Monday, December 9, 2013

All Access - Media

All Access – Media
“The most important thing about artists is that they should behave like artists. Who wants a creator who sounds like a real estate agent when you could have one who walks his pet lobster through the Palais Royal gardens on a blue silk ribbon? Responsible behavior in an artist is like modesty in a stripper; unbecoming, dispiriting and not at all what you signed up for”
 Andrew O’Hagan, NYT style magazine, fall 2013

Honolulu Marathon credentials and map.
Race map.

We won't discuss Mr O'Hagan's point of view any further for now. He is obviously not an artist trying to survive with his work. I rather tell you what I'm up to these days and will begin with the Honolulu Marathon for which I worked yesterday.
Cory Lum, Ronen Zilberman and I got up at 1:00 AM in small hotel room on Waikiki’s Kuhio Avenue as the party goers were still making noise on the street below, brushed our teeth and gathered multiple cameras, lenses and batteries and made our way to the parking lot at the Honolulu zoo, where I had already parked my van the night before with the “essential” sign placed on the dashboard. Ronen has been the principal photographer for the organizers of the Honolulu Marathon for many years and Cory has been shooting it for at least as long. 

Ronen Zilberman & Cory Lum in the press tent after the race.

I was the rookie on Ronen’s team, which included another photographer, who I never met. We milled around for a while, checking out shots, testing cameras and I got last minute instructions on what ISO levels to use for different shots and the changing light and locations as the day would break.
After some instructions from the organizers we heard the roar of 32 Harley Davidson’s as they came down Kapahulu Ave right on time at 3:00 AM and parked their bikes tail to the curb. The photographers checked the bikes and riders and placed their gear behind the bike or rider they liked, choosing by the specific assignments and its specific preferences. Cory and Ronen would ride sitting backwards most of the time shooting the elite runners throughout the race, while I would go to different locations and shoot standing, kneeling or lying down. I choose a sleek Harley, whose rider was the president of a Hawaiian motorcycle club and rode for the race the first time also; two rookies together.

32 Harleys and riders arriving at 3:00 AM

We headed to the starting line. My job there was to shoot human interest with artistic sensibility. The runners and sponsors of the Honolulu Marathon and much of the culture are firmly in the hands of the Japanese. Many runners are dressed up in various outfits and makeup, some of them far from ideal for running. Celebrities are being interview and gawked at, waving or throwing shakas to the runners passing by. There is a long row of porta-potties, divided into a men and women’s section and runners lining up in front of them. There are hydraulic lifts for crews to shoot or celebrities to be filmed, ladders for photographers and cables strung across Ala Moana Blvd to digitally check the start. The atmosphere is restrained anticipatory excitement. More and more people showed as it got closer to starting time and who was allowed to go where, became more restricted. I had total access walking around everywhere to get some exciting shots. It was easy to get people to pose, the runners and especially the Japanese loved to have their picture taken.
Precisely at 5:00 AM the race was on, while fireworks went off. I took a few pics and got on the bike for my next location Honolulu Hale (city hall), to shoot with the large X-mas tree in the background. Ronen stopped also and we took some shots of the wheel chair racers, who had started a bit earlier then the lead pack of runners. My next destination was the 8th floor of the Hyatt Regency parking lot to shoot the pack of runners when they would come down Kalakaua Ave through the heart of Waikiki. For this long shot I had to boost the ISO to 6 400. The race stretches out immediately after the start and I had to wait for a while before the road became filled up with runners. I got my shots, being careful with my breathing, leaning my arms on the rail to focus. A Hyatt security guard eventually came and kicked me out. I had All Access but not to the 8th floor of The Hyatt parking garage. All doesn’t necessarily mean all, all of the time.

Runners turning the corner of 18th Ave and Kilauea Ave. Diamond Head in back.

These Geishas actually took a break from their run to pose for this picture.

Back on the Harley we headed to the next location, the corner of Kilauea Ave and 18th Ave in Kaimuki. I was supposed to shoot looking down Kilauea Ave once the sun would rise out of the Pacific Ocean in the background. The runners came up 18th Ave from Diamond Head, and turned right for a downhill section towards the ocean. It was a while before sunrise but there was plenty of action and energy coming from the enthusiastic pack of runners, a bunch of photographers, TV crews, celebrities and a jeep with a crew focusing on a single star from a reality TV show, following her throughout the entire race. It was cloudy and a bit hazy, so the shots with the sunrise background had a flat light.

