What Goes On - The Songs Of Lou Reed Various Artists (Songwriter Series)

£12.92

Genre:
Pop
Label:
Ace Records
Format:
CD
Catalogue Id:
CDTOP 1587

The latest in Ace Records’ Songwriters series takes the listener from a version of ‘Why Don’t You Smile Now’ from Lou Reed’s pre-Velvet Underground days through selections from the band’s albums to three from 1972’s solo “Transformer”. Here’s Kris Needs – author of a 7,000-word essay in the accompanying 24-page booklet – with some background on the two songs that bookend the collection:

When Lou Reed died in October 2013, music lost an inestimably influential, irascible dynamo, and New York City a towering presence in its artistic skyline. Fearlessly mating his literary grounding and hit factory beginnings with avant-garde assault and gritty narratives on New York’s underbelly in the Velvet Underground, Lou corrupted rock’n’roll and dragged it into modern times with his literate lowlife anthems, redefining the electric guitar as he went along.

Rarely for the times he came up in, such was the strength of his mission and manifesto that cover versions were never on his agenda once the first Velvet Underground songs were worked up. His personality, subject matter and voice itself were so idiosyncratically individual that being covered could present a dauntingly perilous challenge to someone who dared go there. Yet his pre-Velvets career included knocking out cash-in pop songs that were often thinly veiled cover versions, so the ethos was always in his blood. As he told Rolling Stone’s David Fricke about the first Velvet Underground album, “Anyone should be able to play these songs. That’s what I like about them.” That’s the premise that should be remembered when considering the songs reinterpreted by the diverse array of singers and bands corralled on this set, who pull it off by tapping into their essence and giving them their own artistic stamp.

Lou’s songs mirrored New York City’s musical traditions such as doo wop and revolutionary aspects of its cultural evolution, including poetry, jazz and avant-garde experimentation – sometimes all in the same song! Bert Jansch’s ‘Needle Of Death’ notwithstanding, drugs were rarely mentioned on record and, by 1966, it was usually acid or marijuana. Lou’s “Up to Lexington and 125, feel sick and dirty, more dead than alive” marks the first time heroin withdrawal had been so graphically depicted in a rock song. He had actually been to the location in question when heroin invaded his drug menu at Syracuse University, where he wrote the first incarnation of ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’. The sweaty jitters of copping in the danger zone is perfectly captured by John Cale’s pummelling piano, Lou’s relentless rhythm guitar, Sterling Morrison’s snarling guitar curls and Maureen Tucker’s unyielding heartbeat pulse coalescing into one juddering backdrop.

Idiosyncratic US alt-rocker Beck loved the song enough to record his own version twice, starting with his Record Club venture launched in 2009 to cover a whole classic album in one day using fluid line-ups., In July 2010, he and friends tackled “Songs Of Leonard Cohen”, Skip Spence’s “Oar”, INXS’s “Kick”, Yanni’s “Yanni Live At The Acropolis” and “The Velvet Underground & Nico”, posting video footage on his website, disparate collaborators including Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, TV actor Giovanni Ribisi and Anglo-Icelandic band Fields’ singer-keyboardist Thorunn Magnusdottir. In December 2017, when Beck was in New York to appear on The Tonight Show and play a couple of corporate functions, he used a day off to go into Electric Lady Studios and record this more conventionally nuanced rendition with his live band, his first version’s dissonant junkie clamour replaced by emphasising its status as a classic rock song. The following day, he performed the song at a lucrative private Hilton Hotel bash, then again in 2018 as part of a medley at Madison Square Garden, effectively trailering its online release.

Lou quit the Velvet Underground after the final show of the band’s nine-week residency at Max’s Kansas City in August 1970, before their “Loaded” album was released, citing his snake-like manager and disgust over the editing and mix as he repaired to his parents’ house in Freeport. Exhausted by touring, disillusioned at the band’s lack of success, withdrawing from drugs and intending to devote himself to writing, he took a low-paid typing post at his father’s accountancy firm and started contributing to small press publications. “I’m a poet,” he declared after a successful reading at St Mark’s Church Poetry Project, mixing song lyrics and new poems in front of an enthusiastic crowd including Allen Ginsberg and various Warhol associates.

