Apr 072021


  23 Responses to “Lou Reed and Rock Town Hall Save You the Time of Reading Jeff Tweedy’s Book on Songwriting”

  1. “… unless, of course, you are writing a 7 minute suite about the ‘glory of love’ and ‘playing for the coach.’ Actually, now that I think about it, I’ve only written about 3 or 4 decent songs after I left the Velvet Underground, so maybe just ignore me altogether. Sometimes the emperor is actually buck naked,” he quickly added.

  2. Lou Reed never fails to amuse.

    One more thing (and know that I’m putting this comment here because if I don’t, it’s just going to get buried) , I can’t believe there wasn’t much discussion regarding the Moderator’s comment about the joys of the Beatles stereo experience whilst smoking pot. That’s certainly one of life’s great delights, losing one’s self in the overall sound, the separation, the panning, etc. Trust me, nothing is better than listening to “I’m Only Sleeping” when one is high as a kite.

    And the same can be said for Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower.” The fact of the matter is that one really hasn’t heard the power of the track if one hasn’t heard it high in glorious stereo. I never understood the magic within “Watchtower” until it was delivered to my Afghnani bud fueled head via Jimi. God only knows what the song is actually about, but while one is on cloud nine, it sounds like the aural equivalent of one of those climatic scenes from the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns where there’s a quick succession of full screen faces, camera zoomed in on eyes expressing a manic desire for truth, justice,revenge, redemption,…(your guess is as good as mine), followed by a masterly filmed gunfight. Simply put, one is spent when the needle finally hits the dead wax.

    I honestly can’t believe talk of this bliss hasn’t been brought up before. This is rite of passage stuff. No?

  3. BigSteve

    I’m sure sales of Delmore Schwartz’s books went up after Lou mentioned him on Night Flight.

    I actually really enjoyed Jeff Tweedy’s book. I’m a big fan of his music, so I didn’t read it in a defensive way. It’s aimed at people who’ve never written a song, giving them various strategies for writing a song. Just one song, that’s the goal. I thought it was an interesting approach, though not one that worked to rekindle my dedication to songwriting.

    I think I’d recommend Tweedy’s memoir to this demographic over his book about songwriting though.

  4. Happiness Stan

    Okay, I’ll bite. I can think of two post Velvets songs I’d like to hear again before I die, Vicious and Perfect Day. I used to force myself to listen to most of his albums multiple times in case I was missing something, but remember getting to the end of each none the wiser. I believe it says something when my recollection of Metal Machine Music is clearer than any songs from Berlin, Blue Mask, Street Hassle or Songs for Drella.

    Every time I hear Walk on the Wild Side, I wonder if anyone actually enjoys it, whether everyone simply tolerates it in the same way we all used to stand up for the National Anthem, or if it’s just me being perverse in the same way I’ve always loathed Bohemian Rhapsody.

    Anyone here care to defend it?

  5. BigSteve

    I don’t think Wild Side is his best song or anything, but I like it. The groove is cool, and the bass line is awesome. I think the bassline became iconic (and famously sampled by ATCQ), and it’s easy to forget how unusual it is. I like the jazzy sax solo and the way it comes in after the background singers’ voices come up in the mix. It’s cheeky to sing “And the colored girls go…” to announce their appearance. The subject matter is certainly innovative, in the sense that getting details of what we might call ‘alternative lifestyles’ on the radio was quite a feat.

    Certainly the song’s charms have been dulled by being overplayed, but I think there’s a lot to like. I guess I’m more of a Lou Reed fan than most of you guys. I’ve often said I think the Street Hassle album is the best thing he ever did. Like anyone with a long career he had ups and downs, but I find a lot to enjoy in his solo career, even though I admit I don’t listen to the later stuff much.

  6. For the record, I love Lou Reed, and I’m poking fun at him and Jeff Tweedy. #kinderwisergentler

  7. I like Wild Side a lot. I’d say I probably like more than Big Steve does, but his description really captures all the reasons I enjoy it. I don’t think you can oversell how great that bass part is either. It’s so catchy and melodic. I always dug it, but had a hard time making sense of what it was. Then I saw on one of those “behind the making” docs on the album, and the guy explained how it’s an electric and a stand up bass playing two slightly different parts. It was so satisfying to finally understand why I liked it, but could never play anything that sounded like it. I dig the transgressive lyrics and the lazy use of F.L.A. Does anyone call Florida, F.L.A.? I place it among Lou’s best.

