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Lou Reed and John Cale's 'Songs For Drella': Art's beating heart

Rock history is littered with band leaders who made game-changing contributions within the context of their groups, but struggled to make an impact on their own. For all the mind-blowing tunes he dealt out with the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger’s solo output is pretty embarrassing, and though some of his post-Talking Heads music has been legitimately wonderful, David Byrne has never been able to replicate the Heads’ collective magic.

Not Lou Reed. His work with the Velvet Underground is rightfully heralded as legendary, but his solo career was just as powerful and inspiring. Throughout his solo run, Reed felt free to explore all sides of his personality, from the theatrical glam of Transformer to the sweet subversive pop of Coney Island Baby to the brutal drone of Berlin. Not all of his dalliances were successful—not even contrarian hipsters cop to liking the notoriously unlistenable Metal Machine Music, and his Metallica tag-team Lulu is problematic at best—but he took bold chances and hit more than he missed. READ FULL STORY

Velvet Underground's John Cale on Lou Reed: 'I've lost my school-yard buddy'

Though they founded the Velvet Underground together and collaborated on and off for nearly half a century, Lou Reed and John Cale had a relatively contentious relationship over the course of their intertwined careers. (As recently as earlier this year, Cale expressed consternation over Reed reviving their Andy Warhol tribute project Songs For Drella.)

But that was put aside following the news of Reed’s passing. Cale took to his Facebook page yesterday to express his thoughts on his former bandmate in the wake of his death. “The world has lost a fine songwriter and poet,” Cale wrote. “I’ve lost my ‘school-yard buddy.’”

Reed, Cale, Sterling Morrison and drummer Maureen Tucker launched the Velvet Underground in the mid 1960s and produced two albums together—1967′s The Velvet Underground and Nico and 1968′s White Light/White Heat—before Cale was replaced by Doug Yule for the band’s 1969 self-titled album. Cale and Reed clashed over control of the band and its direction, with Cale always trying to pull more and more into the droning sounds of tracks like “Venus In Furs.”

Since leaving the Velvet Underground, Cale had a moderately successful solo career (his signature album, 1973′s Paris 1919, is a classic of the genre) and has also done well as a producer, primarily for late former VU chanteuse Nico.

In 1989, Reed and Cale came together following the death of mutual friend and mentor Andy Warhol. The pair had not spoken to one another for years before Warhol’s memorial service in 1987, and they reunited in 1990 to write a song cycle about Warhol called Songs For Drella. Though they didn’t tour, they did make a concert film shot by ace cinematographer Ed Lachman, which is hard to find but well worth seeing. Cale and Reed last worked together on the Velvet Underground reunion tour in 1993.

Reed passed away yesterday, October 27. The cause of death has still yet to be announced, though he had recently undergone surgery for a liver transplant.

John Cale celebrates the music of Nico with Kim Gordon, Greg Dulli, Yeasayer, and more

Christa Päffgen was better known to the world as Nico, the German-born art-rock chanteuse who lent her haunting vocals to the Velvet Underground’s most seminal work and carved out a deeply influential solo career. Though she passed away nearly 25 years ago, her work (especially The Velvet Underground & Nico and her 1967 solo debut Chelsea Girl) still echoes with incredible resonance. Her style inspired multiple generations of Goth acts, quirky-voiced art belters like Bjork, and filmmakers like Wes Anderson (who used two Chelsea Girl recordings during key moments in The Royal Tennenbaums; it could be argued that Gwyneth Paltrow’s character in that movie was at least partially inspired by Nico herself). 

Friend and frequent collaborator John Cale, a founding member of the Velvet Underground and producer of several Nico solo albums, recognizes her impact better than anybody. That is why Cale produced last night’s show Life Along the Borderline: A Tribute to Nico at the Brooklyn Academy of Music as part of their Next Wave Festival. For a sense of how deeply Nico’s songs have been felt, one need only look at the lineup of guests and collaborators who filled BAM’s Gilman Opera House: Sonic Youth founder Kim Gordon, Sharon Van Etten, Afghan Whigs frontman Greg Dulli, the Kills singer Alison Mosshart, Joan as Police Woman, Peaches, and Brooklyn indie groovers Yeasayer.

Nico’s songs offer a lot of unique opportunities: Most of them are made up of very few elements, which allowed many of last night’s interpreters to deconstruct those elements and glue them back together at strange angles. READ FULL STORY

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