Eventually the sun came out from behind the clouds, which didn't produce great shots either.
Then we headed onto the racecourse with the Harley going against the traffic towards the Diamond Head lookout. We had to go slow and watch out for the runners who didn’t always pay attention themselves. At the lookout I climbed up the cliffs a bit and took pictures with the ocean in the background. I felt that I had gotten here a bit late, since the crowd had thinned out by this time. We got back on the racetrack and headed towards the finish in Kapiolani Park. The elite runners were done by this time but other fast runners were still coming in ahead of hours and hours of runners to come. Cory was placed in a great spot to shoot the finishers straight on. He had been there for the winners already.

The finish line at 3:10:58 still early for the majority of runners.

After the race with one of many porta-potties.

Relaxing behind the Kapiolani Park bandstand.
 There are moving scenes at the finish ranging from incredible joy to pain, with some runners collapsing as soon as they cross the line, immediately caught by the staff waiting and taken to the hospital tent. A guy proposed right before his girlfriend and he crossed the finish line. The elite runners had showered by now and were getting massages or being interviewed in separate tents. By this time I was loosing my voice and got some ginger lemon tee in the media tent and then explored the large tent city set up in Kapiolani Park shooting the runners exhausted and elated. I shot for several more hours, then we uploaded the memory cards to Ronan’s computer, I took Cory home, drove home myself, ate some lunch and eventually took a nap. After dinner and watching a movie I went to bed at 8:30 and turned all alarms off.

Poster in one of the high school classrooms I substituted in recently.

Well, I could walk around with my pet gecko on Kailua beach, but that’s not what I’m doing. Besides working as a substitute teacher in the trenches of the public education system, I did manage to create some art recently and even made a $ here and there. 

This is an exceptionally well kept classroom with clear instructions for the sub, including pictures of the students in seating arrangements. Seeing this I know the day will be ok.

 But I also missed being in a show at Telluride Gallery of Fine Arts, when my alterations of vinyl album covers arrived a day too late to be included in the show.

9 altered LP covers, Dieter Runge, 2013.

Billy Idol, Lou Reed, Rebel Yell. Altered LP cover, Dieter Runge, 2013.

Diana Ross, Lou Reed. Altered LP cover, Dieter Runge, 2013.

Thelma Houston, DANCE. Altered LP cover, Dieter Runge, 2013.

Janet Jackson, Desire Everything. Altered LP cover, Dieter Runge.

 I was more successful with my “trackracers” print, which won a prize in the Bike Art Show at the Dairy Center in Colorado.

"Trackracers" woodcut, 46"x 48", dieter runge, 2012, at the entrance of the Bike Art Show at the Dairy Art Center in Boulder, CO.

 I sold some of my Sri Yantra prints to the Hawaii Yoga Institute teacher-training course, and made 60 plus prints for the Hawaii Arts Alliance in honor of Allyn Bromley as their 2013 Honoree. I also taught a yoga workshop at Yoga Hawaii. We are in the middle of recording three songs with my band Alice Neel, two originals, Oahu Sweet, Rockets of Desire, and a remake of David Bowie’s Helden as a duet with Lucy Lynch all sung in German. The band will play at a private party for the winter solstice on the 21st.

Matt Brittain and Lucy Lynch recording at the pool house.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What is Yoga?

In which I take a shower of boiling antifreeze and keep my equanimity.
This blog is dedicated to my yoga and Ayurveda teacher Myra Lewin, her assistants Vanessa and Kelsey and all my fellow yoga travelers.
Last Friday I took my friends Lou (not that one) and Jean to the Honolulu airport around 4:00 PM in heavy rush-our traffic, stop and go, more stop than go, mostly stop and little go. Jenny Wuebbe, daughter of HollowSkai was also with us and we were heading to a workshop at Yoga Hawaii on kindness and presenting my new installation there.
Contemplating another installation at Yoga Hawaii.

 On November 30th I will teach a yoga workshop at Yoga Hawaii that focuses on strengthening the muscles surrounding the spine, the connection between the lower and upper body and the possibility on relieving back and neck problems, a stooped posture, all results of our modern lifestyles and sitting in a backed chair for hours on end.

