Beautiful Dreamer

‘Beautiful Dreamer versus Darkseid! Both hold the key to victory in the strangest war ever fought in comicdom history!’

More early 70s Jack Kirby-Third Eye- Black Light psychedelic madness. The more of this Marvel art I look for, the more I find, the more I want to post. I was planning to finish yesterday but there’s more to come.

Two days ago reader KevM asked for The Box by Jack Of Swords, released on Weatherall’s Sabres Of Paradise label back in 1994. The Box is a cover of The Velvet Underground tune (from White Light/White Heat), a tale of sexual obsession and accidental death, voiced by John Cale (and it’s the original Cale vocal used on this cover too, a benefit of the being able to lift the whole isolated vocal off the Velvet’s record by switching the speakers balance to the left hand channel). The Jack Of Swords version has a heavy, electronic backing that is pretty transfixing. On the B-side of the 12″ single was a remixed version by Technova (David Harrow), a brilliant remix which adds a jackhammer beat, some speaker rattling bass and a load of acid-techno (the sort of record that makes me think I can smell dry ice and see strobes flashing in the corner of my eye).

The Box

The Box (The Black Angel’s Death Mix)

Advertisements

Velvet Sunday

Back to the Velvets for the Sabbath. In days of yore (the late 80s) before the internet, before cds (for me at least, I didn’t start buying cds until the mid/late 90s), before re-issues and bands reforming, box sets with alternate takes and full live sets, there was precious little to go off with The Velvet Underground. You had the four studio albums (if you could find them), the two live albums (Max’s Kansas City and 1969), the VU and Another View albums and a book by Victor Bockris (Uptight; The Story of The Velvet Underground). These were not just records and a book, they were portals to another world. It was a world that was gone, it did not exist anymore (New York, the late 1960s). Lou Reed had a patchy solo career so there were occasional interviews but the heritage rock press did not exist either so there was a dearth of information. What you knew about the group came from Bockris’ text, the handful of pictures in the book, the rumour and talk of like minded people and the songs themselves.

1968’s White Light/White Heat album was their most obtuse and difficult album. A rejection of everyone who didn’t buy their first album. Here She Comes Now and I Heard Her Call My Name are the closest to conventional guitar songs but wrapped and covered in feedback. The Gift was a spoken word/avant garde exploration with stereo sound. Lady Godiva’s Operation had some of Lou’s most transgressive lyrics.Sister Ray was a one take song, seventeen minutes of legend, covered by New Order, a story of transvestites, sailors and drug dealers. No bass guitar. Distorted organ. Heady stuff. And the title track (two versions below, from a 7″ single re-issue), a statement of intent, a song about speed. This song and Sister Ray are the ones that are ‘easiest’ to copy when you’re learning to play the guitar. Pick two chords and bash away until you’re done. White heat.

White Light/White Heat 1

White Light/White Heat 2

Foggy Notion

I could get into a pattern of posting something by The Velvet Underground every Sunday if I’m not careful. One of the wonders of 1984s lost Velvet Underground songs album V.U. was Foggy Notion, recorded in May 1969, with the twin guitars of Sterling Morrison and Lou Reed achieving some kind of nirvana, Lou’s rythm and Sterling’s lead. When I hear it I can easily think there is no finer sound and they make it sound so simple. The lyrics are also a late period peak…

She’s over by the corner
Got her hands by her sides
They hit her harder harder harder
Till they thought she might die
Well I got a foggy notion,
Do it again
Over by the corner,
Do it again
I got my calamine lotion baby,
Do it again
I got a foggy notion
Do it again
She made me do something
That I never did before
I rushed right down
To a flower store
I bought her a bundle
A beautiful batch
Don’t you know something
She sent ’em right back
Sally Mae, Sally Mae
Sally Mae, Sally Mae
Sally Mae, Sally Mae
Sally Mae, Sally Mae

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.

Help Me Find My Proper Place

Sometimes, at times like these, you need The Velvet Underground to help you get through. The third album always helps (except The murder Mystery- that doesn’t help much. Or often).

Jesus

Certainly Not Your Average Girl

I’ve had this song going round and round in my head recently- I think it’s Pete Astor’s fault. She’s My Best Friend was recorded by The Velvet Underground in May 1969 and wasn’t good enough (!!!) to make any of their proper albums. Eventually it came out on VU in the 1980s as you surely know but it’s pretty much as good as anything else the post-Cale group recorded. It demonstrates the brilliant simplicity of Lou Reed’s song writing perfectly- and what’s more it was sung by Doug Yule.

She’s My Best Friend

It’s Hard Being A Man

I was in the record shop in town on Saturday looking at the 45th anniversary boxed set of the third velvet Underground album (my favourite of theirs, a record I can come back to umpteen times). I didn’t buy it. I haven’t bought it. Yet. But I came home and played VU while cooking tea, the 1985 album that rounded up some unreleased songs (some found in a bin at the record company). The opening song is I Can’t Stand It, which is unsurpassed, an absolute template, a song beyond compare. The rhythm guitars are tinny and choppy, Sterling Morrison’s guitar solo is unhinged and Lou’s drawled delivery is superb- as are the nonsense of the lyrics with those thirteen dead cats, a purple dog wearing spats, the mop assault and Shirley (who won’t come back).

I Can’t Stand It

The boxed set has cleaned up the songs. The 80s version of I Can’t Stand It is the one we’re all familiar with but the 2014 mix might just be even better.

Meanwhile I am still reeling from reading in a review that it was Doug Yule who sang Candy says, not Lou Reed. Should I have known this?