Picks and Pans Review: Spotlight On...
>the Velvet Underground
LOU REED IS ONE TOUGH CUSTOMER, BUT HE KNOWS WHEN TO bow to history. "Any album that has 'Sweet Jane' and 'Rock and Roll' on it has to be a killer album," he admits, speaking of the Velvet Underground's 1970 classic Loaded. "It struck a real nice balance in trying to do smart, fun rock."
Reed is right, of course. But according to legend, he didn't always feel that way, choosing to quit the band on the eve of Loaded's release rather than be associated with such an ear-pleasing venture. This week, as Rhino reissues the expanded Loaded (Fully Loaded Edition), a two-CD set comprised of the album's 10 tracks plus 17 mostly unavailable outtakes and demos, Reed is eager to clear up that misconception. "I was unhappy about the management that went along with the album," he says, "not the album itself."
Whatever. Loaded was really the VU's swan song, and in the years since, the band has achieved mythic status, venerated by such modern rockers as R.E.M. and Sonic Youth. (It has been said that while few people ever bought a Velvet Underground album, everyone who did started a band.) The Loaded lineup included Reed (lead vocals-guitar); Sterling Morrison (guitar), who died in 1995 of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma; and Doug Yule (bass-keyboards-vocals). Drummer Maureen "Moe" Tucker, now 52, was tending to her newborn and actually missed the sessions. "I didn't feel slighted, but I wish they would have waited," says the divorced mother of five, who lives in Georgia and who spent years away from music—even working briefly at Wal-Mart—but has returned to recording and is planning a European tour. Yule, 49, an architectural draftsman who lives outside Seattle with his wife and 4-year-old son, remembers Loaded for Reed's "ability to distill the essential melody of a song."
Reed, 54, went on to solo fame ("Walk on the Wild Side"), godfather-of-punk notoriety and Laurie Anderson—he and the "O Superman" singer have been a couple for a while. But in one sense, he's still down on Loaded. "I can't imagine it's going to do well," he says of the special edition. "The Velvet Underground was a cult group. Always was, always will be." Sounds like wishful thinking.
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