The Velvet Underground were the first important rock & roll artists who had no real chance of attracting a mass audience. This was paradoxical. Rock-and-roll was a mass art. If this was paradoxical, the very idea of rock & roll art rests on a contradiction. The Velvets’ music was too overtly intellectual, stylized, and distanced to be commercial. Lou Reed’s persona was also paradoxical in the context of rock-and-roll, closer to that bohemian hipster: he wore shades, took hard drugs, and he was a loner. In a sense, the self-conscious formalism of his music—the quality that made the Velvets uncommercial—was an attempt to purify rock-and-roll. Heroin is a song of total, willful rejection of the corrupt world, of other people. In the beginning he likens shooting up to a spiritual journey: when he’s rushing on his run he feels like Jesus’ son. At the end, with a blasphemous defiance that belies his words, he avows, “Thank your God that I’m not aware/ And thank God that I just don’t care!” The whole song seems to rush outward and then close in on itself, on the moment of truth when the junkie knowingly and deliberately chooses death over life. It is the clarity of his consciousness that gives the sin its enormity. Yet the clarity also offers a glimmer of redemption. In the very act of choosing numbness the singer admits his longing for something better. In “Pale Blue Eyes” the world has gotten in the way of the singer’s transcendent love: “If I could make the world as pure and strange as what I see/ I’d put you in the mirror I put in front of me.” —"The Velvet Underground: I'll let you be in my dream" (1978) by Ellen Willis
John Cale has revealed the details of the artists set to join him at a special Liverpool show to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Velvet Underground’s seminal debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico. the point when pop and art started to speak the same language. The Velvet Underground's songs actively encouraged and romanticised the link between rock & roll and the outsider. Cale previously performed The Velvet Underground & Nico in its entirety at La Philharmonie in Paris on 4 April 2016. On that occasion, he was assisted by special guests including The Libertines, Animal Collective and Mark Lanegan. This year’s gig will see him and his guests perform on a bespoke open-air stage in Liverpool’s docklands which will face outwards towards New York, where the album was recorded. The event takes place at Liverpool’s Sound City Festival on 26 May 2017. During the show, the album will be “reimagined” by Cale and will feature contributions from The Kills, Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys, Nadine Shah, Wild Beasts and Clinic. Source: www.udiscovermusic.com
When I first met Lou Reed at the beginning of 1965, he was seeing a psychiatrist who prescribed a tranquilizer Placidyl. I could not believe somebody who wrote those songs could be crazy. I didn't believe in schizophrenia. All I saw in it was a different way of seeeing things. He couldn't figure me out and I couldn't figure him out. The only things we had in common were drugs and an obsession with risk taking. Lou thought it important to shock me with his version of the hustling scene. In retrospect, I realize he was just doing this to upset me, part of the endless mind-games endemic to his personality. As soon as I went off with Edie Sedgwick, Lou immediately fell head over heels in love with Nico and moved in with her. I'd be dying to go to bed with Susan Bottomly (International Velvet), whom Lou was also fucking on the side. Unfortunately, when he came out of the hospital, he caught me in bed with Susan and he threw us both out of the apartment. —"What's Welsh for Zen" (2000) by John Cale
Not every reviewer hated the EPI [The Exploding Plastic Inevitable]. Paul Jay Robbins, from Los Angeles Free Press, found the Warhol's show successful from a perspective connected to Guy Debord’s view of contemporary spectacle: "Warhol’s show is decadence. It is only an extrusion of our national disease, our social insensitivity. We are a dying creature, and Warhol is holding our failing hand and sketching the carcinoma in our soul." The EPI was disorienting in a way that was reminiscent of LSD trips; Jackie Cassen’s early involvement in the development of the EPI’s light show likely contributed to that aesthetic from the outset. The avant-garde’s interest in hallucinogenic drugs emerged in the Ten Trip Ticket Book, a play on the term “drug trip.” Chaotic sensory input overwhelmed the faculties: depth perception blurred in the layers of projections and concrete objects, the loud music numbed the ears, the strobe lights froze time for fractions of seconds.
