fuss he created one and it is a lesson to anyone who wants to make an entrance that perhaps over saturation is perhaps not the way forward. Managing to maintain and sustain this position in the media throughout the year is also amazing in our ever evolving culture and even more interestingly what exactly has Bowie himself had to say about this most talked about ‘comeback’? Not a single solitary word that is what!

So it is hard to say what 2014 will bring as the last year has been one of those years where treading water seems to be the norm-cinema and theatre have been particularly disapppointing over the last twelve months- so it is hard to say which way things are moving. I do hope that this tendency to keep introducing new words into the language which are more suited to toddlers than grown adults-‘onesies’ and ‘selfies’ I mean you- abates and we remember our language used to be respected and revered and this is one tradition which I personally feel does need to be maintained.
That is it for 2013 and personally I have had a ball of a time. I hope 2014 brings as much happiness and good times as the last twelve months have and here to round off is the Rezillos doing ‘Top of the Pops’ on Top of the Pops some thirty five years ago

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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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