Results for The Velvet Underground

interviews

John Cale

John Cale is known for many things: co-founding The Velvet Underground, producing major albums for The Stooges and Patti Smith, and doing one of the best covers of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." So when John Cale was touring in support of his most recent album Black Acetate in 2006, Jim and Greg wanted him to stop by the Sound Opinions studio to be their first guest on public radio. Now almost 100 episodes later, we wanted to revisit that terrific conversation.

During Cale's visit, the three men covered everything from Brian Eno to Lou Reed to Snoop Dogg. And, Cale played two of his songs live: "Set Me Free" and "Gravel Drive," which he names as his favorite track on the record. He explains to Jim and Greg that this song was his way of talking to his daughter about some complicated issues, and why“Dad”sometimes wasn‘t around. Greg notes that despite Cale’s admitted anger, and his undeniable punk rock attitude, a number of the songs on Black Acetate are equally heartfelt and beautiful.

Go to episode 98

John Cale

When John Cale first visited Sound Opinions in 2005 as part of our debut on public radio, he shocked us all by name-dropping "Snoop Dogg," "The Neptunes" and the "MPC." These influences have come to fruition on the Welshman's latest recording Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood. And Jim and Greg were excited to have him come by the studios to perform the new material. Plus, there's no lack of things to talk about with Cale, considering his decades-long career that includes founding The Velvet Underground and producing music by the likes of Patti Smith and The Stooges.

Go to episode 363

Ron Asheton of The Stooges

A couple of weeks ago Jim and Greg talked about the punk pioneers The Ramones. This week it's time to look at the other pillar of punk: The Stooges. In the late '60s and early '70s the band released three major albums, and then disintegrated into drugs and power struggles. Now, almost 35 years later, three of the four original members reunited to record a new album, The Weirdness. Jim and Greg invite guitarist Ron Asheton to talk about the band's history and how they came back together.

Lead singer Iggy Pop (James Osterberg), guitarist Ron Asheton, drummer Scott Asheton and bassist Dave Alexander formed The Stooges in Ann Arbor, MI in 1967. They were signed to Elektra Records a year later after opening for“big brother band”the MC5. There they had their first self-titled album produced by John Cale of The Velvet Underground. Jim and Greg talk to Ron Asheton about the band's first time in the studio (and their first in-studio strike), and learn about how they developed their signature, primitive sound. They point to the propulsive Bo Diddley-inspired rhythms of songs like "1969."

The Stooges went on to record Fun House, which reflected their love of James Brown and John Coltrane, and then things started to fall apart. Iggy went on to form a relationship with David Bowie (and with heroin), and got the band signed to Columbia Records. Ron Asheton was bounced down to bassist, however. He explains that their subsequent release, Raw Power, is a good album, but not indicative of their true sound.

Go to episode 66

Glenn Kotche

This week Jim and Greg are joined by percussionist extraordinaire Glenn Kotche. He is best known as one of the members of Wilco, but he also has a number of side projects, and a new solo album entitled Mobile. Glenn joins our hosts to discuss all things drumming and to play some of his inventive music. What makes Glenn's drumming style so special is that it ranges from the avant-garde to the straight-ahead rock he does with Wilco, yet it's always in service of the song. You can hear his solo tracks "Monkey Chant" and "Projections of (What) Might" during the show.

After playing for a bit, Glenn gives our hosts a little tour around his kit. Some of Glenn's toys include crotales, a glockenspiel, contact mics (which amplify and alter the drum sounds), and a superball mallet (or half of it). The drummer also has a prepared snare drum which is affixed with different springs and wires, similar to a John Cage prepared piano. He also stole his wife's fruit basket, which the two received as a wedding present. But, perhaps the most unusual percussion instruments that Glenn uses are light-sensitive toy crickets that anyone can pick up in Chinatown.

The discussion ends with a conversation about some of the best (and worst) rock drummers. Some of Jim, Greg, and Glenn's favorites include: Mo Tucker of the Velvet Underground, Meg White of The White Stripes, Elliott Smith, Levon Helm of The Band, and Keith Moon of The Who (despite the accusations of overplaying).

Go to episode 42
specials

Rock Fan's Guide to Jazz

Charles Mingus If you've had trouble getting into jazz, you are not alone – even Jim and Greg took a while to figure it out. Jazz is an iconic product of the African-American experience, but there are a variety of barriers of entry that rock listeners often have to overcome. To begin with, jazz has existed for twice as long as rock, meaning that there's an intimidating ocean of music to navigate. That's why we've enlisted the help of jazz writer and curator John Corbett to create the Rock Fan's Guide to Jazz. John refutes the notion that jazz is“fuddy-duddy”music from a bygone era. Instead, it's an exhilarating, joyful genre that continues to develop today.

