As part of the crowd that joined the TGA fan club on day one* I got to go to the “Live At Letterman” taping at the Ed Sullivan Theater tonight, for a live webcast. The band were the musical guest, and then they emptied the theater out and filled it back up with friends, family, some VIP’s, and us, the great unwashed. The band played a brisk 45 minute set, which you can watch right here.
This was the best you could get for music on television back then, and given the time and the outlet, this is not a terrible report, at all. It has a clue, and it also quells the whole OMG PUNK ROCK HEROIN AND YOU WILL KILL YOUR GIRLFRIEND that was the usual tenor of mainstream media when talking about this music back in the day.
I know it’s hard to believe now, but MTV used to be cool, or at least interesting. Back at the beginning, when there weren’t a lot of videos, they had to play what they got. They had Pete Townshend and Sting (before he was a total prat) doing commercials. They ran Velvet Underground outtakes and local NYC bands and anything, at all, that they could run to fill the time and space. They had “VJ’s” (instead of DJ, get it?) that actually knew something about music. Martha Quinn used to be a dj at WNYU back when that was my outpost to hear about new music, driving home from my after-school job at the medical records department at the HMO. There was 120 Minutes and The Cutting Edge – both of which you would plan your week around, even if you had figured out how to program your VCR – and the old 60′s videos from Beat Club. There was plenty of crap, to be sure, but there was always something worth watching, something worth talking about.
Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert changed my life.
I was watching it long before I probably should have. I would strike these deals with our babysitters on Saturdays, if they let me stay up to watch Don Kirshner, I would make sure the rest of the kids (and there were four of us) would behave and go to bed with no problem. This worked on all of our sitters except Ann from next door, who – because she LIVED NEXT DOOR – felt a need to be more accountable than the other random girls who showed up at our house to watch us while my parents went out.
I had written off being able to attend this taping, until I got a text at 2:50 telling me to be at 30 Rock by 3:30. I got shin splints on the way over because I was walking so fast. I am so glad I was there, because if I’d watched it on tv later I would have kicked myself for not trying to get in. You’ve seen it on TV already (or can go watch it online) so I won’t reprise the entire evening. So, just a few thoughts:
This is not objective. This is flat-out gratuitous promotion for a friend’s band. But it is also more than that.
The official Caryn L. Rose line on the Super Bowl performance is this: I do not think it was terrible.
Let’s get this out of the way: It didn’t top Bruce. It didn’t top Prince. It didn’t top U2. But it did make me cry, just a little. I cried because I love/d them. I cried because they are old. I cried because I am old. I cried because the music of my youth is dying. I cried because Roger can’t go onstage shirtless anymore. I cried because John is dead, because I never got to see Keith, because there is no one else like them, no one who comes close to them.
I know I am not objective. I know I am emotional and irrational and have a stormy history with this band. But they were the first band I loved insanely. I do not have to be objective.
Lou Reed, Mo Tucker and Doug Yule in conversation with David Fricke, Live at the New York Public Library
I keep trying to figure out what it means to be American.
When I look at myself I see Abyssinia, nineteenth-Century France, but I can’t recognize what makes me American. I think about Robert Frank’s photographs – broke down jukeboxes in Gallup, New Mexico, swaying hips and spurs, ponytails and syphilitic cowpokes, hash slinges, the glowing black tarp of US 285 and the Hoboken stars and stripes.
Patti wrote the words above in 1971. I thought about those words as I walked through the new Frank exhibit at the Met. I thought about Bruce Springsteen describing Bob Dylan a few weeks ago – “it was the country I recognized” – and how both of those sentiments describe what it was like being in the same room with “the Hoboken stars and stripes”.