Moe’s Waiting for THE Man

Moe TuckerThere was one really important band in the 1960s: The Velvet Underground. Sure, there were other great bands like The Beatles at times and The Mothers of Invention for the first three albums. And there are lots of other bands of that period that I still enjoy. Today, I would rather listen to Creedence Clearwater Revival than any other band of that time. But none of these bands were as relevant as The Velvet Underground. My first listen to The Velvet Underground & Nico was transcendent. As Mozart says, ironically, in Amadeus, “I never knew music like that was possible.”

Without a doubt, the greatest song The Velvets ever did was I’m Waiting for my Man. It describes the experience of scoring heroin in New York City in the middle 1960s. And it does it with no sentimentality or romance. It is rare in its power and honesty.

Strangely, the song is listed on the album as I’m Waiting for the Man. Many people use this title to this day. This is madness, of course; “the man” is the authorities—the ones who are going to kill your buzz, not the one who is going to get it going.

The drummer for The Velvet Underground was Maureen “Moe” Tucker. She isn’t very good but then, no one in the band is. Even the supposedly classically trained John Cale sounds like he’s struggling (perhaps he was high). But like everyone in the band, I’ve always liked her, and I will always honor her for bringing me so much joy. But…

I looked her up on Wikipedia today, and found that she has been a big Tea Party supporter. So what? She’s old. A lot of people lose their minds when they’re old. And old hippies have a special problem, being anti-authoritarian; they often confuse who is really on their side. But I was struck by one thing she told the Riverfront Times, “To be honest, I never paid attention to what the hell was going on. My always voting Democrat was the result of that. My philosophy was and is all politicians are liars, bums and cheats.”

This sentiment is very common. But it is very common almost exclusively on the right—among Republicans. My question is: if all politicians are liars, bums, and cheats, why is it you always vote for the party with the worst liars, bums, and cheats?

Moe also said that she was “furious about the way we’re being led towards socialism.” (She is 67 years old; I have little doubt she is on Social Security.) This makes me wonder if she didn’t have a different idea about the song all along. Maybe she thought is was the man. It seems unlikely, though; she almost certainly was doing heroin with the boys way back then.

Update (18 August 2012 1:06 pm)

I’ve decided to disable comments on this article. It isn’t because people keep yelling at me. The problem is that I think most people who comment skim through the article and then yell at me. I am very willing to interact with people on any subject at all. Slean, for example, disagreed but had a reasonable exchange with me. Pretty much all of the others are people who can brook not even the slightest criticism of a band that I too love or people who don’t like my politics but who can’t engage with me about them. So I’m just not interested any more. However, people who think I’m a parasite can send me email. Given that they will no longer be anonymous, I don’t expect to get any. (I will, of course, use stupid and ignorant email messages as fodder for articles that will be read by thousands of people.)

17 thoughts on “Moe’s Waiting for THE Man

  1. I find you make a lot of self assured judgements based on opinion here, stating them as fact. so i’ll break this down step by step, as i have a few problems with this article.

    1. " She isn’t very good, but then, no one in the band is"
    ^that statement is just about as far from the truth as you can get. the recording quality of the album isn’t great because the studio was falling apart and they had 10 hours to record the whole LP. Moe Tucker keeps the beat. very, very well. so she’s not good in a traditional sense, but she does what is needed of her, and adds a sort of stripped down aesthetic to the rhythm section of the group. Lou and Sterling are both very solid rhythm guitar players, and John Cale is factually(not supposedly) a classically trained pianist and viola player. if you listen carefully, you can here his piano in "im Waiting For the Man".

    2. " Old hippies especially have a problem"
    ^^^^once again, very very wrong. the Velvet Underground HATED hippies, Zappa, the Mothers of Invention, ect.

    3. The last 2 paragraphs.
    -this article seemed like some kind of ill fated attempt to get people to stop fretting over her political views, but instead of just pointing out "she can believe what she wants, she’s not obligated to be liberal because of her counterculture past, ect." you basically excused her political views as "Crazy" in a very condescending manner, and pointed out that she’s "losing her mind because she’s old". does telling people to leave her alone about her politics; then spending half the post ranting about how she only believes this because she’s old and debating whatever she says make much sense to you? I am not a tea party supporter, and I in fact disagree heavily with them, but I cant dismiss things she genuinely believes in as "old people nonsense". nice post, hypocrite.

