Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Yeah, I could be tuning into that big CNN/Youtube Republican Presidential Debate if only to see Ron Paul mop the floor with the competition, but rather'n edjamacate myself I figure why not do a mid-week post instead! At least that'll be a whole lot more kulturally significant'n any sorta political hubbub that might be happening from now until...2100, or whenever the radiation dies down.
c/o THE VELVET UNDERGROUND, NEW YORK, N.Y. exhibition catalog

Gotta say that the introduction of that cheap (albeit free, can't complain about that) Cee-Dee player into my otherwise humdrum life has been a big boon to my, er, listening habits, or at least my listening habits with regards to those burned CD-Rs that play iffily if at all on my other spinners! And when it comes to late-night pre-snuggle in musical jamz, none other than my long-ineffective copy of Les Rallizes Denudes' 67-69 STUDIO ET LIVE (or as it says on my black-CD-R copy, 67 ET LIVE) is there to help guide me into slumberland and hopefully many a pleasing rockism-infused dream. What a disque that one is...the Denudes during their natal moments not only taking a whole load of the early (and most feral) Velvet Underground at their best but tossing in hefty hunks of non-b.s. San Francisco (Big Brother and the Holding Company, Blue Cheer, and perhaps groups like the Oxford Circle, Mystery Trend and Final Solution even if Les Rallizes Denudes didn't know who they were!) as well as the "group sounds" that were big in Japan into the stew resulting in a platter that, had it only gotten around back in those dangerous times, might have rivalled Le Stelle di Mario Schifano for the closest anybody got to aping the VU on vinyl while John Cale was more or less veering the band towards some pretty beyond pale-y soundspew! There should be a heavily-packed Denudes raving heading your way more sooner than later (or as soon as the orders in question are processed and delivered), and I only hope that my poor li'l heart can STAND the sonic bombardment my ears will be inundated with once a variety of packages are opened, spun and digested. A great way to celebrate the holiday season!

I also gotta tell ya that my repeated pre-bedtime playing of 67 ET LIVE is only heightened by this new "catalog" that I got of an exhibition honoring the fortieth anniversary of the release of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO. Its filled with all sorts of then-contempo items that certainly will warm the cockles of any Velvetoid's heart, and true it's overpriced like most of these catalogs are and the inclusion of some "modern" items tends to ruin the aura a bit, but maybe if you squint your eyes and play some Velvets (or even some solid Velvets-inspired musings the likes of Les Rallizes Denudes or whatever valid group of choice you may have at hand) all of that great energetic power that the Velvets played and spawned for a good decade after their demise will make you realize that there certainly was a lot more to these guys than some wimpass alternative "amerindie" group that took all of the Velvet sizzle but none of the raw steak would lead you to believe.

Picking out the faults with this collection of Velvets antiques and curios are slim, but it wouldn't be a BLOG TO COMM post without such agonizing scrutiny, eh? So let me try these wingdings out for youm like...the musings of modern-day somethingorothers who may or may not be "famous" at least on a Velvets-fandom level read just about as boring as every other Velvets homage has (counting my own...and including this very writeup!) o'er the past twentysome years. Or at least ever since the Velvet Underground became the haute cusine of mid-eighties soul-less wonders back when their albums were finally reissued after years of fruitless search. (And in order to boost my own star lemme just tell you that st least """""I""""" can proudly admit to being a front-and-center fan of the group since early '76, and after a good ten or so months of pondering whether to splurge on one of their mystifying albums t'boot!) And, as I said earlier, the inclusion of more contemporary items such as the illustrated lyrics to "Waiting For The Man" from Nigel Trevenna's mid-seventies mini-history not forgetting certain items "pilfered" from WHAT GOES ON don't exactly do my Velvet-purist mind any good. (I mean, "The Peanuts Underground" was a one-shot joke [maybe] not really worthy of another printing, but nevertheless it turns up here!) And whose idea was it to present all of those old, battered, scribbled and marked down covers with banana peels missing or half-decayed? If this was a brilliant post-Warhol concept on somebody's part maybe they missed the mark by more'n that proverbial mile. Maybe not, but in typical Queen Victoria fashion I was not amused!