In 2018, the Lou Reed Archive published these poems in a book called Do Angels Need Haircuts?. Uncannily prescient for modern times, ‘We Are The People’ was set to music by Iggy Pop on his 2019 late-life masterpiece “Free”, his rich, mahogany tones reciting lines including, “We are the people without land. We are the people without tradition. We are the people who have known only lies and desperation. We are the people without a country, a voice or a mirror”. The track is one of three beat-less spoken word tone poems that close this startlingly seductive set created with US trumpeter-composer Leron Thomas and guitarist-artist Sarah Lipstate (aka Noveller), its impact continued on ‘Do Not Go Gentle In To The Good’ and ‘The Dawn’. Speaking in a Sirius XM interview, Iggy remembered receiving Do Angel’s Need Haircuts? in the mail: “I opened up the book and it was the first poem on the first page. I thought about what he was saying, and I thought it was today in Trump’s America. Lou was a hero to me. The guy was someone I looked up to and admired because of his skill as a songwriter and what he was able to put across as a lyricist – two separate things. It’s absolutely relevant today. We are the people without land. The poem is a statement. Lou Reed’s statement.”

KRIS NEEDS

Share

Track listing

Show

Side 1

  • 01 Preview I'm Waiting For The Man - Beck

  • 02 Preview What Goes On - Bryan Ferry

  • 03 Preview Vicious - Lloyd Cole

  • 04 Preview Perfect Day - Kirsty MacColl & Evan Dando

  • 05 Preview Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams - Nico

  • 06 Preview New Age - Rachel Sweet

  • 07 Preview I'll Be Your Mirror - The Primitives

  • 08 Preview Run, Run, Run - Echo & The Bunnymen

  • 09 Preview Train ‘Round The Bend - The Soft Boys

  • 10 Preview Pale Blue Eyes - Alejandro Escovedo

  • 11 Preview All Tomorrow's Parties - June Tabor & Oysterband

  • 12 Preview Why Don't You Smile Now - The Delmonas

  • 13 Preview Sweet Jane - Cowboy Junkies

  • 14 Preview Jesus - Swervedriver

  • 15 Preview Femme Fatale - Tracey Thorn

  • 16 Preview I'm Set Free - Yo La Tengo

  • 17 Preview Sunday Morning - Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs

  • 18 Preview Rock ‘N Roll - Detroit featuring Mitch Ryder

  • 19 Preview Walk On The Wild Side - The Dynamics

  • 20 Preview We Are The People - Iggy Pop

Delivery & Returns

Show

We offer free P&P to UK addresses. For all other territories packaging is free and postage is charged on a weight basis.

We use Royal Mail First Class for UK deliveries and standard Air Mail for all other territories, very large orders will usually be sent via parcelforce. You may cancel your order at any time prior to your order being dispatched by emailing us at orders@acerecords.com ensuring that you quote your name, address and order reference number or by telephoning +44 (0) 208 453 1311 between 9am and 5pm GMT/BST, Monday to Friday. Please note: As music downloads are dispatched immediately after purchase, there is no possibility of cancelling these orders.

In the event that any products supplied to you by us are damaged or defective, we agree to replace or repair the damaged or defective products or refund the amount you paid for such goods (including postage & packaging) providing you notify us (either via post at or e-mail: orders@acerecords.com ) and return the goods within 28 days of purchase. Physical goods should be sent back to us in the same condition you received them to: “Returns” Bus Stop Mail Order Ltd, 42-50 Steele Road, London, NW10 7AS. Music downloads should be returned to us via the e-mail address above including a copy of your notification.

You have the right to cancel your order within seven days of purchase, or seven days of receipt of the goods (whichever is the longer). If you choose to cancel your order, full payment will be returned to you. Returned items should be sent to: “Returns” c/o Bus Stop Mail Order Ltd, 42-50 Steele Road, London, NW10 7AS. Music downloads should be returned to us via the email address: orders@acerecords.com including a copy of your notice of cancellation and order number.

Customer reviews

Show

Related products

Customers who bought this item also bought