Frontier Psychiatrist has discovered an account of a curious incident where The Velvet Undergound played to the New York society for clinical psychiatry who had convened a high class dinner to discuss creativity.
But the 70s art rockers had the last laugh when they blasted the audience with distorted noise and bizarre questions, apparently as revenge for Lou Reed’s electric shock treatment he’d been given as a teen to ‘cure’ him of homosexuality.
The account is apparently give in an interview with John Cale, published in this week’s Guardian (although I’m damned if I can find it):
The second the main course was served, the Velvets started to blast and Nico started to wail. Gerard and Edie jumped up on the stage and started dancing, and the doors flew open and Jonas Mekas and Barbara Rubin with her crew of people with camera and bright lights came storming into the room and rushing over to all the psychiatrists asking them things like:
What does her vagina feel like?
Is his penis big enough? Do you eat her out?
Why are you getting embarrassed? You’re a psychiatrist; you’re not supposed to get embarrassed…
There’s plenty interesting material in Lou Reed’s songs for those interested in the mind and brain.
Of course, the heroin inspired lyrics of Perfect Day, but also the character sketches in Walk on the Wild Side:
Jackie is just speeding away
Thought she was James Dean for a day
Then I guess she had to crash
Valium would have helped that dash
She said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
‘Jackie’ refers to Jackie Curtis one of the gender-bending artists in Warhol’s The Factory. She was a enthusiastic drug user and became psychotic owing to her amphetamine use, apparently genuinely thinking she was James Dean at one point.
Valium, a long-acting anxiety-reducing and sleep-inducing benzodiazepine could have helped, but cutting out the speed probably would have been a better option. Curtis eventually died of a drug overdose in 1985.
There’s a fantastic documentary on Curtis’ life and art called Superstar in a Housedress.
And if you’re interested in the history of rock n’ roll psychiatry fusions, see one of our previous posts on The Cramps playing Napa State Mental Hospital.
Link to Frontier Psychiatrist on New York psychiatry rock chaos incident.
One thought on “Walk on the wild side”
Here’s a link to the guardian article you had trouble finding where John Cale was talking about his new installation at the Venice Biennale, and the conversation turned to previous Velvet Underground high jinx.