Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Book Review: Loaded

Rebellion always starts somewhere, and in the music world of the transgressive teen—whether it be the 1960s or the 2020s—the Velvet Underground represents ground zero.

Crystallizing the idea of the bohemian, urban, narcissistic art school gang around a psychedelic rock and roll band—a stylistic idea that evolved in the rarefied environs of Andy Warhol’s Factory—the Velvets were the first major American rock group with a mixed gender line-up. They never smiled in photographs, wore sunglasses indoors, and invented the archetype that would be copied by everyone from Sid Vicious to Bobby Gillespie. They were avant-garde nihilists, writing about drug abuse, prostitution, paranoia, and sado-masochistic sex at a time when the rest of the world was singing about peace and love. In that sense they invented punk and then some. It could even be argued that they invented modern New York.

Drawing on interviews and material relating to all major players, from Lou Reed, John Cale, Mo Tucker, Andy Warhol, Jon Savage, Nico, David Bowie, Mary Harron, and many more, award-winning journalist Dylan Jones breaks down the band’s whirlwind of subversion and, in a narrative rich in drama and detail, proves why the Velvets remain the original kings and queens of edge.

Loaded: The Life (and Afterlife) of the Velvet Underground will be published on December 5, 2023. Grand Central Publishing provided an early galley for review.

Earlier this year, I read the graphic novel All Tomorrow's Parties and did my first dive into the story of the Velvet Underground. Here, with Loaded I am going to learn a lot more about the band - from those who knew them and those who were influenced by them. The six-page list of who contributed to the book reads a who's who of music and entertainment. This one is an oral history, done in the style of a chapter starting narrative followed by statements and quotes from a variety of people. I liken this style of writing to that of a documentary transcript.

Jones gives a very detailed accounting of the band - from the establishment of Andy Warhol's Factory to the creation of the band itself, through the recording of several studio albums and many live performances, to the break-up and beyond. I found myself learning a lot more about the music that came from the members, both as a group and later as solo performers.

Definitely recommended for fans of music from this period (late 1960's through 1970's).

No comments: