This article originally appeared in the September 18, 2003 issue of New York Magazine.
"Around the end of 1966, my then manager, Ken Pitt, came back from a
trip to the U.S. with two albums he had been given in New York. Since
they weren’t particularly his cup of tea, he gave them to me to see what
I made of them. The first was a great, rollicking, noisy
anarchist-hippie affair by the Fugs — more fun than was healthy, and
great drinking-and-getting-stoned music.
The second, a test pressing with the signature warhol scrawled on it,
was shattering. Everything I both felt and didn’t know about rock music
was opened to me on one unreleased disc. It was The Velvet Underground and Nico.
first track glided by innocuously enough and didn’t register. However,
from that point on, with the opening, throbbing, sarcastic bass and
guitar of “I’m Waiting For the Man,”
the linchpin, the keystone of my ambition was driven home. This music
was so savagely indifferent to my feelings. It didn’t care if I liked it
or not. It could give a fuck. It was completely preoccupied with a
world unseen by my suburban eyes.
Actually, though only 19, I had seen rather a lot but had accepted it
quite enthusiastically as all a bit of a laugh. Apparently, the
laughing was now over. I was hearing a degree of cool that I had no idea
was humanly sustainable. Ravishing. One after another, tracks squirmed
and slid their tentacles around my mind. Evil and sexual, the violin of “Venus in Furs,”
like some pre-Christian pagan-revival music. The distant, icy, “Fuck me
if you want, I really don’t give a damn” voice of Nico’s “Femme Fatale.” What an extraordinary one-two knockout punch this affair was. By the time “European Son”
was done, I was so excited I couldn’t move. It was late in the evening
and I couldn’t think of anyone to call, so I played it again and again
That December, my band Buzz broke up, but not without my demanding we play “I’m Waiting For the Man”
as one of the encore songs at our last gig. It was the first time a
Velvet song had been covered by anyone, anywhere in the world. Lucky me.