‘Two chords are pushing it.’

'Here he comes, all dressed in black.' Lou Reed, 2011. Pic: Man Alive!

‘Here he comes, all dressed in black.’
Lou Reed, 2011.
Pic: Man Alive!

I WAS in a garage band once: a band of guys crammed into the dusty garage.

Once a week we’d meet up and bang out whatever we could.

I’d like to say there was a highly refined aesthetic to our efforts. There wasn’t.

The four of us played the only way we could and let the missed cues, bum notes and false starts look after themselves.

This is the point where I quote Brian Eno’s line about everyone who bought the first  Velvet Underground album forming a band.

It’s the sort of tired aphorism that Lou Reed might’ve eventually despised, probably, despite it being – in our case at least – partly true.

One of the first songs we rehearsed and recorded was I’m Waiting For The Man. I’m sure we tried Femme Fatale or Sunday Morning at various stages, before attempting our own material.

But even after we’d dropped Velvets’ songs from our warm up (we never tried to write like them, strangely enough) Reed’s ‘one chord’ sonic DIY advice remained.

Not least when it came to recording. Idling online on the morning after his death I landed on a track we’d recorded in that garage one winter a decade ago.

Reed was all over this effort, in spirit at least.

As I remember it the song was cut on a single Sennheiser vocal mike, hung from a roof beam. I think there was a second track for the vocal but I can’t recall (though we certainly mixed something afterwards in ProTools).

My main memories are trying to keep enough blood running through my freezing fingers to hit the blink-and-you-miss-it lead solo.

We always regarded the recording as rough, about as scuzzed out as anyone’s ears could tolerate. But didn’t White Light/White Heat sound rough as hell too?

'One chord is fine'. Rehearsal, 2012.

‘One chord is fine’.
Rehearsal, 2012.

This was the Lou Reed Effect, for me. Just play it. If it’s raw leave it raw.

Listening to Four Miles ten years later I’m glad we applied that. The just-within-our-grasp beat, whatever pedal mix that was, the lo fi drums, even the solo, all sound just dirty and distorted enough to work.

Praise – or blame – Lou Reed for that. RIP.

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