  2. @Rafael – You’re welcome.

    I would send you to a post I am about to make called "Who Gets to be a Dick Around Here?" I’m much more open about this. The more dicks, the better!

    I don’t see how I’m a hypocrite. Call me an asshole all you want, but I don’t think I’m any more of a hypocrite than anyone else.

    Now for your less unhinged comments.

    Hippies? I was using the term loosely. You need to calm down. If you read the whole sentence, it makes sense: I was talking about the anti-authoritarian streak, which the Velvets had in abundance.

    Musical abilities? Come on! The music is great, but the playing is poor. Reed can barely play guitar today–45 years later! I’m sure that Morrison would have agreed with me. For decades I tried to hear Cale’s lauded technique. Classical training in and of itself means nothing. I am classically trained, but I would not buy my records.

    Tucker is a pox on our society. People of her age had advantages that younger people would kill for. And yet, they want to deprive healthcare from 30 million Americans because they’re afraid we’re turning into Nazi Germany? Give me a break.

    I honor her work in the Velvet Underground. They are one of the greatest rock bands ever. (I think I made this VERY clear in the article.) But she deserves all my derision and more for her political work.

    Thanks for the comment. I know when I really piss off people, I’m doing it right.

  3. I’d like to set that straight in at least one point: the undeniable quality and finesse inherent to Sterling Morrison’s and John Cale’s playing and musicality. One is one of the most subtle and acompplished guitarrists ever (just listen to the 3rd and 4th albums). The other IS an incredible adventurous skilled musician, with tons and tons of post-Velvet recordings. Have you listened to, for instance, to Nico’s Chelsea Girl? He’s responsible for all the string and woodwind arrangements. Sterl is responsible for the beautiful guitar interplayings. I myself am a professional musician and LP collector and consider that any of those works set a very, very high bar for aspiring players/songwriters. Not doing the virtuoso agenda here, not at all, just giving to Caesar…

  4. @Slean – I will yield to you. I am very aware of Cale’s Bona fides. It was, perhaps, a cheap shot. But I think you must admit that he is not at his best as a performer on those two albums. I like him on "Black Angel’s Death Song" although I like it because he makes the violin sound bad. I like his ideas.

    I’ve never thought that much of Morrison but I could be wrong. I’ve always assumed the professionalism of the last two albums came more from Doug Yule, who has been wrongly vilified. What’s more, I recall vaguely that Morrison was mostly out the door working on his academic career.

    Regarding the general level of musicianship, the 60s, 70s, and 80s were not particularly good times. As for the Velvet Underground specifically, I don’t think that either 1969 (which I love) or Max’s Kansas City speak well for the band generally.

    Finally, I hope that people are not getting the wrong idea about what I’ve written. I make a distinction between professionalism and greatness. They don’t necessarily overlap. Look at Toto! I give VU all the credit in the world. And I give everyone special marks for putting up with Lou.

  5. Regarding to Lou and Moe, I so totally agree with your view. In fact, just as the famous Picasso statement, you need to NOT know how to play sometimes in order to do what the song needs, and the "profissional" player’s ego is always an big issue. Anyway, I was able to dig what you’re meaning.

  6. @Slean – Agreement! One final thing: I am really impressed with the music scene this last decade. I hear a lot of really solid work that is also artful and real. I think it is due to the need to perform A LOT to make a living. In general, I’d say the record companies were keeping the industry down. Hopefully the book industry is following.

    But that’s an ax I grind a lot.

  7. This post starts out as a terrible joke, the CCR remark kicks things up, and it all comes to an ill-fated punchilne with, "Without a doubt, the greatest song The Velvets ever did was I’m Waiting for my Man.". Kudos to the first commenter’s patience for briefly taking it apart piece by piece. He’s spot on, and so much more could be said, but what’s the point? Hate the Tea Party, love Velvet Underground, by the way. I still have a hard time believing the whole damn exercise in brevity and ignorance hinges on a foundation of semantics for the sake of a supposed catchy title. The title sucks, by the way. Pure cheese.

