“The image I’ve generally had of Lou Reed is of this too cool misanthrope who lived to hate the Beatles, ruin parties, bring everybody down to his level of overall discontent. But then you hear a song like Rock And Roll (from the Velvet Underground’s Loaded) in which he rhapsodizes the redemptive freedom inherent in hearing the right three minute song at the right time, and well, all is forgiven. The man is even more like the Grinch than he lets on – with a heart at least two-sizes two big.” (Philip Random)
In which Lou Reed delivers the amphetamine kicks all night long (and probably the next day too, and then maybe another night and day, and at least one more night). Speed doesn’t kill, or so I’ve been told, it just makes you so crazy somebody kills you for being such an asshole. Either way, I’ve been happy to mostly avoid it over the years. But some of the postcards have been fascinating, particularly when it’s somebody like Mr. Reed doing the sending … or Bob Dylan for that matter.
(PHOTO: Getty Images)
“The raw, reductive simplicity of the Velvet Underground is one of the foundation blocks of everything that has mattered since 1965, musically or otherwise. But their story is not remotely complete without a chapter or seven devoted to their more avant concerns, which Murder Mystery illustrates rather nicely, coming across like premeditated murder of all conventions, expectations, intentions. John Cale was gone by 1969, but you can’t help but feel that when he heard it, he thought, man, I wish I’d had a piece of that. Deadly and mysterious and not entirely unmusical.” (Philip Random)
“Some late 1980s truth telling from ole Lou Reed, as bitter and misanthropic as ever, and yet still bothering to deliver great songs, the album known as New York being full of them. With Busload of Faith perhaps the closest he ever got to seeing a light that wasn’t drug fueled. Because it’s true, I think. It was then. It still is now. The facts don’t add up in any kind of hopeful way. Never have, probably never will. We’re all f***ed. We’re all gonna die. And yet life seems to keep on keeping on. Hell if Mr. Reed can get behind it, maybe there is something to this faith thing.” (Philip Random)
In which the Velvets indulge their inner Monkees for a bit and go full on pop, but they still can’t help dis-respecting the mighty and magnificent sun which gives us all life, inspires much of our religion and spirituality. Which is why we love it, of course (the song, that is), because the more bitter you can jam into a sweet, the better. Who cares if the teenybops can’t handle it?
John Cale, original underground Velvet, reminds us that when it comes to intelligent chunks of aural sculpture that also rock a pop groove, few can touch him. So why did he give the world so few of them? You may as well ask, why did Lou Reed have to be such an asshole, or Pablo Picasso for that matter?
The Velvet Underground deliver some straight up rock and roll circa 1969, of which there never seemed to be enough in a world full of too much everything, particularly the kind that might have seen some hope at the end of that long dark tunnel. Or was it a train coming the other way? Or maybe it was like that dream Lou Reed had where he met himself coming the other way … and everything was alright.
Not the only Lou Reed record about doing speed, hanging out all night, talking and whatever. Not even the best one. But All Through The Night does go somewhere unique. Lou could be an asshole. There seems to be consensus on that. But we put up with him because every now and then he’d nail something lucid and true about basic humanity, the struggle they call life, and why it’s worth the trouble.
The final installment (#15) of St. Steven’s POP Apocalypse aired November 22nd on CiTR.FM.101.9.
Here it is in two Mixcloud streams, each about an hour …
The podcast of the whole program is available for download here.
This marks the climax of our programming since June. So, if we got it absolutely right, it’s probably one of the greatest radio programs ever across all bands and frequencies. If not, we apologize. Because you certainly can’t blame the music, the twenty most singular records of all time, presented here in descending order.
20. Prince – let’s go crazy (1984)
It’s the mid-80s and it somehow makes perfect sense that the single most kickass dancefloor killer of the raging moment is an exhortation toward the love of God and going crazy. Made it to the #1 in the USA, #2 in Canada, #7 in the UK, #10 in Australia.
No video available. Thanks, Prince.
19. My Bloody Valentine – When You Sleep (1991)
It’s arguably a sin to even listen to this in recorded form as it could never do sonic justice to the live experience. And yet, such is the My Bloody Magnificence of the thing — it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. There is only everything.
18. Velvet Underground – Sweet Jane (1970)
Of course it didn’t chart. It tells the truth. About everything. Children are not the only ones who blush. Villains don’t always blink their eyes. The best music scares the hell out of the powerful.
17. Alice Cooper – Schools Out (1972
Catches the mad punk delirium of the last day of school, reminds us that all the most important lessons happen outside the prison walls. And funny at that. Made it to #7 in the USA, #5 in Germany, # 2 in Ireland, #1 in the UK.
16. Jimi Hendrix – all along the watchtower (1968)
The Dylan cover so good it forever changed how Dylan himself performed the song. As to what it’s actually about. That’s pretty obvious. It’s about businessmen drinking the man’s wine, with riders approaching and the wind about to howl. Made it to #20 in the USA, #5 in the UK.
