12 Essential New York Records.

8 02 2018

CBGB bowery OMFUG rock punk

 

I’m not someone who gets overly annoyed easily (but if you chew loudly or sniff constantly on public transport, I’ll probably want to smack you in the kisser.) However, after reading the apparent “essential” NYC records chosen by BBC 6Music, I got annoyed. In fact, it went beyond being annoyed. I am pissed off. A pissed off Punk who is absolutely infuriated by this list and I know that I am not alone in this.

If you want to share my rage, here is the list:

1. The Strokes – Is This It
2. Wu Tang Clan – Enter The 36 Chambers
3. Blondie – Parallel Lines
4. Talking Heads – 77
5. Nas – Illmatic
6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever To Tell
7. Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends
8. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
9. Princess Nokia – 1992 Deluxe
10. The Rapture – Echoes
11. Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights
12. LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver

 

I am a massive fan of Nas, Wu Tang, Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Strokes. The Strokes first record was my crutch for a long time, and I do agree with it being there- but not at the top. There is so much missing from this list- how can you even condense it down to 12 anyway? Maybe 20 wouldn’t even be enough.

So with my burning rage, I have to come up with my own list. I don’t want to claim that my list is correct or anything like that- it’s just an opinion. I could be wrong, or someone may feel like they agree with me. The severe lack of Punk in the list just makes me sad. I do agree, as I said with some of the records being there, but some are wrongfully missed.

Also, it isn’t in any order- I don’t like order, it makes me nervous.

Ramones-Ramones.

It was either this or Leave Home. I think Leave Home is my favourite Ramones record, but their debut deserves to be there because of the huge impact it had. I remember hearing it for the first time when I was about 14/156. The age where everything and anything can influence you. I remember hearing it and feeling like I had been born in the wrong era. Every song gave me this incredible feeling, and every song just made me idolise them. I think it is obvious that I worship Joey Ramone. Oh man, Beat On The Brat is one of my favourite Ramones songs. I love the lyrics and I love the humour in their songs but there is a real sensitivity in Joey’s voice that is so unique and beautiful. It’’ just such an iconic record. It was made to influence and to be played loud.

Lou Reed-Transformer.

The most important NYC record of all time. ALL.TIME. Why the hell wasn’t it included?! It’s pretty insulting to Lou’s legacy that this record isn’t on there. It’s not only a great NYC record; it’s probably my favourite record of all time. As a gay person, this record gave me this sense of freedom that I hadn’t found in any other record when I first heard it. I didn’t come out until years after hearing this record, but it gave me this feeling of being alright with who I was. Besides, me being gay doesn’t define me. Never has, never will Transformer is just the coolest record ever made. I hate the word cool, we know that but fucking hell Lou Reed was THE coolest person to have ever lived and he just smacks it in our faces with this record. Sally Can’t Dance and Coney Island Baby are obviously worth mentioning. Pretty sure my list could just be Lou and Ramones records. Vicious and Andy’s Chest…man alive! “You hit me with a flower.” That’s GOT to move you in some way. I love the lyrics to Vicious, and I think this whole record shows Lou in a different way, you know? He just expressed himself in a way nobody else had dared to. I still don’t think anything can touch this record.

New York Dolls-New York Dolls.

The clue is in the bloody name really. Absolutely criminal and horrendous that this record isn’t on the list. My mum got me into the Dolls at a very young age. I don’t even think I was a teenager. I remember finding her copy of the record, and being in awe of the Dolls in drag. How beautiful they were! I was drawn of course, to Johnny Thunders (the greatest guitarist of all time.) Subway Train is such a beautiful song. Jet Boy has this incredible snarl to it. The whole record oozes attitude that is so unique to the Dolls. The lyrics to Trash and Personality Crisis are just great. This record is New York through and through. It’s got the charm and grit. It’s got the attitude and bite. It’s a record that I always find myself going to time and time again, and discovering more things to love about it. It’s just timeless.

Richard Hell + The Voidoids-Blank Generation.