  8. @Nobody Gives a Shit – Apparently enough to post a venomous, if inscrutable, comment! Twice!

  9. You realize that the Democrats are the slavery party and spawned the KKK.

    What about the Velvet Revolution? Russian friends and those from former communist countries always seem to very quietly make cautionary statements about progressive politics. They appreciate American freedom (and music) more than spoiled-rotten naive Americans.

    And we are losing our freedoms today under a progressive leadership.

    So what about the Velvet Underground/Revolution? What is it about this music that freed millions from the jack boot of totalitarian communism?

    The KGB knows. Listen to Yuri Bezmenov http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_doqvkC-jYk&feature=related
    I agree with everything Moe said. She is a great person and part of a world famous liberation.

    Frankly Frank, you are nothing in comparison to Moe and the VU. You are a foul-mouthed parasite.

  10. @cadgbd – Who said I was a Democrat?

    Statements like, "We are losing our freedoms today under a progressive leadership" only make you sound like a fool. That’s just like what I wrote about yesterday regarding Ayn Rand, "Observation: government suggests banning machine guns. Conclusion: Nazi Germany."

    Calling me a "parasite" makes me think you must be an Ayn Rand fan. Her simplistic philosophy has had a pernicious effect on many marginally smart people: she allows them to stop thinking.

    As much as I love the VU, they did not free anyone. They didn’t revolutionize music. They were just a creative band. And since I’m on the subject, what is it about this article that brings out the loons? Most of them are people who like VU so much that they just can’t deal with my attack on the least important member of the band. But now we have the Tea Party crowd who are offended?! The Tea Party does not stand for change; it stands for the status quo. It is anti-revolutionary. Why is it that you people are big on worshiping the founding fathers, but you never READ them. Let me suggest Thomas Paine’s Agrarian Justice. Here it is for free:

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Agrarian_Justice

    Let me ruin the ending for you: Thomas Paine is what you would ignorantly call a socialist.

    FINALLY: I get to be a dick around here because it is MY website. You don’t like my language? Stop pissing on my lawn and you won’t hear it. You only get to be a dick around here as long as I allow you, and frankly, my patience is getting pretty short.

    Allowing assholes who hide behind pseudonyms and fake email addresses to yell at me is a sign of my beneficence. Try to remember this the next time you lose control of your tiny mind.

  11. Yes your Narcissistic beneficence. Hitler had narcissistic personality just like you.

    Who would want to exchange contact information with an unhinged and dangerous crazy like you?

    You make many untrue and unfounded assumptions are a Socialist.

    Moe and VU did play an historic role in freeing millions from communism. You would deny the history of the Velvet Revolution?

    Moe was part of something great that millions are thankful for. You feed off that fame.

    You are a spoiled rotten brat.

    By publishing your hateful screeds publicly on the internet you are pissing on the world’s yard.

    Narcissists like you crave this sort of attention.

    Goodbye.

  12. @cadgbd – Ah! So you feed my narcissism by coming back to this page? I crave attention so you provide it? Shrewd!

    BTW: I do hope that "Goodbye" is true. Regardless, I’ve got your style. You’re cut off. You are nothing but a troll. You add nothing. Go be outraged somewhere else. But try to stop yourself from any mass shootings.

  13. "…she almost certainly was doing heroin with the boys way back then."

    I don’t know, I’m almost as certain that she wasn’t doing anything. Everything I’ve ever heard/read about her points the other way. Kinda like Charlie Watts, an little oasis of sanity within the assylum.

  14. @Chance – You could be right, but I don’t get that impression based upon interviews about that time. However, the band was never as into heroin as their public imagine would indicate. In fact, Lou Reed had a much bigger problem with speed than he did heroin. Even the song "Waiting for My Man" shows a writer on the edge of the drug scene, not submerged in it.

  15. Stupid, ill-informed and childish article with a shitty title. Why are you contributing to the ocean of crap wanna-be hacks that infest the internet.

  16. @john doe – Just to piss off people like you who don’t have thousands of readers.

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