  8. Herbie Flowers should definitely get half the royalties for “Walk on the Wild Side.”

  9. Your “Miami, FLA” question, chickenfrank, makes me wonder how many place nicknames I’ve gotten wrong thanks to song lyrics. The first time I went to San Francisco I couldn’t wait to say “Frisco.” I said it a couple of times my first day. Then a local told me “We don’t call it Frisco.”

  10. Happiness Stan

    Guess it’s just me, then. I used to like it, so probably just got fed up with it being the only Lou Reed song that ever gets played on the radio, over here, anyway.

    So, if that’s the third indispensable song he wrote after the Velvets, am I overlooking a fourth?

    By way of an aside, I met John Halsey, who played drums on Transformer, back when the world was open. (He was also Barry Wom of the Rutles).

    He was very sanguine about the two biggest records he played on being Transformer, on which his name was spelled incorrectly, and the soundtrack of Jesus Christ Superstar, which didn’t credit him at all. The third, presumably, was All You Need Is Cash, on which he drummed under a pseudonym.

  11. I’m sure I’m in the minority here, but I really like “What Becomes a Legend Most,” from the New Sensations album.

  12. Weirdly enough, on the Wilco song “Monday,” the chorus goes “Monday, I’m all high/Get me out of F-L-A.”

    I used to be in the “99% of solo Lou sucks” club, but sampling his albums on Spotify revealed some unexpected charms and pleasures, only some of which fall under the “slow-motion car crash” category.

    Long playlist but maybe you’ll find something you like. A relative deep cut I love is “Nobody But You” from Songs from Drella. Granted, it does seem it helped to have Cale back to push Lou to write an actual song rather than a monologue + three chords.


  13. Maybe F-L-A is just a thing I don’t know about. I have love for New York: Romeo Had Juliett, Dirty Blvd, Busload of Faith, Strawman. Not going so far as “among his best”, but I enjoy that album a lot.

  14. Happiness Stan and John Halsey for the win!

  15. It’s funny how soon common knowledge can pass into total obscurity. Two character state abbreviations were formalized by the Postal service in 1987. Before that, the common abbreviation for Florida was Fla. So Lou was not off on a weird tangent. Tweedy, on the other hand, must’ve just needed the rhyme.

  16. The playlist Oats referenced reminded me of another Lou song that I think is a standout, “Kicks.” Although a very uncomfortable listen, it is really compelling and creepy. It sounds like he got the effect he was after.

  17. My bad. Postal Service switched to 2 character abbreviations in 1963 in connection with Zip codes.

  18. Lou solo songs that I like: Satellite of Love, Dirty Boulevard, Vicious, Kill Your Sons, and (brace yourself) I Love You Suzanne (I know I should feel bad about this choice, but it’s a perfect example of Lou writing one of those simple songs that he talks about in the clip above. Or maybe it’s the actual song that he’s talking about). There are probably some incidental strays here and there like Street Hassle that I can listen to every 5-10 years if I’m in the right mood. Sometimes I’ll listen to a bit of Take No Prisoners but that’s more out of amazement that the album was actually put out in the first place.

    I could not hear Walk on the Wild Side again for the rest of my life and be okay but I think that’s because, as Big Steve identified, it has been over played to death. But it’s a good song and it must have been groundbreaking at the time, especially since it was released at the beginning of the Urban Street Poet era. Also, I would be hard pressed to think of a hit song with more stripped-down production than WOTWS, which is cool. The bulk of it is just bass, brushes on a snare, and almost whispered vocals. It has the effect of making you lean in to listen.

    I think Lou is one of those guys who has no idea of what makes him artistically appealing. I’ve thought the same of Jerry Stiller. In Lou’s case, he sometimes seemed contemptuous about it.

  19. CDM sed:

    “I think Lou is one of those guys who has no idea of what makes him artistically appealing.”

    That is a great thread idea. Lou certainly fits the bill. I’d also nominate Frank Zappa.

  20. Just as a side note here, I hear the phrase “F.L.A.” fairly often. Of course it always means “Fuck Los Angeles.”

  21. If you dance the same and dress the same
    It won’t be long ’til you are the same
    You look the same and act the same
    There’s nothing new and you’re to blame
    This is Boston, not L.A.
    This is Boston, fuck L.A.

    —The Freeze, “This Is Boston, Not L.A.” lyrics[3]

  22. Here’s a website that Lou would like – https://ginaarnold.substack.com/about

    “a collection of short stories and songs inspired by a list of unused titles of Raymond Chandler”

    Includes songs by Amy Rigby, Peter Holsapple, and Robyn Hitchcock.

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