Trusty and occasional temperamental 91 Vanagon. Runs courtesy of Stephen Whitesell.

Now, my 91 VW Vanagon has a very slow leak in the cooling system, which I hadn’t topped off for a little while. These old vans don’t like stop and go in the Hawaii sun and after we had turned around and were on the H1 freeway, looking at some more heavy traffic at least for a few more miles, the car started to overheat, just as I had made it to the far left lane. I maneuvered it back through the heavy traffic to the right and off the freeway at the next exit and quickly onto the sidewalk of Vineyard Blvd. There was a good boil going on in the back. After what I thought was enough time, I had to go to the bathroom really badly, I started to unscrew the cap of the cooling system to replace some water, when the cap just blew off and I took a shower of boiling antifreeze. It was a full body shower including head, face, mouth, shirt and pants. Fortunately, I only received a light burn on my right forearm, but the taste in my mouth was far from pleasant.

Attempt at unscrewing the blue cap on the lower left resulted in anti-freeze shower.

So what is yoga? Most of us understand yoga as the physical exercise done in pastel colored tights on rubber mats were we aim for flexibility and the ability to touch our toes. In a recent article on yoga the German news magazine Der Spiegel describes in more or less detail 18 styles of yoga from Acro Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Power Yoga, to Vinyasa Flow and Yin Yoga. The majority of the different styles deal primarily or exclusively with the physical aspect of yoga, which traditionally is called Asana = Posture. 
Yoga Hawaii class with Ganesh woodblock print.

In the introduction to the Bhhagavad Gita translated and introduced by Eknath Easwaran, Easwaran describes the Gita as brahmavidyam yogashastra, a textbook on the supreme science of yoga and suggests that there are as many meanings as there are paths to self-realization. The four main strands of yoga according to the Gita are jnana yoga, the yoga of knowledge, bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion, karma yoga, the yoga of self-less action and raja yoga, the yoga of meditation.
The word yoga, comes from the word yuij or yoke, to bind together, it is the unity of life experienced, pure consciousness or the sum of what one must do to realize the Self (Easwaran). Other definitions of yoga in the Gita are evenness of mind and skill in action, integration of the spirit. A yogi is a person who is accomplished in yoga.

A popular school of yoga is called Ashtanga Yoga, which is known for its flowing squences, spectacular jumps, and handstands in slow motion, but what does ashtanga really mean? The word astanga means eight limbs and Ashtanga yoga is the eight limbs of yoga as explained in the classical yoga sutras by Patanjali. According to Patanjali the eight limbs of yoga are:
1.     Yama – various forms of abstention from evildoing
2.     Niyama – various observances
3.     Asana – posture
4.     Pranayama – control of prana (life force energy), various breathing excercises and bandas (banda to bind or lock)
5.     Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the mind from sense objects
6.     Dharana – concentration
7.     Dhyana – meditation
8.     Samadhi – absorption in the Atman (the Self)

For my view on spirituality keep reading.

It goes beyond this writing to explain all the different limbs in detail, but I like to emphasize two things, one that the last three limbs of yoga deal with the practice and effect of meditation, since what is meditation really other than concentration, the ability to focus on one thing for an extended period of time until we are able to unify with the Self, Atman, the divine core of personality, which ultimately is the same as Brahman, the Godhead or ultimate reality. The second point I like to make is that Asana (posture) means two things, the place on which the yogi sits and the manner in which he sits (Patanjali). Traditionally the most famous asana is the lotus pose, sitting cross- legged.

Taro plants with Trush that visits when I work in the garden.

What is commonly known as yoga then really is Asana, just one limb of yoga. There are complex reasons, why this single limb of yoga has become the predominant practice in the Western world and what we commonly understand as yoga. From my own experience after 30 plus years of meditation practice I know how difficult it is for us Westerners, who are used to sit in chairs, to sit quietly with crossed legs and try to focus our minds. Only recently have I made some new progress and it is thanks to diligent daily practice of pranayama, asanas and sitting meditation and some observance of the Yama’s and Niyama’s. I cannot claim to have practiced Pratyahara or that I have reached Samadhi. I like to put the idea forward that one of the reasons we to practice Asanas, to be healthier of course, but that we in our bodies actually learn to sit in concentration for a while. Our Western lifestyles, has lead to a disconnect from our bodies, weak backs, stiff necks and stooping shoulders, weak core and an absence of the connection, between lower and upper bodies. Most of us know one or most of these maladies. 

