Fifteen Songs for Drella

 
 

Songs for Drella is a concept album by Lou Reed and John Cale, both formerly of the Velvet Underground, and is dedicated to the memory of Andy Warhol, their mentor, who had died unexpectedly in 1987. Drella was a nickname for Warhol coined by Warhol Superstar Ondine, a contraction of Dracula and Cinderella, used by Warhol’s crowd. The song cycle focuses on Warhol’s interpersonal relations and experiences, with songs falling roughly into three categories: Warhol’s first-person perspective (which makes up the vast majority of the album), third-person narratives chronicling events and affairs, and first-person commentaries on Warhol by Reed and Cale themselves. The songs on the album are, to some extent, in chronological order.

Lou Reed and John Cale spoke to one another for the first time in years at Warhol’s memorial service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on April 1, 1987. The painter Julian Schnabel suggested they write a memorial piece for Andy. On January 7 and 8, 1989, Cale and Reed performed an almost completed Songs for Drella at The Church of St. Anne’s in Brooklyn. Still, as Cale was wrapping up Words for the Dying, and Reed had finished and was touring with his New York album, the project took another year to complete. The first full version (notably with the inclusion of A Dream in one performance) was played on November 29–30, and December 2–3 at the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. On December 4–5, 1989, a live performance—without an audience—was filmed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, directed by Ed Lachman, and released on VHS and laser disc formats. Over the following two months, Reed and Cale proceeded to record the material for the album, which was released in 1990 by Sire Records.

The album was the pair’s first full collaborative record since 1968’s White Light/White Heat, and by the end of recording Cale vowed never to work with Reed again due to personal differences, hence plans to support the album with a tour were shelved. Nevertheless, Songs for Drella would prove to be the prelude to a Velvet Underground reunion: after playing a Drella selection on June 15, 1990, at a Warhol/Velvet Underground exhibition at the Cartier Foundation in Jouy-en-Josas, Reed and Cale were joined onstage by Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker for a rendition of the Velvet Underground song Heroin, which eventually led to the first and last Velvet Underground reunion, which took place in 1993 (after which Cale and Reed, again, vowed never to work with one another again).

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Looks Like a Scream

“Like to take a cement fix
Be a standing cinema
Dress my friends up
just for show
See them as they really are
Put a peephole in my brain
Two New Pence to have a go
I’d like to be a gallery
Put you all inside my show

Andy Warhol looks a scream
Hang him on my wall
Andy Warhol, Silver Screen
Can’t tell them apart at all

Andy walking, Andy tired
Andy take a little snooze
Tie him up when he’s fast asleep
Send him on a pleasant cruise
When he wakes up on the sea
Be sure to think of me and you
He’ll think about paint
and he’ll think about glue
What a jolly boring thing to do”

 
 

David Bowie as Andy Warhol. Promotional picture for Basquiat (Julian Schnabel, 1996)

 
 

Andy Warhol is a song written by David Bowie in 1971 for the album Hunky Dory. This is an acoustic song about one of Bowie’s greatest inspirations, the American pop artist Andy Warhol. The song starts with some studio chat where Bowie explains to producer Ken Scott, who has just been heard to mispronounce Warhol’s name when introducing the take, the right way to say it. Scott solemnly reintroduces the take with the correct pronunciation. There follows several seconds of silence before Bowie asks if the tape is rolling. Upon realizing they are indeed recording, Bowie bursts into laughter and begins playing. The song is memorable for its distinctive, flamenco-sounding opening riff on the acoustic guitar that continues through the song.

Bowie later played the song to Andy Warhol, who reportedly disliked it as he thought the lyrics made fun of his physical appearance. When the song had finished playing, Warhol and Bowie reportedly just stared at each other for a while until Warhol said “I like your shoes” and the pair then had a conversation about shoes.

 
 

David Bowie and Dana Gillespie. Photo: Brian Ward

 
 

Originally the song was written for Dana Gillespie in 1971, but her version of the song was not released until 1973 on her album Weren’t Born a Man. This version features Mick Ronson on guitar.