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.





R.I.P LOU REED: “Skip a life completely. Stuff it in a cup…”

27 10 2013

 

“If I could be anything
in the world that flew
I would be a bat and come
swooping after you.”

 

There are a few bands and singers who I frequently write about who cemented their mark in music before I was born. They are my heroes and reasons as to why I love music; why I cannot live without music. You never really seem to think of life without them no longer here, you just wonder how it would have been if you never found or them, or if they never found you. It is easy to look up to those who are no longer with us because we never have to face losing them. Today is a sad day for music, and to think of anything to say about Lou Reed that hasn’t already been said is causing a part of my brain to just turn to mush.

I’ll try anyway.

My blog, Gypsy Death And You is taken from Run Run Run by the Velvet Underground and the header photo is of the band. There was no other band I wanted to have named my blog after, it just wouldn’t be right. Lou Reed was more than just a singer; he was a poet who painted the world in a way that, as soon as you first heard his music- that is how you saw the world. Andy’s Chest opened me up to a world that was better than anything I’d ever known. Pale Blue Eyes made me feel a sense of heartache I’d never felt before. It even got me through some form of a breakup. Although, I don’t think there was anything worth breaking at that point. The song became something I couldn’t listen to for a while, but then it became all I could ever listen to.

Last year I found a copy of Transformer for £2 on vinyl. I felt this heightening pounding in my chest; the kind of feeling you get as you are about to see your favourite band on stage for the first or fifteenth time- the feeling is still there. I was so excited to FINALLY have this record in my hands. I went home, after work, and played it for hours. I got ready for work listening to it, I fell asleep listening to it. Transformer is easily one of the greatest records of all time.

Lou Reed’s guided the misfits and outcasts into a world that was dark; but it was pure and passionately bold. It was a world I’ll never want to leave. He may no longer be with us, but the music is ALWAYS going to be there. His legacy is more memorable than those of the false generation. The generation made up of manufactured pop-stars who have the personality of a dead cat. Lou Reed conveyed ugly feelings in a way that made you feel alright with carrying them about. Candy Says is one of the most harrowing yet gorgeous songs ever written. Heroin may be about drug use, but it is written in such a romantic way. You shut your eyes, and you are heading right to the kingdom with Lou.

Listening to Lou Reed’s music gives you a sense of feeling untouchable. Much like when I listen to New York Dolls, Patti, Ramones; he has this ability to make you feel protected and as if you can take on the world even if the world is taking on you. His music embodies everything I love about music. Writing about him in past tense is not only uncomfortable, but it is heartbreaking. One thing I’ve seen is the amount of musicians I follow on Twitter who have paid tribute to him; he influenced so many people from all over. It doesn’t matter that most will just say “Oh Perfect Day is my favourite Lou Reed song.” At least they’ve heard of him. Besides, Perfect Day is a gorgeous love song.

Last Christmas my uncle and I were discussing how important Lou’s music is. And just this Friday passed, my manager and I (yeah I’ve got a job now!) were talking about Lou Reed. She saw him back in the 70s, and to hear these stories about him was just brilliant. All we have are memories now. He’s someone you remember where you were when you first heard him. He made wearing all black seem appealing; it isn’t a phase just for me, I don’t feel comfortable wearing colour. He had this way of remaining a constant mystery, but when you played his music it felt like you were hanging out with your best friend. Music is the only reliable friend you may ever have.

His vocals weren’t flamboyant or over the top; he sang in a way that made him relatable. He made it easy for you to sing like him in the shower. And when his vocals go real low when he sings, “Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side” is easy to do, and when you sing it- you feel empowered. The word “cool” is thrown around all the time, and I guess it is a redundant word to use, but Lou Reed was cool. He was everything those who listened to him wanted to be. He had this way of making you feel like you were sat on a stoop in New York watching the world go by as you listened to his music, you felt as if he was sat next to you telling these crazy stories that are in his music.

Everything about Lou Reed was iconic, it always will be. There are so many things I would love to write, but the words in my head aren’t reaching my fingers- I can’t type them out. I’ve played his music and gazed out the window on long tube/train journeys and felt like I was somewhere other than where I was or where I was headed. I felt like I was going somewhere where nobody else knew. I think anyone who REALLY listens to Lou’s music gets that feeling straight away. It’s a rare feeling, but we all know just how rare Lou was. Sure he may have been difficult in interviews, but it was probably because most music journalists are dull and ask the same shit over and over. His music defined a generation and is still inspiring so many. In the light and in the dark, his music offered peace and self-discovery. The ability to turn my back on conventional and traditional means, the strength came from his music. With love and heartache, I have written this. With respect and gratitude, I’ve written this; for Lou.

