Probably my favorite song on Velvet Underground & Nico is “European Son.” I like its relentless energy. It is the very definition of punk rock. I had forgotten that the song was dedicated to Delmore Schwartz. The song is clearly angry and it seems to be saying, “Screw off!” Schwartz was at that very time dying close by at the age of 52.
Schwartz had been a teacher of Reed’s at Syracuse University. And in interviews, Reed always made a big deal of this because Reed wanted the world to see him as a real poet. Reed probably would have been a much better human being if he had just accepted that he was a real poet. I’ve always thought the center section of “Street Hassle” to be amazing, especially this:
And they can never find a voice
To talk with
Or even call their own.
So the first thing that they see
That allows them the right to be
They follow it.
It’s called “bad luck.”
But it now makes me wonder if Reed didn’t spend all those years talking so fondly of the man to make up for “European Son.” Apparently, during the end of his life, Schwartz would not see Reed. But the song is everything that Schwartz was not. I never cared for his poetry, but I’m thinking I would be more open to it now. When I was younger, I liked surreal poetry, which Schwartz definitely wasn’t. He wrote about more mystical subjects — the kind of stuff that I find more interesting now.