Picture this: The year is 1998. It is Thanksgiving weekend. My mother and her friend have picked me and my friend up from college to bring us to the Thanksgiving feast. We’re in the mom-mobile (similar to the Pope-mobile, but less stylish) riding on I-65 between Montgomery and Birmingham Alabama. I pop in Lou Reed’s Transformer album and “Walk on the Wild Side” begins to play.
Just as Lou sings “never lost her head, even when she was giving head” mom freaks.
“Did he just say what I think he said?”
Me mumbling something, quickly ejecting the tape wondering how I forgot the depravity on this tape.
“Mathew, I can’t believe you’d listen to something like this. That’s disgusting.”
I apologized over and over as I tried to find something clean and pleasant, like Hootie and the Blowfish.
To this day my mom won’t let me forget that moment, or the time she read the lyrics on the cover of Jane’s Addictions self titled album.
I still listen to both albums. I still find meaning in artistic expression that doesn’t necessarily fit into my own neat little morality.
Lou Reed always had a way of singing about the darker personalities; pimps, transvestites, drug pushers and anyone else who lives on the outskirts of normal society. And he did it with great art, influencing countless musicians behind him.
This is what rock is supposed to be. Two guitars, bass and drums. No frills, all rock.
The show kicks off with a thumping “White Light/White Heat” that makes me want to grab my leather jacket, shave my head, and kick somebody’s ass.
After that they play “something off the new album” which turns out to be “Vicious.” It’s played to perfection and is something even mom could enjoy.
On “Heroin” Lou remarks on the irony of the song being banned in the early days (so much so that they couldn’t even advertise the album) and now they’re going to play it on the radio. We get the “rock version” of the song which means a lot more guitar and less distorted violin which makes for something a little more listenable, but it loses the sharp edge the songs takes in the studio version.
“Heroin” is probably the first Velvet Underground song I ever heard. They had it on the soundtrack to the movie about the Doors – an album me and my friend Candy listened to so many times we had every note memorized. We used to play a game during “Heroin” and “The End” to see who could get each line, each note exactly perfect. I loved that song. Still do.
Later we come to a first in my “Bootleg Country” series. Lou sings “Satellite of Love” just as he did with Bono on the U2 bootleg. I’ve now got bootleg carry over. This is something I suspect will happen a lot before the series is finished. Unfortunately I don’t particularly like the song, and find myself skipping it on both versions.
“Satellite’s” bass line morphs into “Walk on the Wild Side” with an uproar of cheers from the crowd and a little smirk on my face. Sorry mom, I still dig the crap out of that song.
Some versions of this tape are listed as having an interview with Lou in the middle of the show. As it was taped for a radio program that seems logical, but my copy doesn’t have the interview so we’ll continue with the music.
Actually, the source material lists the radio station as the venue, that and considering the under an hour performing time I suspect this show was actually performed in an auditorium in the radio station itself.
It is a short set, but a good one. There are only a couple of songs I don’t really care for, the aforementioned “Satellite of Love” and “Berlin.” Maybe that’s because I’m not really familiar with either song, or that they are both slow songs during an otherwise rocking set. The rest of the songs are straight ahead rock n roll and pretty much take me to the places I’d like to go with Lou Reed.
White Light White Heat
I'm Waiting For My Man
Walk It Talk It
Satellite of Love
Walk On the Wild Side
I'm So Free
Rock 'n' Roll