Archive for Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson & Lou Reed’s Rules to Live By

Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson. Photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

I collect quotations — the epigrammatic, the wise, the thoughtful. Sometimes, I post these in my “Commonplace Book” entries. Here’s another for the commonplace book, offered by Laurie Anderson on the occasion of Lou Reed‘s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, on Saturday, April 18, 2015. It’s “rules to live by,” co-written by Reed and Anderson, who were life partners for 21 years (and who married in 2008):

I’m reminded also of the three rules we came up with, rules to live by. And I’m just going to tell you what they are because they come in really handy. Because things happen so fast, it’s always good to have a few, like, watchwords to fall back on.

And the first one is: One. Don’t be afraid of anyone. Now, can you imagine living your life afraid of no one? Two. Get a really good bullshit detector. And three. Three is be really, really tender. And with those three things, you don’t need anything else.

Here’s the video of the entire speech, recorded by a member of the audience (so, the audio’s not great). This “rules to live by” portion runs from 8:55 to 9:46.

There’s also an imperfect transcript of Anderson’s speech in Rolling Stone. I hope a more precise transcription (or, perhaps, the full text of her speech) is forthcoming.

Because you should hear their music, too, here’s a recording of “In Our Sleep,” co-written by Anderson and Reed, and performed by them both. This remix is from the CD single. The original version appears on Anderson’s Bright Red (1994).

Photo of Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.  I found it on this site (which seems to be defunct). So, for further information, try Mr. Greenfield-Sanders’ website.

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Commonplace Book, Too

Don DeLillo, White Noise (1985)From time to time, I post quotations that strike me as interesting — my blog version of the Commonplace Book, a tradition dating to the sixteenth century, in which (if I may quote the OED) “one records passages or matters to be especially remembered or referred to, with or without arrangement.”  I’ve done three exclusively devoted to children’s literature (1, 2, 3), and one earlier one not. Here’s the second one of general quotations, featuring the wisdom of Don DeLillo, Laurie Anderson, Ogden Nash, George Herriman, Vic Chesnutt, & five others!

I am the false character that follows the name around.

— Jack Gladney, in Don DeLillo’s White Noise (1985)

But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight.

Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight

— Bruce Cockburn, “Lovers in a Dangerous Time,” Stealing Fire (1984)

The world has gone insane

and you don’t know what is right.

You got to keep on keepin’ on:

get on that pig, and hold on tight.

— Parry Gripp, “Baby Monkey (Going Backwards on a Pig)” (2010)

I’ve always had a feeling that life is a series of non-sequiturs, and that we’re all untrustworthy narrators.

— Richard Thompson, creator of Cul de Sac, in article by RC Harvey (June 2011)

I don’t care how unkind the things people say about me so long as they don’t say them to my face.

— Ogden Nash, “Hush, Here They Come,” The Face Is Familiar (1941), p. 36

George Herriman, Krazy Kat, 6 Jan. 1918

lenguage is that that we may mis-unda-stend each udda.

— Krazy Kat, in George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, 6 Jan. 1918

Max Brod, Franz Kafka: A Biography (1937/1947)Plenty of hope, … — no end of hope — only not for us.

— Franz Kafka, quoted in Max Brod, Franz Kafka: A Biography (1937), translated by G. Humphreys Roberts and Richard Winston (1947), p. 75

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

— Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho (1983)

I’m not an optimist. I’m not a realist.

I might be a sub-realist.

— Vic Chesnutt, “Myrtle,” About to Choke (1996)

What Fassbinder film is it? The one-armed man walks into a flower shop and says:

“What flower expresses ‘Days go by, and they just keep going by, endlessly pulling you into the future. Days go by endlessly, endlessly pulling you into the future?’” And the florist says: “White lily.”

— Laurie Anderson, “White Lily,” Home of the Brave (1986)

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Only an Expert

Laurie Anderson, Homeland (2010): album coverMy favorite song off of Laurie Anderson‘s most recent record (Homeland, 2010) also happens to be the most apt song to describe where America is at this moment in history.  It begins “Now only an expert can deal with the problem / Cause half the problem is seeing the problem” — a sentiment quickly ironized as the song unfolds.

Sometimes other experts say:

Just because all the markets crashed

Doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad thing.

And other experts say: Just because all your friends were fired

And your family’s broke and we didn’t see it coming

Doesn’t mean we were wrong.

And just because you lost your job and your house

And all your savings doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay for the bailouts

For the traders and the bankers and the speculators.

Cause only an expert can design a bailout

And only an expert can receive a bailout.

Here’s the full version of the song:

Performing on David Letterman in 2010, Anderson does a shorter version of the song, with a new verse on the Gulf Oil Spill.  I prefer this arrangement to the one above, though I wish it had more of the original version’s lyrics.

Here’s an earlier version of the song, performed at Lincoln Center in 2007:

Homeland is Anderson’s strongest record since Strange Angels (1989).  That said, should you be new to Anderson’s work, I would recommend starting with Big Science (1982) and Strange Angels.  Those are both more “accessible” — though, having said that, Homeland does have other songs that may immediately appeal to a new listener (notably, “Falling” and “Thinking of You”).

In conclusion, here’s a lyric from “From the Air” (which appears on Big Science):

This is your captain:

“We are going down.

We are all going down.  Together.”

And I said: “Uh-oh.

This is going to be some day.”

Stand by.

This is the time,

And this is the record of the time.

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