Archive for Lou Reed

This is the time. #PlagueSongs, no. 13.

For my first punk “plague song,” here’s “There Is No Time,” from Lou Reed, one of the godfathers of punk. I chose it because it’s an urgent call to action.

The song is two decades and many musical experiments after his Velvet Underground days, where he explores some of the sonic territory later embraced by punk. But New York (1989) — the album on which this song appears — is a lean, powerful rock record. And this track is its most punk. In some ways, it’s more early Clash or Ramones than it is VU.

I identify with its urgency, its directness, and its capacity to surprise. I mean, it’s in the form of a manifesto (another reason I like it), but — despite the claim that “This is no time for learned speech” — it has lines like “This is no time for circumlocution.” But also lines like these: “This is no time to swallow anger. / This is no time to ignore hate.” And “This is a time for action / Because the future’s within reach.”

Doing Lou Reed’s Sprechstimme without a microphone was … not entirely successful. When I sing, my voice carries above the sound of the guitar. But playing loud punky guitar without amplifying my speak-singing means you have to listen a bit more closely. In the video, you see less of the guitar and more of my head because I’m trying to get my mouth closer to my iPhone’s microphone. As I say, not as effective as I’d hoped.

Apart from the inadequate amplification, it’s a fun song to play — exactly five chords that repeat in the same order (chorus included!). The main challenge here was getting the lyrics in the right order. They’re memorable, but figuring out their internal logic — why the “no time for private vendettas” verse might follow the “no time to swallow anger” verse — was my challenge.

Reed’s original is easily one of my top five Lou Reed songs — which is saying something, given that he wrote “Sweet Jane,” “Pale Blue Eyes,” “Walk on the Wild Side,” “Satellite of Love,” and “Turning Time Around.” Anyway. Here’s the late Mr. Reed himself, backed by Mike Rathke on guitar, Rob Wasserman on upright electric bass, and Fred Maher on drums.


Looking for a #PlagueSong to perform? Check out this ever-expanding playlist. Of course, you may have a song in mind that I don’t know — and that would be welcome!


Related Posts

Leave a Comment

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.

Comments (2)