15. Glen Campbell – Wichita Lineman (1968)
Jimmy Webb wrote the song but Mr. Campbell nailed its sad and true centre. Yeah, he went on to perpetrate a mostly mediocre career, but these three minutes could redeem Richard Nixon. Made it to #3 in the USA, #1 in Canada, #7 in the UK.
14. Undertones – teenage kicks (1978)
Punk spins into pop, conjures a confection that manages to be both fierce and fun. Given Teenage Kicks overall lack of chart supremacy, you gotta figure it all happened just a little too soon for the world. Our gain. We’re not sick of it. Made it to #31 in the UK.
13. Clash – I fought the law (1979)
Is it wrong that a band that wrote so many masterpieces of their own should have a cover register as their highest selection on this list? No. Because the Clash just weren’t that pure. That was the attraction. They were a raging guerrilla battle all the way, all the time. Name a tactic. They used it. Did the Law win in the end? Who said it was over? Made it to #24 in Ireland.
12. Johnny Cash – ring of fire (1963)
About as happy a song about going to hell as we know. Or maybe it’s about falling in love. Or something else. What it is, is the Man In Black whooping it up with mariachi horns, having a blast. Works at parties, weddings, anywhere really. Made it to #1 on the USA-Country chart, #17 on the pop chart, #12 in Australia.
11. David Bowie – life on Mars? (1973)
A 1973 single release from a 1971 album which didn’t get heard in the Americas until at least 1972. In other words, Mr. Bowie (aka Mr. Jones) is messing with the fabric of reality yet again, and winning. A full-on Hollyweird epic in less than four minutes. Romance, regret, yearning, aliens. Made it to #3 in the UK, #39 in Germany, #4 in Ireland.
10. Nina Simone – I wish I knew how it would feel to be free (1967)
It didn’t seem to chart anywhere. It changed the world anyway. |How do we know this? Because everyone that hears it agrees with it … or they’re one of the jailers.
9. Stevie Wonder – superstition (1972)
Because of what happens whenever this shows up in a party situation. The funk destroys all fascists. Goodness triumphs. That it’s also a rip-roaring condemnation of all the insane stuff people believe, well, welcome to inside of the Top Ten. Made it to #1 in the USA, #11 in the UK.
8. Pere Ubu – final solution (1976)
Wherein the atom heart of Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues getst split and full-on apocalypse unleashes. Deliberately kept off the charts by shady men dressed in black lest it immanetize the eschaton ahead of schedule. Such was the murky truth of 1976.
7. KLF – doctorin’ the Tardis (1988)
The Dr. Who theme and Rock And Roll Part 2 joined at the trans-dimensional hip. More fun than all the Star Wars and all the Star Treks (and their spinoffs) combined. And magnitudes smarter. Made it #1 in the UK, #2 in Australia, #4 in Ireland, #16 on the US dance charts.
6. Rolling Stones – paint it black (1966)
It’s not even the Summer of Love yet but the Stones are unleashing the sitars and balalaikas, knocking the whole world on its side, even as they dump a tanker load of black paint over all those pretty psychedelic colours. Made it #1 in the US, the UK, Canada and the Netherlands, #2 in Finland. What the hell, Finland?
5. Stooges – I wanna be your dog (1969)
Released in June of 1969, it didn’t chart anywhere, didn’t get them invited to Woodstock or Ed Sullivan. Yet it’s still at least the fifth greatest and/or most singular record of all time because entire universes have formed from the mad chaos of its wake.
4. Sex Pistols – pretty vacant (1977)
The most Abba like of the Sex Pistols singles, probably because the main riff was more or less stolen from them. Yet such atrocities were unleashed upon it that nobody seemed to notice. This was going to be Anarchy in the UK except Motron started making allergy noises. Made it to #6 in the UK.
3. Beatles – revolution (1968)
Motron remembers Grade Four. “Mrs. Hackett would let us play records on Friday afternoons. And it always ended with The Beatles’ Hey Jude/Revolution. Hey Jude always got played first because it was the A-side and ladies first, the girls preferred it. Revolution always got played louder because after all that, the boys needed to tear shit up.” Made it to #1 absolutely everywhere.
2. Beatles – I am the walrus (1967)
Beatle John drops acid for maybe the thousandth day in a row, ends up watching TV and taking notes of great terror and epiphany while sitting in an English garden waiting for the sun to shine. Jack Kerouac once said that all he had to offer was his confusion. John Lennon took it even further. He was the walrus. Goo-goo-ga-joob. B-side to Hello Goodbye which made it #2 everywhere that it wasn’t #1.
1. Elvis Presley – if I can dream (1968)
The kid from Tupelo singing like he truly believes that a single song can not just redeem his own soul but everyone else’s as well, the world over, in 1968 on a TV special with the hard rain of assassinations and war and insurrection falling here there and everywhere. Seriously, what’s a King to do? Made it to #12 in the US, #6 in Canada.