IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED
It’s coming up on 5 years since Lou Reed passed away. When he died, many of my readers were asking me to pay him a tribute with a SotW selection. At the time, Reed received so much press that I didn’t feel like I had anything new or worthwhile to add to the coverage.
With the distance of time, I’m ready to weigh in by sharing my passion for a beautiful song that Reed wrote for the Velvet Underground’s third, self-titled album (1969) – “Pale Blue Eyes.”
The song has a very sparse arrangement – an organ lingers on long notes, simple bass figures, an electric guitar strums simple chords (and bends a few strings) and a tambourine keeps time with single shakes on the 2 and 4.
The delicate music is a perfect complement to the lyric about a passionate relationship that sounds like it’s ending. But the kicker comes in the last verse where Reed reveals the person he loves and wants to keep so badly is married.
It was good what we did yesterday
And I’d do it once again
The fact that you are married
Only proves you’re my best friend
But it’s truly, truly a sin
The influence of “Pale Blue Eyes” is justified through many great bands that have covered it. R.E.M. gave us a version on their 1987 rarities album, Dead Letter Office. (DLO also had 2 other VU songs on it – “There She Goes Again” and “Femme Fatale.”) A diverse group of other artists has performed the song live, including Patti Smith, Hole, Alejandro Escovedo, The Killers, and Crowded House(!).
Enjoy… until next week.
Although as you note, many have covered this song, no one can touch the corrupted innocence of the original. It’s so good that sometimes I can’t bear to listen to it. Thanks, Tom.
For the last few years my family has tried to have a family band, though only my wife can actually play an instrument the way it should be played. But we did rehearse over and over a version of Pale Blue Eyes, and while no one needs hear us do that, the focus made the music and poetry pretty obvious.
I love the way you take what may be obvious, Tom, and remind us about how extraordinary it is. You did that here.
Thank you, Peter.