In her inspiring book Awakening the Spine, Vanda Scaravelli writes about the importance of daily practice: " this kind of work, continuity and and perseverance are required. We will progress much more effectively through daily training. When we are not well we turn to our daily practice. But perhaps, illness could be prevented, avoided or even totally rejected, if we had kept our body in full health by practicing." I like to ad that in yoga or taiji, daily practice is essential if one doesn't just want to scratch the surface. We get stressed out and go to a yoga class, which makes us feel better. Then we continue like before until we go to the next class. We are always playing catch-up, but never get ahead to reap the real benefits of personal transformation.

Water, wildlife, concrete.

For five years I have practiced every day, missing less than a handful days per year, and know how the practice of yoga and an Ayurvedic inspired lifestyle has changed me. Knock on wood, but for more than three years now, I haven't had neither cold nor flu. Of course, I could get it tomorrow. Since August I have been working as a substitute teacher, which according to a good teacher friend is like being shark-bait. If I have to go to work early I get up even earlier and still practice 1/2 hr pranayama, 1/2 hr meditation and might shorten my asana practice, but my daily practice ensures me that I am going to be ok, and that I can experience a shower of boiling antifreeze or a group of rude teenagers without yelling and cursing.

Pali Highway rainbow.

One of my readers questioned my use of spiritual in my last blog on Lou Reed. There might be slightly different interpretations in the European and American realm. Basically, I believe in the unity of the universe. Some people might call this God, Allah, the Divine, Atma/Brahma. The universe is everything. At the center of our being is what I understand as spirit. When I encounter you, I aim at recognizing this. We are all connected.
 Coda: Due to working frequently at the tiring job of substitute teacher in Hawaii's less than optimal functioning public education system, the blogs have taken a bit longer. On top of being a sub I have worked on 4 art projects with deadlines, three done, one more to go. This was accomplished to a great part, thanks to my current fantastic assistant Jenny Wuebbe. Check out her blog. You can practice your German, but it has tons of pics too. I will have art pieces in exhibitions in Boulder, CO and Telluride, CO.

Boulders bike art poster.

 We also laid down the basic tracks and some vocals for three songs, two new originals and a cover of David Bowies' Helden that Lucie Voelker and I are going to sing as a duet in German. The originals are called Oahu Sweet and Rockets of Desire. You will hear them as soon as they are presentable. Last night we played at the monthly Coconut Grove Music jam at Kailua's Boardriders. Today I taught taiji for the first time since I injured my shoulder. Through all this I have kept up my daily yoga practice.

Six mikes on the drums.

I have written abut yoga, taiji and inspired art in these previous blogs:

What does the chewing gum do under the table in the local high school?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Beginning to See the Light

… a personal tribute to The Prince of Story from a different perspective, which includes Federico Garcia Lorca, the Comte De Lautreamont and an energetic and heartfelt version of Rock'n Roll played by yours truly.

                                              "Genius guarantees the faculties of the heart
                                                    Man is no less immortal than the soul
                                                     Great thoughts spring from reason
                                                             Fraternity is not a myth."

                                                                                   Isidore Ducasse also known as Comte de Lautreamont

Lou Reed has been my major musical influence since the early seventies. I saw him live for the first time at the Scheessel open air festival (now Hurricane Festival) in 1973, watched him during the late 70’s and 80’s at New York’s Bottom Line and even at Studio 54. When I returned from the Virgin Islands to dissolve my East Village apartment I got to see Lou reunite with John Cale to perform Songs For Drella, the song cycle about Andy Warhol at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

 During a visit to Germany in the summer of 2006 my friend Christine had tickets for us to experience Lou performing his legendary Berlin album in its entirety with many of the original musicians and the London Youth Choir, the album I had worn out during the early 70's on cassete, living in a commune. Berlin, the place where I was conceived and where the German part of my soul originated and still resides. At the end of this performance during the long standing ovation, you could see how moved Lou was, the first time I saw him with a hint of a smile and maybe a tear, and that on stage. You might or might not know that he was submitted to a series of electro shock treatments during his teenage years to heal him from bisexual tendencies, which left part of his face forever frozen. 