All that’s left to be said is; bless your soul Lou and thank you for the music. In life, love and desperation- you were always there. Thank you x.

Sunday Mourning.





“Lately, I’m not the only one. I say, never trust anyone.”

3 11 2012

I know age isn’t important. I know it’s not a big deal, but when your 26th birthday is creeping up on you; you cannot help but think “what the hell have I done with my life?!” I know this will pass soon, and on my actual birthday I probably won’t even pay any attention to how old I am. I don’t look my age at all. I look like I probably should be in school. Youthful skin. Maybe that’s my Italian genes coming through. Or maybe it’s because I nap a lot. I have no idea. The key is to moisturise. Always. In the morning and before you go to bed. Look after your skin, and you too can look as if you should pay child’s fare on the bus. Skin tips from a scruffy bint. Enjoy.

Last year when I turned 25 I think I had a brief moment of “oh fuck I’m nearly 30 what have I done with my life?!” And I think it is going to happen again. I don’t know why because no part of me does things in the hopes of getting approval of anyone. I don’t wish for that ever. If that was the case; I’d just be like everyone else. I don’t make an effort to not be like anyone else. This is how I turned out. Whether or not its a good thing, well that’s undecided. Maybe as I get older I may tolerate myself a bit more. Maybe I’ll stop being cruel towards myself. However, if I get in first; it won’t matter so much when someone else does. But there are things others say/ do that probably hurt a bit more than if I was to pick up on it about myself. But, it isn’t worth the time. Not much is. Time. Time. Time. Ages us all, aches us all. Us.

I maintain an element of silliness to make sure I don’t age too much mentally. If I see someone trip up in the street (providing they are not bleeding to death or a pensioner) I’ll probably find it funny. I think most are like that. When you take everything too seriously, it all loses meaning. And we’re all trying to find meaning. Maybe we’ll never know. Maybe we do know, but still want to keep looking. The answers can come from looking outside or from your own reflection. Just depends on how deep you want to get.

So, as I approach 26 I do wonder if I’ve done anything of worth. I just don’t know. I really don’t. My life pretty much revolves around music and I guess I hold interviewing Warpaint as the best thing I’ve ever done. I’ve met and spoken to some of my heroes; and they say you should never do that. But I know of many who have done so, and it being a pleasant experience. I fully endorse meeting those who have changed you and saved you. Sure it’s mainly to do with music for me, but there’s about 2 people who I class as friends that have also done this. So maybe interviewing Warpaint may only be the best thing I’ll ever do. I have no idea. Or maybe it was that time about a year ago when I showed Shirley Manson a piece I wrote about Bleed Like Me on her Facebook page, and she read it. Then told me it made her cry. How many people can say they’ve made their role model/idol cry? I’m still trying to work out if I’m proud of that or not. I’m not sure. I feel bad about it, but I’m glad she saw it.

This seems far too self-indulgent and no doubt I will dislike myself for writing this down. But it is better than a drunken outburst on a pavement with friends moaning about how I’ve done nothing with my life isn’t it. Some things you need to spare others from ever seeing.

It’s just an age. It means nothing. Those kinds of things do not define who we are. I’ve also finished watching all of The Wire again for the third time. Still kind of wish Jimmy McNulty was my best friend or something. And I’m going to always be pissed that they killed Bodie and Omar. That wasn’t right.

Anyway, have some songs; if you’ve got this far. Here’s to the bands/singers over the past (nearly) 26 years that have been my crutch and saviours.

 

 





Top 10 Male Singers (of all time..sort of.)

13 10 2012

I frequently have internal battles with myself about my favourite songs and records of all time. I place them into categories to make it easier, such as Favourite Debut Record of All Time to BEST SONG EVER PART 1 OF 100. Stuff like that you know? But earlier, I managed to come up with a solid list of my favourite male singers of all time. I basically narrowed it down to singers that were around before I was born because if I did recent ones, I’d firmly place Brandon Welchez from Crocodiles as my number 1. Maybe I’ll do a list for that.

So, I’m going to attempt to list my favourite male singers of all time (that existed before I was born..I was born in ’86. The golden era of Hip Hop.) Of course I may change my mind at some point, but hopefully I won’t fret and lose sleep over this. I’m a born worrier; but I keep it well hidden. Obviously I’ve just admitted to it, so it’s not a secret. Oh well.

