I love that “What Goes On” sounds like a really basic garage rock song until 1:08, and that guitar solo that sounds like the start of drone rock. The first minute of the song, though, with the jangly guitars, Lou Reed’s growly vocals and the organ in the background… It’s as if the band had been listening to ? and The Mysterions and decided that they wanted to try that really simple, riff-based shit and see what they could get up to. As much as I appreciate a good drone every now and then, it’s that first minute that I love about this song, and everything that follows feels like a let down compared with the grimy energy of what came before.
I won’t lie; the shooting in Aurora, Colorado at the end of last week flattened me in a way I wouldn’t have expected. Not just emotionally, although it did that – I felt exhausted by it, just saddened that such a thing could happen and that someone could do it, if that doesn’t sound too pathetic and naive – but practically, too, as it meant an immediate rewrite for some things I had written ahead of deadline that would suddenly seem crass and in poor taste when they eventually appeared (Two things had to be replaced altogether) on a day when I already had too much to do. The reason I tell you that is to explain why the blog essentially went dark of the weekend; I just needed to get offline and get my head straight again.
So, have this song, as I return and begin again. One of my favorites, because Maureen Tucker’s vocals are so artless and honest, you can’t help but be drawn in, and find yourself smiling despite yourself. Such beautifully vulnerable lyrics, too (“Someday I know/Someone will look into my eyes/And say hello/You’re my very special one” always gets me, I admit).
I first heard this song in a significantly different version, years before I heard the Velvet Underground original:
For some reason, Michael Stipe’s performance in this version from the end of R.E.M.’s Tourfilm made me wonder if this was actually a “real song” at all, or just some joke song the band had made up to finish off shows. I remember finding the original and being both surprised and happy that it had an authenticity that the version I knew so well lacked.