Sunday, March 30, 2014

Anniversary:Go Deeper-Sunday Morning

The Velvet Underground: Sunday Morning

I’ve only been writing for Star Maker Machine for a little more than two years, but I was a reader for some time before that. I’ve long appreciated the breadth of the music discussed here and the knowledge and writing skill of many of the contributors, many who have unfortunately long stopped contributing to this blog. I’ve followed some of these writers to their personal blogs, and have enjoyed learning from them. I may not be the best person to write about the history of SMM, and I hope that some of the writers who have been involved here longer can fill in the gaps in my knowledge, but I’m going to kick things off, as we look back before we move forward.

From what I can tell, this blog was started by a guy named Paul under the name “Six Songs.” The first post was on February 6, 2008, and the concept was that Paul was going to post a song six days a week, hoping to engage readers to create a conversation in the comments. The first song he posted was Emmitt Rhodes’ “With My Face on the Floor.” But on March 23, 2008, Paul posted “We’re Taking a Break,” writing:

“Posting a new song everyday is surprisingly stressful, even with the Sunday rest. So we're off for some R&R. We may be back with a new format.”

Four days later, Paul teased the blogosphere with the announcement that he had come up with a new concept, and, on March 28, 2008, he announced the new name, “Star Maker Machine,” posting a picture of Joni Mitchell, and the song “Free Man in Paris,” from whence the blog name came. And then, on March 29, 2008, Paul announced the new concept—that he would open the blog up to writers who wanted to post about music, without necessarily starting their own blog. And, in essence, the SMM journey began.

On April 5, 2008, in a nod to the original “daily song” roots of the blog, Paul announced the first theme, “Days of the Week.” The first song that Paul posted was “Sunday Morning,” by Margo Guryan. I wanted to “go deeper” with that song, for historical reasons, but, frankly, it doesn’t speak to me, even though the album that it comes from, Take a Picture, was described by Allmusic as “one of the most exquisite and appealing, if little heard, one-shot "California" (although actually recorded on the East Coast) soft-pop gems of the kaleidoscopic late '60s.” So, instead, I decided to discuss the different Velvet Underground song, with the same title, which was also fleetingly mentioned on SMM back on April 3, 2010. (I also thought about writing about the SCTV soap opera parody, but decided against it.)

When you think of the Velvet Underground, you think of dark themes, drugs, and kinky sex. You think of Lou Reed’s twisted, literate brilliance, John Cale’s unusual arrangements and instrumentation and Andy Warhol’s peculiar Warholness. “Sunday Morning” is a little different. The last song recorded for the band’s debut, The Velvet Underground and Nico, it was the leadoff track, and an attempt to create a hit single. On an album that included songs like “Heroin,” “I’m Waiting for the Man,” “Black Angel Death Song” and “Venus in Furs,” “Sunday Morning” sounds almost benign and friendly, although there is still an unsettling question about what happened the Saturday night before. It was originally going to be sung by Nico, the German singer who was shoehorned into the band by Warhol, but instead Reed took the lead. The song also features a prominent celesta part, played by Cale on an instrument he happened to find in the studio, which makes the song sound strangely happy.

After the first post, Star Maker Machine slowly began to engage other writers and commenters. It appears that Paul stopped writing for the blog in October, 2008, after posting a Pete Townshend demo of “We Won’t Get Fooled Again,” in a piece entitled “Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss,” to focus on a personal music blog, “Setting the Woods on Fire,” but it appears that blog is also defunct.

As we move forward with Star Maker Machine, we hope to continue to engage, interest and amuse our readers, and maybe lead them to new musical discoveries.

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