10. David Johansen (New York Dolls.) I hate that I’ve had to put this in order because I want to jumble it all around. However, the love I have for David Johansen goes beyond him being my number 10. What I love about him is his flamboyant style and distinctive drawl. I remember my mum playing their first record round the house when I was younger. I didn’t know it was the Dolls but I was hooked on Jet Boy. I probably used to sing it, and get the words mixed up. Nothing has changed. Into my teenage years, I saw a copy of their debut record at my uncle’s. I was drawn to the cover, and I always stand by it being my favourite album cover ever. The sheer beauty of it just drew me in straight away. Utterly gorgeous. So, what is it about David Johansen that makes me adore him? I think he’s one of the best front-men of all time. His charisma and charm just leaves you in awe. The way he moves makes you want to emulate him in a dramatic fashion. He’s one of a kind, and undoubtedly inspired so many to express themselves in a way no one else dared to do so.

9. Townes Van Zandt. My love for Townes started only a few years ago, and it wasn’t his voice that got me hooked. Before I even heard his voice, I read his lyrics. His lyrics were that of a troubled soul. You couldn’t help but connect with him, yet at the same time feel uncomfortable that you connected with his words. Then when you heard his voice, you TRULY got all the pain. Some singers become actors and don’t believe in what they do. Some just want the money. With the likes of Townes, you could tell that music was everything to him. His life was dependant on making music. It didn’t really matter how the listener felt; he just needed to get it all out. We all need an outlet, music is one of the most powerful ones. Townes possessed a unique voice that no matter what, just sounded so vulnerable. He didn’t have to put on an act; everything about him was truthful. At times some of his songs became too painful to listen to, but at best- you just knew someone else understood some of the perils of every day life.

8. Nick Cave. Some singers you remember falling in love with, because it just stays with you for the rest of time. Nick Cave is a prime example of that. My gran used to look after me when I was younger, before I went to primary school. Before chewed up and spat out my soul. Or you know, before I ate paint and sobbed before swimming lessons. My uncle used to live with her in this house, and I always remembered going to his room when he was at work and staring at a poster of Nick Cave on one of the walls in his room. I’d stare at it in utter awe. I don’t know what my toddler mind was thinking, but it was fixated on this person. I felt like I was looking at something untouchable. I guess I knew of Nick Cave’s genius before I even heard his voice or read his lyrics. Fast forward to about 10 years old and I’m hearing Into My Arms and Henry Lee on MTV. Something was happening in my mind. I knew exactly what it was. I knew what I wanted to be. A writer. I wanted to write words like this; but the thing is, no one can write like Nick Cave. The man is a genius. Sure enough his vocals may not be to everyone’s taste, but his lyrics…I fail to find a song that anyone couldn’t relate to. Everything about him just makes you want to expand your mind and explore other worlds.

7. Leonard Cohen. One of the greatest writers of all time regardless of genre. Leonard Cohen and Morrissey were the two song-writers that truly made me care about words. Poets such as Poe and Rimbaud got me hooked on words too. But these two singers just made me see everything in the world in a different way. The darkness and love and romance of everything around us was made clearer by them. Leonard Cohen for me just creates a different world. A world that is free of everything but full of questions. I think that’s a good way to live. It’s hard to live that way, but it gets you through. I always place Leonard Cohen as a poet before anything else, but his voice is so powerful. Some may seek singers that hit high notes and have a stupid range. I don’t want that. I want you to sing in a way that makes me feel like you are telling a story to my soul. Leonard Cohen does this, and so much more. I’ve many reasons as to why I adore him, that’s just one of them. I don’t think I could put the rest into words to be honest.

6. Otis Redding. I’ve found a pattern in the singers I love; they all basically sing songs about loss and pain. I’m a cheerful soul. Of all the Soul singers in the world that have existed, it was Otis Redding that I truly found a life-long love for. Everything about his voice makes you wish you were around when he was starting out. Imagine being one of the first to have heard his voice all those decades ago. His sad songs could break the hardest of hearts, but his joyful songs could bring tears of happiness to your eyes. He had the power to make you feel every single word he sang. He died far too young, everyone knows that. And I also think most know that Otis, although he had a short career, he was truly one of the best. I’ve got a bit of an issue with the term “Soul” music because all music should come from there and you should feel music right in your soul, but regardless- Otis oozed more soul than most.

5. Joey Ramone. No idea how to get into writing about Joey because let’s face it- he possessed the greatest voice in Punk. The way he towered over the mic stand. Pulling it to and fro like a man under a spell made you want to start something of your own. Easily one of the most distinctive voices of all time. His voice was like no other. His stage presence has obviously been an inspiration to many over the years. From how he stood to how he dressed. He wasn’t just part of a band, he was part of a movement that fuelled the souls of so many lost people. Myself included, and also justifies why I was born in the wrong era. To be in New York in the 70s would have been perfect. What do we have now? Of course we do have wonderful things, but imagine being part of one of the most powerful movements in music (and possibly society.) One of my most prized possession are my Ramones records. I rarely play them as I don’t want to ruin them; but when I do, I can truly hear all they stood for. Joey was the voice for so many, and you know what, he still is.