However I can sure bellow a hearty "bully!" towards the bulk of this catalog when it does emit that magical Velvet touch and conjures all of those great atonal feelings inside of me. There're loads of great press clippings (mostly negative!) here and even two pages taken from early fanzine rumblings including Greg Shaw's legendary MOJO MAVIGATOR which I'm sure woulda embarrassed the man had this one only got out a little more during his sadly all-too-short life! I mean, throughout the early-seventies Shaw was championing everyone from the Flamin' Groovies and Modern Lovers to Roxy Music tellin' us how great they were specifically because they were influenced by the early-Velvets, while back in the day he was screeding such anti-Velvets paradiddles along the lines that "All Tomorrows Parties" was "the musical equivalent of a painted Brillo box that sells for $400" which certainly doesn't do his punk rock image any good even if he's been dead for over three years! Well, I'm sure that if some of my own earlier personal opines got around they'd make me wanna crawl under the nearest rock but I doubt it...I'm already at odds with things I've written about LAST WEEK so why should I bother wincing over a few of those horribly illiterate crank-outs I used to do for OP?

And amidst the putdowns and poster repros (including one from the Boston Tea Party done in that then-"relevant" Seeds FUTURE/1966 religious text book style!) there are certain gems that really surprised even staid old me! Such as a set list from the Lou Reed-less "Poor Richard's" shows in Chicago which proves that not only was "Foggy Notion" being performed at that early stage in the Velvets game (as Jonathan Richman had mentioned in his famous VIBRATIONS article), but such latterday faves as "Pale Blue Eyes" and "The Story of My Life"* as well, and glomming this original set-list only making me yearn even more to hear not only how the early Velvets handled this material, but how this brief Cale-led version of the group re-arranged their repertoire to fit his own artistic anti-visionif the surviving material from the Nameth film is any indication of what's in store!

And speaking of Richman, the man makes two appearances here, not only with the handwritten repro of the lyrics to his own Velvets homage (one of the things taken from WHAT GOES ON I yapped about earlier) but with some personal recollections regarding the Velvets' January '69 gigs at the Boston Tea Party. True this article is way outside the first-LP timeline I was hoping the curator would have had the good sense to stick to, but since it's so informative as well as written by one of the better known Velvet Underground experts of the day (too bad they couldn't get Wayne McGuire to add a few words of his own regarding the fascination Boston had with our heroes), plus Velvet credo-packed, spiritual, sacred and dare-I-say holy, I shall refrain from any abuse directed towards the one called Jonathan even if I do think a load of his post-'74 recordings are way too saccharine for my personal tastes.

And although saying so should embarrass me, but this catalog is also so beautiful from those great stage shots to the general layout that whatever went wrong with this can easily be overlooked. And yeah, it is a surprise to see such a well-produced tribute being laid out for the Velvets because you know it could've been much, they could have lined up a whole truckfulla these more-current (like early-eighties on) Velvets-"inspired" hoopla-makers to give their two cents on how the band inspired 'em to make loads of introspective bile relating to the time daddy cut off their trust fund money and other such equally gnarly subject matter to a twee beat that undoubtedly took the Velvets at their quieter moments, but forgot the underlying intensity and mystique that came with it. Could YOU imagine a dweeb like J. Neo Marvin doodling on for pages about his own pantdribbly faux-Velveeta posturings and how they inspired him to such musical heights as X-tal and Content Providers? It'd be enough to make me wanna bury my entire Velvets collection, and myself along with it!

Pink Floyd-THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN 3-CD set (EMI Holland)

As some of you more blog-savvy readers might have noticed, I stole the pic on the right off some other blog of maybe not-so-well renown! I figure that if you gotta swipe something you better swipe from somebody you hate, especially when it's going to further your own agenda to the fullest. And it has mine...mainly the beautification of this entry regarding one of the spiffiest groups to have also come out of the mire known as late-sixties innovation, Pink Floyd, and that of the Syd Barrett variety mind you!

