An honest-to-goodness All-Star Jam! See, we’re not dead yet; we were only sleeping.
Few personalities — particularly as one as protean and occasionally as brilliant as Reed’s — can be summed up in two syllables. But if you were to do a word cloud of memories of Reed in the various volumes that have been published on his life, the word asshole would turn up in surprisingly large type.
Maybe you’ve heard of this Lou Reed character? This article is worth a read, even if you think you’ve heard it all before. (And you probably have.)
One aspect of many of even Reed’s classic-era albums that doesn’t get talked about enough is the sonic inconsistency. It’s a subtle thing, but most decent rock albums have a sonic palette that forms the core of the work. It’s not that every song must be orchestrated identically, but a good album will generally sound like it was recorded a certain way in a certain universe. Reed’s own lack of sophistication and the B-level producers he used over most of his career combined to make many of his records sound internally random, and jarring. And even fans can point to few nuanced compositions to make the search worthwhile. Along the way he sold “Walk on the Wild Side” for a TV commercial for the Honda’s short-lived line of scooters; Reed appeared at the end of it, to say, “Hey — don’t settle for walkin’!”
Hopefully this post will only be seen by contributing writers to Rock Town Hall. If the public at large, relatively speaking, sees this as well, so be it. As I’ve mentioned, in announcing the gradual wind down of Rock Town Hall, as we’ve come to know it and love it, The Back Office and I are seeking a way to “preserve” the work we’ve done for the benefit of future generations. As this place winds down and I try to get my head around where our powers may go next, I’ve also been thinking of ways to solidify the “characters” we’ve established through the years. I’d like to set up time with a number of you to talk over the phone or over e-mail to capture some of your thoughts – anything from final important rock stances you want to take…once and for all…to highlights you want to recap or dirt you want to dish on a fellow Townsperson. Let me know if you’d be up for a 15-minute call, and we can work it out through the summer. Thanks.
I don’t have a graceful way of stating this: at some point, in the coming months, Rock Town Hall is likely to cease its active life and be preserved as an archive site of often dazzling rock insights and articulation. I can’t imagine what more we can do with this current vehicle. I don’t want to repeat myself. As much as I may joke about it, I actually feel too old and too wise to keep blasting away at the same ducks that refuse to leave the barrel. We’ve been in our public blog form since January 2007; we existed as a private Yahoo Group listserv for a few years prior to that. In the shortened lifespan of the digital age, does that mean we’ve managed to keep this place in business on the back of an 8-track format?
My oldest son, who recently got his first turntable for his 19th birthday and who has proceeded on a heart-warming (mine), wallet-emptying (his) vinyl binge, sent me the following text while I was at the gym this morning:
When I go to record stores I see lots of solo albums by different artists but I never want to buy them cause I’m not familiar with the music and I know lots of artists suck when they go solo. For example, Ive seen lots of Fogerty solo work and McCartney solo work but I don’t know if it’s good. Can you think of the best artists who went solo so I know what to buy and what to avoid?
Good question, right? One of those questions I sometimes get from people young enough to be my kid that makes me think we need to follow Rock Town Hall with a next-generation spinoff. I’m not sure, myself, whether Pete Townshend’s Empty Glass is actually good. I can advise him on solo John Fogerty (“Eh…”). His question reminds me that I need to warn him to tread lightly with any other solo (or in any way post-Move) album by Roy Wood beside Boulders, which he borrowed from me last week and liked a lot. I’ve had mixed feelings about Pete Townshend, the Occasional Solo Artist, for years. Should I finally buy a used copy of Empty Glass? I’ll have a talk with him about McCartney and let him know that there’s really no difference between McCartney solo and Wings and that there’s nothing McCartney has done post-Beatles that is worth anything but a greatest hits collection beside the nearly amazing Band on the Run. (I know some of you stand behind Ram, as well. I’ll be fair and represent your thoughts on that album.)
What solo albums by musicians primarily associated with being members of a long-running band would you recommend my boy check out? Don’t suggest Van Morrison, because he spent his first couple of years in Them. Likewise, as I remember perceiving things at his age, my son still thinks of and likes Lou Reed as a solo artist before thinking of him as the guy from the Velvet Underground.
On Facebook, that scourge of Rock Town Hall, I got sucked into pissing off modern-day Monkees devotees over their celebration of some article declaring The Monkees as the “Motown of Rock.” This is the kind of shooting-fish-in-a-barrel nonsense that makes me think it’s time to build a new church, a new congregation from the wonderful materials we’ve developed here. As I just got done telling some legendary digital Power Pop Nerd, if he wants to compare the Monkees to The Supremes or The Temptations be my guest. I’ll keep my mouth shut and not say something pissy like, “Well, let’s not go crazy, they’re more like Martha & The Vandellas…” For all our hard work, the core belief that Greatness is somewhat better than Goodness has failed to take root. There must be a way to get these people back on the path toward Greatness, despite how far they’ve strayed from said path.
Where the Motown comparison falls apart, and where the myths of The Monkees being “fake” crumble, is in the nagging fact that less than two years after forming, The Monkees deliberately stepped out of the star-making machinery that created them and assumed creative control of their music and image. In a particularly rock ’n’ roll move, Mike Nesmith sealed the contentious break with the band’s puppet-master Don Kirshner (ironically, a Hall Of Fame inductee in part for creating The Monkees and The Archies), by putting his fist through a wall while shouting to Kirshner, “That could have been your face!” From there, the band started writing, playing and touring in earnest (hand-picking then relatively unknown Jimi Hendrix as their opening act, no less). Once they started calling their own shots, they made their most critically acclaimed album, Headquarters, which Mojo called “a masterpiece of ’60s pop.”
It occurred to me that the annual beef that The Monkees are getting shafted by not being inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame may be tops among Rock’s First-World Issues. Is there no better sign of Rock Entitlement than the energy one expends on that topic? What other First-World Issues in Rock come to mind?
Is this the overwrought rock criticism we aimed to skirt, or did we encourage the following New York Times piece by Chuck Klosterman?