Sitting Down by the Fire – the Radio Does Play …

Elliott Murphy - New Morning, Paris, October 30, 2021 - Photo by Michel Jolyot

December 2021

Sitting down by the fire – the radio does play …”

Those immortal lyrics were written by Lou Reed for his (dare I say) signature song “Sweet Jane” which was of course the second song that really kicked things off on the Velvet Underground’s Loaded album, the legendary group’s swan song (the meaning of “swan song” being handed down from the ancient myth that the European mute swan stays quiet until it’s about to die at which point it breaks out in a glorious song – better late than never) and for me at least their best album. The other most notable claim to being in the rock albums swan song group has to be The Beatles themselves whose Abbey Road – a now acknowledged masterpiece – with my favorite parts being Ringo’s amazing drum fills during The End. For a long time Sergeant Pepper was in the critic’s top spot but I always preferred Rubber Soul and Revolver.

When it came to the Velvet Underground, I came late to the party not really knowing much about their very limited success until Loaded appeared in 1970 and John Cale had left the group. The pre and post-Cale Velvets were (and again this is totally subjective) almost two different bands, both equally important, both essential to the alchemy that produces rock ‘n roll. At this point in my life, my memory is full of old fake news but I swear I first heard “Sweet Jane,” “Rock and Roll,” “New Age” and all the other nuggets from the Loaded album while sitting in the back room of Max’s Kansas City on Park Ave. South in Manhattan where I was hanging out on a pretty regular basis in search of a record deal (like everyone else haning out in that back room) around 1971. That’s where I first met Lenny Kaye for example. Then, as fate would have it, I mentioned my adoration of Loaded to then Mercury A&R director Paul Nelson who just happened to be in the process of releasing a live Velvet Underground album culled from recordings from their last US tour (I think) with Doug Yule and featuring many of these songs. Paul asked me if I would like to write liner notes for the Live 69 album which I promptly did while riding on the Long Island Railroad and then Lou called my mother (where I was staying in NYC at the time) to say how much he liked my notes to which my mother said:

“My son will be very happy you called …”

To which Lou replied: “Why?”

To which my mother said: “Because he’s a great admirer of yours …”

To which Lou exclaimed: “Isn’t everybody?”

My mother Josephine (who passed away in 2018) always remembered this conversation and shared a south shore Long Island bond with Lou because she was from Baldwin and Lou was from the next town over Freeport so they were homeboys!

I began those liner notes with the line:

“It’s a hundred years from today and everyone who is reading this is dead …” 

Well now it’s fifty years from when I wrote those notes and I’m alive. “Toujours Vivant!” as my compatriots the French would exclaim.

Why do I mention all of this?  Because right now I am in fact sitting by the fire ,as Lou described, in my Paris apartment as we managed to find an already existing fireplace here and opened it up. But the radio is not playing the “March of the Wooden Soldiers” as Lou also suggested because like the rest of the planet when it comes to listening to music I click on Spotify. Let’s see if I can find “March of the Wooden Soldiers”guess what comes up – the intro to “Sweet Jane!” Things are getting weird …

More to the point and shifting down to what’s real, my new album Wonder is slowly entering the final stages of mixing, listening, re-mixing, figuring out a sequence, changing a few song titles, deciding if Wonder is the definite title for the album and then working on the cover design with Chloé who has designed dozens of my albums. Depending on how you keep count I believe this will be my 40th album and I remember when I was recoding 12 which was my 12th album and thinking, wow, how did I get this far? I like to joke that I’m at the half-way point and in my heart I hope that’s true. 2022 will mark the 50th anniversary of my career if you can believe that! Let the celebrations begin …

In pre-celebration of that hopefully momentous occasion on the official Elliott Murphy site we will soon begin offering very reasonably priced downloads of videos via VIMEO and payable through Paypal beginning with the Live in Texas videos from my Vintage Series #8 (long sold out along with all the other Vintage Series but available for listening on Spotify) which were filmed during my 1977 tour opening for Electric Light Orchestra following the release of Just A Story From America. My big regret from that tour is that I didn’t reach out and get to know Jeff Lynne, the leader of ELO, while we were touring together and just a dressing room apart but back in those pre-MTV days us rockers were a cool bunch who woulnd’t dare disturb the sanctity of the headliners dressing room without being invited.

And (as Lou also sang in “Sweet Jane”) “Ah those were different times…”

PS: Check out my duet with the soulful Natalia M. King on John Mellencamp’s timeless “Pink Houses.” Ain’t that America …