MAGNET’s Mitch Myers explains the confusing history behind “Candy Jane,” Lou Reed’s often-covered, always-changing ode to rock ‘n’ roll
Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau (The exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine)
A century ago in Paris, a number of surrealists and other artists devised a parlor recreation of types. The group included André Breton, Yves Tanguy, Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miró and Man Ray. Their collaborative recreation was referred to as Exquisite Corpse, where pictures (or phrases) have been devised spontaneously, however assembled by certain rules. One well-liked technique was for someone to draw on a piece of a folded piece of paper and have the subsequent participant full an adjoining part with out seeing what was drawn previously, apart from the connecting ends. This sharing method has had many variations through the years and nonetheless retains a sense of limitless prospects.
Picture by Man Ray, Joan Miró, Yves Tanguy and Max Morise
Beautiful Corpse got here to mind in 2013 once I was organizing an NPR phase on Lou Reed’s timeless composition “Sweet Jane.” The piece was coming alongside properly until I discovered that Billboard editor Joe Levy had simply written that actual article. I was a bit bummed, Levy nailed it—tracing the track’s history and mentioning essential variations. Not desperate to be deemed redundant, I deserted the radio phase and tried to overlook the thought.
However still … “Sweet Jane.” The track, to make use of a 20th-century analogy, is the Cadillac of rock ‘n’ roll tunes. Take it for a spin—the drive is stylish, reliable and a bit bit pimped out. It’s properly built, strong and propulsive—a clean journey that handles like a dream. The music is definitely timeless enough that I’m inspired to take another crack at it, as a result of, like The Dude in The Massive Lebowski says, “New shit has come to mild.” Nicely, not brand spanking new, however let’s contemplate the trajectory of this beloved track another time.
“Standin’ on the corner, suitcase in my hand”
Lou Reed recorded the earliest model of “Sweet Jane” in 1970 with the Velvet Underground for the band’s fourth and ultimate LP, Loaded. That LP was the group’s swan music—as co-founder John Cale had already departed and Reed would give up the band before the new document was even released.
“Jack is in his corset, Jane is in her vest/And me, I’m in a rock ‘n’ roll band”
Recorded in Manhattan at Atlantic Studios, Loaded was a last-ditch effort by an incredible band that had all the time been willfully non-commercial. “Sweet Jane” was a deceptively simple tune with a rousing refrain, and the efficiency was edited heavily with top-40 radio in thoughts. Indeed, the music’s unique bridge was utterly deleted in post-production, however with the expanded editions of Loaded obtainable in recent times, we will now think about the varied edits and the facility of the music’s preliminary incarnation.
“Driving in a Stutz Bearcat, Jim/You recognize, these have been totally different occasions/All of the poets, they studied rules of verse/And those women they rolled their eyes”
After a floating, celestial guitar intro, the track draws us in with three chords and a bump whereas Reed’s roguish road poetry stands out as eternally romantic—younger at heart but sensible in time. It’s a buoyant ode that celebrates life, love and the pursuit of rock ‘n’ roll, with some third-person omniscience and a bit of cross-dressing domesticity thrown in for good measure.
“Jack, he’s a banker/And Jane, she is a clerk/And both of them save their monies/And once they come house from work”
The track was already part of the VU’s repertoire, and early variations are preserved on both Reside At Max’s Kansas Metropolis and Velvet Underground Stay, as well as several greatest-hits packages. On the anthology NYC Man: The Collection, Reed chose to excise the heavenly guitar intro from the Velvet’s unique studio recording. Lord is aware of why.
“Sittin’ down by the hearth, the radio does play/The classical music there, Jim/The March Of The Picket Soldiers/All you protest youngsters, you possibly can hear Jack say”
Apart from the edits, there’s additionally the elusive query as to the precise variety of chords Reed makes use of within the music. Is it three? Is it 4? As Lou confides to Elvis Costello concerning the additional “secret chord” on 2010 cable program, Spectacle: Elvis Costello With…, it was actually simply the luck of the draw between Reed and fellow VU guitarist Sterling Morrison on the day of that 1970 recording session. In order that’s the way it goes.
After Reed left the Velvet Underground for a solo career, he was ultimately inspired and endorsed by David Bowie, who produced his notorious Transformer LP in 1972. This was the album featuring Reed’s largest hit, “Walk On The Wild Aspect,” and it helped spur the glam-filled androgyny of the decade forward. Naturally, Reed went out on the street to capitalize on his newfound reputation, and he tried on some transgressive personas in the process. One infamous part was showcased on 1974 reside album Rock N Roll Animal. Boasting the double-barreled firepower of hard-rocking Michigan-based guitarists Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, that specific tour offered a dumbed-down/amped-up Lou Reed show that even a Skinny Lizzy fan might love.
