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The Velvet Underground

Rock & Roll | Jesus

Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, Nico, Maureen Tucker, John Cale

Part One Chapter 1

Half-way back to Princeton we had dinner in a chrome-and-neon diner. Sitting opposite you in the high-backed booth, I tried not to be moved by the negligent fall of your cropped blonde hair or the sensitivity emanating from your fingers; the vibrancy of being hovering in your eyes or the striking immediacy of your lips: I was determined not to let the shadow of an impossible future fall upon our present state of grace. It took no computations to dance to a rock ‘n roll station: You’d never heard of the Velvet Underground (or so you led me to believe), but before I pressed A5 you’d heard one note from an open car window and instantly identified Bach’s ‘Chaconne’: You’d played it at a violin competition, and now you play it alone in your room. And thus I learned you’d hesitated between a career in classical music and one in academia; I learned you were no stranger to first prizes, whether musical or academic: Your contempt for competition didn’t stop you from thriving on it. We talked about music. I told you my life was saved by rock ‘n roll, that rock ‘n roll had given me a feeling of identity and the right to be different. You said you understood me; you said that for you too, music, your violin, has been an instrument of liberation. To the Velvet’s defiant joy, however, you remained indifferent (or so you pretended).

Photo: Steve Schapiro

Lou Reed

Jenny said when she was just five years old
There was nothing happening at all
Every time she puts on the radio
There was a nothing going down at all
Then one fine morning she puts on a New York station
You know she don’t believe what she heard at all
She started shaking to that fine, fine music
You know her life was saved by rock ‘n’ roll

Despite all the amputations
You know you could just go out
And dance to the rock ‘n’ roll station
It was alright, hey baby, you know it was allright

Jenny said when she was just about five years old
You know my parents are gonna be the death of us all
Two TV sets and two Cadillac cars
Well you know it ain’t gonna help me at all
Then one fine morning she turns on a New York station
She doesn’t believe what she hears at all
She started dancing to that fine, fine music
You know her life was saved by rock ‘n roll

Despite all the computations
You could just dance to that rock ‘n’ roll station
And baby it was alright, hey it was alright
Hey, here she comes now

Intermezzo 6: Giulia

Mad they call me, Marietta, for crossing blind the boulevard; mad, for singeing my raven locks, Lou Reed’s ‘Jesus’ on my lips, in the flame of a votive candle; mad, for lying down with dogs at the foot of the Opera steps. Am I mad? No, I am not mad: I miss you.

Photo: Steve Schapiro

Odilon Redon, Christ, 1887

Lou Reed

Jesus, help me find my proper place
Jesus, help me find my proper place
Help me in my weakness
‘Cause I’m falling out of grace

Jesus, Jesus

Mara Marietta