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.

4 Comments:

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 D 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 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 D 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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