Mstation Book Reviews
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Thu, 30 Mar 2006

Velvet Underground

Clinton Heylin Ed., All Yesterday's Parties
The Velvet Underground in Print 1966-1971,
Da Capo Press

Maybe you weren't there; for the speed "vitamin" injections in the bum; for the freedom of calculated sleaze and sexual strangeness; for the inspiration of the outsider; for the chance to prove to yourself that Mom and Dad were wrong and that those substances and those people could be very bad for your health. And some people survived, and some didn't.

To some the Velvet Underground was the devil talking and to others an uplifting affirmation of the freedom of the street, the freedom to make mistakes, and the freedom to make a big, haunting noise. Here were the second incarnations of Lou Reed and the bad-tempered Welshman, John Cale, maybe the third for Nico (see her beauty in Fellini's La Dolce Vita), perhaps the second for Mo Tucker, the peacemaker, and I don't know about Sterling Morrison. Under Andy Warhol's wing they brought to a very small part of the world a musical experience that was both avant and immediate, haunting and uplifting -- uplifting because it took (a small number of) people to new places.

Nowadays, with the band long gone, the VU have CD's in a great many CD racks. The sort of people who had Joy Division, The Cure, and early Depeche Mode also had a few VU's in the 80's and 90's and now they're part of the classical pop repertoire.

So, it's fitting that a book like this should appear that gathers together contemporary writings on the VU complete with those who didn't get it or like it one little bit. The big-time fans are there too, and they include the likes of Sandy Pearlman and Lester Bangs. Also interesting is the editor's forward where he lays out the chronology of the thing and the way the journalism flowed, complete with references to the shackled and commercial Rolling Stone magazine. It is a little depressing that the likes of Creem and Crawdaddy have long since bitten the dust.

As Thurston Moore is quoted on the cover "A sweet kiss for Velvet freaks". It's an interesting chapter in pop history as well.

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