Thursday, April 12, 2012


Buying a book on the Velvet Underground can not only be a pretty pricey, but a pretty chance-y affair as well. Lord knows just how many duff reads devoted to the group have been published o'er the past twenty years, books filled with modern day rheumy reminiscences and intellectual kukky-poo scribed by a whole truckload of latterday clinger ons who (at least judging from the generally milksoppish musings they've been dishing out) took the softer moments of the band's latterday recordings to heart while totally ignoring the rage (both underlying and in-your-face) that infected the act throughout their five year being. We're talking HORRIBLE crap here, essays that make Dave Marsh look like Richard Meltzer in comparison and you KNOW that's bad! Material that is of such a superficial quality that I'm sure Ellen Willis woulda loved 'em all to pieces, albeit if a ton of cheapshot refs. re. the backwards goyim she knew and loathed were crammed into 'em if only to assuage her far left credo. But hey, I guess that if the cult of the Velvet Underground has degenerated to the point where it's even reached the core being of backwardsville USA to the point where Brad Kohler could walk into some modern day coffeehouse setup and be treated to an acoustic rendition of "Sweet Jane," the writing surrounding the group would take that obvious nosedive into meaningless amerindie fluffitude that's infested many a fanzine and blog for a longer time'n I can imagine.

That's the reason I love ALL YESTERDAY'S PARTIES and loathe that collection of writings mostly from the politically pious eighties onwards that some Alban Zeck guy unleashed on us a good decade back. That's also the reason why I think that Can and the Modern Lovers at their prime were the heart and soul of the Velvet Underground extrapolated on and why X-tal and REM are the lamest excuse for in the Velvets continuum which was doing pretty fine until the likes of these jokers arrived on the scene with their mawkish musings. And that's why I really like this book which, like the best of the Velvet tomes of the past, captures the energy, spirit and drive that made the group THE voice of the sixties and seventies and influenced just about everything good that had come out of that sainted era before the dank curtain of eighties self-consciousness pretty much ruined everything (seemingly) overnight.

INEVITABLE WORLD is a "catalog" more'n anything, and really not that dissimilar to the Johan Kugelberg effort from a few years back which also came in coffee-table book dimensions. It's a pretty costly affair too so it you're existing on food stamps 'n boogers you probably won't have enough scratch to afford this in the first place. But being the Velvet maniac that I am (to the point where I continue to seek out any shard of info regarding the group written [even in passing!] until the eighties made that a nauseating experience) this book still comes in handy. At least it does to give us an idea of just where the band stood in late-sixties music terms at a time when they were in the vanguard of sixties high energy only most people were too bored or frightened to realize it.

Interesting collection, mostly from surviving newspaper clippings, microfilms and even personal items unseen since those (as they used to say in CREEM) halcyon days. Don't expect any major revelations here, but for a Velvet fan like myself this is akin to pouring through old magazines and whatnot on a Saturday afternoon at the library only it's all here in front of me and I don't have to bug some old maid librarian to find out where section "c" may be!

Gotta say that it's quite a jazz reading the constant referrals to the Velvets as being an "electronic" rock group based solely on their playing of the amplifiers as if they were instruments themselves, while the wide array of negative comments just goes to show you how far from the ken of rockist comprehension they most truly were. Most of the putdowns are what I would call "expected" given the group's entire reason for existence (as if I would expect NEW YORK TIMES movie critic Bowlsley Crowther to understand 'em in the first place), while others seem to predate the whole flower child clinging to a sixties idealism that one would see in the likes of not only the aforementioned Willis, but Anastasia Pantsios' writings in the late-seventies and early-eighties which continue to rankle the nerves of true rock 'n rollers everywhere. (Speaking of Pantsios, an example of her work can be found on page 445, not a "bad" review per se, though irritating enough to add to the charges being piled against her at the Rock Crimes Tribunal! This is evident especially when she makes the assumption that the Velvets' riffage was adapted from the Stones' "Sympathy For The Devil" 'stead of the other way around and compares Maureen Tuckers' vocalizing to that of Hayley Mills in the Walt Disney feature POLLYANNA!)

But the display of ads, clippings, photos and whatnot is everything that a longtime fan like myself could dream of, and although there's always room for more I ain't complainin'! But if there is a bone to pick well...I was hoping to find some references regarding  acts from the late-sixties who admitted that the Velvets influenced their own sounds especially considering how the VU were considered influential even while they were still with us. Since in many ways this book "is" a "work in progress," I'm sure there will be more pieces, references and brief mentions regarding my own personal obsession discovered within the next fifty years, and frankly the thought of these new discoveries is perhaps the only thing that's keeping me goin' here in the modern age long after rock'n roll has more or less fizzed from the overall consciousness.

But overall this effort kept me captivated for a good long time and although many of you readers are either too dense or too cultured to admit to liking the Velvets you might find something here that might just snap that synapse in your brain and make you realize just how far and reaching this band was, at least until the dorkoids and modernists took the sound and rammed it into the amerindie ground!

(Oh yeah, this book comes with a Cee-Dee consisting of rare radio spots, the Tom Wilson interview radio show where John Cale talks about the dilruba and changing the weather with music, not forgetting some '69 radio interviews which even I haven't heard in their entirety [like the one from WBCN in Boston hosted by Mississippi Hal Wilson where Lou comes off sounding rather giddy about the third Velvets album]. Good listening, but not recommended for play while reading the book considerin' how you'll have to strain yourself to pay attention to what's being said to the utmost. For proper background music I suggest the earliest Velvet Underground recordings you can find, from the 1965 demos to THE CHELSEA GIRLS soundtrack off of the SCREEN TEST CD bootleg. Perhaps some heavily-Velvets-influenced trackage from the late-sixties and seventies such as PARADIESWARTS DUUL and EGE BAMYASI would fit the situation nicely. Whatever's handy yet certainly not of an overtly tonal realm. I also found that roughly-running motors of all sorts and your refrigerator, the older the better, are conduit to a pleasurable reading experience. Experiment with your own sound sources, and if you come up with something that suits the purpose so fine please get in touch with me c/o this blog and TELL THE WORLD!!!!!)

1 comment:

steg said...

Thanks for the review.

I am still not sure about buying it or not (considering that I have already, and also, the first version of the Kugelberg effort).

Still, it seems to have more interesting stuf than the six discs edition of TVU&N.