Friday, January 4, 2008

The cool of the uncool, a study of sm(art) rock

One is known simply as the supreme art-hipster band to redefine true rock; one the androgynous self-reinventor with a knack to make the outsider freaks the norm and the third was defined by a madman’s ambitions that drove them to construct a Wall of their own performance and sound.
These three brilliant collectives unquestionably seared an indelible mark in music, art, expressionism and the ability to sell to ‘cool’?

It’s not just music, man, it’s a scene!

A look at The Velvet Underground, David Bowie and Pink Floyd.

And Tonite’s Opening Act, The Velvet Underground

Lou Reed is one dark shades wearing cool character. All the ways that the masses might have seen him as offbeat is that which drew the small minority to make him the king of the new beat. Lou is a man with foresight. He has charisma, and even more importantly he understands the understated. A poet of the people with slanted use of imagery and words, rock music was on the brink of a literary education and Lou would be the professor with tenure.
It was the crowning pinnacle of acid washed guitars and longhaired gods, but Lou is already one step ahead, and one to the left. Lou’s subtle ways rubbed elbows with another kindred spirit and student classicist who just so happened to be a muse of the drone, John Cale. The two gain an immediate admiration and appreciation for each other and their vibe was contagious to those in the ‘know.’ Small sessions with a makeshift cast of assorted musicians broke into a new tempo when Mr. New York art scene, Andy Warhol caught glimpse of the poetic, from the streets lead singer and the guitar man who refused to play what everyone else was doing. Warhol takes the lads under his expansive wings of the right time/right place for art and soon The Velvet Underground are solidified as the band of New York.
Warhol garners much credit in the efforts to make The Velvets a household name, but his efforts would have been for naught if it were not for the groundbreaking creations by the band themselves. Their songs were dirty, driven by the Harlem Renaissance / Beatnik word revolution, all with that signature dark echo of a guitar. As innovative as the Velvets are in their own right they needed Warhol’s name to place their name on the lips of the kids and with that came the obligation to allow Nico to share the stage. All issues aside The Velvet Underground and Nico is about as perfect of a first album can be, never mind that it was also the first album of an entire new direction for the future of rock ‘n roll.
It’s a lack of fear, a confidence in the unknown and an appreciation in presentation. As most do tell a story of sorts, Lou’s songs weren’t just something most could find a way to relate to or enjoy, they were the harsh reality of the world we already knew. The back alley dealers, the streets that we all cross, the relationships we all endure and sense of despair that comes from a busy, lonely existence. Lou speaks New York. Lou is New York.
The band’s songs are without regard to those that came before and at the same time the true essence of the pure and realness of its origins. As it comes and goes with art, rarely do does one invent, simply re-invent. Lou and Cale are not one’s to bolster a sense of ownership for their music, instead they paid homage in all they did…you just need to be hip enough to pick up on it.
Throughout their run the Velvets grew from private circles to underground heroes, but never reaching much further beyond. It is only fitting. The mainstream was not ready and it took the artists of the next generation re-inventing their mastery to bring the Velvets importance to the collective conscience.
But it isn’t just bold songs, it is an image, reflection, a way. The Velvet Underground is noted as much for their wardrobe as they are for their act. Their act is legend in itself however. They, as no one had ever, brought art to music. Casting projected images onto, behind and beyond the band. The swirls of the acid bands gives way to Warhol images of Americana and the songs drive home.

The Velvets find a friend…friend finds a sound…sound finds an identity.

The Rise and Fall of David Bowie and glam rockers from Mars

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