Alright so Richard isn’t from New York- but this record was recorded at Electric Lady Studios so, it’s a NYC record. And he moved there pretty early on, so it’s fine. It’s acceptable.

I am a Richard Hell obsessive. I paid £30 once for a Richard Hell t-shirt from a shop on Brick Lane. Yeah it was too much money, but it’s Richard Hell.

Blank Generation would easily be in my list of best Punk records. It’s got this raw attitude to it, and I just love Richard’s voice. As a singer and as a writer, I just love him. His autobiography is one of the best of its kind I’ve read. He has most certainly lived a colourful life. Sure he’s done questionable things, the little bugger. But, he’s made some incredible music along the way.

Suicide-Suicide

Suicide are probably the best duo of all time. Frankie Teardrop is the best 10 minute song of all time. Dream Baby Dream is a masterpiece. The whole record is a work of art. If any record can capture the roughness of New York in the 70s, it’s this record. It is such a grand record and well ahead of its time. It still is. Nothing and no one has ever come close to this. For me, I think Suicide are massively underrated but they have influenced so many bands that I adore. It still hurts and it still sucks that Alan Vega is no longer here. I remember when he passed; I had the same reaction most had for Bowie. Suicide were never afraid to push their sound and to make music that was entirely different. It is a beautiful noise that brings such pleasure and joy to the ears. It is a gritty record from start to finish, and they keep that grittiness throughout every record they have ever made.

The Heartbreakers-L.A.M.F

I think this was recorded in London, but Johnny Thunders was a New Yorker, The Heartbreakers were a supergroup. I did want to pick a solo Johnny record, but I remembered how much I am obsessed with L.A.M.F (it stands for Like A Mother Fucker.) and how One Track Mind is such a great song. I can’t help but imagine what it would be like if Johnny was still here. Like I said earlier on, for me he’s the greatest guitarist of all time. His style was just impeccable and one of a kind. No one else could play like him. His style was way ahead of its time. He was ahead of his time.  He had this way of just magnetising you with every note. The record has been reissued so many times, but regardless of what version you have- it’s a genius record. It is proper Rock N Roll and has Punk foundations. Of all the records I own, I think this might be my most played. It’s one of those records I just really enjoy listening to over and over again.

Nas-Illmatic

Nas is one of the greatest rappers of all time, that’s obvious. There are so many Hip Hop records I could have chosen. I know that The Big Picture by Big L is one of the best. I bought it when it came out, and to this day it is still one of my favourite records. Like Nas, Big L was and still is above the rest. Illmatic portrays New York in a way that most don’t want to hear. Nas is not, and has never been afraid to show the harsher side of life. From losing friends to growing up in the projects in Queens- he really takes you there. He’s a poet, a storyteller. Halftime is one of the songs on Illmatic that really show this. He makes you see the world and his world the way he does with Illmatic. Is it his best record? For sure. It’s one of the best Hip Hop records of all time. Nas has constantly brought out remarkable records that have, and still do influence so many. It’s one of those records that you can’t imagine not ever happening. It is such an important record- irrespective of what kind of music you’re into; it is such a phenomenal record. What he did with this debut record most want from their whole career.

A Tribe Called Quest-People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm

Tribe have always made consistently great records that are so experimental and diverse. They fused together all styles of music. There are so many records by them I could have chosen, but it felt right to go with their debut. It came out in a time where you had groups like NWA with their aggressive songs. Sure their songs may have been, but it is important to remember that NWA were telling us about the things that were happening in Compton- it is just as important and to an extent maybe more so. But this about New York right now. What I love about the first Tribe record is that it frees your mind, it gives you something that you won’t find anywhere else. Q-Tip and Phife are two great rappers, and I don’t think they have ever got enough credit it. Tribe’s records each have distinctive sounds. Push It Along is nearly 8 minutes long, Bonita Applebum is genius, I Left My Wallet In El Segundo is timeless and Luck of Lucien is just amazing. The samples on this record used range from Grace Jones to The Beatles to Lou Reed. It’s a record that quite simply, you need to own.