4. Lou Reed. I’m going to try keep this as short as possible because I truly have no issues with writing a massive essay about my love for Lou Reed. However all I want to say and could say about him has been said before. Again, this is another genius my uncle got me into. He got me into Velvet Underground then after he saw my love for them he told me to listen to Transformer. Is Transformer one of the best records made? Damn right it is. Wagon Wheel is one of my favourites for sure. I just love Lou’s style of writing. He’s a genuine story-teller who takes you into the underworld of all around you. You think all you see is all that exists, then you listen to a Lou Reed song and it’s like you fall into a different world. Something quite dark, wonderful and weird. You never want out of it. I think, once you listen to Lou- that’s it for life. Once you give yourself over to his words, you feel part of something that no one or nothing could tear you from. You even forgive him for that Lulu record because Transformer exists.

3. Scott Walker. I guess like most I have already mentioned, Scott Walker is an acquired taste. His debut record is by far one of the greatest records ever made. My Death is probably my favourite Scott Walker song, you know, with me being a ray of sunshine and all that. But in all seriousness, my love for Scott Walker came from of course, The Walker Brothers. His solo work is just a work of art. Every record is a masterpiece. You really cannot deny that he’s a genius. The way his mind works, the way he writes, the way he sings- he’s just out of this world. He’s an enigma, for sure. I cannot wait for his new record to come out in December. Every record of his sounds entirely different from the last; but they always remain timeless and as important as each other. To have a career that reads like that is rare, and something that should be treasured.

2. Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart.) A strange soul who made even stranger music. Safe As Milk changed a LOT for me. I think it honestly changed how I listened to music, and the ways it affected me. It opened up my mind. What did Trout Mask Replica do? Well, it freaked me out in the most pleasurable way for sure. I think it is one of the weirdest records I’ve ever heard.  I loved the way his mind worked. From his songs to his paintings- everything about him just oozed freedom and creativity. The two go hand in hand, but not many can make them work as perfect as Don Van Vliet did. He was a rare spirit that made you feel so free. When you listen to Safe As Milk, whether the first time around or if you’re a new fan, everything about it just gives you something you are never going to get again. I guess you can only get it from a Beefheart record. Certain musicians give you certain feelings, I think what Beefheart gave you is something that goes beyond words you know. I’ve tried so many times to pick a favourite song by Captain Beefheart, but instead I’ve narrowed it down to a moment. It’s when he says, “A squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag is fast ‘n bulbous, got me?” at the start of Pachuco Cadaver. No idea what it means, but it’s wonderfully strange.

Okay so for Number 1 I just couldn’t decide. Bob Dylan or Morrissey. I can’t choose. There’s no way I can do that. So, joint first place are Bobby and Morrissey. So I’m going to keep it brief.

1. Bob Dylan. Where do you begin when attempting to write about your love for someone so inspiring? I have my mum to thank for my obsession with this man. I’m proud of my Dylan tattoo on the back of my neck. It’s of a song that guided me through hell and back. Through hell some more, and back again. His words provide guidance through life- the good and the bad. It is like he is reassuring you every step of the way. My mum used to sing Forever Young to me when I was a baby before I went to sleep. His music is perfect for long train journeys or just walking around on your own. He makes you feel okay with whatever is going on. You stare out to all you see with his words echoing delicately in your ear, and you’re to restart/carry on. I hold Blonde on Blonde very dear to my heart, and I think it is possibly my favourite Dylan record. But with so many, I think it is hard to choose a solid favourite yet it seems to always be the one I go to for various reasons.

1.Morrissey. I’ve always declared Morrissey as being the one true love of my life. Mainly because his words/songs have been there when I thought I had nothing else. Speedway has been the song that sums up my life for the most part, as does Alma Matters. Everyday Is Like Sunday fully describes where I unfortunately live. I could honestly write an essay about every Morrissey song and still feel I had more to say. His words are a safety net and a force of hope to guide you through. He manages to release every unwanted and wanted feeling you have ever had, and will have had. Dismiss him as a moody sod all you want; but maybe you are scared to see yourself in his words. Seeing him live..every single time feels like a healing process. For some reason, every time before I have seen him- something shit has gone on in my life, and I’ve seen him and it all feels okay. His music goes beyond just being music, and I know every Morrissey fan feels like that. He’s not someone you just stick on as background music. He’s the soundtrack to all you do. He’s someone I don’t think I could actually sit and listen to with. It’s a very personal experience, mainly because I relate to a vast majority of his lyrics. I just adore everything about him, he’s the reason as to why lyrics are so important to me. I wear my Morrissey tattoo on my arm with unconditional love and pride. He changed my life and saved my life; that’s why he’s my number 1.