Front and back of VU fanzine What Goes On, 1986
Centerfold of What Goes On

I have read and watched pretty much everything about him that I could get my hands on in the past and even own the book, White Light/White Heat, The Velvet Underground Day By Day. Even now, my current band Alice Neel occasional plays VU covers. No artist death has brought tears to my eyes like Lou’s. Try reading the lyrics to I’ll be Your Mirror without welling up. What makes Lou’s lyrics so exceptional is that you can read them and they hit you just like the song or sometimes even more. I suggest you read the words alone, then listen to the song.

I’ll be your mirror, reflect what you are
In case you don’t know
I’ll be the wind, the rain, and the sunset
The light at your door
To show that you’re home

When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you’re twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
‘caus I see you

I find it hard
To believe you don’t know
The beauty you are
But if you don’t
Let me be your eyes
A hand to your darkness
So you won’t be afraid

When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you’re twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
‘caus I see you

So what makes Lou’s songs so powerful? I try to explain it with the help of the great Spanish poet Federica Garcia Lorca from his essays Deep Song and Play and Theory of the Duende. In both essays Lorca tries to explain the different historical influences on the deep soulful song and the duende, which is almost inexplicable. Both apply to Lou’s music/lyrics and give us an entry to its impact.

 “ These black sounds are the mystery, the roots fastened in the mire that gives us the very substance of art. “Black sounds,” said the man of the Spanish people, concurring with Goethe, who defined the duende while speaking of Paganini: “A mysterious power which everyone senses and no philosopher explains.”

The duende, then, is a poweer, not a work: it is a struggle, not a thought. I have heard an old maestro of the guitar say, “The duende is not in the throat; the duende climbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet.” Meaning this: it is not a question of ability, but of true, living style, of blood, of the most ancient culture, of spontaneous creation.”

 “Deep song is akin to the trilling of birds, the song of the rooster, and the natural music of forest and fountain.”

It is a very rare specimen of primitive song, the oldest in all Europe, and its notes carry the naked, spine-tingling emotion of the first Oriental races.”

EPI, Exploding Plastic Inevitable

Here, Lorca talks about Gypsy music, Flamenco, the music created in Andalusia, with strong African (Moorish) influences and of Europe’s traditions all mixed together. It is said that the Gypsies were driven out of India by the Tamerlane in 1 400 and that songs  possibly precede language. Ad that the guitar, as we know it today comes from Spain and we can connect the power of Lou’s music and the VU to ancient Indian chants. Lou knew about Garcia Lorca and studied with the American poet Delmore Schwartz at Syracuse University, where he also met Sterling Morrisson. Deep Song, the duende, doo woop, rock’n roll, classical avantgarde and literature combined in a way that did not exist before. That makes Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground so powerful and unlike anything before them. Let us also not forget Maureen Tucker’s unconventional drumming, influenced by African rhythms. Sister Ray comes to mind.

Lou and Moe

Lous's literature prof, See also the VU's European Son

European Son on the first VU album is dedicated to Delmore Schwartz and contains amazing sounds for this time.

To my current knowledge people haven’t really talked about Lou’s work from a spiritual perspective, but for a long time I have seen similarities to some Buddhist or Daoist teachings or Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra’s. In recent blogs, I have talked about the necessity of shining light at the darkness locked in our souls and have referred to Carl Jung as a teacher for this. Lou and the VU has done exactly that from the beginning. Delmore Schwartz, Arthur Rimbaud, The Comte de Lautreamont, Rainer Maria Rilke and Federico Garcia Lorca take you into the depths of humanity. Lou said that Rock’n Roll should talk about everything in life, all of human experience, just like literature does. In 1966 when the VU recorded their first album no band was doing this. 

23 St Marks Place, home of the Electric Circus, ca 67

 When I lived on the top floor of 23 St Marks place in the early 80's the building looked pretty much the same, without the banner and the canopies, but more dilapidated. This is where the Exploding Plastic Inevitable happened and Nico held a residency at the Dom, see bottom of the pic. The cars were different too, of course.
Mick Rock has a sort of spiritual experience when he sees Lou perform for the first time and also thinks of Carl Jung, even though he does mean it a bit diffently: I had been waiting for this for a long time. My focus was total. My intent was intense. He looked like a specter. He looked beautiful. I wanted to totally absorb his visual being through my lens. To suck on his aura. To immerse myself in his art. It was like a Jungian journey into some primal hinterland. And I loved it. And of course that was the night the ‘Transformer’ image popped into my lens and embedded itself onto film, a taste of magic whose potency was instant and totally in synch with Lou’s art, and whose magic has never dimmed. The stars were clearly auspiciously aligned that night.