 Sonic Youth-Confusion Is Sex

I could have happily listed every single record by Sonic Youth. I’d have no idea where to start- so I went to the start. It’s such a heavy record; it’s a record that has influenced so many. It is powerful, it is loud and it has Jim Sclavunos on drums. What more do you need? (She’s In A) Bad Mood is such a brilliant way to start the record. Jim’s drumming is so brutal; they all just move you in a way that you wouldn’t expect. There is nothing calming about the sound on this record- they just rile you up in a way that is mind-blowing.

I think it is possible the record that shows us all just how amazing Kim Gordon is. I mean, we know that anyway but Confusion Is Sex has some awesome moments that just leave you inspired by Kim. Shaking Hell is my favourite on this record; it’s so aggressive and really brutal. The louder you play this, the better. The way she yells “Shake off your flesh!” is so hypnotising.

The Velvet Underground-Loaded

Maybe I should have gone with their first record. Maybe. But, Loaded is my favourite and I remember buying my copy of this in Brussels and feeling like I had won the lottery. My copy doesn’t play as well as it should but that’s because I am always playing it. I love listening to it and allowing Velvet Underground to take me some place really magical. Rock & Roll is such a fantastic song, and you can’t help but think you’re the person Lou has written about. Lonesome Cowboy Bill is out of this world- it’s not like anything else.

Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ is up there as being one of the greatest songs of all time. It’s one of Lou’s best, easily. I’ve written about this record so many times, and I’m sure I have never done it justice.

Television-Marquee Moon

I cannot make this list without mentioning Television, and this record. Many have regarded it as one of the best records ever made, and they aren’t wrong. It is such a wonderfully created record. From the vocals to the production- it is so effortlessly great and really does have a slick sound that you know is from New York. Every song on Marquee Moon is so distinctive. You hear one note, and you immediately know that it is them. The intro to the title song is one of the most iconic ones of all time. It’s an intro that just stays with you. You immediately go back to the first time you heard it as soon as it comes on. It’s just a magnificent record that definitely does deserve its status as being one of the greatest records ever made.

The Strokes-Is This It

There are a number of records I could have picked. I could have gone with Foxy Brown, Mos Def, Interpol, Talking Heads, Big L- so many. Why did I stick with The Strokes when I could have picked someone else? Because this record holds a lot of importance to me. It’s got me through hell and back. It still does. I adore Julian. I love his words, his voice and just him. It’s a record I constantly go back to. I can play it and I immediately go back to my first time hearing it. I was 15 years old, being bullied at school. I’d play it every day. And every single day I would imagine I was hanging out with Julian in New York City eating pizza, going to record stores and going to shows. This record was my escape, and it still is. It captures New York and it captures what music means to me. So from a totally personal point of view, this record is New York. This record is important. Again, it is one that is still a massive influence to bands. They are all great musicians, and there will never be anything else quite like it- just like all the records I have mentioned.

 

Like I said, there are so many records that could have been named. This is just my personal take. Maybe it is wrong, maybe it is right. It’s just a point of view, like the 6Music one is. But I just find it hard to accept that so many great and influential records were missed off.





THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: The Velvet Underground

24 09 2016

220px-velvetundergroundthirdalbum

“If I could make the world as pure and strange as what I see,
I’d put you in the mirror,
I put in front of me.”

When I first started writing about music, I seemed to have one band on my mind all the time- The Velvet Underground, and it’s pretty obvious. They’ve been a band I have always fallen back on. A band that I listen to pretty much every single day. And if I’m not listening to them, I’m listening to Lou Reed. I think one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done was not go see him when he played back home, on the Isle of Man. Add that to a list of my poor decisions. I’ve made some good ones. I’ve made more good than bad. The Velvet Underground have always felt like a band that I couldn’t believe existed. What I mean by this is, I find it hard to believe a band so great could ever have been around. What on earth did we ever do to deserve such a perfect band?

