If you haven’t noticed, lately there’s been a huge amount of rock and roll
“documentaries” flooding the DVD market. The problem with most of these items is
that they never actually contain any music of the band or artist being
documented, and more often than not feature friends of a friend of the band as
interviewees, rather than anyone remotely interesting associated with the group
or artist. The packaging for these discs are often attractive and made to look
like the product inside is going to be worth your hard earned money, but this is
not the case.
Enter Sexy Intellectual, a company that is pumping out rock documentaries that
actually feature licensed tracks and people who know what they’re talking about
when it comes to the interviews. The features themselves are unauthorized, but
for once that doesn’t automatically mean “worthless.” In fact, the Sexy
Intellectual “Under Review” series is one of the best out there now, even
standing up to fully authorized documentaries. Surprise, surprise, someone
finally got it right.
Therefore, it’s very exciting to finally have a feature on the Velvet
Underground that is in depth, contains the band’s music, has lots of previously
unseen footage and pictures, and includes members of the band, as well as
respected rock critics and people who worked on the band’s albums. No, Lou Reed
and John Cale do not feature here. However, Maureen Tucker does, and for the
first time ever, so does Doug Yule, so it’s very interesting to finally get to
hear Yule’s take on his role in the band. If anything, not having Lou Reed as
one of the talking heads here is a plus, as his memory is often selective and
attitude overbearing at times that one often finds themselves longing to hear
someone else’s stories regarding the group.
“The Velvet Underground Under Review” traces the band’s history from its early
days all the way to the Squeeze album, which was released after Lou quit
the group. The Velvet Underground and Nico, White Light/White Heat,
The Velvet Underground, and Loaded are all examined closely, with
certain standout tracks from each being examined further. Even “The Great Lost
Fourth Album” whose tracks eventually surfaced on VU and Another View,
is discussed. So basically it’s all here. Even the most devoted fan such as
myself found a lot to enjoy on this disc.
Lots of Warhol’s Factory footage is included, as well as in-depth interviews
with Factory photographer Billy Name, who expounds on how the covert artwork for
both White Light/White Heat and The Velvet Underground came about.
Respected music critic Robert Christgau pops up from time to time, as well as
the engineer for the band’s first album. For the first time perhaps fans will
actually get to hear some of the lesser-known stories that went into making the
band’s records. Truly a thrill for anyone who loves the music.
And then there’s Moe Tucker and Doug Yule, who get to speak at length about
their roles in the band. Maureen discusses her drumming technique and how she
came about it, saying she likes a good straight rhythm and not a lot of cymbal
action. She also discusses her playing on key tracks like “Sister Ray” and how
she got her vocals down on “After Hours.” Doug Yule reveals his initial naiveté
regarding the song “Candy Says” and its lyrics and how much he enjoyed recording
the third album, describing it as a very “organic” experience, something that
wasn’t true of the Loaded sessions.
And there’s more. Much more. “The Velvet Underground Under Review” should
satisfy most fans’ need for a real video document on the group. Prior to this,
you basically had to scour eBay for bootleg DVDs of varying quality for any sort
of video documentation on the group. It is to Sexy Intellectual’s credit that
the company got to talk to all the right people and secure the licenses to use
official tracks throughout. This is how an unauthorized biography of a band
should be done, with respect to the artist and work at hand, on not just created
as a quickie ripoff product. From what it looks like, the company will be
releasing more documentaries on bands and artists who have needed such a thing
for a long time. Keep your eye on ‘em, as this is great stuff.