It is not that Lou gives us an overt spiritual message or tells us what we should do. It is there as a more or less overtly subtext, or better hidden from the casual listener, but always part of his twists and turns of pure poesie. Lou is known to have said that one chord is fine, two are ok, but three are jazz. We know that these statements are exaggerated, some of his songs have very simple chord structures indeed, but there is always a wicked twist, a backwards or sideways turn of the chords that is surprising. This mix is what inspired so many of us us to write songs of our own. Guitar god-like status like Eric Clapton doesn’t seem attainable for the average slacker guitarist, who also reads literature, but the music of the VU or Lou Reed pulls us in, in a magical way, through its power, deepth, sensibility and deception of simplicity its duende. This is a spiritual dimension in itself. Brian Eno: “Only so many thousand copies of the first VU album might have sold, but everyone who bought it, started a band.” 

Nothing was ever the same in the history of Rock’n Roll after the so called banana album came out, 6 month or more delayed, because the record company had no idea what to do with it. Even Mick Jagger admitted that the VU was the only white band that influenced them. It was the fans of the VU, the people who also read, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, William Bourroughs, who started the mid seventies new punk movement Patti Smith, Richard Hell, and Tom Verlaine, who talked Hilly Chrystal into playing at CBGB’s.  Most of the songs I am quoting here are from the earlier years of Lou’s creativity and you might ask how is it possible that he can be so deep at an early age? First of all Lou started young, he studied, and when he came back from college ha had a job writing songs for Pickwick Records, which specialized in cheap copies of current hits. Another explanation comes from Keith Richards: “ I am just an antenna through which these songs come to me,” from the cosmos? God? Another Dimension? You pick yours.

Here we go again                                         F-C-Bb-C-F
Playing the fool again.
Here we go again
Acting hard again. All right
Well I’m beginning to see the light.  I wanna tell you          G-C-F-D 
Hey now baby I’m beginning to see the light. 

The line "acting hard again" points toward Lou's future taiji practice. Taiji teaches the practitioner to become soft, not to bang your head against the wall, to learn about the constant dynamic play of yin and yang.

taiji man - in back Lou's band at Syracuse University

 Lou got into taiji sometime in the mid 80's at least that's when I first heard about it. By that time I had studied for a few years and taiji had become a central practice in my life. Lou practiced with dedication until the last day of his life. Taiji asks you to become soft with a core of steel. As a martial artist, to become so soft that you do not exist as a target for your opponent, ultimately to attain an egoless state.  Lou took his taiji master on tour where he often did taiji on stage while Lou was performing. Yesterday (10/31) Lou’s wife Laurie Anderson posted a full page ad in the East Hampton Star on the east end of Long Island, where they had spend a lot of time in the past years and which they called their spiritual home. This is a place that attracted many artists in the past for its serenity and magical light and where I got into windsurfing:
“Lou was a tai chi master and spent his last days here being happy and dazzled by the beauty and power and softness of nature. He died on Sunday morning looking at the trees and doing the famous 21 form of tai chi with just his musician hands moving through the air.
Lou was a prince and a fighter and I know his songs of the pain and beauty in the world will fill many people with the incredible joy he felt for life. Long live the beauty that comes down and through and onto all of us.”
   Laurie Anderson
his loving wife and eternal friend

What is surprising to me is that so many of his early lyrics ring so deeply spiritual to me, while many of his later songs deal with the socio-political situation of America and his beloved New York City. I do not claim to know his later work well, since I still inhale his earlier songs and one of my goals is to learn to play all the VU songs. It is like copying the Renaissance masters, absorb their craft until you can develop your own language. This is also the method of classical Chinese painting. Listen to Marvin Gaye’s Hitch Hike and the VU’s Here She Goes Again.