I like to go through old records and write about them, there’s no reason behind it and sometimes I find it easier to do this than write about a current band. A few years ago I went and wrote about every single record by The Cure. Every single one. It was partly down to me not being able to sleep/scared to go to sleep and having nothing to do, but also because I love The Cure. I’ve covered The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed a lot, but I’ve never written about their 1969 self-titled release. It’s a Saturday night, I have a migraine that’s slowly fading- what else is there to do?

This record is my favourite by them. It always has been and if I ever sat down and listed my favourite records of all time, I am fairly sure that this would be in my top 5, probably top 3. I remember for a long time I was obsessed with playing Pale Blue Eyes. The person that it reminded me of didn’t have pale blue eyes. She’s got beautiful green eyes. But you find meaning wherever you can. It was a song I couldn’t listen to for a time, but then it all fixed and I was back to being obsessed with the song again. If I could sing and I was in a band, I’d cover this at every show. The lyrics are the kind I wish I could write, but nothing I or anyone else does can come close to it. It’s sad. Utterly sad but so beautiful.

Candy Says is another that holds a wealth of sadness, but the sadness it mixed with vulnerability. It’s a song that no matter what, I’ve always been able to relate to.  Regardless of how I am feeling, it’s just been a song that I’ve always gone back to and found a home in. it just says everything I probably don’t have the guts to say. I’ve always had a place reserved for this line, “What do you think I’d see if I could walk away from me?”  Nothing really matters when you listen to this song, or the whole record really.

This is a record that I have always played in order. What I usually do is play something in order the first few times, then after that it’s in whatever order I feel like. With this record I’ve always had to play it in the exact order from start to finish. There’s no reason behind it, but it doesn’t feel right I suppose, to play it any other way. It doesn’t just sum up my ideas of New York, but it sums up how I feel about music and what I look for in a record. I want something that has sort of smutty yet clever lyrics, something that’ll make me think, something that will be some form of escape and encouragement. A record that just takes me up and away. There’s no comedown from this record, and that’s why it is easily one of the greatest records of all time. It’s got this thing about it that I mentioned about The Velvet Underground in general, like you can’t believe something like this actually exists and you can hold this piece of perfection in your hands and have it echoing in your ears whenever you wish.

I don’t think there will ever come a time where Lou’s words aren’t important to me, and with this record I fell more in love with his song writing and his captivating way with words. I have no idea how much thought he ever put into how he put words together, but he always made it seem so effortless. They’re the ones that tower about the rest like Nick Cave, Patti Smith, and Morrissey. They’re the ones I’ve always gone to and will always go to. I don’t know how well this record was received when it came out and I’ve never really paid any attention to what anyone thinks of it now, but I just know that for me, it’s my favourite record by the band. I love how gentle it is and how tender the lyrics are. I’m Set Free is one of those songs you play when everything seems a bit uneasy and you have no idea what you’re supposed to do. It has this instant ethereal build up to it, and you can feel your heart race as it builds and builds. It’s a song that will make everything make more sense. It’s a solution to any problem. I’ll always advocate listening to The Velvet Underground as a solution to all problems.

Some records just stay with you. You may not remember when you first heard it, but the feeling you first got is always there. Every single time you go back to it is like hearing the band for the first time. I’ve always felt that way about The Velvet Underground. It’s a feeling that hits you in the stomach, takes over your mind and owns your heart.





LOU REED- Sally Can’t Dance.

28 03 2014

 

“On a standard New York night
Ghouls go to see their so called stars.
A fairly stupid thing
To pay 5 bucks for a 4th rate imitators
.”

 

I had this bright idea to go through every record by The Cure once and to write about them. I figured I’d do the same for Lou Reed, then realised it just wouldn’t work. I can’t dissect every solo record he made and figure out what they mean to me. It’d be boring for the poor sod who reads it, so I’ll spare them. I’ll go into a few records, the ones I know I can write about. I’ll start with Sally Can’t Dance because for reasons that aren’t too clear, it’s the only Lou Reed record I’ve been playing constantly for the past week or so. In fact, he’s the only person I really want to listen to. That’s not a bad thing, it’s perfectly fine with me.

