My friend Jambo loves the Velvet Underground. Not as much as he loves his Beatles but I have seen him get the shakes at the mention of them, sorta like Lou Reed would get while he was waiting for the man. And Billy D, who really should know better, was championing the aesthetic of Maureen Tucker’s drumming in a recent email.
I just finished listening to the Velvet’s third album, because a coworker returned it and I thought I’d at least hear a few songs. The songwriting is peerless and the Lou’s guitar soundscapes are ahead of their time. But sweet Jebus on a vinyl cross, that metronome drumming on a tin can is pathetic. A drummer should do two things at a minimum: keep time (which Maureen can do) and drive the song. The later is very important. If it’s jazz, you gotta swing. In R&B you gotta groove. And for rock, well you by god better ROCK! No, you don’t have to be John Henry Bonham (only Bonzo could be Bonzo). But that song has to have some drive to it, someone with a firm foot on the accelerator. Maureen just lets the engine idle. Even Karen Carpenter could kick a pop ditty harder. Actually Karen wasn’t that bad.
Now to anticipate Jambo’s next argument, this is not my musical misogyny rearing it’s ugly head. While female vocalists are rarely in massive rotation on my playlist, there are exceptions. I think part of the problem was that in the early to mid 70s where I still spend a lot of my listening time, there weren’t that many women rockers. Heart, Grace Slick (and I hate the Airplane so there’s trouble right there), Stevie Nicks & Christine McVie, Ronstadt (stretching with that one) and a couple others that I am just not thinking of right now. Patti Smith, Blondie, Pretenders, and the rest of the punks didn’t happen until the end of the decade and the beginning of the next. So while I would peel Patti Smith’s Horses off my top 50 list, I’d probably replace it with the Pretenders debut and sneak Heart’s Dog & Butterfly in (which ends with the epic Mistral Wind, Ann’s metaphor for feminism). And it rocks like a mother-fucker.