And so the big day arrives, Halloween 2013, a time for scaring kiddies while tricking and treating them. This fellow seems to be the last defender of a haunted team name — and a failed franchise. Leica M, 50mm Noctilux, ND filter.
Archive for October, 2013
A month ago this very day, the scribblers at Tulip Frenzy World HQ saw fit to ask: Will The Fresh And Only’s Soothsayer be Tim Cohen’s only rec release this annum? You see, we had of late been playing Cohen’s other band, Magic Trick, over’n’over’n’over agin, and rank their album Ruler Of The Night as nothing less than, well, we believe the word used was “astonishing.”
From across the Twittersphere… hear Tulip Frenzy’s question echo… echo… echo… came a reply: just wait!
And now we know, as an amazing track, “Come Inside,” has just been posted on Pitchfork, who declaim with authority that the third Magic Trick album, entitled River of Souls, will flow freely to the great big sea on December 3rd. Yes!
This has been a pretty stellar year for new music already, but the final two months will see, at long last, the release of First Communion Afterparty’s Earth Heat Sky, Kevin Morby’s Harlem River, and now Magic Trick’s River of Souls. Normally we despair of the end of Daylight Savings and the coming of winter. Not this year!
Leica Monochrom, 50mm Noctilux, ND Filter
A few weeks back, we expressed great interest in Bill Clinton’s essay on Dumbarton Oaks, included in Catie Marron’s book, City Parks: Public Places, Private Thoughts. Having now bought the book, it is a lovely read, with writers ranging from Jan Morris (Giardino Pubblico, Trieste) to John Banville (Iveagh Gardens, Dublin), from Sir Norman Foster (Grosse Tiegarten, Berlin) to Pico Iyer (Maruyama Koen, Kyoto). The short essay by Bill Clinton on our favorite local urban oasis, Dumbarton Oaks, which is a short distance from our home, is wonderful.
Interestingly, the photographer Oberton Gili illustrates the book with images from each of the gardens, and in this we were disappointed. He must only have had a single day to photograph Dumbarton Oaks, because it is so much more mysterious, beguiling, quirky, and enigmatic than the photos let on. We say this not simply because we have made a long, photographic study of it, but because as a regular visitor, we were frustrated by how it is depicted. Perhaps fans of the Presidio, or Park Guell will say the same thing about their favorite parks. To us, though, we bought the book for the writing, and on that basis, it’s worth buying.
The good news is that the New York Times assigned the obit to someone other than Jon Pareles, so we didn’t have to read sentences like, “Many of the group’s themes — among them love, sexual deviance, alienation, addiction, joy and spiritual transfiguration — stayed in Mr. Reed’s work through his long run of solo recordings.” Oh wait, actually, we did have to read that in the Times, because Pareles still sets the tone there, and Ben Ratliff — no matter what his natural writing style was before he got there, has to play the tune called by Jonny. But still, out of the long day and evening, as more writers weighed in, we got to read the good and the bad.
Jacob Weisberg, editor of Slate, revealed he doesn’t know very much about rock’n’roll when he tweeted, “Little known fact: his early teacher was the late Delmore Schwartz.” Uh, no. If you listen to rock’n’roll, you know that about as well as you know that 15 minutes served up to Geico returns 15 percent savings on your auto insurance; it is like knowing that Jimi Hendrix played guitar left handed. It is a threshold-level fact, and if you didn’t know it, for God’s sake, shut up. And a special dunce cap is reserved for any and all who summarized Lou’s work with a reference to “Walk On The Wild Side,” his least consequential song, even if it was a novelty hit.
But still, there were some really good things posted. Let’s give credit where it is due: the initial Rolling Stone announcement at 1:15 PM was solid.
By early evening, we had a typically terrific remembrance from The New Yorker‘s Sasha Frere-Jones. (Thank Heaven for Sasha, who almost always gets it right.)
Later in the evening, of course, we heard from Christgau, Chairman Emeritus of the department, the dean of them all. And his piece was hilarious, recalling the time that Lou had denounced him from the stage as a “toe fucker.”