There are many potential entry points to jazz that share certain sensibilities with rock music. The hard bop stylings of Sonny Rollins, for example, have a sense of forward propulsion familiar to rock fans. Even though some listeners think of swing as polite, genteel music, John can cite examples of Duke Ellington recordings that have the verve of any good rock guitar solo. Rock and jazz intersect in a very real sense in the jazz-fusion records of Miles Davis in the late 1960s. And bands from The Velvet Underground to Sonic Youth have drawn inspiration from the boundary-pushing free jazz of Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler. But jazz is really best appreciated live, so fortunately there are many exciting young jazz artists performing today who exhibit a punk rock sensibility.

Go to episode 491

1967

Not to make you feel old, but it's been 45 years since the "Summer of Love," the year of the hippie, and some of the most influential music in rock history. So Jim and Greg have decided to look back at the watershed year 1967. Television viewers were treated to memorable performances by The Who, The Doors and The Rolling Stones. Aretha Franklin recorded her famous Atlantic release "Respect." Fans from around the country gathered in California for the Monterey International Pop Music Festival. But during this episode Jim and Greg focus on the single LP's that changed the way people thought of the studio and a collection of songs. 1967 gave birth to the idea of album as art.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club band is, of course, the most prominent example of studio innovation on album in '67. Recorded at Abbey Road by George Martin on mono, stereo and four-track recorders, Sgt. Pepper's was a critical and commercial success. But, as they stated during our Revolver Classic Album Dissection, Jim and Greg don‘t think it’s The Beatles‘ best. Nor is it the best album of that year. They’d point people to the landmark recordings The Piper at the Gates of Dawn by Pink Floyd, Forever Changes by Love and The Velvet Underground and Nico by The Velvet Underground. Jim and Greg talk about these albums' innovations in terms of recording and artistic ambition. They also hear from Joe Boyd, who produced Pink Floyd's first single in 1967 and Jac Holzman, who discovered Love and signed them to Elektra.

Go to episode 323

Remembering Lou Reed

Rock legend, poet and Velvet Underground founder Lou Reed died on October 27 at age 71. That week Jim honored him with the addition of the Velvet Underground track"Candy Says" to the Desert Island Jukebox. But, this influential singer, songwriter and guitarist deserves more than just a few minutes of our time. He helped shape 50 years of rock music, perhaps more than any single figure, according to our hosts. And so they wanted to explore why news of his death made such waves and why fans are still mourning. The best way to do this, of course, is through the music, and these five albums in particular:

Go to episode 417
classic album dissections
The Velvet Underground & Nico (45th Anniversary Edition)The Velvet Underground & Nico available on iTunes

The Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground & Nico

According to Jim and Greg, few albums are worthier of the Classic Album Dissection treatment than The Velvet Underground's 1967 debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico. Songwriter and guitarist Lou Reed teamed with avant-garde violist/bassist John Cale in the mid-'60s to form the core of the band, joined by guitarist Sterling Morrison and drummer Maureen Tucker. The sonic assault of their live performances caught the attention of Andy Warhol. Warhol provided the funding for their debut album in 1966 and created the iconic banana cover art. He also insisted on featuring German chanteuse Nico on several tracks.

The Velvet Underground & Nico was released in March 1967 against a backdrop of psychedelia, the Summer of Love, and Sgt. Pepper's Loney Hearts Club Band. Its noisy, stark depictions of junkies and sadomasochism in New York City didn‘t fit well with that San Francisco feeling, and the album didn’t sell. But over the past half century, its reputation has grown to the point that, as Jim and Greg argue, it's become the most influential album in rock history. Each track has launched an entire genre, from the goth rock of "Venus in Furs" to the noise rock of "European Son" to the proto-shoegaze in "Heroin." It's hard to imagine bands like Sonic Youth, the Ramones, or Radiohead existing without The Velvet Underground & Nico. On the album's 50th anniversary, Jim and Greg tell the history of the band, give a detailed examination of each of the album's songs, and share their thoughts on its legacy.

Go to episode 597
genre dissections

Shoegaze

Today Jim and Greg dive into "Shoegaze." In the late '80s and early '90s, this sound developed in the U.K. and was typified by lots of guitar, lots of atmosphere and lots of noise. But while the height of Shoegaze only lasted a few years, its influence looms large today. As Jim and Greg explain, the artists of this movement were students of rock history. They looked at the guitar as something more than a traditional blues instrument. Those hunks of wire and wood could act as a sound machine. You can trace a line from bands like The Velvet Underground and Dinosaur Jr. to key Shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine, Lush, Ride and Slowdive. And their desire to marry rock drive with otherworldly ambience is what carries the genre into the present moment. It's also important to note that while the term“shoegazer”began as derisive-musicians staring at their shoes are no fun to watch-seeing these acts live was really a special, albeit loud, experience.

