Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Desert island Discs 48 Songs For Drella by Reed and Cale

48 Songs For Drella by Lou Reed and John Cale 1990

I've got 2 Lou Reed lps Transformer and New York, both of which I cant remember the last time I've played them.  I was never a big fan of the Velvet Underground, however I had read Andy Warhol's diaries and I am as you would have gathered by now a bit of a sucker for song cycles / concept lps.

Still this tribute to Andy Warhol would have still passed me by if i hadn't stumbled by accident one night on a concert of the songs that would form the lp that John Cale and Lou Reed performed in a church .

The concert was stunning and I was hooked into the narrative as well as the quiet dignity of the performances. What made it so good is with minimal instrumentation (guitar , piano , viola) the focus was on the words.

The words showed the complex conflicting character that Warhol was , this was no misty eyed celebratory sainthood but a clash of confused feelings and as a result was much more believable. It is to Lou Reed's credit that he doesn't shy away from the love/hate nature or his relationship with Warhol

The songs mix Warhol's life story and relationships into 3rd party narrative, Warhol's point of view (in one powerful piece lifting his words directly from his diary entries)  , and Cale's/ Reed's own perspective.

The lp took another year to record but the concert film stayed with me as I bought it as soon as it came out.

The lp starts with Andy escaping his small town upbringing with a desire for fame "when you are growing up in a smalltown bad skin bad eyes gay and fatty people look at you funny when you're growing up in a small town...if they are going to stare let them stare in new york city"  and starting his career in graphic design, as well as the need to surround himself with others in open house

Style it Takes has Andy starting to make connections, including the Velvet Underground, and beginning to create his own style. Its a beautiful melody and it was the first time I had heard John Cale sing, and the contrast with Lou Reed's drawl is one of the reason's the lp works so well

Here are those first 3 tracks

The fact I'd read the diaries helped me fill in the blanks and revealed just how smart the lyrics were , whole facets of Warhol's complex character captured in a line or two
The lp covers the main moments , eg his shooting but also the changing nature of his work and his relationships

The two tracks below focus on the move from artist to personality in Nobody But You .. the public Andy Warhol. This is followed by the most haunting piece with John Cale reading a passage from Warhol's diary, A Dream, where all the insecurities, resentments and doubts run wild. The contrast between the two tracks show how this is one of those lps that can only really be listened to as an lp

The lp finishes with Hello its me where as on the cover the ghost of Warhol hangs over them.


Andy, it's me, haven't seen you in a while
I wished I talked to you more when you were alive
I thought you were self-assured when you acted shy
hello it's me

I really miss you, I really miss your mind
I haven't heard ideas like that in such a long, long time
I loved to watch you draw and watch you paint
but when I saw you last, I turned away

When Billy Name was sick and locked up in his room
you asked me for some speed, I though it was for you
I'm sorry that I doubted your good heart
things always seem to end before they start

Hello it's me, that was a great gallery show
your cow wallpaper and your floating silver pillows
I wish I paid more attention when they laughed at you
hello it's me

Pop goes pop artist, the headline said
Is shooting a put-on, is Warhol really dead
You get less time for stealing a car
I remember thinking as I heard my own record in a bar

They really hated you, now all that's changed
but I have some resentments that can never be unmade
You hit me where it hurt I didn't laugh
your diaries are not a worthy epitaph

Oh well, now Andy, guess we've got to go
I wish some way somehow you like this little show
I know it's late in coming but it's the only way I know
hello it's me

Goodnight, Andy

Goodbye, Andy

The whole process ended  with Cale saying he would never work with Reed again.

You can buy Songs For Drella here


  1. - I've spent a heap of money on Lou's albums after hearing a song sample or single that I liked. Every time disappointed when the actual LP didn't measure up. Cale a little more rewarding, but I guess I'll never be much more than a casual listener...

    #48 - SIMPLE MINDS - New Gold Dream (1982)

    - Overlap again I think? I originally had this higher, but I can't say that I listen to it often. Still, definitely a keepsake on the journey; a very cool album at the time. Extended mixes even cooler. When those drums come crashing into the chorus on 'Someone, Somewhere In Summertime' & the title track I find myself smashing along...
    Someone, Somewhere In Summertime (extended mix):
    New Gold Dream (Razormaid remix):

  2. This one has already made my list - a unique record.
    I always thought the best Reed album was Berlin, by some distance.

  3. Great piece David. The contrast between Reed's cynical NY drawl and Cale's articulate Welsh brogue works really well; I don't think that Lou alone would have allowed the thing to be so melodic/pretty.
    I'm with you on 'Berlin' Seamus, harrowing but heart rending... just pips the easy listening of 'Transformer'...
    TT, still can't get past the 'sh*tting dog' thing...

  4. I've never heard of this album.Completely passed me by. Sounds well worth checking out.
    #48 Hal - Hal. Fantastic debut from these young Irish lads. Sadly their long awaited follow up was somewhat of a let down where they ended up sounding more like the Gibb brothers as apposed to the Wilsons.

  5. I'm with Tim despite the later use of a smock , beret and doves and despite the shitting dog dance

    Hi Seamus - Berlin I only listened to fully after your post - of his later lps New York is head and shoulders above the rest

    I quite like Hal's follow up although agree not as good as the first one

  6. I just popped back to read your NGD blurb @ #108. Perfect little review, as is this informative Reed/Cale account about Warhol relationship. Thanks again for all the effort you put into these write-ups. Can't believe we're into the Top 50 already...


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