DJ Lou Reed, at WPIX-FM, January 1979

Good morning rude girls, rude boys!

I’m sticking with the general theme of the past few months of Sundays, where I elaborate a theme from my book — which, as folks on twitter may know, just received a silver Independent Publisher Book Award in the popular culture category. Thanks to many of you for helping get the word out.

November 1978 (Arista) -- artwork credited to Nazario.
November 1978 (Arista) — artwork credited to Nazario.

I’m keepin’ today’s spot from ch. 5 short and sweet–WPIX-FM’s “Radio Radio” show on Sundays included spots with dozens of (often NYC-based) musicians in the role of DJ, and Lou Reed made a couple of appearances during the “Joe from Chicago” era. It proved to be a transitional era for Reed: he and his long-time partner Rachel split, and soon thereafter he married Sylvia Morales. On January 28, fairly fresh off the release of Live Take No Prisoners, Reed and his entourage crashed the party, and played a bunch of fun tunes from 1954 to 1962, including:

And, his own one-off novelty hit from 1964 with The Primitives, in which you may be able to glean a germ of the punk sensibility of humor and anti-virtuosity:

And here’s a little ramble from Reed, once John Cale arrived in the studio that evening.

Have a rock-steady week!

Coda: I went for a quick drive after this post and, after a listen to Velvet Underground’s eponymous third LP (March 1969), felt compelled to add a few more thoughts about Mr. Reed.

Of their LPs, I dig Velvet Underground the most, in part because Reed’s growing influence in the band means good things for pop, as early as “Candy Says,” the opening track. With the Beatles-inspired turn to pop as serious art, Reed tarries in affirmative pop forms (with lyrics of existential dread), and draws upon his affinity for doo-wop to mix in the signature “doo-doo-wa” that closes the track.

For a host of good reasons, including Reed’s a-tuneful approach to singing, and the beautiful darkness-in-plain-sight of tracks such as “Some Kinda Love,” The Velvet Underground represents the logical bridge between Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” (1958) and The Sex Pistols’ decimation of “Johnny B. Goode” (1979).

 

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.