Sally Can’t Dance is Lou’s fourth solo record and I’m pretty sure it is the first one that has no songs by The Velvet Underground on, and is also the first solo record of his to be recorded in America. It still has a typical Berlin feel to it though, he stays true to his weird and wonderful lyrics with a Funk based groove. The best thing about Lou Reed is that nothing in particular influenced. On some of his solo records you can get a Gospel feel coming through, elements of Disco and Glam Rock are in a lot of his songs. He took bits and pieces and created something truly inspirational.

Firstly I want to get into the song, Billy. The sax on it is ridiculous; it fits perfectly with Lou’s storytelling and stripped back feel to the song. It is the perfect. Billy shows just how perfect Lou’s writing was. He was a true storyteller; some fact, some fiction. You believed and hung onto his every word because it offered some kind of understanding in a cruel world. His songs have always had a flamboyant kick to it, and his strut on stage was a billion times more sassier than anyone elses. Maybe it was his blonde locks that brought this out of him.

Sally Can’t Dance is probably as flamboyant as Transformer. I know everyone says Transformer is probably his best solo record (I won’t dispute this ever) but it has seriously got some tough competition against Sally Can’t Dance. Sally Can’t Dance is everything a Rock record should be. It’s in your face, it is lyrically disturbing at times and more importantly, it’s a Lou Reed record. Lou Reed makes me wish I was born decades earlier so I could have experienced it all when it was happening. Imaging roaming the streets of New York, and this was what you and your pals were spending your days listening to. Instead, it is 2014 and I’m doing it alone because I don’t know anyone else who loves him. But I don’t mind, at least nobody is interrupting the music for me.

Lyrically, my favourite song from Sally Can’t Dance has to be Ennui. When Lou does bitter and angry, he does it better than most. He’s really digging into this person in such an unforgiving fashion; he’s really calling out this person. We all know of someone who is like this; they want people to fawn over them, they want everyone to love them and to be around them- but you really cannot see why anyone would give them the time of day. The most interesting people have nothing to say because they are watching. Conversation isn’t always needed, and silence is a beautiful thing. Not talking is wonderful.

The title track is a straight up sassy number. If it doesn’t make you want to flaunt whatever goods you are blessed with, then you’re probably listening to something else.  It starts off sounding like a Reggae number, and then just turns into this flamboyant sass-fest. You can’t get enough of it. The repeat button takes a right old bashing when you stick this record on. But the song isn’t about some girl named Sally that can’t dance. Read the lyrics- it is littered with references to drugs, rape and death. Painful topics that Lou exposed in a way no one else has ever done. Read the lyrics, and you’ll see it is a tale of what he was seeing. Quite possibly what New York was like back then. The song oozes wild bouts of depravity (I don’t mean this with reference to rape, I mean the decadent life that “Sally” led.) Maybe it’s about Edie Sedgwick, many have said that it is. Lou made you think, and that’s why I love him. One line from him could spiral your thoughts out of control then right back to a solid state of being. He even talks about his stay in a psychiatric hospital on Kill Your Sons, which is probably one of the most gut-wrenching songs I’ve heard by Lou. He had this way of really getting to the core of a feeling and exposing to you the truth of it all. Kill You Sons is all truth.

Sally Can’t Dance is a dark record. I’m not sure if it is Lou’s most sinister work, all I know is that a lot of the songs justify the common belief that he was pretty much, the best song writer of all time. He always made you feel like he was singing these songs to you- just you and him in a room. He was telling you these wild stories, and letting you in on the things he witnessed and the things he felt. He was a true wordsmith, and I think anyone that listens to him is often left wishing they could write something as captivating as he did. We can all do it, in our own way. Maybe we won’t show it to the world like Lou did, but the desire to do so is there. That’s powerful enough. Baby steps.

