Morrissey to Release Novel and Great Books by Musicians

List of the Lost

List of the Lost Press Release

I’m looking forward to reading Morrissey’s first novel.  It comes out September 24th.  The details are above.

I really enjoyed his Autobiography.  Here are five other books by musicians, in no order, that are worth checking out:

  1.  Bob Dylan – Chronicle
  2. Henry Rollins – Get in the Van: On the Road With Black Flag
  3. Larry Kirwan – Green Suede Shoes: An Irish-American Odyseey
  4. John Lydon – Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs
  5. Lou Reed – Between Thought and Expression: Selected Lyrics of Lou Reed

All of the books, except the Lou Reed book, which is a collection of lyrics with commentary by Reed, would qualify as autobiographies.  However, each one of them is better than the standard autobiography or biography.  Dylan’s is written with the kind of wordplay and imagery that one would expect from Dylan.  Rollin’s is as much about self-realization under duress as it is about music, though of course there is a great deal of music commentary included.  It’s jet black and deeply funny.  Kirwan is not only a musician, but also a playwright.  His book is not only expertly written, but features a great deal of really interesting information on the history and culture of Ireland.  And Lydon’s book is not only an unsentimental look at his past, but includes commentary by other people that were around him at that same time.  Even if they flat out contradict him, he seems not to give a fuck.  He is interested in getting to the truth, and the truth depends on one’s perspective.

Patti Smith Inducts Lou Reed Into Hall of Fame

The Rock N Roll Hall of Fame in and of itself doesn’t make any sense to me, but I am a Patti Smith fan and an even bigger Lou Reed fan, so I thought I would post a transcript of her speech inducting Reed (I found the transcript over at Rolling Stone):

Hello everybody. On October 27th, 2013, I was at Rockaway Beach, and I got the message that Lou Reed had passed. It was a solitary moment. I was by myself, and I thought of him by the ocean, and I got on the subway back to New York City. It was a 55-minute ride, and in that 55 minutes, when I returned to New York City, it was as if the whole city had transformed. People were crying on the streets. I could hear Lou’s voice coming from every café. Everyone was playing his music. Everyone was walking around dumbfounded. Strangers came up to me and hugged me. The boy who made me coffee was crying. It was the whole city. It was more [Pauses] Sorry. I realized, at that moment, that I had forgotten, when I was on the subway, that he was not only my friend, he was the friend of New York City.

I made my first eye contact with Lou dancing to the Velvet Underground when they were playing upstairs at Max’s Kansas City in the summer of 1970. The Velvet Underground were great to dance to because they had this sort of transformative, like a surf beat. Like a dissonant surf beat. They were just fantastic to dance to. And then somewhere along the line, Lou and I became friends. It was a complex friendship, sometimes antagonistic and sometimes sweet. Lou would sometimes emerge from the shadows at CBGBs. If I did something good, he would praise me. If I made a false move, he would break it down.

One night, when we were touring, separately, we wound up in the same hotel, and I got a call from him, and he asked me to come to his room. He sounded a little dark, so I was a little nervous. But I went up, and the door was open, and I found him in the bathtub dressed in black. So I sat on the toilet and listened to him talk. It seemed like he talked for hours, and he talked about, well, all kinds of things. He spoke compassionately about the struggles of those who fall between genders. He spoke of pre-CBS Fender amplifiers and political corruption. But most of all, he talked about poetry. He recited the great poets — Rupert Brooke, Hart Crane, Frank O’Hara. He spoke of the poets’ loneliness and of the poets’ dedication to the highest muses. When he fell into silence, I said, “Please, take care of yourself, so the world can have you as long as it can.” And Lou actually smiled.

Everything that Lou taught me, I remember. He was a humanist, heralding and raising the downtrodden. His subjects were his royalty that he crowned in lyrics without judgment or irony. He gave us, beyond the Velvet Underground, Transformer and “Walk on the Wild Side,” Berlin, meditations to New York, homages to Poe and his mentor Andy Warhol and Magic and Loss. 

His consciousness infiltrated and illuminated our cultural voice. Lou was a poet, able to fold his poetry within his music in the most poignant and plainspoken manner. Oh, such a perfect day. Sorry. [Crying] Such a perfect day. I’m glad I spent it with you. You made me forget myself. I thought I was someone else. Someone good. You were good, Lou. You are good.

True poets must often stand alone. As a poet, he must be counted as a solitary artist. And so, Lou, thank you for brutally and benevolently injecting your poetry into music. And for this, we welcome you, Lou Reed, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

David Bowie: Lou Reed's Masterpiece is Metallica Collaboration Lulu

Lou_Reed_and_Metallica_-_Lulu

David Bowie: Lou Reed’s Masterpiece is Metallica Collaboration Lulu

Apparently David Bowie told Laurie Anderson that Lou Reed’s collaboration with Metallica, Lulu, was his masterpiece.  Anderson said so when accepting Lou Reed’s entry into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame.  I love that record.  It is an endless well of inspiration.  It’s epic, it’s dense, and it’s challenging.  I do understand why there are some people that will never get that record, as it is steeped in chaos at times, but they are missing out on a one of kind.  However, I never tire of hearing it.  As dark as it is, its poetic ambition is astounding. I find it stimulating and life affirming.  You don’t make such a thing unless you find the world an interesting place.  It’s a record that is never far from my mind.