“Some individuals, they wish to go out dancin’/And different peoples, they should work/And there’s even some evil mothers/Nicely, they’re going to inform you that every little thing is just dust”
There’s been a lot debate about this performance. It’s adored by some while dismissed by others. The band combined showy dual-guitar leads with Reed’s pre-punk androgyny, serving to induce a curious mainstream viewers to stroll on the wild aspect. For younger listeners, it was their first exposure to “Candy Jane,” and the dramatic stay monitor developed an everlasting lifetime of its own. Paradoxically, the dreamy guitar intro of the Velvet’s version is reworked here right into a lengthy, dynamic and regal prologue before the three primary chords come crashing in. Reportedly, Reed disliked the band’s hard-rock posturing and especially chafed on the consideration being paid to his depraved lead guitarists. No matter.
Another seminal version appeared as the opening reduce on Mott The Hoople’s 1972 LP, All The Younger Dudes. It also produced by Bowie, whose excessive esteem led Mott to perform this outstanding cowl. Ian Hunter’s grand performance is a component Bowie, part Lou, but still completely unique. Bowie also coated the track in concert, and there’s even an previous demo with Bowie, Reed and Mott all enjoying the tune collectively. That stated, I consider it’s my solemn duty to inform you that since Lou Reed is gone and David Bowie is gone, too, Ian Hunter officially owns this tune now. Hunter continues to perform “Candy Jane” repeatedly, not only as an important part of his Mott The Hoople revivals, but in addition as a centerpiece of his solo exhibits with the longstanding Rant Band.
“You understand that ladies by no means actually faint/And that villains all the time blink their eyes/And that youngsters are the only ones who blush/And that life is just to die.”
Cruising ever onward, 1973 brought yet one more version of “Candy Jane,” this time by Michigan rock ‘n’ rollers Brownsville Station, showing on the band’s Yeah! album alongside novelty hit “Smokin’ In The Boy’s Room.” The macho group starts by attacking the original tune like some garage band feeling sentimental on a Saturday night time. The chord sequence is slightly skewed, bassist Michael Lutz bellows and barks, guitarist Cub Koda provides his tastiest elaborations, and the harmony-laden refrain is just not with out its juvenile appeal. All in all, this cover truly is type of sweet. Nuff stated.
“However anyone who had a heart/They wouldn’t flip round and break it/And anyone who ever played an element/They wouldn’t turn around and hate it”
In 1987, the Austin Chronicle, as part of its anniversary celebration, held a marathon “Sweet Jane” contest at the Liberty Lunch venue—a night the place the contestants all carried out variations of Reed’s immortal tune. Judges included Chronicle staffers Marjorie Baumgarten, Jeff Whittington and Richard Dorsett, however not the late nice Margaret Moser (as a result of she hated Reed and liked John Cale as an alternative). Sterling Morrison, former VU guitarist was dwelling in Austin however did not attend.
Austin music author Michael Corcoran dutifully coated the show, writing up a scathing, comic takedown of the five-hour expertise for Spin, lamenting the apparent transgressions of cool. Corky might have had an axe to grind with the Chronicle, nevertheless it’s a reasonably comic story and an essential historic footnote. The March, 1987 piece, provocatively entitled “Agony,” is unavailable online. But as Corcoran paperwork, the winner of the competition was an extended forgotten group referred to as the Magic Outlaw Band. The Mayor of Austin, Frank Cooksey, also confirmed up for the occasion, allegedly voting for Two Nice Women, a “self-styled dyke rock band” that performed a medley of “Sweet Jane” with Joan Armatrading’s “Love And Affection” referred to as “Sweet Jane (With Affection).” The Two Good Women completed in second place that night time, but additionally they landed a report cope with Geoff Travis and Tough Commerce Data solely on the power of that medley.
Author/decide Baumgarten, who co-conceived the Candy Jane event, remembers the five-hour marathon as one of many fondest days of her life. But her colleague Corcoran thought the night was one long, convoluted drag. Finally, there nonetheless could be too much of an excellent factor. The tune has been properly integrated into our mainstream music-cultural lexicon (Cowboy Junkies, Phish, R.E.M., et al.) but as soon as supergroups like U2 began overlaying “Candy Jane” in live performance, you may only marvel: The place will it end?
So, somewhat than invoking more versions of the music, I simply propose that anyone skilled assemble a definitive amalgamation. By taking all the notable performances and modifying them collectively we might have an “Beautiful Jane,” a version larger than the sum of its elements. With Lou Reed’s simple, definitive chord construction as our sonic blueprint, the connective hyperlinks are just ready to be utilized. Because of trendy know-how, this audio task ought to be a bit of cake. In fact, some people will all the time favor the older basic renditions of “Sweet Jane” to any newfangled hybrid creation, however keep in mind, these have been totally different occasions.
All things previous are new again. East Coast blue-collar veteran rock ‘n’ curler Willie Nile revives patron-saint road bard Lou Reed’s enduring composition in anthemic old-school, Springsteen-esque, crowd-pleasing trend. What else?