Thursday, July 06, 2006

The knee plays

Dizzyhead Chrita has a nice post about the Velvet Underground and The Velvet Underground.

At the Believer event yesterday (good to see folks come out! glad the weather held!), I mistakenly introduced the title of Brandon Stosuy's upcoming anthology as Down Is Down, But So Is Up. (The real title: Up is Up, But So Is Down.) We had discussed the inspiration for the title earlier in the day — he'd mentioned Richard Fariña's novel, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me. I was reminded me of that line in the Velvets' "Pale Blue Eyes": "Down for you is up."

Which called to mind the entire verse:

Skip a life completely
Stuff it in a cup
She says my knee is like us in time
It lies but can't stand up
Down for you is up

Then I wondered—"my knee"? All these years, I've thought he was singing "my knee," but suddenly this seemed way too gnomic. Surely the word is "money"?

But I don't understand that, either—how does money "lie"? As in, it tells falsehoods? Well, I suppose so . . .

Maybe I prefer the overly anatomical image of the singer spacily looking at his patella while prostrate, then bending his leg a little and observing that, though the knee can lie down along the same plane as the rest of the body, it can never really stand up on its own.


Blogger Chris Tamarri said...

Parked! Glad you liked the VU piece. "Pale Blue Eyes" is, of course, another one of my favorites, if not at the tippy-top of that list. And you point out my favorite lyric therefrom. I always figured Lou was, in fact, saying that "money was like us in time," meaning, I guess, that time is a commodity that's spent, often carelessly, and occasionally saved, uselessly, hence "stuff it in a cup," the way that many people do with their loose change, sitting on a tabletop in the corner of their house. As far as how it lies, I figured that meant that it's deceitful (rather than prone), specifically about the nature of its value. 'Course, this could all be unnecessary and unwaranted explaining away for a lazy lyric.

8:43 PM  
Blogger Jenny Davidson said...

And I always thought it was "money was like us AND time"--but I see (yep, I got "Pass Through Fire: The Collected Lyrics of Lou Reed" from the remainder table at the Harvard Bookstore this spring, I had unsuccessfully tried to trade in about 20 newish hardcovers for store credit--they only took about 2--they had no interest in "Shalimar the Clown" for instance--so I had an $8.40 book token [plus of course a huge bag of books I had to find somewhere to get rid of, in the end I left them piled on top of a trash can at the back of the library] & this was sitting on the remainder table...) that it is indeed "money is like us in time."

It is politically incorrect but my most eye-opening VU lyrics experience was that I have ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS wondered & not known what the "PR shoes" in "Waiting for the Man" are, and then I finally read something recently--an interview with Lou Reed, maybe? can't remember now, it may have been completely unrelated--that it is an abbreviation for "Puerto Rican fence-creepers." Which were apparently these very (to use an anachronistic word) ghetto pointy-toed shoes....

9:29 PM  
Blogger Ed Park said...

"...and a big straw hat!"

This is the usual get-up worn by Dizzyheads, out for an afternoon stroll...

* * *

I like the money-stuffed-in-a-cup image — but does it matter that the cup precedes the money in the lyric?

* * *

Does that book have LR's non-VU lyrics? Specifically, the ones for "The Original Rapper"?

10:14 PM  
Blogger Jenny Davidson said...

Yes, it does--"The Original Wrapper"!--and because I have this scanner that I am still INCREDIBLY EXCITED ABOUT despite having scanned many, many hundreds of pages of Swift and Godwin & suchlike this week I am going to scan the pages & e-mail them to you!!!

(Oh god, someone should ban me from using the exclamation point, I am due for a stringent punctuation-deprivation thing...)

10:25 PM  

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