Sad Song, When Tragedy Becomes Comedy

Today I was talking to my Dad on the phone about Dante’s Inferno.  Surprisingly we both found it funny.  This is a book where people’s souls are tortured in the most horrible ways imaginable for all eternity, often for no more than religious thought crimes or moments of passion.  The religious medieval mind was sure a strange one!  When things go that dark they, at some point, go through the looking glass and pass into the realm of absurdity, and then turn into comedy.

Lou Reed often makes me laugh in the same way, though I’m almost positive that he was in on the joke.  When he was asked about his album Berlin, which many deem the most depressing album of all time, he said he was just, “having fun.”  Whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul, I can put that album on, or any number of his albums, and find myself instantly cheered up.  The final song on it, Sad Song, is the cosmic punchline to the album.  I was going to describe it, but I found this description on YouTube by Adam Pendleton, the first comment at the time of writing, and I really enjoyed it:

So this poem is about an abusive husband, than his wife kills herself. Even so, he doesn’t really care. He half-heartedly chants “sad song.” than shrugs and moves on. Even after she’s gone he thinks of her as “wasting my time.” and that he was wrong for thinking she ever looked beautiful. He justifies his abuse, “somebody else would have broke both her arms.” At least that’s what I got out of it.

As Mark Twain once said, “Humor is tragedy plus time.”

No Church in the Wild

I’ve been listening to this track lately.  It’s batshit insane and I love it so.  Whether it is Lou Reed or the orchestral piece Sensemaya, I love music that sounds like it is going through the looking glass.  I of course love many many different types of music, of all different emotions, but there is something about when artists sound like a modern day Icarus, like they are flying to close to the sun, that appeals to me.

I’m not traditionally a huge hip hop fan.  Nothing appeals to me more in music than a unique singer singing their truth.  (Public Enemy has always been the one exception.)  However, I have tried to be more open to it lately, as I have often loved a lot of the production on hip hop records.  As a musician I have found myself being drawn to a lot of the stuff that Kanye produces because it is often quite musical.

Kill Your Sons

Austin is under the cloud of a dark and evil “shit mist”.  Gray, black, and brown are the only colors outside.  Everything is damp.  So to hopefully cheer everyone up, I thought I’d post some Lou Reed.  I always loved this performance, especially Lou’s guitar solo.  The song Kill Your Sons is about the time when Lou’s parents forced him to receive mental treatment, and in particular shock treatment.  Yet despite the seemingly depressing subject matter, Lou’s ability to take a matter head on without pity or sentimentalism always seems to lift my spirits.  Maybe it’s just me…

This period of his career, even though Kill Your Sons is originally off Sally Can’t Dance (Itself an underrated album in my book.), with Robert Quine is particularly worth checking out.  It consists of the albums The Blue Mask, Legendary Hearts, and Live in Italy.  All three of those albums are worth having if you are a fan of Lou Reed.  They are musically lean and mean, and feature some of his best lyrics.

Fun In the South

Day 3 in Louisiana – Headed towards New Orleans.  Due to the weather that has been going down, the countryside looks like West Virginia in winter, without the allure of the mountains.  “Slate grey Victorian skies” hang over leafless trees.  Cigarette butts and plastic bags dot the landscape all too frequently.   I have been reading Dante’s Inferno and listening to Lou Reed’s Sally Can’t Dance.  The soul is a flexible thing.  Mine is mirroring the landscape, slithering to the rhythm of the haunted South.  One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Oliver Stone’s Nixon.  “Nixon is the darkness reaching out for the darkness.”  Another is when Lou Reed said after making Berlin, an album many deem the most depressing of all time, that he was, “just having fun.”  That is the key and secret code to unlock it all: fun…

Lou Reed Animated

Lou Reed interviews have been animated for part of the PBS series Blank on Blank.  It is equal parts interesting, inspiring, hilarious, and bitchy, much like Reed’s career itself.  I am one that will be eternally thankful for Reed’s contribution to rock and pop music.  I might not agree with everything Lou Reed says in the above clip, but there is no doubt in my mind that he did elevate pop music, that he did infuse it with a literary quality that few have ever matched.  From the first Velvet Underground album to his last album with Metallica, he never quit pushing the limits of what was possible in rock music.  In between those two book ends he did everything from straight ahead pop music to avant-garde noise.  A true one of a kind.

