SONGS FOR DRELLA
Wednesday, October 27 at 5:45
Presented in association with our premiere of Todd Haynes’s THE VELVET UNDERGROUND
Featuring JOHN CALE and LOU REED
Directed and Photographed by ED LACHMAN
In their first on-stage performance together since 1968, Velvet Underground veterans John Cale and Lou Reed present a set of songs reflecting their complicated memories of their frenemy, Andy Warhol – credited as The Velvet Underground’s early producer and sometime manager/Svengali. The 1990 album, Songs for Drella (Warhol’s nickname “Drella” combined Dracula and Cinderella) – recorded three years after Warhol’s death – is a brilliant 15-track biographical song cycle co-commissioned by BAM and The Arts at St. Ann’s. The film – directed and photographed by legendary cinematographer Ed Lachman (Academy Award-nominated for FAR FROM HEAVEN and CAROL) -- captures a spare, electrifying live performance of this work, with Cale on keyboards and electric viola, counterpunched by Lou Reed’s driving guitar and cutting lyrics. The two artists trade songs about Warhol’s upbringing (“Small Town”), customs (“Open House”), industrious work ethic (“Work”), art-world savvy (“Style It Takes”) and the fallout from Valerie Solanas’s murder attempt (“Nobody But You”). Critics have called the album “A shining, tense merger of visions” (Paul Evans, Rolling Stone) and “a lovely, smart, funny meditation on friendship, creativity, aging, and death” (Kyle Anderson, Entertainment Weekly).
Long considered lost, the original negatives of SONGS FOR DRELLA were recently discovered by Lachman in his research for Todd Haynes’s THE VELVET UNDERGROUND (which Lachman also filmed, now playing at Film Forum). This new restoration was a hit at the 2021 Telluride and New York Film Festivals.
Restored in 4K from the original 16mm negative.
1990 55 MINS. USA
“Represents a perfect union of music, performance, and visuals, emphasizing the stripped-down, elemental qualities of the piece…aesthetically a deeply satisfying experience, the starkly minimalistic music forming an ideal marriage with Lachman’s elemental yet unerringly precise camerawork. In ‘Images,’ Lou Reed sings, ‘I love multiplicity of screenings / Things born anew display new meanings / I think images are worth repeating and repeating and repeating.’ And now that Reed, Cale, and Lachman’s classic work has been born anew with a fantastic 4K restoration, one hopes that Lachman’s wonderful images can be endlessly repeated for appreciative audiences.”
– Christopher Bourne, In Review Online
“Reed’s edgy guitar, fullness of heart and clipped, journalistic poetry bring into sculptural relief Cale’s elegant keyboards and brainy lyricism. As their subject, Warhol is both immediate and mythic. The idea entrepreneur who produced the Velvets, he provokes an homage that’s romantic yet casual — and Cale and Reed pay their debt with an offhand pop epic…Reed and Cale are the survivors Warhol wasn’t fated to become. In popular music, only bluesmen and country greats have managed the maturity these two display. Fashioning a litany out of Warhol’s off-kilter pantheon — Edie Sedgwick, Billy Name and Valerie Solanas (whose attempted murder of Warhol prefigured the shooting of John Lennon) — Drella memorializes an era the way narrative folk music generally has done. Reed and Cale add rare intelligence to their nostalgia, but it’s on a more soulful level that Drella finally hits. The subtle values of modesty, hesitance and loving observation dignify this sweet and knowing tribute to these men’s mentor, producer — and friend.”
– Paul Evans, Rolling Stone, reviewing the album Songs for Drella