He can express the dark side of life in songs like Sally Can’t Dance, he can then reflect on a friendship in Billy and he can also be the most sarcastic of them all with songs like N.Y. Stars. N.Y. Stars is a nod to being bored with everything and everyone. The lack of depth in others has proven a way to be successful, but don’t buy into it. Listen to what Lou is saying here- don’t sell yourself short and don’t fucking dumb yourself down to please others. If you have to do that to keep people around, then please let them go and strike out on your own.

Sally Can’t Dance is a proper Rock & Roll record, what came after this was a record of feedback and beautiful noise. Were people ready for Metal Machine Music? I don’t know if the world ever was, but damn….it was glorious noise.





THE VELVET UNDERGROUND-Loaded.

25 03 2014

 

“Oh, I do believe
If you don’t like things you leave
For some place you’ve never gone before.”

 

All I want to do is listen to Lou Reed. All I want to do is listen to him so much it stops his death being true. A stranger’s death should not do this to me or anyone. But it has, and if I could make sense of why my brain is thinking this way and transporting it down to my heart, then I’d be really thankful of that. I’d like some understanding, but I know I’m not going to get anywhere with it. So all I can do is listen to his voice in any way that I can. Just to take in his words and to get some understanding from it all.

The past few days I’ve gone back to listening to Loaded. I always thought their first record was the one I adored the most, I really thought I had made a solid decision for once. But hey, I was wrong. I’m alright with that.

For me, Loaded is something else. There’s something about that record which is stronger than the others. Maybe it is stronger because there is no way you can tell that this band were once influenced by Andy Warhol. Sure the songs are more accessible than the likes of Heroin or Venus In Furs (but don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like those songs, or VU in general.) Loaded is full of songs that make you move in the most sassy way possible. Lou’s voice just makes you strut in the most flamboyant way possible. He embraced everything that is deemed as “weird” but on Loaded it seems more tame. For some, this may be shying away from all the Velvets were, but you must remember that they were a band that were ahead of their time. No one has ever come close to what they did, and still manage to do even though….well, you know.

Who Loves The Sun is a heartbreaking but beautiful sang by Doug Yule. Nothing matters once you’ve had your heart ripped out. No other songs sums it up more than Who Loves The Sun. However for me, the song that really does it for me is Rock & Roll. Rock & Roll sums up perfectly what it is like to fall in love with a song, and to then fall for the band behind it. It conjures up memories of falling in love with your favourite band(s) all over again as you listen to it. When I hear it, I just think about staring at that poster of Lou Reed and of Nick Cave on my uncle’s bedroom wall when I was about 3 or 4. I remember being in awe of them both, little did I know what would happen about 10 years later. I always think “Her life was saved by Rock & Roll” to be one of the most accurate lyrics ever written. I guess it’s probably because I feel it was written for me, I’m sure others feel exactly the same when they hear it.

I adore Lou’s vocals on this record. When he goes high and love on Cool It Down, and does something really gnarly with his voice on it. I think this just shows how brilliant he was as a vocalist. Sometimes he sounded bored on some songs, and that’s what lured you in. You wanted to see it all like he did, but obviously for the most part his voice just took you over with how sincere it was. His lyrics are a guide for life, and on Loaded it shows just how to have fun and to embrace every little thing that you can.

Loaded is a record that is pretty much taking over my mind at the moment. It’s the only thing I want to constantly listen to, and you know it has the greatest love song on it, right? I Found A Reason is a hopeful love song- especially if you’re hopeless like myself. I just love everything about it. I love the innocence to it, and in some respects you can say this about a few songs Lou Reed wrote (both with the Velvets and solo.) His innocent and vulnerable way with words just showcases how much of a genius he was, and his words are what he will always be remembered for. I Found A Reason is that one song that just captures everything love is. It doesn’t have to be in a romantic sense, if you don’t want it to be. It can be about finding a friend that finally gets you. Or maybe the whole song is a few minutes of irony, who knows.  But dear reader, if you happen to find a friend who really gets you. Like really fucking gets you, and doesn’t mind that 3am phone call when your brain won’t turn off- then please hold onto them. Even if you have a weak grip. They will probably turn out to be the best pal you ever had, and you went about everything in the wrong way. Because that is what you do.