It's also noteworthy that 2007 also marked the fortieth anniversary of the (as they say) earth-shattering Pink Floyd debut album THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN, and naturally smart readers who've followed my writings o'er the past twenny-seven or so years'll recall just how much this platter made an indent on me during the vinyl-buying madness that was known as December 1975. And like THE VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO, the premier pinkie platter has also been deserving of some anniversary kudos, this time in the form of a three-CD set that comes complete with an expensive-looking (and costly!) hardcover book-bound package that also includes a lyrics insert and even some interesting Syd Barrett artwork dating from '65 that perhaps proves that the man didn't need LSD to be out of touch with reality.

Since I already had the thirtieth anniversary edition with the mono mix packaged in a special CD holder complete with a Hipgnosis insert, plus the single-only sides included on disc three probably sounded better on that "Masters of Rock" Pink Floyd album where the gatefold from MEDDLE was repro'd with Syd's 1971 face strangely pasted onto Dave Gilmour's equally-'71 body, maybe the inclusion of this newie in my collection would have been a bit...redundant? I mean, who knows what EMI's gonna cook up for the FIFTIETH anniversary of this epochal platter, like maybe a giant-sized package with more outtakes and remixes "convienantly" discovered deep in the vaults complete with actual relics taken straight from the body of St. Syd himself for your very own shrine perhaps? But rather'n wait the extra decade I thought I'd pick this up and y'know what...this package does satiate the cynical-yet-compulsive beast within me to the point where I don't mind that two of the discs are exactly the same 'cept one's in mono and the other stereo (if you must know, such things tend to bore me!). For once, it's the THOUGHT that counts!

Needless to say that THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN remains a powerful platter whether in mono or stereo. Can't argue with that no matter how much nabobs of negativity tend to belabor such anal-retentive points in the great mono vs. stereo debate that I guess still rambles on this late in the game. However, disc three will be a welcome switch even if you've heard those single sides many a time. Personally I can listen to such classics as "See Emily Play" and "Paintbox" over and over, but the real surprise in store are the previously unreleased PIPER outtakes, such as a shorter and structurally unique "Interstellar Overdrive" and an even more-skewered "Matilda Mother" with radically-changed lyrics that are so ridiculous it's no wonder they've remained deep in the vaults for so long! Mere passersby will up their nostrils with typical uppercrust glee, but I find it rather interesting listening to the stuff that didn't make the cut even if it ain't top-notch Floydelica!

And so it goes with the big four-oh regarding these two top contenders in the CLASS OF '67. Nice enough tributes for both, though while I'm at it maybe I should mention just where-oh-where is the big hoopla regarding yet another debut now hitting the forty mark, mainly that class act PTOOFF! by the Deviants???? If anything is deserving of the royal reissue treatment complete with outtakes and glossy inserts its this highly-influential platter, dontcha think? done a little early. Think I'll go see how Dr. Paul's doing amidst the savages.

*I should note that McGuire did mention John Cale's mournful viola playing on a rendition of "The Story of My Life" performed at the Boston Tea Party way back in his '68 CRAWDADDY masterpiece, so none of us really have an excuse not to have known this 39-year-old fact at this late stage in the game!


Anonymous said...

Dr. Paul did quite well in the debate. He came off as quite reasonable and held his own when McCain referred to him as an "isolationist". IMO, Romney came off the worst of all the candidates - I think this might finish him off. Thompson and Giuliani won't be that affected by their performance in the debate (maybe because the expectations for Thompson are so low), Huckabee and McCain will benefit most, but Dr. Paul might benefit as well.

Anonymous said...

Jeez, I was listening to my copy of that Pink Floyd 3-CD box set just last night. A very nice package indeed. I also enjoyed reading about that VU catalog. As for Jonathan Richman, his last album, a movie soundtrack, sounded a lot more VUey than his recent output.

Anonymous said...

Sorry that you are so on the fence ("[maybe]") about "The Peanut Underground" as valid reprint ephemera. My mom always found it amusing. If it helps you make up your mind on such a weighty issue, I drew it in a half an hour when I was 14, circa 1984. Someone found it amusing enough to reprint on the back of the new Gymnasium boot (which the only reason I came to your blog). Bravo for being so "in the know" for so long about the Velvets, it really helps in understanding their music better.