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fromheadtoheart flag US - New York - Full Moon 225 - 01/05/15

From head to heart
Lou Reed's New York

Following our retroscope series going on for several years, here we go again. Yes, for one more year! Here's Speakers' corner's cousin; From head to heart. Luna Kafé's focused eye on great events, fantastic happenings, absolute milestones, or other curious incidents from the historic shelves'n'vaults of pop'n'rock. Blowing our ears and our head, punching our chest and shaking our heart, or simply tapping our shoulder. Making us go sentimental, but not slaphappy. This moonth we are leaping a quarter of a century backwards, landing in 1989. Just before the 1990s knocked on the door. Grunge was still young (the term of the genre maybe not even born) as Green River had faded, but Mother Love Bone were still active, The Melvins, Screaming Trees and Soundgarden were (relatively) early in their respective careers, and the wild troika of Mudhoney, Tad and Nirvana were planning their debut albums. Elsewhere in the world of music lots of artists and bands were yet alive (if not hard kicking), active or on-going with careers of album releases and/or performing live. Such as: Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, Sammy Davis Jr., Roy Orbison, George Harrison, Kirsty MacColl, Frank Zappa, Ramones, Pixies, REM, XTC, Beastie Boys, The Replacements, The Triffids, Camper Van Beethoven to name but a few. In the mentime that year, on the East Coast of the USA - in New York City - an artist launched his 15th album. He has been through ups and downs, highs and lows both in life and as well as in music. A legend, an icon, an outsider.

coverpic

Lou Reed
New York
Sire Record

One and a half years ago we visited Lou Reed's Berlin at the age of 40. Because of the release of the Super Deluxe version of the third Velvet Underground album it seemed like a good opportunity to follow him back to his native New York in addition. The album celebrates its 26 years anniversary this very moonth. 14 songs of misanthropy and basic rock'n'roll. It was Lou's first studio album in two and a half years, his fifteenth in all, and gave his career a push forward after some lacklustre albums in the mid 1980s.

My copy of the original LP includes the lyrics for all the songs printed on the inner bag. There is also an insert where all the lyrics are translated into Spanish, German and French. Lou had artistic ambitions and states on the back cover of the album: 'It's meant to be listened to in one 58 minute (14 songs!) sitting as though it were a book or a movie.' The songs work as short stories, short films or snapshots from the metropol by the late 1980s. And something is indeed rotten there...

Hold On

There's blacks with knives and whites with clubs
fighting in Howard Beach
There's no such thing as human rights
when you walk the N.Y. streets
A cop was shot in the head by a 10 years old kid named Buddah
in Central Park last week
The fathers and daughters are lined up by the coffins
by the Statue of Bigotry, hey

You better hold on
Something's happening here
You better hold hold on -
Well I'll meet you in Tompkins Square

The dopers sent a message to the cops last weekend
they shot him in the car where he sat
And Eleanor Bumpers and Michael Stewart
must have appreciated that
There's a rampaging rage rising up like a plague of bloody vials
washing up on the beach
It'll take more than the Angels or Iron Mike Tyson
to heal this bloody breach, hey, hey

You better hold on
Something's happening here
You better hold on -
I'm gonna meet you in Tompkins Square

A junkie ran down a lady a pregnant dancer
She'll never dance but the baby was saved
He shot up some China White and nodded out at the wheel
and he doesn't remember a thing
They shot that old lady 'cause they thought she was a witness
to a crime she didn't even see
Whose home is the home of the brave
by the Statue of Bigotry, hey

You better hold on
Something's happening here
You better hold on -
There's a riot in Tompkins Square

You got a black .38 and a gravity knife
You still have to ride the train
There's the smelly essence of N.Y. down there
but you ain't no Bernard Goetz, ah
There's no Mafia lawyer to fight in your corner
for that 15 minutes of fame
The have and the have nots are bleeding in the tub
That's New York's future not mine

Oh you better hold on -
something's happening here
You better hold on
You better, something's happening here
Hold on, ooohhh, babe

Some loves Lou's talk-singing or sing-talking, others hate it. I find it a bit tiresome in the long run, but it's an effective way to deliver his messages here. Although the songs might be characterised as basic rock, there's enough variation for the listener to keep the attention all the way through. The line-up with two guitars, bass and drums seem simple, but Rob Wasserman's upright six-string bass adds that something extra on several of the songs. The loose and effortless live feel doesn't do any harm either.

New York also saw Lou Reed team up with Velvet Underground drummer Maureen Tucker for the first time in many years. She helps out on percussion on two of the songs. Along with the beautiful homage album for Andy Warhol, Songs For Drella, the following year where Lou reunited with John Cale, it paved the way for the ill-fated resurrection of Velvet Underground in 1993. But that's another story.

Copyright © 2015 JP e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Lou Reed article/review: Berlin.

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