Smalltown

“There’s only one good thing about a small town, there’s only one good use for a small town – you hate it, and you know you have to leave.”

There’s only one valid statement about small towns, and Lou Reed just said it. Lou was talking, for broader context, about his friend and mentor Andy Warhol, who was from Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is a fair-sized city, but it ain’t New Yawk, and for an outsize personality like Warhol, it certainly felt as constraining, judgmental and provincial as any one-horse nowheresville in one of the flyover states. Warhol left Pittsburgh armed with talent, ambition and unforgettable weirdness – and the rest is history. One of Warhol’s most towering gifts was, of course, his nose for interesting people, and he dragged a veritable army of interesting weirdo from all walks of life up out of obscurity with him. He was a fame funnel, making superstars out of thin air. The Velvet Underground et al. were some of his most important protegees, a group of creative outsiders who – unlike some of Andy’s ‘superstars’ who didn’t really know how to do anything except look funky – had a broad cultural impact that truly has not been overestimated. It was fitting that, upon Warhol’s death, Lou Reed and John Cale got together for a tribute album. (This despite the fact that they never really liked each other very much and were not exactly buddies.) Songs for Drella runs the gamut of emotions one would expect, from raw grief to gauzy nostalgia, and you could say that the sentiment behind the project is probably stronger than the actual finished product. But out of all the notes it hits, this one hits home the most. It’s a humorous ditty lightening up a pretty bleak concept, and it pays homage to Warhol’s irreverent nature. Delivered deadpan in Lou Reed’s signature Long Island-mook accent, with Cale providing the piano chops of a silent film accompanist, it’s just damn funny. And it’s sweet in its irreverence, and it’s truthful to the essential comic absurdity of Warhol’s life: he was just a weird kid who wanted something bigger, and he wound up being a one-man cultural revolution.