I've been set free and I've been bound
To the memories of yesterday's clouds
I've been set free and I've been bound
And now I'm set free
I'm set free
I'm set free to find a new illusion
I've been blinded but
Now I can see
What in the world has happened to me
The prince of stories who walk right by me
And now I'm set free
I'm set free
I'm set free to find a new illusion
I've been set free and I've been bound
Let me tell you people
what I found
I saw my head laughing
rolling on the ground
And now I'm set free
I'm set free
I'm set free to find a new illusion



Notice the name of the publishing company. Lou reminds me of Rumi as well as Kahlil Gibran and maybe it takes his untimely death for the world to realize that he was a true poet of these realms. By all accounts he had been the most happy in recent years, often making music with his wife, making art (mostly photography), and being engaged in the artistic and civic life of his community.

Lou, Edie Sedgwick, John Cale, Maureen Tucker, Sterling Morrison (back), Gerard Malanga, Andy

This is what Lou said in what might have been his last public appearance (GQ man of the year awards ceremony): “I believe to the bottom of my heart, the last cell, that rock’n roll can change everything and I’m a graduate of Warhol, the university, and I believe in the power of punk to this day, I wanna blow it up.”
Lou Reed

Andy holding a silk screened banana


Here is a recording of one of the few reunion gigs the Vu did in 1993 in Prague. Prague has a special place in the history of the VU and of Lou. In  October 1990, Lou Reed interviewed Vaclav Havel, playwright, poet, president of the newly emancipated Czechoslovakia, and a Velvet Underground fan who owns an original copy of White Light White Heat, that he bought on a visit to the US in the late 60’s and was dangerous to possess.

For every Lou Reed fan, this book is a must. It contains many lyrics of his songs, selected by Lou with some comments, like explaining PR shoes in Waiting for my Man and has the full interview he conducted with Vaclav Havel, which explains how Rock'n Roll can indeed change the world.
Walk on the Wild side video

Great story by a Boston fan:.
Patti Smith remembers:

Delmore Schwartz, In Dreams Begin Responsibilities, New Directions Books, New York, 1978

This is probably one of the most important books if you want to explore Lou's literary development. Can't find my copy. Guess I have to get another one through my local bookstore. I recently listened to a feature on how Amazon treats some of its workers and decided not to patronize them anymore whenever I can.

The Velvet Underground, New York Art, ed by Johan Kugelberg, Rizzoli, New York, 2009
This is a great book with beautiful rare photos, posters, music sheets and writing.

White Light/White Heat, the Velvet Underground Day-By-Day, Richie Unterberger, Jawbone Press, London, 2009.
If you need to know everything.

Lou Reed, Growing Up In Public, Peter Dogget, Omnibus Press, New York, 1992.
This book will most likely be super-seeded soon. For sure, I am interested to learn more about his later years.

Federico Garcia Lorca, Deep Song and other Prose, New Directions Book, New York, 1980.
This great Spanish poet is not known enough in this country. Here The essays about the Duende and Deep Song can give us a different understanding of Lou's lyrics as well as the VU's music, also contains A Poet in New York. My dear late friend Stephanie, another T&V co worker gave me this book. She also turned me on to Afro Cuban Jazz and took me to many concerts in New York by the salsa greats, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barretto, Hector Lavoe and Tito Puente.

Stephanie's Lorca inscription

In her eulogy to Lou Patti Smith tells us how she and  Lou liked to discuss poetry and mentions Walt Whitman and Federico Garcia Lorca.

Comte De Lautreamont, Les Chants De Maldoror, New Directions Books, New York, 1966.
Isidore Ducasse, also known as Lautreamont, Poesies and complete miscellanea by Isidor Ducasse, Villiers Publications, London, 1978.

This is the entire output by Isidor Ducasse, who died in 1870 at the age of 24 during Prussia's siege of Paris. Les Chants of Maldoror were almost forgotten and slowly rediscovered by the turn of the century and became an important influence on Andre Breton and the French Surrealists, the Lettrist International and the Situationist International.

Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, Rebel Press, no copyright.

I have no idea if Lou knew this book or cared about it. Probably not in his younger years, but for anyone interested in punk rock, the May 68, or living without chains, this is essential along, with

Raoul Vaneigem, Traite de savoir-vivre a lusage des jeunes generations, Editions Gallimard, Paris 1967.

Sorry, I don't own an English translation at this moment, but you can most likely find it under the title Revolution of Every Day Life.

with great love and a big Aloha, a la prochaine fois, dieter

 PS, and don't forget to click on this heartfelt version of Rock'n Roll we played on the night of Lou's passing. Make sure you check the last few minutes of it :