Jim Carroll Workshop – 2


JC: Well, I’m going to play a song that was a great..  one of
my favorites…
..Actually, I’m going to play this early Velvet Underground song and then I’m going to play a Phil Ochs song. For some reason,
Phil Ochs and The Velvet Underground have this weird connection for me. I mean.
they got me into poetry as much as Bob.. well more than Bob Dylan, and as much
as Frank O’Hara
[Student/technical assistant plays The Velvet Underground’s “Sunday Morning” – JC: “Yeah go ahead..just turn it up here” – Student: The beginning’s real slow. JC: Yeah right.. can you hear this?..” – and, at the conclusion of the song – Student: Shall I let it roll or what? – JC: No, no, turn it off  for a second, but leave it there…]


The thing is, I mean that song is so..  (perfectly) popular.  I mean, for me that was the thing that I think
Lou Reed did best. I mean, he.. Well (Bob) Dylan did it also.. At a certain
point.. 
I think that Lou did it at a much more.. I mean, in a much easier way,
actually, you know, not just because that music was easy but, it didn’t.. you
know, it wasn’t so frantic (that is to say, he probably wasn’t taking as much speed at the time – because.. they both were.. and that’s.. I think the amphetamine was actually the big
cause for where songwriters start to feel that they could  write adult lyrics.
And the main point was you could do what.. I mean.. you
could evoke through rock songs, and you didn’t have to, anymore, like, write songs
that were, you know, like written for Dion and the Belmonts  or The Four
Seasons
, which would tell little stories and which were Top 40 songs because
they were.. you know.. Everything was contained within it, to, like, certain musical structure around it, and, I mean, in this way, I mean, no
matter where you were when you heard this song, it evoked these incredible
memories, and stuff… 

                                                                   [Lou Reed (1942-2013)]


I mean, I remember. I was just thinking when I heard this [“Sunday Morning”] (of) sitting on a window-sill looking out on St Marks Place at Anne Waldman’s
apartment . (It was one of Ted Berrigan’s favorite songs, actually – I think he
even wrote a poem called “Sunday Morning”, right?, which has nothing to do with
the song – it’s all about swinging a Mongolian sausage!) 

                                         [Ted Berrigan  (1934-1983)]

But,
of course, (Bob) Dylan was doing it in a way which was…I don’t know.. it might
have been the difference between Dylan’s influences and the fact that Lou’s
main influences was Delmore Schwartz, you know. I mean… And he was incredibly
influenced by Delmore Schwartz, because he idolized him, and, I mean, I don’t know
if.. I think Dylan was coming from a much stronger, like Rimbaudish, mystical,
you know, breakthrough-at-any-cost type of notion, and I think, you know, his
means of doing that was through this really frantic imagery, when he started to
go electric, and just, you know, throwing everything into his songs to evoke.. And, like, that way,..I mean… So, in that sense, that’s why it was much more powerful at
the time, because it simply, just, you know, like, knocked everybody over.

                                                                     [Bob Dylan]

I
think some years later (it took years to filter out with Dylan’s work, where he
was kind of off the beam with his kind of.. all that surrealism ( – like Marianne Moore said about Surrealism, the trouble with is that, you know, you have to
sustain that sense of surprise constantly, or else it lapses into total
lethargy so easily) And so, after a while, when I listen to Dylan’s
songs, (which I idolize), songs from, like,  (from) Highway 61 Revisited, they didn’t
have that same intelligent quality , which, I think, which Lou’s early songs
had, or which Dylan’s songs had, say, on Blonde on Blonde, (which were much more
sublime, and much more noble, in a sense, you know). And that’s probably why The
Velvet Underground, it’s, probably you know, continually influenced other bands, in a way, because (you can) come at them at so many different ways, because they evoke in a much more subtle way.((given that) British-type bands and American-type bands – like R.E.M, or stuff like that –
or British bands – like U2, things like that, you know –  command from a
really…. their own direction – whereas… ). I mean Dylan’s thing was
pretty..  you know, it kind of covered… 
I mean it was too easy to lapse
into imitation to Dylan, you know, because he spelled it out so directly….

to be continued

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approxinately eighteen minutes in and concluding at approximately twenty-six-and-a-quarter minutes in] 

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