Go to episode 371
reviews
The Boxing MirrorThe Boxing Mirror available on iTunes

Alejandro Escovedo The Boxing Mirror

Eno's occasional partner in crime, John Cale, also makes an appearance in this week's show, having produced the latest release from Alejandro Escovedo. The Boxing Mirror is the ninth album from the musician, who can only be described as part-punk, part-country and part-rock. Escovedo grew up admiring the Velvet Underground, and Jim and Greg agree that the match between him and Cale is one made in heaven. Jim has never been a major fan of Escovedo's singer/songwriter style, but he thinks this is his best solo effort, perhaps due to Escovedo's newly found lust for life. He survived a life-threatening outbreak of Hepatitis C a couple years ago, and the music demonstrates that he is indeed very happy to be alive. Greg agrees and compares Escovedo's renewal to that experienced by Neil Young. Both albums give The Boxing Mirror a Buy It and urge fans try to see Escovedo, along with musicians like Susan Voelz, perform live.

JimGreg
Go to episode 23
The ShipThe Ship available on iTunes

Brian Eno The Ship

If you‘ve ever listened to Sound Opinions, you’ve learned one thing – Jim loves himself some Brian Eno. Eno has worn many hats over his long career, starting as a member of Roxy Music, collaborating with artists like David Bowie, and producing commercial successes for U2, Talking Heads, and Coldplay. His own solo output has varied wildly in style, recording pop albums in the '70s and basically inventing ambient music. His latest work, The Ship, is a concept album about the Titanic and the slaughter of World War I. Greg says Eno is finally merging his pop and ambient music, resulting in one of his best albums yet. He's freed himself from traditional song structures and rhythms to create cinematic images filled with orchestral synthesizer colors. Greg gives it a Buy It, impressed that Eno is still coming up with new ways to express himself. In a shocking turn of events, Jim is less impressed. He thinks that Eno's voice is the strongest tool in his arsenal, yet here he's burying it under the mix and fussing with Vocoders. Jim loves some ambient Eno, but feels he's done it better than on The Ship. But Jim says the doo-wop inflected cover of The Velvet Underground's "I'm Set Free" is amazing, earning The Ship a Try It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 545
You & MeYou and Me available on iTunes

The Walkmen You and Me

The Walkmen recently released their fourth proper album called You and Me. The band has always presented a rather boozy mood, so it's fitting that Jim describes this album as about as fun as a hangover. He compares their sound to Tom Waits meets The Velvet Underground, but doesn't think they pull it off. Jim is also not impressed by the instrumentation and gives You and Me a Trash It. Greg thinks The Walkmen do a great job of creating a murky, lost in space vibe, but wishes there was more variety. He thinks only about half of the songs are successes, and would therefore recommend listeners Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 145
In BetweenIn Between available on iTunes

The Feelies In Between

The New Jersey rock band The Feelies has just released their sixth album in four decades called In Between. The group is noted for its cohesion and consistency over its long tenure. Greg thoroughly enjoys this record, and admires The Feelies‘ skill in combining elements of rock with zen and existential messaging ("make a plan, let it be.") He also appreciates the band’s ability to perform as one voice, which speaks to how close these guys are. Greg gives it a Buy It. Jim couldn't agree more, and he expresses his deep admiration and love for The Feelies. He finds this record to be well worth the wait, and praises the group for their combination of the best sounds of The Velvet Underground and Brian Eno (ding!) Without hesitation, Jim gives In Between an enthusiastic Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 588
dijs

Jim

“She Cracked”Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers

The opportunity to play Desert Island DJ goes to Jim this week. Inspired by his discussion with Eddie Argos from Art Brut, Jim chooses a song by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers to add to the Desert Island Jukebox. The Modern Lovers, who were hugely influenced by the Velvet Underground, would all go on to be a part of great projects: David Robinson started drumming for The Cars, Jerry Harrison played keyboards with Talking Heads, and Ernie Brooks went on to play with a number of bands, including Rhys Chatham's guitar army (discussed a few weeks ago). Richman took some bizarre turns, promising to only play music fit for a baby's ear, but the band's 1976 self-titled debut remains a masterpiece, according to Jim. He understands why Argos was so inspired by Richman's songwriting. Both men salute the“everyman dweeb”who struggles with getting girls and respect. While "Roadrunner" is perhaps the band's best known song, Jim decides to go with "She Cracked" as this week's DIJ pick.

