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Zappa versus The Velvets: any sources on the stories?  
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feralcats
Joined: 2005-07-17
Posts: 70
Post 2018-11-28 13:49   [Quote] 
aight so I've always been weirdly invested in the FZ v Lou Reed/The Velvets debacle, so I've always wondered: is there *any* proof amongst our incredible thorough fanbase or else where of a lot of the big "moments" in the feud?

The moments I'm particularly interested in verifying are
1) Zappa and the VU playing a show together, Zappa noting "These guys suck!" on stage (I doubt there's a tape, because it'd be famous, but do we even have a source for this story? I can imagine him saying it tongue in cheek & I can imagine him saying it seriously)
2) Lou Reed booking a show at the concert hall where Zappa was pushed off stage pre-Waka/Wazoo because "he wanted to see wher FZ hit the ground" (!?!)
3) this story, which seems out of character but which still is at least...plausible:

Quote:
"The opening night was very crowded and Zappa and members of The Mothers of Invention showed up to show their support... Nico's delivery of her material was very flat, deadpan, and expressionless, and she played as though all of her songs were dirges. She seemed as though she was trying to resurrect the ennui and decadence of Weimar, pre-Hitler Germany. Her icy, Nordic image also added to the detachment of her delivery.... The audience was on her side, as she was in her element and the Warhol contingent was very prominent that night. However, what happened next is what sticks in my mind the most from that night. In between sets, Frank Zappa got up from his seat and walked up on the stage and sat behind the keyboard of Nico's B-3 organ. He proceeded to place his hands indiscriminately on the keyboard in a total, atonal fashion and screamed at the top of his lungs, doing a caricature of Nico's set, the one he had just seen. The words to his impromptu song were the names of vegetables like broccolli, cabbage, asparagus... This 'song' kept going for about a minute or so and then suddenly stopped. He walked off the stage and the show moved on. It was one of the greatest pieces of rock 'n roll theatre that I have ever seen."

--Chris Darrow


and is there any source in general for any of Reed's famous quotes re: Zappa--- "he hates himself", the other famous quote about him being pushed offstage, etc? There was obviously no love lost from the Velvet camp (Sterling Morrison's interview makes that clear) but Zappa himself seemed to have some genuine appreciation for the Velvets, and then Reed...well we all know what happened there.
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brainpang
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Joined: 2007-02-01
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Post 2018-11-28 19:46   [Quote] 
I recall Reed mocking Zappa's freak outfits (as in clothing, not his group).
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martyg
Joined: 2016-05-31
Posts: 15
Post 2018-11-28 20:52   [Quote] 
Artistically I always sided with Frank, since I'm drawn to maximum complexity in my tastes. But I didn't tell Lou that (I worked as a technical grunt for Laurie Anderson when I was at SUNY-Purchase and met him several dozen times during that period simply because of Laurie -- I remember him being rather clumsy and more than a little aloof at first, like he had to warm to you, not the other way around). I pretended I didn't *really* know who he was whenever he was around, just more or less "oh hi, how you doing, man?" I never once mentioned his work at all to him, just stayed in I-Work-For-Your-Wife mode rather than Rock-Fan mode. He seemed to appreciate that because others in the workshop would be fawning all over with questions about the Velvets. He looked like he didn't want to go there when they did, and he didn't offer up any info himself. This was the early 2000's, around 2002 or so. We talked about music though and he did mention Frank fondly. I just simply said "I like Frank's big band jazz period best" and he said "cool! I do too!" He had some surprising tastes though. We ran into each other at a Stereolab show at Battery Park when Yoko Ono, DJ Spooky and Thurston Moore opened for them, and he seemed really into that -- they did a short 20 minute set of AIEAIEAIE stuff. It cleaved the audience in two -- those who heard the interplay and those who didn't for being blindsided by that weird idea that the Beatles didn't actually grow apart from each other.

I suppose the two most charitable things I can say about Lou are, one, that he did make something out of the most simple elements, and two, he did bring the idea of process music from academia to rock music with Metal Machine Music, thereby inspiring the noise/industrial cassette culture thing, which I'm still a big fan of. Oh yeah, there's a third one -- he could cook, having made one of the best omelettes I've ever eaten, considering my first husband was a chef. Laurie and Lou always offered breakfast at brainstorming sessions at their apartment. That said I was far more impressed meeting David Rosenboom and Philip Glass than I was meeting Lou. I find the simplicity of Lou's stuff in general to be more for someone else rather than me.

Anyway, maybe this will provide some insight:

https://www.criticsatlarge.ca/2013/10/the-wild-side-lou-reed-vs-frank-zappa.html

It more or less suggests that Lou didn't quite get the ironic intent behind Frank saying something sucked during the 60's, the whole "reverse psychology" bit ... *at the time* not later when I knew him .... and Frank more or less stopped the reverse psychology bit starting with the Flo & Eddie period.
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pbuzby
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Post 2018-11-29 01:17   [Quote] 
I used to have a book about the Velvets called Up Tight (made up mostly of quotes from Sterling Morrison, Mo Tucker and various others from the Velvets/Warhol scene) that I remember mentioned FZ saying onstage that the Velvets sucked. Can't remember more details, sorry.
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Quesons Chicken
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Post 2018-11-29 05:39   [Quote] 
Who was the fucking genius who decided Lou should induct Frank? What an asshole. Lou was an asshole too.

