Jim Carroll Workshop Q & A – 9 ( Lou Reed) – (Conclusion)

We’ve been running these past week’s transcription of Jim Carroll’s 1986 Naropa workshop  (see most recently here and here) . We continue today and conclude with the second part of the Q & A

Student: Another question here.
Jim Carroll:  Yeah, Oh, great
Student: Do you still worry about a regular rhyme-scheme?
Anne Waldman:  Louder!

I think a poet has.. you know. The first time a guy asked me… like.. what… when I was first getting a lot of press (because I made this album and it was.. (successful) – “People Who Died” was getting a lot of airplay, and (he) said, “You know, what gives you the right as a poet to make a rock ‘n roll album?” – I said, “Man, a poet has a right to sing as loudly and as vulgarly as he wants to”, you know. And also, you have the right to do stuff which, I mean, seems out-to-lunch, you know, I mean.. just because..
I mean… I use a lot of rhymes, because, like I said, you have to make a song a song in a lot of senses. As I went on..  Like,  you know, a song like “Shape Shifter” has some rhymes in it, but some parts it doesn’t, because, you know, there’s really no need for (it), there’s enough space in between it. And it depends a lot on the music, you know. Like, if it’s expected then you almost… A rhyme always completes the thought in that person’s head,  (and then they can go back to dancing or something).

I mean, I got a lot of flak when I said in an interview once that I don’t want people dancing when I play… And.. Because it was nice to see people (react)…  You know, I liked it when it said in reviews – “The audience was just standing there, mesmerized” –  But, I didn’t realize it was because “we can’t dance to this fuckin’ shit music!”, you know!  – But I was actually quoted out of context. I said I don’t want them to dance with their bodies, I want them to dance with their heads and their hearts as well, you know. And so.. Boy, did I get shit for that! –  Boy, I mean.. some of these.. you know – like, in England, I went over there,  and – “What is this stuff?, you don’t want people to dance? how can you write songs without dancing?’ – But, you know, music isn’t about that. It’s about rage and sex..(I mean, the sexual part of it is.. you know.. has been covered… to my ideal,  so I like to get my sources from rage and, you know, some sense of, like, evoking the audience in some sense of, like, shaking up, or just a sense of fun.. and when the fun part…) I mean, that’s what makes a lyric.>

I knew I was on the right track writing lyrics when they started to get as difficult to write as poems. They’re still not, though. I mean, it’s much.. it’s easier to write a lyric simply because you can.. you know.. you can always get..you can always build a song around a couplet. I mean, it’s not that easy with a poem, to get, you know, this one line, and, you know, you could always, if you have a word like… um.. what’s the song, No More Luxuries?.. I don’t remember .. any of my… Oh I think a Louie (sic) has got a lyric-sheet here in this album.. (this is a good album..(Lou Reed’s 1986 album, Mistrial)  good back-up vocalists too! – They’re very tiny there!
Well, here‘s a great song (“Video Violence”) and I should play this. Not only because I happened to do the back-up vocals on (it) – which are nothing – I go na na-na na-na na-na na –  You can’t even hear me, for crissakes!, I mean..  Okay..

“The currents..” – What is this? – “The currents rage from deep inside us/This is the age of video violence ” – “The currents rage from deep inside us/ This is the age of video violence” – Well, I’ve got to get to the rhymes here – “Up in the morning. drinking his coffee/Turns on the tv to some slasher movie/Cartoon-like women tied up and sweaty/pantimg and screaming, thank you, have a  nice day/”The currents rage/The dawn’s upon us/This is the age of video violence ” – “The currents rage from deep inside us/This is the age of video violence ” – na-na-na-na-na-na   na-na-na-  na-na-na  Okay…I’m sure this has a rhyme-scheme. What I’m saying is if you get the two lines done, then, it’s going to push you on. You’re going to think that by, maybe, by just getting that last word to complete the rhyme you might come up with some terrific thought which you wouldn’t have thought of if you were writing a poem, say, and weren’t thinking of rhyme at all, you know, where it wouldn’t work. You’d come up with something which is either, you know, funny, or..
Now I’m for “funny”, and “fun” in lyrics  (I’m not for “clever” so much). But..  that was what I was saying before – The cleverness hides too often that heart-quality of it.  That”s why I could never.. It took me a long time to get into the Talking Heads until I heard  “Life During Wartime” and then I  thought, “this fuckin’ guy, you know, you can’t refute this guy – it’s too good a song!” – but, you know, I mean “Psycho Killer” was funny, but it was, like, all those things about, “Well, here’s a  building”, and “I eat a sandwich”, and you know, stuff like, that I thought was clever but kind of “art-school clever”, and I didn’t dig it, no matter how good the music was. But I love the Talking Heads now, I should say.

