“That’s The Story of My Life” (The Velvet Underground)

Lou Reed has only a pair of observations to make, and then repeats. First: “the story of my life” has been a moral one through and through, and its guiding thread is “the difference between wrong and right.” On the other hand, Billy Name (a key participant in La Monte Young’s Theatre of Eternal Music and Andy Warhol’s Factory scene) has clearly told Lou: “both those words are dead.” The world is now beyond right and wrong, or good and evil, as Nietzsche might say, and Billy and Lou are exploring superabundant life and the will to power in New York’s gay bars and with the help of methedrine. And that, too: “that’s the story of my life.” In short, the singer finds himself between two worlds, in two distinct historical contexts, and each acts as both a break with and an ongoing dialectical critique of the other. Relaxedly gliding between these moments in the ongoing history of nihilism, Reed’s vector points two ways and suggests that metaphysics has been weakened (but still has a part to play).


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“I Feel Love” (Donna Summer)

Stanley Kubrick launched Nietzsche into space in 1968 when he appropriated Richard Strauss’ introductory “Sunrise” theme from “Also sprach Zarathustra.” Deodato’s version of “Zarathustra,” from 1972, gave it a cool, rumbling electric piano machine sheen, and filled it full of moody, twilit solos. (It makes for wonderful counterpoint in relation to the astronaut stories of Barry Maltzberg and J.G. Ballard.) Third in this series is 1977’s “I Feel Love.” Giorgio Moroder first cites the Strauss/Deodato matrix between, roughly, 0:10 and 0:34, and it’s the key to the trax’s associative and aspirational power. Additionally, like so much of the most memorable output of Kraftwerk, the melody seems to hotwired to a vehicle’s engine and chassis. But it’s not a bicycle, car, or train, or even a rocket; it’s closer to an interstellar dildo or orbital fucking machine, and the conjunction of stars, pistons, and multiple orgasms is both controlled and cosmic. In the Patrick Cowley megamix, the trax is once again opened to something like soloing: sequenced squirts and squiggles that punctuate the endless motoric pulsing. Moroder, apparently, didn’t care for it. But Nietzsche might have approved of the effort to accentuate the singularities of his ecstatic starchildren.

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“Karma Police” (Radiohead)

Today, mere bad vibes amount to a dangerous misstep, and an unwillingness to staightforwardly communicate (post-Nietzschean buzzing, white noising, talking “maths”) is the paramount crime. Criminalized bad karma, then, as a break from a  mandated sensus communis, as the police are decoupled from a limited Law. But, in the coda, singer associates the Big Brother-style turning in of cultural refuseniks with a “lost” “self,” suggesting that if we find our true being, singularity might be freed. Actually, this is all backwards: the lost need not be found, nor become founders of some (always retro) polity; rather, one might begin from original foundering (communications breakdown: it’s not always the same).


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