NYC appearance, odd fact, and VU’s rock’n’roll

Happy Sunday morning to you all, and thanks for checking out my weekly post.

Public service announcement (with keyboard, rather than guitars): I’m off to NYC this week, and I’m doing a reading/signing at 7pm, Friday, 2/15, at KGB Bar, 85 E. 4th St. (near 2nd avenue). It should be loads of fun — do come!

(A word from our sponsor: The book’s got a pink back cover, too, so it makes the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for that ex-punk lover of yours.)  More info on the FB event notice here.

Random thought: as technology-induced attention-deficit disorder gets more pronounced, pop songs get longer. A recent comparison of the pop songs that charted on Pazz & Jop polls prior to the peer-2-peer file-sharing era reveal that pop songs are getting considerably longer. I don’t know that it’s simply an American phenomenon, but it seems peculiarly American somehow to demand quantity — e.g., a 4-5 minute song for $.99-1.29  — rather than quality. Do (dis)abuse me if I’m wrong here.

I’m delighted to be returning once again to NYC, where I lived for 5 years during the irrational exuberance of the dot.com era (1995-2000). Perhaps there’s a connection, but I’ve had this VU track in my head for days now, which this musicological writer suggests is about radio back in the day, following the advent of rock’n’roll. History might suggest it’s a recollection of the arrival of Alan “Moondog” Freed at WINS in 1954, and his shaking up the airwaves of the tri-state region.

(Reed turned 12 that year, learned to play guitar while listening to the radio and, shortly after, was administered shock therapy to “cure” him of his homosexual desires–if not “the death of us all,” Lou’s parents were certainly a social hazard. See Please Kill Me, pp. 3-4.)

I’m cool with that reading of the song, although the free-form deejays at WNEW-FM circa 1970 were serving up a heady mix of rock, folk, spoken word, and jazz. By the time Meg Griffin arrived, though, that sound might have easily been mistaken for “nothing happening at all,” and Meg and Pam Merly, at WLIR in East Quoque, LI, offered some righteous violations of the key credo of free-form radio: anything but punk and disco. Television, The Clash, Blondie, and The Ramones: it was all up for grabs.

Merly seemed to encounter less resistance from her fellow deejays than Griffin did, and both stations–save WNEW’s Alison “the Nightbird” Steele—had all-male staffs in the DJ booth. With female deejays serving up platters with lead vocals by Patti Smith, Kate Pierson, and Deborah Harry, I can only imagine how inspiring it must have been for that generation of “Jennys” (and Johnnys, for that matter).

With regards to the clip above: rocknroll at its best inspires risk, art, and desire — you can find a less arty video accompaniment here.

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2 thoughts on “NYC appearance, odd fact, and VU’s rock’n’roll”

  1. Wish I knew about this sooner, would’ve tried to get you to come to Boston this weekend, my friend owns Back Pages Books in Waltham and he does a great “A Book, Beer, and a Band” event. My band, Destroy Babylon, occasionally does a Clash tribute set that we could tie in. Maybe in the near future…

    1. John,
      Thanks for chiming in. I do have friends in western Mass. who have regular business in Boston, so I’ll definitely keep you in mind as summer travel plans come into focus. I hope you enjoy the blog, and that you’ll check out the book!

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