the velvet underground

Lou Reed – Something Happened (1988)

When Lou Reed met Keanu Reeves – The Quiz: Only one of the following statements about the above clip is true:

It’s a scene from an unseen documentary about the band Dogstar, called Dogstar Rising: A sign from Lou.

It’s a clip from Keanu’s first paying gig as an actor, from an infomercial for Reed’s ill-fated line of fingerless guitar gloves called “Satellite Of Glove.”

In 1988, while in between record deals with RCA and SIRE records, Lou Reed wrote and recorded “Something Happened,” for a teen suicide drama called Permanent Record. He even made a cameo in the movie.

I’m not sure if “Something Happened,” has been released on any compilations, or just lives on this out-of-print soundtrack, but this is a classic Lou jam. A driving four-chord stomp with approximately one couplet. Wash, rinse, and repeat for about four minutes.  Let it rip!

Something Happened – Lou Reed

Ex-Holy Grail: The Velvet Underground “Squeeze”

VU_SqueezeNew Category Alert: Though it sounds like a Slanted-era Pavement song title, Ex-Holy Grail spotlights a once out-of-print artifact, now rendered pedestrian due to the digital age we live in.

Apparently every written documentation of this record is legally obligated to write the following line verbatim: Squeeze is a Velvet Underground album in name only.

The 1973 follow-up to Loaded featured not a single founding member of the Velvets.  Lou Reed left, and Sterling Morrison and Mo Tucker soon followed suit.  Multi-instrumentalist Doug Yule had the name all to himself.

In a pre-internet age, word of Squeeze was like a Record Store Clerk Tall Tale: Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, and an Out-Of-Print, Lou Reed-less Velvet Underground record that was never even released in America! Can you imagine?

Fast forward to the mid-nineties and the revelation that was Yahoo Search, and intrigue grew as we got to actually lay our eyes on the artwork for Squeeze.  It was even reminiscent of illustration for Loaded, same graphic illustration style also featuring a New York City based landmark enveloped by billowing energy.

Today you can listen to Squeeze on Spotify in all it’s mediocre glory, and while calling this your favorite Velvets record would be like calling Bob Weir’s “Good Lovin’” your favorite part of a Grateful Dead set, the album is interesting if only that it retroactively illustrates what Yule brought to it’s predecessor.

Before hearing Squeeze, one just assumed Lou Reed single handedly shape-shifted his usually complicated, personal, and din-soaked tunes into the simple, loose yet confident jams that made up Loaded.  The story goes that Mo Tucker was on maternity leave, Sterling Morrison went back to school at City College of New York, and Yule was Reed’s studio partner in crime, but ultimately that story was just liner note fodder.  Squeeze highlights what Loaded would have been without Reed’s genius, which is a collection of mid-tempo rockers with no soul, swagger, or lyrical depth.

Conversely, Yule’s work on Squeeze also highlights what Loaded would have been lacking without Yule.

Yule was the anti-John Cale.  Where Cale channeled the avant stylings of La Monte Young, and stoked Reed’s dissonant side, Yule brought basic chord progressions and poppy background harmonies to the table. This shouldn’t be underestimated.

Reed’s self-titled solo LP is full of studio musicians that often overplayed their parts and added of texture to tracks that didn’t need any. Yule was the centered middle ground that tempered Reed’s eccentricities, and netted a masterpiece.

You have to hand it to Yule for giving it the old college try on Squeeze, but unfortunately he was on the wrong side of rock history by carrying on with the Velvet Underground moniker.

Caroline – The Velvet Underground

Little Jack – The Velvet Underground

Ray Davies – Be Rational (Unreleased Demo – 1988)

Davies_80 Let’s finish this deep dive on the Ray Davies catalog by giving the man some credit where credit is due, specifically in the arena of pop music known as Twee. 

In short, Davies does not get enough credit (or blame) for perfecting this particular strain of pop.

These days most pop listeners consider Scotland’s Belle & Sebastian and their mix of reverby guitars, contemplative melodies, and symphonic washes as the high water mark of this gentle brand.

The parochial subject matter and jangly sound of Belle & Sebastian’s early catalog almost immediately linked the band with The Smiths and other indie acts of the C-86 movement.  Their orchestral dabblings and child-like vocal delivery can be traced back to The Beach Boys or even the Mo Tucker led tracks of the Velvets, but it is almost criminal not to acknowledge Ray Davies’ influence on Belle & Sebastian’s particular phrasing, and not simply because he had a hit single called “Dandy.”

Davies’ brand of Twee eschewed the jangly guitars and common adolescent yearning in favor of chamber-pop sophistication and articulate introspection with a proper English patois.

“Be Rational” is an unreleased demo from a short lived musical called 80 Days that Davies composed based on Jules Verne’s Around The World in 80 Days. This song is straight My Fair Lady territory. The high society woes of a debonair Hot Air Balloonist, who’s balloon and heart are both off course. The unabashed white collared nature of this song is definitely part of the Twee fabric.

“Sitting In My Hotel” from 1972’s Everybody’s In Show-biz is a unique and gorgeous take on celebrity. While most bands of the time would be singing about the hardship of the road, or the bottle, here we find Davies lamenting about what his working class mates would think about the posh rock n’ roll lifestyle he is embodying.

“If my friends could see me now, driving round just like a film star, in a chauffeur driven jam jar they would laugh.”

The self-deprecating and insecurity riddled lyrics, the slightly effeminate vocal delivery with piano accompaniment. Davies has Stuart Murdoch beat by decades.

Ray Davies – Be Rational

The Kinks – Sitting In My Hotel