January 29-30 – Steppenwolf, Velvet Underground

The final days of January gave us two influential rock albums.  One touched a nerve with the 60’s generation fairly quickly, while the other was initially accepted with a mostly exclusive audience before gaining wide acclaim in later years.  Steppenwolf’s self-titled debut and The Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat are prime examples of how, despite what the parents of Baby Boomers might’ve claimed, all rock and roll does not sound the same.

January 29:  Steppenwolf – Steppenwolf

One of the more iconic rock vocals belongs to founding member John Kay.  As a small child in 1949, Kay and his mother escaped Soviet occupied East Germany and resettled in West Germany until 1958 when they moved to Canada where Steppenwolf was formed in 1967.  The songs on this successful debut are straight forward guitar driven tracks.  Two of them, Born to Be Wild and The Pusher, had their Counter Culture status cemented a year later when featured in the film, Easy Rider.

And now another installment of True Music Confessions:  Until I purchased a copy of the Easy Rider soundtrack a few years ago, I had no idea that Hoyt Axton was an accomplished songwriter who wrote The Pusher as well as a number of other well-known songs, e.g., Joy to the World.  I had only ever heard him sing in a Busch Beer commercial back in the 80’s and then in an appearance on WKRP in Cincinnati that I watched in syndication.  He certainly didn’t seem like much of a Counter Culture personality, but more of a bumpkin.  It turned out bumpkins could also be hippified.

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Tracklist:

Side One:

  1. Sookie Sookie
  2. Everybody’s Next One
  3. Berry Rides Again
  4. Hoochie Coochie Man
  5. Born to be Wild
  6. Your Wall’s Too High

Side Two:

  1. Desperation
  2. The Pusher
  3. A Girl I Knew
  4. Take What You Need
  5. The Ostrich

 

January 30:  The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat

I feel somewhat awkward trying to write about the Velvets.  Perhaps they represent to me the limit I’m willing to go to in terms of avant-garde music/art.  I like them.  I know they’re influential.  Yet I’ve not listened to them much beyond a compilation I own.  At least not as much as I “should” have.  I was never cool enough.  Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another band whose work was so disregarded in its time, yet so revered in later years.  Groups today wouldn’t be given a second or third chance by record companies if they charted as low as the Velvets did.

I listen to plenty of music with dark, bleak themes by troubled writers and musicians, but I don’t think it gets much bleaker than this.  But it’s fantastic.  The fuzzy distortion, Mo Tucker’s minimalist, tribalistic drumming, Lou Reed’s monotone singing, John Cale’s electric viola, organ playing, and spoken word lyrics – it’s all so hypnotic.  Just listen to the epic Sister RayWhite Light/White Heat is their second album, and was recorded in two days sans Nico’s vocals or Andy Warhol’s production.  It was also their last album of new material to feature John Cale.  Listen at your own risk; you may just wake up in some filth strewn Bronx alley trying to hit your mainline sideways.

Tracklist:

Side One:

  1. White Light/White Heat
  2. The Gift
  3. Lady Godiva’s Operation
  4. Here She Comes Now

Side Two:

  1. I Heard Her Call My Name
  2. Sister Ray

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Light/White_Heat

-Stephen

 

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