There 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.)