music sweet music

Even though this made me feel incredibly old, it is kind of cool to see what still seems fresh on there and what seems the product of an age when trees walked and hobbits frolicked in ridiculous pants. Some of the albums that didn’t make that list but are still on my Ipod include the Eurythmics’ ‘Savage’, the Cure’s ‘Mixed Up’ and ‘Songs for Drella’ by Lou Reed and John Cale. That last one is a really special piece; it’s a sort of rock operetta about Andy Warhol by two musicians who knew him really well at the most vibrant moment of his career as a pop artist. It is some of the most passionate music either of them has ever made; imagine if Lennon and McCartney had sat down in 1978 with just an electric guitar and a piano and banged out a tribute to Elvis. This would be hyperbole if it weren’t Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground being discussed; the influence of these artists on the present pop culture is quite significant indeed.

My favorite Cale performance is actually his cover of Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ from the album ‘Fragment’s of a Rainy Season’. It’s one of my favorite songs and I particularly love his interpretation of it. Today over lunch at the Clown Factory one of my comrades was watching last night’s American Idol and this Lee DeWyze kid was on it was singing that song, and he actually was really, really good, and I want to be absolutely clear on this point that on principle I despise what American Idol has done to pop music and entertainment on many, many levels, but I actually really enjoyed it. Of course the moment was ruined when the nincompoops started talking (even though they seemed to like it as much as I did), but it strikes me that Andy Warhol and Elvis Presley would both have loved American Idol (even as Lou, John, Paul and John would have all probably hated it) for different reasons but with equal pleasure.

DeWyze is a high school dropout from the Chicago suburbs who was working in a paint store and now girls are screaming his name on the street; this is the sort of thing Andy would have loved. He understood how something as fleetingly fatuous as fame could be as powerful a cultural force in an age of mass media as religion or wealth have always been. Fame used to be difficult to achieve but Andy saw what was right around the corner and it was Youtube. There was a spark of Elvis about this kid but it’s crazy to think how fast something like that can happen these days. Twenty years ag0 that wasn’t the case.

For example, I remember the A&R guys pitching Matthew Sweet’s ‘Girlfriend’ record by telling the story of how he was working in the videogame department of a Toys R Us when he got signed to record the album. The album came out in ’91, otherwise it would have been on the above list. It’s an excellent record; Julia really likes it and was playing it earlier this evening. My point is that the story isn’t quite true and seriously misrepresents Sweet’s ‘overnight’ success. He had actually applied for the job because he was looking for a way to kill time until he got signed to Zoo. He really loves video games. He had been part of the Athens scene and had been signed to Columbia and A&M before he put out his seminal album; still, the story about the clerk at Toys R Us whose demo recordings turned into a hit album of terrific songs is more dramatic than the story of professional musician who had a high point in a career.

Of course this is a Fox show so who knows what the real deal is but in any case the guy sings like he’s the real deal. I would buy this tune.

Here’s John Cale’s version:

4 Responses to “music sweet music”

  1. The Prof Says:

    The DeWyze kid actually is really, really good, even if the number was radically overproduced.

    Still…nothing beats Jeff Buckley’s rendition.

  2. Since I never ever watch American Idol, I would not have seen DeWyze singing one of my all-time favorite songs. Thanks for the post.

    I, too, love Jeff Buckley’s rendition, as well as K. D. Lang’s version.

    I can just imagine the sneer on Ringo’s mouth as the media asked the Beatles what they thought of this phenomenon known as American Idol. Lennon and McCartney would have joked about it ascerbically; Ringo would have sneered, and George, sweet George, would have remained silent as he thought about the stain on music.

  3. Winston hasn’t posted about the Lost season finale yet, I’ll bet he’s saving up all his awesome for it!

  4. Actually, no. I have nothing to say at this moment about it other than I found it to be more satisfying than I thought it would be even as it failed to answer what most people would have considered to be the ‘essential’ questions. I like stories where all we know is what the main characters know, which is never enough. It creates an air of mystery and suspense that invokes far more dread and wonder than ‘saw’ or ‘Avatar’ ever could. I’m still mulling over the ending, though…

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