After the dissolution of The Velvet Underground, but before these demigods of underground rock established themselves as solo artists, Lou Reed, John Cale, and Nico decided to get together and play a gig in Paris. Though not the full blown Velvet Underground reunion many were hoping for, the gathering did yield what is undoubtedly a ruddy gem of musical history that, after years of shoddy bootlegs, was released Le Bataclan ‘72. Last summer when I was in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles to see a Velvet’s cover band, my good friend who is a terrifically talented avante garde classical composer passed me a copy of this recording. I wore it out for the first few months I had it in my possession, and as of late I’ve been returning to it on quiet nights at home. The fact that this is an acoustic set gives it a very intimate feel, and Lou Reed’s deadpan stage banter is hysterical. He introduces this song by saying, “This is a…uh…song from our first album that was termed unintelligible and it very well may be. It’s called ‘The Black Angel’s Death Song.’” Cale’s wild, droning viola is hypnotic and Lou Reed is, well, Lou Reed.
2. “Metal Moon” off the new 7” by Centipede Eest
Pittsburgh, PA’s most innovative band just put out a new 7” and they are going on tour to promote their forthcoming Resonator LP. This is the sound of four very talented, cerebral musicians letting loose in a very dirty way. This band truly defies classification. But who needs classification when you make sounds like this? I can’t wait until they make their way back to NYC.
3. “Hybrid Moments,” from Static Age, by The Misfits
A good, sonic kick in the face from a band that is steeped in old school horror kitsch. I turn this up as loud as it will go because that is really the only way to listen to The Misfits. Forget the fact that Misfits t-shirts are about as clichéd as CBGB’s paraphernalia. This song is a perfect example of raw, aggressive angst for its own sake—and sometimes that’s all you really need. I listen to this one when I want to relive the days when I just needed to something to rebel against.
4. “If I were a Carpenter,” by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash
This song was originally popularized by Bobby Darin, but the version by Johnny and June is my favorite. Sentimentality may be the true death knell of any artist, but the honest evocation of real sentiment is the about as brave (and tough to pull off) as it gets. Johnny and June manage to do just that with this timeless love song. It’s got that great country guitar twang, and the classic pairing of two legendary voices that have made a home in our collective musical memories. I listen to this one when I’m feeling romantic – it happens.
5. “Johnny Appleseed,” from Global a Go-Go, by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros
This song showcases the tough beauty of legendary frontman Joe Strummer before he passed in 2002. When he sings, Lord there goes a Buick ’49, black sheep of the angels riding, riding down the line, I can’t help but think of the man himself: a rough and tumble, streetwise lyricist who lets us glimpse the shine on the inside. This song is part folk protest wrapped up in a world music package, but it’s all soul. It makes me want to sing along, and it gives me chills down my spine when I hear it. The best thing about this song (and the album) is that it doesn’t force me to draw comparisons between his new sound and his original, unparalleled work with The Clash. Instead I can enjoy it for its own merits. Best played on a sunny day.