Thursday, April 23, 2015

songs for drella

Lou Reed and John Cale reunited to record this touching tribute to the life of Andy Warhol.  Warhol had become their mentor and manager during the early years of The Velvet Underground, bringing them into his multimedia project The Exploding Plastic Inevitable as the house band.  Warhol produced the band's seminal debut 'The Velvet Underground & Nico'; but the group had moved on for their next album 'White Light/White Heat'.   That would be the last album that Reed and Cale would work on together, splitting up over creative differences.  

After the sudden death of Warhol in 1987, the pair decided to work together again.  Reed would recall:  "I think we touched base at the wake they had for Andy, at St. Patrick's. Someone had suggested to John that he write a Mass for Andy. Meantime, we had run into each other again and had started getting together at a small studio to play just for fun. Not for any record, just for fun. And then John had called me, he wanted an outside opinion about this thing he was writing, could it go this way, go that way, so I sat down with him, and while going over that, it turned into, hey, it would be interesting to write songs about Andy, and I had said, John, why don't you take this piece and divide it up, just for structure's sake -- I'm a big one on structure -- just to make it easier to look at, like, start at the beginning, boom, Pittsburgh. The next section, boom, he's in New York and wants to be a painter. Next section, starts making it as a painter, wants to be a filmmaker. Next section, okay, gets shot, changes, goes into high society, this or that, and dies. Boom. There. And this was just gonna be all instrumental. And then it turned into, oh, gee, why don't we do some songs, and it went on from there."

Cale considers:  "It was on and off around Christmas time. We were planning on maybe five weeks, but when we got working on it I started adding keyboards until we had a whole MIDI setup. I had a Roland D-50, a Yamaha CP8O MIDI and a Korg Ml. And they slowly started being part of the songwriting process. A lot of it was done just on the piano to begin with...I know we set ourselves up for this idea of a theater piece, but it really is banished. Because what we have there is such a strong core idea that the simpler the better. I was really excited by the amount of power just two people could do without needing drums. When we started work I was always, in the back of my mind, wondering, "Where the hell does the backbeat go?" And by the time we finished it I was saying, "Thank God we don't have one!"  The way it's going to be at BAM is exactly the same. We're going to maintain that hard-edged, clear-eyed image of it – simple and very hard."

The duo produced the sessions at Sigma Sound, New York City with John Cale on vocals, keyboards, and viola;  and  Lou Reed on vocals and guitar.    'Songs for Drella' takes its title from the nickname created for Warhol by actor Robert Olivo aka Ondine; a contraction of Dracula and Cinderella.   Taking on the voice of Warhol in the songs, the album is very personal and insightful, providing a more well rounded picture of the life of the art pop icon. 

Reed would reveal:    "Some of the things that apply to Andy apply to all of us. There are things that I think are very universal, and Andy probably make Andy more of an approachable person. Through the lyrics of the songs. If you knew him and you knew the situation – and John and I spoke about this at great length – you could see things from his eyes and experience things perhaps the way he did. And some of the situations he found himself in were analogous to situations everyone finds themselves in...Andy was really an astonishing person. When he talked to you he never ceased to say the most amazing things. Just another way of looking at it that at least in my case would make me stop right in my tracks and think about what he said."

Cale sums up:   "This was no fool manipulating headlines...He was a very penetrating individual."


'Songs for Drella' 

full album:

All songs written by Lou Reed and John Cale. All vocals by Reed except songs marked with † by Cale.

Side A
"Smalltown" – 2:04
"Open House" – 4:18
"Style It Takes" – 2:54 †
"Work" – 2:38
"Trouble with Classicists" – 3:42 †
"Starlight" – 3:28
"Faces and Names" – 4:12 †

Side B
"Images" – 3:31
"Slip Away (A Warning)" – 3:05
"It Wasn't Me" – 3:30
"I Believe" – 3:18
"Nobody But You" – 3:46
"A Dream" – 6:33 †
"Forever Changed" – 4:52 †
"Hello It's Me" – 3:13

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