A friend of mine just posted a cool link on Facebook.
Stop the presses!
No, this really is cool. It’s audio from a 1969 Velvet Underground show in Boston, accompanied by images from Godzilla movies. Thanks, Dangerous Minds dot net!
I should also thank my friend Chris in Austin for posting the link. Thanks, Chris!
This particular clip happens to feature “What Goes On,” a nifty tune from the VU’s third album, The Velvet Underground. According to Dangerous Minds, someone put a microphone in Lou Reed’s guitar amplifier that fateful night. The recording is Godzillian, indeed.
No vocals are audible here. Behind the din of Lou’s majestic flailing, you can hear Maureen Tucker playing the drums, and that’s about it.
For many, this is the essence of the VU’s greatness: Reed’s proto-punk guitar work and Tucker’s minimal, stunningly precise take on rock and roll drumming.
Sure, Lou wrote a bunch of songs about naughty things like heroin addiction and kinky sex. His only success before the Velvets was a minor hit called “The Ostrich,” a parody of dance crazes composed during his stint as an in-house songwriter for Pickwick Records.
Lou had had it with bubblegum and teenage kicks. He wanted to be taken seriously as an artist, and perhaps that’s one reason why he donned the spiky persona so many love to hate.
There are those, I’m sure, who will allege that it’s not a persona, that Reed is, in fact, a rude, self-important jerk.
I’ve never met Lou Reed. He could be the nicest guy in the world, for all I know.
It’s hard to get to know people. You can’t really get to know someone on Facebook. You can look at someone’s page until your eyeballs fall out, but it’s still a flat representation of that wonderfully three-dimensional entity we call a human being.
We tweak our stuff to make it more interesting on the internet (which connects us all, amen). We edit, prune and enhance. The things we omit from public view are just as telling as the things we publish.
Like it or not, most of us are in show business now.
I think it’s great.
I love to argue about Facebook with my friends. I have friends who loathe everything about the medium. Mention the F word and it’s on.
I have other friends who merely view Facebook in a dim light. For them, it’s another symptom of the General Lousiness of Everything, which includes (but is not limited to) dwindling attention spans, collapsing infrastructure, climatic malevolence, and politics.
Speaking of politics, there’s a delightful new bit of conventional wisdom floating around. In case you’ve missed it: The country has become ungovernable.
Yes, the United States of America is now an unruly five-year-old. It is simply beyond us to make America shut up and take a nap. We defeated fascism and communism, but this cranky brat is too much!
This is nonsense, of course. We live in a society where laws are plentiful and strictly enforced. The country isn’t trending toward anarchy or chaos. Anyone with a lick of sense can see what’s coming: More laws, more enforcement, more conformity, more control.
My version of the American dream is older than most. I long for a country where people are on the level and blush every once in a while.
I’m not sure when the American dream became equated with a prolonged series of material acquisitions that culminates in the purchase of the best possible funeral.
My dream is vastly different from, say, a dream of a deranged plutocracy with a shrinking middle class that votes, in large part and with gusto, against its own interests.
For me, Facebook is a daily reminder there’s still plenty of pioneer spirit in the world. It’s a small amphitheater where we take turns trying to make each other laugh, cry, sing or think.
Most of us are earnest, clumsy performers. But, lo and behold, we are playing.
Is it an artificial community? I don’t think so. I know most of my Facebook friends fairly well. At some point in my life (before I found myself living in the middle of nowhere) I shared flesh-and-blood experiences with them.
As social networkers, they may be silly or ironic or downright ornery at times, but they all seem to understand this particular window of instant communication and self-expression is almost too good to be true.
It’s hard to get to know people, and true friendships can be complex and exhausting. But those are old problems, not new ones.
I know I’ll always be a pilgrim and wayfarer, grateful for any chance gathering along the road.
John Hicks would like to be friends with Ernest Borgnine.