Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – L

This week goes out to LL Cool J and his debut album “Radio”.
Lou Reed – Rock n Roll Animal

When this album was released in 1974 I was not much of a Lou Reed fan, and, with a few exceptions, not a fan of live records. Being at a concert was one thing but most live albums left me cold.

The Velvet Underground were a bit of a mystery to me. I had heard their name tossed about in the same breath as Captain Beefheart and all the hipsters spoke of the influence they had on the early seventies scene. It was once said that everyone who bought a Velvets album formed a band. I knew about Lou Reed as “Walk On The Wild Side” was a huge hit in 1972 and he seemed to hang out a lot with Alice Cooper, David Bowie and Iggy Pop as their pictures were always appearing in “Rock Scene”, “Creem” and “Circus”. I am sure is was Lou’s association with my A-Team of cool that inspired me to buy this record. The cover was pretty cool with a heavily made up Reed looking New York scary.

With the exception of “White Light/White Heat” and “Sweet Jane”  I didn’t know the songs on the album. “White Light/White Heat” was familiar as Bowie had been performing it for a couple of years and Mott The Hoople had recorded a pretty cool version of “Sweet Jane“.  I did not really know the original versions of either of those songs and equated them with the aforementioned artists. I also didn’t recognize any of the band members but soon realised these guys were world class (and would later learn of their Toronto, Bob Ezrin and Alice Cooper links).

The five-song album opens with “Intro/Sweet Jane”. “Sweet Jane” was from the Velvet Underground 1970 album “Loaded”, however, it is this version that brings the song to life. Guitarists Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter soar on the intro with each of them isolated in perfect stereo on the right and left channel, with bassist Prakash John snaking right up the middle along with drummer Whitey Glan and keyboardist (and future TV show theme composer) Ray Colcord. At around the 3:20 mark Wagner and Hunter start to tear in to the chords of “Sweet Jane” and about ten seconds later you can hear the crowd erupt as Reed struts on stage in his beloved New York City. It is a magic moment perfectly captured. The band then goes in to a 13 minute version of the Velvet’s classic “Heroin” from the 1967 album The Velvet Underground with Nico, better known as the Andy Warhol “banana” cover.  This version peaks and crashes much like I image the drug does. Reed’s vocals  live bring to life the pain and rush of the subject matter and the band takes him on a journey that builds and bottoms out at all of the right times. It is stunning.

The second side of the album contains “White Light/White Heat” from The Velvets second album, “Lady Day” from Lou’s 1973 solo album “Berlin” and an extended version of “Rock n Roll” (not to be confused by Zeppelin’s song of the same name). Once again, stellar performances and a band that is at their absolute peak. Lots of love for the second side of the album but the grooves on Side A have long been worn down.

The core of the band would soon leave Reed and hook-up as the studio and live band for Alice Cooper beginning with “Welcome To My Nightmare”. And, of course, The Cowboy Junkies would kick off their career with their interpretation of “Sweet Jane”.

Laurie Anderson – O Superman

I love when the alphabet lets me write about a couple. Lou Reed married fellow New York avant-garde artist Laurie Anderson back in 2008. It seems both and odd and perfect fit.

Laurie Anderson‘s “O Superman” is a polarizing song. With its “ha ha ha ha ha ha ha’s” , vocoder and minimal instrumentation it is a love/hate record. You can’t just kind of like it, you either love it or despise it. It stopped me in my tracks the first time I heard it and have loved it

ever since. It was on Laurie’s 1981 album “Big Science” and although it did not make a dent in the North American charts it climbed to number 2 in the U.K.. The eight minute plus song is loosely based on the opera “Le Cid” by Jules Massent with the lyrics updated to include answering machine messages and the US Postal service.

The Long Ryders – Looking For Lewis & Clark 

The Long Ryders were both ahead and behind their time. The alt country band was fusing rock, punk and country back in 1983. Inspired equally by Gram Parsons, The Byrds and the Sex Pistols the boys merged many a style in to a style of their own.

If there is one song that encapsulates that sound it is the brilliant “Looking for Lewis and Clark” from their 1984 “State Of Our Union” album. Crunchy chords lead in to a yelp followed by a perfect rock’n’roll whistle into the first verse. The song attacks government corruption before name checking Tim Hardin and Gram Parsons and then reverts back to governmental foreign affairs in verse three. Throw in a little steal from “Louie Louie”, add a great harp solo and just keep the whole band firing on all cylinders and the end result is a classic, and un-heralded, rock’n’roll classic.

Although they have only performed a handful of shows in the last eight years there is a rumour going around that they are looking to tour next summer.

Lulu – To Sir With Love

Sitting around having pints at the Balmy Beach Club  the other evening the oft-mentioned Andrew Matheson and Larry Macrae, along with my two regular readers Heather and Alex, we were playing a rousing game of rock trivia when Andrew let it be known that John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) had arranged “To Sir With Love” for Lulu. It was a fact I was unaware of but a little research has proven this to be correct, kind of. The original soundtrack version was arranged by Mike Leander but the single version, which became the chart-topping hit was arranged by John Paul Jones. There is also a question as to whether the bass player in the song is Jones as he, along with Jimmy Page, often did sessions for the song’s producer Mickie Most. Lots of discussion on the web about this one but most signs point to no.

If you have never seen “To Sir With Love” do yourself a favour and find it. Sidney Poitier is fantastic as Mark Thackeray the East London based school teacher. Set in 1967 it sits somewhere between “Blackboard Jungle” and “Stand And Deliver” as timely high school movies. The scene when Babs Pegg (Lulu) sings the title track to Thackeray is pure magic. On a rock’n’roll side note if you look carefully you will see future rocker Michael Des Barres in a small role. Des Barres spent time with Silverhead, Detective, Chequered Past and Power Station as well as playing Dog in the band Scum Of The Earth on a classic episode of WKRP.

Loose Ends

Lots of parties and events as we roll through December. There will be a lot of talent on stage next Tuesday night at The Garrison in Toronto as Rebekah Higgs, Robyn Dell’Unto and Graydon James And The Young Novelists (plus surprise guests) get together for a special Christmas show. Only $10, or, even better, 3 non-perishable food items.

The next night we will be rocking at the Bovine for the NXNE Film Festival Christmas party with Tupperware Remix Party and one of our new bands M.T.L as well as a couple of classic rock ‘n’ roll movies in the back room.

And if you are in Toronto and looking for a cool rock’n’roll dinner please visit our friends at Shanghai Cowgirl 538 Queen Street West. It is right beside The Bovine and around the corner from Cherry Cola’s.

We now have an email where all of us here at Don’t Believe A Word I Say can be contacted dbawis@rogers.com. Please use it to ask questions, tell us what you would like to read about, links you would like to share, and, let’s hear what you have to say.

Cameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener,  The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.

2 Responses to “Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock – L”

  1. Great Post! Rock and Roll Animal is on my list of essential 70’s listening. Also Bowie and Iggy Pop.

    Loved your summation. This was the first Reed Album I bought back in 1974,(also at Bowie’s suggestion) and it remains my favourite.

  2. […] live album ever recorded was “Rock’n’Roll Animal”. In fact, I wrote about that album right here at DBAWIS a few years back. When I put together the “50 4 50” compilation for my […]

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