Go to episode 24

Jim

“Frenzy”The Fugs

This past weekend, Jim was talking with someone about his book about The Velvet Underground. That person said, "How can you talk about the Velvet Underground without mentioning The Fugs!?" Well, he's right. The Fugs were hugely influential on the VU, and also paved the way for the "freak folk" acts of today. None were half as freaky as The Fugs, who came from the beat scene of the 1950's. These writers and musicians made crude, but wonderful protopunk rock, and Jim chooses their track "Frenzy" to take with him to the desert island this week.

Go to episode 204
lists

Musical Grand Slams

With Chicago baseball trying to keep their heads up during this World Series, we thought we'd inject a little joyous noise into this baseball season. Jim and Greg team up with Len Kasper, TV voice of the Chicago Cubs, to pay homage to their version of a Grand Slam. We all know how this works in baseball (though sports-phobe Jim DeRogatis is still getting the hang of the rules). A batter hits a home run with bases loaded, sending four players to home plate. In music, Jim and Greg define a grand slam as four masterpiece albums in a row. Which artists have achieved this rarest of rock feats? Jim and Greg sit down to compare stats.

Go to episode 518

Anti-Love Songs

With the ghost of St. Valentine looming over us all, this week's show is dedicated to those music fans for whom "Love Stinks." Jim and Greg discuss their favorite anti-love songs and hear some listeners' picks. Here are some songs to get you out of the mood for Valentine's Day.

Go to episode 11

Shelved Albums

On this week's show, Jim and Greg stick it to the man — or, more specifically, the record companies. They discuss the phenomenon of major labels pulling the plug on established artists. The most recent victim is Nellie McKay, whose album Pretty Little Head was denied release by Sony Music. McKay wanted to release one version, Sony wanted to release another, and after the“Pretty Little”singer told her label to take it or leave it, they left it. Of course, upon hearing the advance copy, our hosts can't necessarily blame them.

Whether you enjoy the music or not, McKay's situation does pose an interesting question of how much creative control an artist has while under major label contract. In Jim's words:“As long as there have been major labels, there have been executives deciding that they know better than the artist.”What are some of the other lost albums that fell prey to the big bad record company? Jim and Greg list off some of their favorites.

  • Butthole Surfers, After the Astronaut
  • Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
  • Brian Eno, My Squelchy Life
  • Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
  • The Velvet Underground, VU
Go to episode 10

Grand Slam Allstars

Go to episode 383
news

Music News

Jim and Greg kick off the show by celebrating the life of another great artist: saxophonist and free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman, dead at the age of 85. While critics sometimes loosely toss around phrases about musicians changing music, in this case, it is an undisputed truth. Coleman forever set jazz on an entirely new path, with an influence spreading into the world of rock, as well. Artists like Patti Smith, The Velvet Underground, and Sonic Youth all stood in the shadow of Coleman's innovations. He developed a musical philosophy he called "harmolodics," which set aside the traditional approach of adhering to chord changes and instead created intricately layered melodies that favored each instrument equally. Though sometimes dismissed as dissonant noise, Greg contends that Coleman had one of the greatest ears for melody in music. As an example of Ornette's unique approach to ensemble playing, Greg plays "Jump Street" from Ornette Coleman's 1979 album Of Human Feelings.

Go to episode 499
world tours

New Zealand

The Clean

Lorde is just the biggest name in a long line of important musicians coming out of New Zealand. So this week, Jim and Greg fire up the jet to take the Sound Opinions World Tour to the other side of the world. As a guide, they're joined by Wellington-based critic Nick Bollinger, host of The Sampler on Radio New Zealand and author of several books including the recent memoir Goneville.

They focus on an influential era in kiwi rock emerging in the early 1980s known as the Dunedin Sound that's closely associated with the legendary New Zealand indie label Flying Nun Records. Based around the southern university city Dunedin, the Flying Nun bands drew upon early psychedelia, American garage rock, and The Velvet Underground to create a distinctive jangly guitar-based sound, much of it released on lo-fi 4-track recordings. But while the key bands like The Clean, The Chills, and The Verlaines shared an aesthetic, Nick argues that their musical approaches actually were varied. By the late ‘80s and early ’90s, the Dunedin Sound had fully evolved to incorporate the shoegaze of Bailter Space and even the dance beats of Headless Chickens.

A key part of New Zealand's culture is its indigenous population. Maori, Samoan, and other indigenous groups make up nearly 20% of the population and have had a major impact on the island nation's pop music. Nick traces the history of Maori music from the Hendrix-esque guitar styling of The Human Instinct to the reggae boom of the '70s to the embrace of hip-hop. He also makes recommendations for great contemporary kiwi artists, including singer-songwriter Aldous Harding, power-poppers Kane Strang, electro-soul artist Electric Wire Hustle, and the eclectic producer Lord Echo.

Go to episode 605