A Hand Me Down Dress From Who Knows Where

I like this photo of the early incarnation of The Velvet Underground, mainly because it’s in colour. The banana period Velvets are usually in stark black and white, occasionally with some of Andy Warhol’s silver balloons. This picture punctures that and makes them something else.

This song is almost without equal. Not just in their back catalogue but in anyone’s. It’s so out there- the drone and detuned piano are woozy and discordant, the guitar is scratchy and spindly, the drum thuds and then there’s Nico’s double tracked vocal, the blank and sneery lyrics about a party girl. Lyrics sung behind her back, straight out of Warhol’s amphetamine psychosis Factory. Jon Savage describes it as coming at the listener sideways which makes sense. Why they released as a single in 1966 makes little sense at all, other than as a statement of ‘they’ll never play this on the radio’.

All Tomorrow’s Parties

In 2006 John Cale said “The song was about a girl called Darryl, a beautiful petite blonde with three kids, two of whom were taken away from her.” which makes it human and sad.

It’s a song that almost dares bands to cover it, inviting them into the trap, taunting them. Japan got away with it, adding synths, neon and pastels and some drama.

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Away Again

A quick turn around and I’m off again, with the family this time, down to the Dordogne in South West France for the next couple of weeks, stopping off in the Loire for three nights on the way back. It’s looking good.

I’ll leave you with a couple of songs to speed us on our way and to keep you happy. Rikki Turner’s new band The Hurt released a cracking song a few months back, the moody and epic Berlin. The new one is a cover of Nico’s One More Chance and is a stately throb.

The new Hardway Bros ep Pleasure Cry is one of my records of the year thus far. This song, Argonaut, was written specifically by Sean Johnston to be played on the boat at Croatia’s Electric Elephant Festival. It starts off like Weatherall’s mix of Come Together and then heads off into the sunset putting its arms around you and doing a little dance.

And just so’s there’s some screaming guitars and drawled vocals here’s J Mascis and The Fog covering Teenage Fanclub’s Everything Flows with Mike Watt on bass. It then diverts into Pavement’s Range Life and The Ruts’ In A Rut. Is it any good? Of course it is. It is seven minutes of good.

I’ll Keep It With Mine

Nico may have been one of the coolest looking girls of the 60s  (Exhibit A, the shots of her with The Velvets). Despite her looks and Teutonic cool she was shoe-horned into the group against their will by manager Andy Warhol. She was deaf in one ear and often struggled singing in key but her voice on the banana album works perfectly as a foil for Lou Reed’s nasal drawl. Her solo albums can possibly be best described as an acquired taste. She got to know the big shots of the 60s scene too- Jim Morrison, Brian Jones and Bob Dylan all stepped out with her at some point, Dylan writing I’ll Keep It With Mine for her, a lovely little song that you can find below.

Addicted to smack for fifteen years she lived with Salford’s number one punk poet John Cooper Clarke, flitting between London and Didsbury, Manchester, walking distance from where I grew up (which seems a bit odd now I think about it. How did we all live near a member of the Velvet Underground?). Nico died in 1988, suffering a minor heart attack while cycling in Ibiza, cracking her head on the pavement. A life less ordinary, even if it was ‘brushed by the wings of something dark’ (to quote Nigel Blackwell).

I’ll Keep It With Mine