Now, we weren’t at that particular show by Lou, but we were alive and well and attending his concerts during that great Street Hassle phase in the late ’70s, when he was caustic and outrageous and sang songs like “I Wanna Be Black,” whose lyrics can’t be printed in a family blog.
Our last word on Lou here will state four things.
First, how grateful we were to be old enough to remember the Velvet Underground, not as historical antecedent, but as a real band, even if our particular entry point was Loaded. Even if weren’t wise to the kismet of The Velvet Underground and Nico being released on the same day as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, our teenage playlist included “Train Comes Around The Bend,” and we were hip to Mott The Hoople kicking off All The Young Dudes with “Sweet Jane”, creating that nexus between Lou Reed, David Bowie, and Iggy Pop — which would become so important to us in our late teens — in real time. We can remember seeing that first Velvets album, with its peel off banana sticker, in the bins of a small-town record store, and passing on it to buy, with our allowance, Your Saving Grace. But still, The Velvets lived for us, even if our obsession with them didn’t kick in until around 1977.
A-and let us proclaim how grateful we were to have been able to see Lou play with his greatest band from the early 1980s — Fernando Saunders on bass, Fred Maher on drums, and of course, Robert Quine on guitar. While today it’s quite worthwhile to listen to all the sonically deficient but historically vital Velvets live recordings, including the tapes that Quine recorded when he was a law student following the VU around like some prehistoric Deadhead — and you should go right now to find Velvet Underground Live 1969, which was recorded before about 12 people in a club in Dallas, yes, Dallas. But if you really want to listen to Lou live, and in his purest form, get Live In Italy. It has both an excellent compendium of Velvets songs and songs from The Blue Mask and Legendary Hearts, his two greatest albums, which he spent the early ’80s touring to support.
And to put it simply, and sincerely, since many have declared their favorite Lou song, let us quietly declare that ours was “Rooftop Garden,” from Legendary Hearts, which perfectly conveys two of Lou’s greatest, and most benign, influences: folk music and Brill Building pop couplets.
Finally, Lou Reed’s passing seems in some ways like a dress rehearsal for that inevitable day when Dylan dies. The floodgates of foolishness will open on that sad day in the future, as all the wrong songs get quoted on Twitter, and it will take a few authoritative voices to weigh in and set the genuine historical record straight — Mikal Gilmore, Jonathan Cott, Jann Wenner. Lou Reed’s death yesterday, though, was the first of the real giants of our shared rock’n’roll past dying at a ripe old age, which 71 really is. This is not like John Lennon being assassinated or the 27-year old Hendrix succumbing to pills or even the 50-year old Joe Strummer dying of a heart attack. This was a precursor to all the obits yet to come, of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, and Mick and Keith and Charlie. And so long as we have voices like Sasha Frere-Jones, and we pray, a nonagenarian Bob Christgau to wash away the idiocy of what we’ve grown to expect from the Pareles-era Times and Twitter, everything’s going to be alright. We’re going to have a real good time together, remembering the greats for what they were, and what they meant to us.
So Rolling Stone is reporting that Lou Reed has died. It is a sad moment for rock’n’roll, not unexpected, but a shock nonetheless. Any worthy assessment of both the best songwriters, and most important figures, in the history of rock’n’roll would put Lou Reed in the same small group that would include Dylan, the Beatles, and the Stones.
It’s not just that the Velvet Underground was a great band. It’s that they live on in the form of our next two dozen favorite bands; that is, while the Velvets broke up 40 years ago, as we wrote six years ago, many of our favorite bands today completely channel the sound Lou and company created.
In the days ahead, much will be written about Reed’s greatness. If you really want to cut through it all, just go listen to The Blue Mask and Legendary Hearts. You don’t even have to go back to the Velvets. Just play those two albums, which came out back-to-back in the early 1980s, chronicling Lou’s state of mind when he found himself sober, and an adult, and an artist of the first rank. And now both Lou and his guitarist on those albums, Bob Quine, are gone. Though truth be told, if in 1973, you’d said that Lou would live to 2013, few would have believed you.
Sad, sad news today.