THE BORDER 002a
curated by TODD BERRYMAN
The news was pretty heavy, hitting the fan on October 27th. Between hearing that Fleetwood Mac cofounder John McVie has cancer and about Lou Reed’s passing, it’s been kind of a bummer day.
My friend Shane has mentioned that he considers Lou one of his “four horsemen” when it comes to music. The man’s work has affected me profoundly, although maybe not quite to the same extent. And here’s how:
Back in my long-gone college days, 1988 to 1992, Lou’s album New York was the soundtrack to many, many late nights of work on projects, term papers, and articles being written for the student newspaper. The album was always good music when writing at a deadline, along with Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, for reasons I’m not QUITE sure I can articulate. It has something to do with, maybe, throwing yourself against an actual, honest-to-goodness concept album. (Say what you want about Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; it’s a GREAT album, certainly, but I’m not 100% sure it’s a “concept” album in the truest sense of the word. Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson may have had the best line about that in 1976, when he said “unless you’re referring to the drug which induced that music — in which case most of my albums have been Lowenbrau albums!”)
Something about that longform, 56 minute album about Lou’s stomping grounds, complete with great band and relevant guests (Dion singing on “Dirty Blvd.” is a prime example), really invited me to throw myself into hard work. It was…a FANTASTIC album to write to. Lou’s own notes on the album proper indicate it should be listened to in one burst, “as though it were a book or a movie.” It wasn’t unknown for me to leave it on repeat in the CD player while whittling away on an article or heavy-duty research project.
Now, as time has gone on, I’ve found that there are first-among-equals favorite tracks that I’ve savored more, come back to more frequently…but to this day, when some project is looming, there’s a good chance that this album isn’t far away from a complete listening while I’m embroiled in my work. It’s a top-shelf album, always on call, always waiting to inspire.
I’ll let you know what my fave tracks are, right out of the box:
“Halloween Parade” (#2)
“Sick of You” (#10)
“Xmas in February” (#12)
“Endless Cycle” (#4)
“Last Great American Whale” (#6)
“Beginning of a Great Adventure” (#7)
and “Dirty Blvd.” (#3),
more or less by most to least favorite.
But really, the album as a whole is an immersion experience, and always a good one to bounce off of when pressure is looming. So, I’m gonna ask, for those who want to remember Lou in the zone, to honor the man’s request and listen to it in toto, if you have time. It is one of his best.
And, as a coda, a couple from the followup, done in 1991 as a memoriam to a couple of friends. Magic and Loss is a great companion piece, one I bought my senior year in college at Indiana State University, purchased during a road trip while I was in Bloomington with friends. (Also picked up a few other long-lasting friends during that trip, Van Morrison’s astonishing 1974 live album It’s Too Late to Stop Now and a used-but-obviously-loved copy of Paul Horn’s Inside, recorded in the Taj Mahal.) I can’t listen to Magic and Loss quite the same way as New York, of course…it’s great, but unrelenting in its grief, and I don’t wish to wallow tonight, not with the news still so fresh. These two tracks will do:
This seems an appropriate farewell, “The Fiddler of Dooney” by William Butler Yeats:
“When I play on my fiddle in Dooney
Folk dance like a wave of the sea
My cousin is priest in Kilvarnet
My brother in Moharabuiee.
I passed my brother and cousin:
They read in their books of prayer;
I read in my book of songs
I bought at the Sligo fair.
When we come at the end of time,
To Peter sitting in state,
He will smile on the three old spirits,
But call me first through the gate;
For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle
And the merry love to dance:
And when the folk there spy me,
They will all come up to me,
With ‘Here is the fiddler of Dooney!’
And dance like a wave of the sea.”