Andy Warhol was a banal Debordian celebrity, but his banality was so explicit and exaggerated that he did not disappear into the mediated fabric of Debord’s highly mediated spectacle. The EPI provided a location for the counterculture of 1960s New York to gather and played a key role in establishing the East Village as a Bohemian port of call. Whether he intended it to be or not, Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable was a act of underground political, social, and artistic rebellion. —"Ready to blow your mind: Andy Warhol's EPI" (2016) by Alycia Faith Lentz
Jim Morrison was a mass of contradictions, probably schizophrenic, and the heavier the mantle of celebrity the worse his behaviour became and the more he sought to escape. The anti-social behaviour on/off stage was the action of a man who thought that people were not taking him seriously. The release he had felt before being onstage was becoming one of increasing anger towards the audience. It was he who embraced the sex symbol role and now it was he who was rebelling against it. Paradise Now (1968) was the Living Theatre avant-garde show that most affected Morrison. The Living Theatre provided the missing piece in Morrison’s revolt against the leather Frankenstein he had created. “At Miami, I tried to reduce the myth to absurdity,” said Morrison: “I was living out an adolescent fantasy and it just got too much for me to stomach. I told the audience that they were a bunch of idiots, and what were they doing there anyway? Not to listen to some songs, but for something else… so why not admit it and do something about it?” ―"Break on Through: The Life and Death of Jim Morrison" (2014) by James Riordan and Jerry Prochnicky
"Actors must make us think they're real. Our friends must not make us think we’re acting," wrote Morrison. I was greeted by a nightmare. Jim was the young and beautiful poet Sebastian that Tennessee Williams had created in Suddenly Last Summer (1959) starring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift: Sebastian is devoured in a flashback by a flock of starving urchins. In my dream, Jim’s fans overwhelm him on stage and become the monsters of the Goya painting who devour people alive. I awoke wanting to understand where this vision had come from, an expression perhaps Jim had slipped into our conversation that I hadn’t noticed consciously. I quickly dressed and fled what seemed like a horrible cell, not the romantic Parisian garret I had fallen asleep in.
Christ, was that how Jim felt? Now I understood another reason for his stage antics, his jumping all over the stage, falling to the ground and his drinking, it was a wall he built to protect himself. He had given me a glimpse of his fame, a freak show that he needed to escape from, to get away from being devoured. Neither of us had wanted to go to Vietnam. Maybe we weren’t afraid to die, we were afraid to kill. The voice from my LSD radiator had returned to haunt me. “Twinkle, twinkle,” Jim had said, emptying the vials. As Rimbaud had dreamed, ‘Christmas on Earth’: I closed my eyes and fell into a deep void. Asleep, I was greeted by a vivid dream. I was in a silent world. The sky was bright like the collages back on Jim’s wall. There was a beautiful woman ahead of me beckoning. The moon and the stars were out even though it was daytime. Jim came over. He was dressed in black and looked cleaner and handsomer than I had remembered him. He motioned to me. I got up and saw I was at the seaside. Waves were crashing against deeply chiselled cliffs bristling in the sunlight. I turned. There was no one to be seen. I felt as if I were the only person now left in the world, but I felt very full, complete. The hills rolled on toward the horizon, a sweet wind in the air. He removed two vials of aqua-blue acid. Voices seemed to be coming through the radiator. Jim had forgotten to turn off the radio? What was it that Ginsberg was saying about the CIA, Morse Code? Is the radio taping me through the radiator? Where were my friends? Why did they have to kill me? I wouldn’t play along? What was this LSD? A secret way of recruiting people, transplanting energies into other bodies, transforming your body? Where was Jim? Was it Jim’s reality? I felt there was something almost vicious about this acid, as if it had stolen into my consciousness. That is the meaning of hallucination, hailing the world, stopping it dead in its tracks. –"Tripping With Jim Morrison & Other Friends: With An Introduction By Timothy Leary" (2016) by Michael Lawrence