Loaded is a proper Rock & Roll record. They’ve got the riffs that make you wish you could play the guitar, they’ve got the songs that just move you- in body and mind. It’s a fantastic record that I still think isn’t given as much attention as it rightfully needs. I’m all for people saying that the Velvets first record was a stroke of genius, because it really is. But the thing is with Loaded, it is a record full of hidden beautiful moments that you pick up on when you have it playing over and over. I don’t know if it is actually possible to pick a favourite record by them and to stick with it. Maybe next week I’ll go back to declaring their self-titled record as their best work, but that just shows how brilliant The Velvet Underground were. Every record sounds different and is a step up from the last.

For me, I’ll always regard Lou and Mo Tucker to be two of the best at what they did..do..did. I’m not sure what tense to use anymore because the past tense just doesn’t sit right with me. Mo’s relaxed (yet furious when needed) drumming really fits with Lou’s soothing voice. If it was just those two making music, I still have every bit of confidence that they would have been the best band ever. When you listen to the music they made with each other, you can hear how they brought out the best in each other.

If you’ve got this far, I hope it makes you go and play Loaded in full. It’s just a romantic and perfect record. It is timeless and the lyrics are full of beauty. I just really miss Lou.





THE VELVET UNDERGROUND- The Velvet Underground.

15 03 2014

 

“If I could make the world as pure
And strange as what I see
I’d put you in a mirror
I’d put in front of me.”

 

There are some records that, regardless of how many years pass since it was first release will always sound new every single time you play them. The records that do this are the ones that will tower above anything else you expose your ears to. They are the records that have a significant part in your life and are etched upon your heart like nothing else. They are the records that have led you down a road to self discovery and aided with your self-loathing ways. One of the records that I regard this highly is 45 years old. I think it was yesterday or today that 45 years ago that The Velvet Underground released their third record, and in my mind it is the best thing the band ever did.

The record opens with the heartbreaking and relatable Candy Says (about Candy Darling.)  Candy Says is one of those songs that truly delves into self-disgust and being really uncomfortable in your own skin. Regardless of age, it is something anyone can relate to. What I’ve always loved about Lou Reed’s lyrics is the way he crafts his words in an old-fashioned, romantic poetic way. There will never ever be anyone else like him. As I listen to the songs on this record, I cannot help but miss him. I know I never knew him, and maybe this makes me stupidly weird, but not much has felt right since he died. I can’t explain what it is, but maybe someone else who loves Lou/Velvet Underground as much as I do will understand. Maybe they have the words to describe it, because I really don’t. Hand on heart, I firmly believe “What do you think I’d see, if I could walk away from me” to be one of the most beautiful lyrics of all time. It is fragile and hits you right in the sacred part of your heart. It’s the kind of lyric you’d want to have tattooed on you, as a reminder.

Whenever I mention The Velvet Underground I always end up talking about Pale Blue Eyes. There is just something about that song that rips your heart out. It can make you ache and can break you; but it is so beautiful. It’s a song that once did that to me, but I learnt very quickly to stop associating people with songs I love. I remember once speaking to someone I still hold quite dear to me about this song, and they got it. I’ve never met anyone else who understood how I felt about that song. You treasure those moments. Pale Blue Eyes has been covered quite a few times, but I think the only ones who have ever covered this song and really conveyed the meaning of it fully (and any song by The Velvet Underground) has to be The Kills, who are obviously influenced by them but not in a ripping off kind of way. Of course, you’ve got to mention how brilliantly messed up The Murder Mystery is. I never know what’s going on in that song, but when I listen to it through headphones it is like something is taking over. It’s mighty strange and fits perfectly on this record.

Sure their debut record was one of the best things to have ever happened to music, and let’s be honest no one is ever going to do for music what Lou Reed did; but their third record is one of the finer things in life. If this was their debut record, they probably would have caused more of a scene than they already did. This record is a just a body of dark poetry; words you wish you could write. Words you wish you had written.