Batshit Insane Vol. 1: Lulu

Lou_Reed_and_Metallica_-_Lulu

I love records that one can only describe as sounding “batshit insane”.  Where the artist seems as if they are out-crazying the din and the whirlwind of the Great Void.  Albums that trump death, even if the artists are alive and the albums don’t even have death as a central theme because, even if it is subconsciously, they know it is out there and they seem not to give a shit.  I am reminded of the character at the end of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle who dies, “lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.”  I also think of George Carlin, putting on a show making the batshit insanity of this world hilarious, and then ending his set by standing on one leg with his arms outstretched, daring to be smited.  These are albums where artistic fear is not only not present, it almost seems as if the artists are daring you not to like them.  Albums like this make me laugh out loud and warm my heart to its very foundation.  I could be having the worst day possible and when I put one of these records on I think, “Thank God they are out there.”  I wanted to write about several of these records to start 2015 out on the right foot.  My goal is to post at least one record a day for the next week.  I’m just having fun, like a child skipping through a field.  Entry #1:

Lulu – Lou Reed and Metallica – Maybe the most insane recording of all time.  So many people hate this record, but I love love love it with my whole being.  I don’t love it because people hate it, but because it seems like someone going as far out on a limb as they possibly could.  Lou Reed was apparently already suffering from the sickness that would eventually kill him.  Did he go out by reflecting on an extraordinary life or by begging forgiveness for past sins?  No, he went further out into the storm than he had ever gone before.  He was a warrior poet that went out into the jungle, that the rest of the village feared, and brought back strange truths.  This record is poetic, vulgar, bizarre, and heavy as fuck.  Based somewhat on the “Lulu” plays of the German dramatist Frank Wedekind, it deals with murder, Jack the Ripper, sadomasochistic sex, and a femme fetal.  And that is just the tip of the iceberg!  On the single The View Reed sings:

I want to see your suicide
I want to see you give it up
Your life of reason
I wanna see you in a coffin, your soul shaking
I want to have you doubting
Every meaning you’ve amassed

When I hear this album I can’t help but mentally be in Berlin’s Teirgarten on a dark and rainy day.  Yet, in case you think that this is just shock for shock value, the album ends with the incredibly poignant and heartbreaking Junior Dad, which casts multiple layers of meaning over the prior proceedings.  The song features, from the breakdown on out, lyrics that are some of my favorite lyrics of all time, lyrics that never cease to move me.  Even if you have no desire to check out this record, check out that song.  A poetic tour de force that shows that Reed was, on his last song on his last record, still a poet of incredible insight and depth.

Sunny, a monkey then to monkey
I will teach you meanness, fear and blindness
No social redeeming kindness
Or oh, state of grace

Would you pull me up
Would you drop the mental bullet
Would you pull me by the arm up
Would you still kiss my lips

Hiccup, the dream is over
Get the coffee, turn the lights on
Say hello to junior dad
The greatest disappointment
Age withered him and changed him
Into junior dad
Psychic savagery
The greatest disappointment
The greatest disappointment
Age withered him and changed him
Into junior dad

Work

Andy was a Catholic, the ethic ran through his bones
He lived alone with his mother, collecting gossip and toys
Every Sunday when he went to Church
He’d kneel in his pew and say, “It’s just work,
all that matters is work.”

He was a lot of things, what I remember most
He’d say, “I’ve got to bring home the bacon, someone’s got to bring home the roast.”
He’d get to the factory early
If you’d ask him he’d tell you straight out
It’s just work, the most important thing is work
No matter what I did it never seemed enough
He said I was lazy, I said I was young
He said, “How many songs did you write?”
I’d written zero, I’d lied and said, “Ten.”
“You won’t be young forever
You should have written fifteen”
It’s work, the most important thing is work
It’s work, the most important thing is work

“You ought to make things big
People like it that way
And the songs with the dirty words – record them that way”
Andy liked to stir up trouble, he was funny that way
He said, “It’s just work, all that matters is work”
Andy sat down to talk one day
He said decide what you want
Do you want to expand your parameters
Or play museums like some dilettante
I fired him on the spot, he got red and called me a rat
It was the worst word that he could think of
And I’ve never seen him like that
It’s just work, I thought he said it’s just work
Work, he said it’s just work

Andy said a lot of things, I stored them all away in my head
Sometimes when I can’t decide what I should do
I think what would Andy have said
He’d probably say you think too much
That’s ’cause there’s work that you don’t want to do
It’s work, the most important thing is work
Work, the most important thing is work

Work by Lou Reed and John Cale.  This song is from the excellent album Songs for Drella.  This is a tribute album the two did for Andy Warhol after Warhol’s death.  Drella was Warhol’s nickname.  It is a combination of Cinderella and Dracula.  The album as a whole is an incredibly powerful work in which the two share their recollections of Warhol and often sing from Warhol’s perspective.  One of the reasons that it is so emotionally moving is that it largely lacks sentimentality.  Warhol is presented as a real human being, faults and all.  One feels as if they are getting a look at the Warhol behind the pop culture figure that he has now become.  Often when someone influential dies mainstream society sands the edges off of them.  The Warhol presented here is actually more interesting here in his full humanity than the Warhol that we often see in TV and films.

I often think of this song because it is about the daily grind to create art.  David Milch talks about how one needs to be, “prepared to be inspired.”  Art is a work of passion, so no I’m not comparing it to digging ditches.  But it does take a certain persistence to create anything.  Warhol created an astonishing amount of work.  To do what he did took a lot of effort.  Because of his public persona it makes it easy to overlook the fact that he put countless hours into his craft.

Great artists like Warhol make creation seem easy.  Behind that fey outer shell was someone who possessed grit and determination.