Country-and-Western Pioneers of Many Stripes Reissued Again at Last


Two of a kind: The local Welsh/German band Velvet Underground founded alt-country. They had scratchy fiddles and a rootsy Emmylou-type singer. Olivia Newton-John’s version of Nico founded “country” as heard on radio and television. She played the alien Sandy in The Guero Who Fell to Earth. Her most influential work is the “trilogy” (1978’s Totally Hot, 1981’s Physical, and 1985’s Soul Kiss), recorded in Berlin with Brian Eno.

“White Light/White Heat,” a song about meth, sparked the rural alt-country explosion, also every California motel room fire not started by Brian Wilson. Hardcore tweakers look like ’80s ONJ videos because those clothes have sufficiently “trickled down” the shit-stem to saturate the Salvation Army/dumpster demographic. Lou Reed was once a mental-hospital inmate, Newton-John a refugee from a former penal colony. The VU had a great guitar soloist (Lou Reed)—”I Heard Her Call My Name” ‘s only remote competition was Dr. Hook’s “Cover of the Rolling Stone.” ONJ’s guitarist John Farrar was like if Skunk Baxter were in Steely Dan.

If you buy gas station compilations then Sucking in the Seventies is your “banana album.” If “Hand of Fate” replaced “Fool to Cry,” it’d be your White Light/White Heat. Physical‘s title track posited a purely kinetic existence. Methamphetamine, by eliminating hunger and sleep, solves the problems of needing food and shelter, thus defeating capitalism. No depression.