Lou Reed – Cycle Annie

Before Lou Reed became known for songs that declared heroin was his life and his wife, or a double album of feedback that sounds like seagulls dying in a casino (I happen to love the album, btw), he dabbled in pop music, recording first with a vocal group, then solo, then as a songwriter and artist at Pickwick.

Pickwick released a lot of cheap knock-offs where the goal was to emulate popular artists and music trends of the day.

Reed can be heard singing and playing on a few Pickwick releases that he wrote, or co-wrote, including this, Cycle Annie:

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White Light/White Heat

I try to imagine someone at Verve/MGM hearing the tapes for The Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat and thinking ‘well, there’s your single, right there.’

I suspect someone figured, ‘well, it’s under three minutes, so why not?’

But then if brevity was key, the label could have opted to push the b-side, Here She Comes Now, which is little more than two minutes, yet the lyric, which could be about sex, drugs, or rock and roll (‘she’s made out of wood’ is either a pithy dis of a woman or a celebration of Lou’s guitar)  is such that you again marvel that anyone put it on a 7” 45.

WLWH is meant to mimic the sensation of taking methamphetamine, but I can’t speak to that, being square and all.

What I can say is that it is a kind of murky, chugging, chaos, where you can barely make out the instrumentation, apart from the piano, which asserts itself as a percussive instrument, and that throbbing, droning bass by John Cale at the end that threatens to split your skull open.

I know most people think the VU was over when Moe Tucker sat out the Loaded sessions due to pregnancy, but for me, it ended when Lou Reed forced Cale out.

Simon & Garfunkel–Blessed

The only new composition on what became the second Simon and Garfunkel album, Sounds of Silence, Blessed is a churning, eerie sermon, offering blessings to all manner of folks from the meek and the lamb to the meth drinkers, pot sellers, and illusion dwellers.

These blessings, often incomplete, are interspersed with cries of ‘O Lord, why have you forsaken me’ from a soul clearly in distress.

It’s dark, stark, and disquieting, in part because the almost violent backing track sounds to my ears like it could have slotted easily on the first Velvet Underground album.

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