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-FZ Nantes, France 0614, 1980
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brainpang
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Joined: 2007-02-01
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Post 2018-11-29 07:20   [Quote] 
^^great post, martyg! Until I read that I had forgotten I met Lou and he was nothing less than gracious.
Which was nice as I was carrying baggage. So now I like Lou (as a human) but still hate his fans (at least the
ones that detest FZ). heh heh.^^
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old_zircon
Joined: 2007-04-30
Posts: 85
Post 2018-11-29 12:16   [Quote] 
pbuzby wrote:
I used to have a book about the Velvets called Up Tight (made up mostly of quotes from Sterling Morrison, Mo Tucker and various others from the Velvets/Warhol scene) that I remember mentioned FZ saying onstage that the Velvets sucked. Can't remember more details, sorry.


On p. 47 of the Spanish version (so I can't quote the original English text), Sterling Morrison describes meeting Bill Graham (who apparently hated them) and their performances at the Fillmore in San Francisco. He also says they were followed by The Mothers around California and that Zappa used to mock The Velvet Underground on stage, saying things like they suck, etc.

The actual quote in Spanish:

Quote:
Zappa se pasaba el concierto poniéndonos verdes, hacía cosas como, por ejemplo, decir por el micrófono: 'Estos tíos son unos mamones'.


Then, in a 1992 interview (Ruta 66 #74, June, 1992, also in Spanish, sorry), John Cale says he thinks Zappa doesn't worry about the music at all and uses it only as an excuse for the jokes. He thinks Zappa has no real respect for the composers he says he likes so much and that he's only interested in mocking something or somebody in each album. He also talks about how The Mothers used the 1966 West Coast tour by The Velvet Underground and Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable to promote themselves and how, 'in gratitude,' The Mothers' manager, Herb Cohen, conspired with Verve/MGM to release their album before the one by the Velvets.

Actually he says he doesn't want to talk bad about Zappa because he knows he's very ill, but the interviewer makes him keep talking.

(By the way, reading that particular interview back in the day was when I first knew that something was wrong with Zappa's health.)
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vivalapsych
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Joined: 2005-06-15
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Post 2018-11-30 15:22   [Quote] 
Ritchie Unterberger as a sort of preview at the time of his soon to be released book “White Light/White Heat: The Velvet Underground Day-By-Day” took on 22 different myths about the Velvets in a concise form on his website. Well worth reading if you have any interest in the Velvet Underground.
http://www.richieunterberger.com/vumyth.html

But for your convenience, I’ll extract the section on the MOI and Freak Out! :

Myth: The Mothers of Invention, who were also on the MGM subsidiary Verve Records, used their influence to delay the release of the banana album (not issued until almost a year after most of it was recorded) so that it wouldn't interfere with the Mothers' own debut LP, Freak Out!

Reality: This is almost impossible to prove or disprove, unless some smoking gun comes to light in form of a specific memo from the Mothers' management or some such source. Yet certainly several of the Velvets were suspicious that something of the sort took place. In his autobiography, John Cale speculated that Verve's promotion department took the attitude "zero bucks for VU, because they've got Andy Warhol; let's give all the bucks to Zappa." And in his April 1981 NME interview with Mary Harron, Morrison claimed, "I know what the problem was: it was Frank Zappa and his manager Herb Cohen. They sabotaged us in a number of ways, because they wanted to be the first with a freak release. And we were totally naive. We didn't have a manager who would to go the record company every day and just drag the whole thing through production." Even way back in a November 1968 interview with Open City, Lou Reed griped, "Our first album was released six months late, right? Because the record company was afraid because of 'Heroin' and, two, because the manager of the Mothers didn't want Frank's album to be like our first one—there were no psychedelic albums no hip albums, then, and theirs was coming out first...I'm not saying anything evil towards anybody, but there was panic, and ours came out six months later."

But as for hints subsequently dropped that the Mothers were determined to have their album out first even if it meant pushing the Velvets' debut back, there's a simple reason why Freak Out! was ready for release before The Velvet Underground & Nico. It was recorded first (from March 9-12, 1966; the first sessions for the banana album didn't take place until mid-April), and was officially issued on June 27, 1966, long before producer Tom Wilson's wish to make the banana album more commercial with the addition of "Sunday Morning" was fulfilled in November.

Additionally, much of the promotional push behind Freak Out! took place upon its initial release in June, when several Verve execs (including Wilson) visited distributors across the country to give salesmen a presentation on the album. The label also organized giveaways of the LP on radio stations in most major American markets. Admittedly all this seems like more than MGM ever did for the Velvets, but this happened long before the VU's first LP was completed in fall 1966, casting doubt upon whether the two records would have been in competition for the same advertising dollars.

Doug Yule, who remembered the issue still being discussed after he joined the Velvets in late 1968, offers what might be a more realistic assessment of the situation. "The way I heard it, it was not the Mothers, it was the record company that made a decision to suppress [the banana album] for a while," he clarified in his interview for White Light/White Heat: The Velvet Underground Day By Day. "Because they didn't feel that two groups that far on the fringe could be released even close to each other and not interfere with each other's sales."

As a footnote to this whole supposed Velvets-Mothers rivalry business, it's often been overlooked that Frank Zappa actually liked the banana LP. "I like that album," he told Jazz & Pop magazine in its October 1967 issue. "I think that Tom Wilson deserves a lot of credit for making that album, because it's folk music. It's electric folk music, in the sense that what they're saying comes right out of their environment."
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