Someone like Laurie Anderson, I’m not too hot on, actually, you know (to say the very least!). But..you know…I’m sure you’re all fans of her and stuff, but… It’s not my favorite..

Student: (She’s my favorite…)

JC: Then stick up for her, you know

JC: He just asked me how much I worry about a regular rhyme-scheme – I do think about rhymes because.. whereas I don’t in poems. I think I use.. In Living At The Movies, I, like, sometimes, I ended a few poems with, like, couplets, you know.  I think I ended one poem with “Poor Spinoza, he got excommunicated because of some cosmic whim/and nobody was allowed within four cubits of him” – But that.. but that…  I mean, you know, like.. It’s the same way when you write a lyric, you think, basically, you have to think of rhymes, you know, like rhymes are kind of passe in some people’s minds with poetry.

Okay, let me get on with this here -. “His heart is pounding, he switches channel/ looking for something other than rage or murder/Or beatings or torture but except for Walt Disney/It’s a twisted alliance all this video violence./ The currents rage,the dawn’s upon us/this is the age of video violence/ The currents rage so deep inside us/This is the age of video violence/ Down at his job, his boss sits there screaming/If he loses his job, his life loses its meaning/His son is in high school, there’s nothing he’s learning/He sits by the tv watching Corvettes exploding, because/ The currents rage/the dawn’s  inside us/This is the age of video violence./ No age of reason is landing upon us /This is the age of video violence/ Down at the bar some woman is topless/ she’s acned and scarred, her hair’s a mess/While he shoves five dollars down her exotic panties/ the Video jukebox is, ah, playing Madonna/ And just down the corner at the local theater/ they’re grabbing their crotches at the thirteenth beheading/and as the dead rise to live, the live sink to die/The currents are deep and raging inside  – ( Holy shit! – the way he switched it around – “The currents are deep and raging inside” – I mean, you know, like, from.. “The currents rage so deep inside’ , it ends with that incredible stanza –  “the currents are deep and raging inside’  – just to  play on that, that’s amazing)
And then it goes into the chorus again  And then it goes, “Our good working stiff  looks a whore in the eye, ties her up to a bed,/ while he beats her back bloody and then back- /At home drinking more instant coffee/ Calls some redneck evangelist that he’s seen on tv and says/ “The currents rage, the dawn’s upon us,/ This is the age of video violence /No age of reason’s landing upon us/This is the age of video violence.  And then it goes on to sha-na-na-na-na-na. Should I play that?

Students: Yeah!

JC: You’ve got to hear it now with.the music, you know…

[to Student/technical assistant – How does this thing…? Yeah, it’s the last track on the… I think it might be..I don’t know, Is it up? – Which one is this?..Oh yeah, it’s the last one, Oh yeah, this one]

I mean I think this is an amazing lyric, you know I’m a little freaked by the “grabbing their crotches” line for radio (but no one heard it when he did it on tv). I mean, the phrasing’s amazing in this, to get all those words in, you know, (he just does it in this very casual way – If you sing hard, the harder it is to do it, you know).

[At approximately eighty-five-and-three-quarter minutes in, JC plays Lou Reed’s “Video Violence”, briefly singing along  – …Anne Waldman! – “as the dead rise to live, the live sink to die/ – I got those na-na’s… na-na-na”]

JC: So, I’ll field a few more questions now

[tape ends at approximately ninety-two minutes]

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately seventy-five-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at the end of the tape]

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