The Week In Radio: When it's well worth waiting for the man

 

Focusing on a single band over a weekend is a tricky business on the radio. Get it wrong and you risk provoking the ire of the music police, who are a bit like the fashion police only more militant. They will rain hellfire and damnation down on you on Twitter, picket outside your office and very likely follow you home, barge into your house, skim through your record collection and locate the copy of Kylie and Jason's "Especially for You" that you had studiously hidden from your family, and hold it up as evidence of your abominable taste.

Fortunately, BBC6 Music was on to a winner in its weekend-long tribute to The Velvet Underground and, specifically, their 45-year-old debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, otherwise known as "the banana album" on account of the fruit that adorns the Warhol-designed cover.

Why? Mainly because it's a work of extraordinary, unassailable brilliance with its wailing feedback and its sudden tenderness and its vividly nihilistic tales of drag queens, street-walkers and drug-users, and the fact that it begat punk and all that came after (it is claimed to be one of the three most influential LPs of all time). But also because it features Lou Reed, and these days no one would dare call an album by Reed anything but brilliant, even the unfathomably awful Metal Machine Music, for fear of being at the sharp end of his legendary bad temper.

Reed's fractiousness is so famous that even the rock journalist Lester Bangs was scared of him, and waited until there was a good 1,000 miles between them before calling him a "bibulous bozo" in print.

When I last saw Reed perform, he cursed under his breath for a full two hours, and once bubbled over into actual aggression at the audience for daring to shout out requests (I know, how dare they).

Such cantankerousness might explain why his new BBC6 show, Lou Reed's New York Shuffle, is scheduled to start at midnight and is recorded in the US. While it's a coup to have a towering musical figure fronting a radio show, it would be cruelty to expect anyone to share a studio with the old goat.

Naturally, Reed didn't go in for small talk. Instead, he played a succession of songs back to back by bands that were unfailingly interesting and cool (Low, Young Man, James Blake, The Antlers), which pointed to the fact that what he lacks in manners, he certainly makes up for in good taste. On the rare occasions that he did talk – roughly every 25 minutes, because that's how he rolls – it was a relief to find he had brought along the producer Hal Willner for company. The pair made a terrific double act, talking at and over each other like a pair of pensioners hitting the sherry. "Hey, Willner, I was watching your feet just then and you weren't tapping them," rumbled Reed at the end of a record. "Tapping them?" Willner croaked back. "I was being healed."

While Reed was kept at a safe distance, John Cale, Velvet Underground bassist and co-founder and avant-garde wunderkind, was embraced in all his warmth and even-temperedness. In Matt Everitt's interview series The First Time With..., Cale recalled his pre-Velvet Underground days moving to London clutching tapes of his own music: "I just charged around town like a kid in a candy store grabbing people and saying, "What do you think of this?" He was thoughtful, charming and still clearly in love with his job. On making the Velvet's masterpiece, he noted, "the most important thing was to do something that nobody could imitate."

Reed, Cale and co may not have made a dime out of the album in the 10 years after it was released, but that much they certainly achieved.

twitter.com/FionaSturges

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?