The Velvet Underground’s third record is my favourite record because of how delicate it is lyrically. With their debut record, some of the sound is quite harsh but the one thing that has always been constant (and in his solo work) is that tone in Lou Reed’s voice. He has this way of singing about horrifically dark topics (if you listen to Heroin and you don’t feel the need to cry, then something is up with you) but at the same time really soothing your soul with his voice. His voice was one of a kind, and of course so was he. It’s really tough writing about him in past tense. It still doesn’t feel right.

I went through a phase some time ago of listening to Heroin followed by I’m Set Free. I just felt like those two songs had to played one after another. I have no idea what my mind was up to and why I decided to do it, but I did it. I guess it made me appreciate the songs more and in a different way. The way Lou’s lyrics really touch you are truly evident in those two songs. Play them one after each other, hopefully you’ll get what I mean.

The Velvet Underground made music that has influenced so many bands. Lou Reed’s solo work has obviously done the same. Anyone who loves both has probably tried to write something similar to them. I have, and I’m not ashamed to admit that. Of course nothing I’ve written has come close to it, not even a fraction. If anything, Lou Reed (and others) told me to write from the heart. It is easy to write all this down about his music and his words. I can take my time with it. But I probably would struggle to physically talk about the music because it just does something that is beyond expression.

In another 45 years I hope I am still listening to this record and feeling this way. Some bands, some records just stay with you throughout your life. They don’t go, they become something you really cannot do without. The Velvet Underground are a band I have taken walks by myself to, just to figure shit out. I’ll never figure anything out, and I’m okay with that. I’ll probably always feel a little uncomfortable in my skin, but I’m okay with that. The darker and things that are classed weird by others will always appeal to me, Lou Reed taught me that that’s okay. It’s really fucking okay to not be like everyone else. It’s okay to feel a little awkward in yourself and to want to shut off for a while. Lose yourself in a book, in a record. When it’s over, you’ll find whatever it is you were looking for.

Lou Reed taught me more than any teacher could. The things they don’t tell you about or prepare you for, he taught me it all. Music heals, music teaches. Just listen to this record. Play I’m Set Free so loud and with your eyes closed. If you want to cry, then cry. Just cry. It doesn’t matter. The record oozes freedom from others and from your mind. You won’t always be trapped.





HAPPY BIRTHDAY LOU.

2 03 2014

 

Today would have been Lou Reed’s birthday. It is fairly obvious just how important he was to a hell of a lot of people. For his music, his words, his wisdom; he guided those who felt uneasy in their skin and allowed them to feel a hint of self-acceptance. Has anyone recently done that? No. Will anyone ever do it again? No. Lou Reed was something truly rare. Treasured in life and death.

Forever missed.





L.A.R

9 02 2014

In love, darkness, desperation and heartache, 

I was guided by the angel of New York City. 

Walking with clenched fists and gritting my teeth. 

I want to be set free, I’m in search of Candy. 

The angel took me to their hell and showed me how to make it a peaceful state of heaven. 

A piece of me, a piece of him. 

I turned a blind eye to my sins. 

Slowly and softly his words carry me through. 

 I drag my feet across unfamiliar ground, 

And I welcome the ugly feelings that I should ignore. 

I wait for the unknown. 

His words circle my mind going deep into my soul. 

I’d go back in time to find a cure. 

For all the souls that didn’t quite get there. 

In love and courage, you’re standing in your leather and shades. 

I’ll linger on. 

I wrote this a few hours after hearing Lou Reed had died last year. I know you should never publicise your private thoughts, but I suppose some things just have to be let out. I don’t enjoy showing anyone my poor attempt at poetry, I’ve only ever shown not even a handful. I have no idea why I’m doing this but maybe it doesn’t need a reason. Not everything does.

The loss of someone like Lou is beyond words, and it leaves a gap. But at least someone like him existed and gave us a legacy of music that will forever inspire.

You’re missed Lou.