What’s Behind Moe Tucker TeaParty Deal

 

 

“She’s become the
Johnny Ramone of the Velvets.” Or so some suppose. How about, possibly, the
Harper Lee of indie rock instead?

 

By Charles Douglas

 

Ed. note: after a news
clip of former Velvet Underground drummer Moe Tucker appearing at a Georgia Tea
Party rally went viral – even BLURT posted it online – a lot of music fans,
presumably non-Tea Partiers, were heard emitting a collective, “Oh my!” As if
onetime membership in a sonically radical band automatically disqualifies
someone from taking part in a socially conservative movement. Hey, we’re pretty
staunch Obama fans at BLURT, but we also believe in freedom of speech and expression,
so Moe can do whatever the fuck she wants to do.

       Plus, says musician and author Charles
Douglas (of the late, great Vegetarian Meat), her espousing Tea Party
traditional values just might not be all that shocking if you look at her
within a  larger context. Douglas, who
worked with Tucker (as drummer and producer) for his 1999 solo album The Lives
of Charles Douglas (currently being reissued on UK label Broken Horse), kindly
offered up a kind of bullet point overview of Tucker’s general outlook based on
his memories and perceptions of the legendary lady, adding, “Everyone seems so
totally outraged by the [news] clip. She’s become the Johnny Ramone of the
Velvets! But yeah, she’s such a nice person. I wonder what she makes of the
surprisingly big reaction?”

 

 

 

MEMORIES OF MOE TUCKER:

1. Moe hated hippies with a passion. When a guest musician/engineer (Kurt Ralske
from Ultra Vivid Scene) raved about a 60’s
hippie band called The Music Machine that he
loved, Moe barked at him, “That’s the kind of hippie shit that kept
the Velvets off the radio!” She got really upset about it until Kurt
had to back down and finally admit that The Music Machine sucked compared
to the Velvet Underground.

 

2. Moe only ate
“American food,”
which she announced within the first half hour of
meeting her. I initially thought she was kidding, until I realized she was
serious. If it wasn’t “American” then she wasn’t going to be
eating it. I tried to get her to go to an Indian restaurant, but I lost
that battle pretty fast! After that, we just took her to a deli every day.
I always thought her choice in food was a gastronomical issue, but now I
realize maybe it was a political one, haha!

3. Moe didn’t take crap from anyone. Although she was really nice and incredibly cool to the (surprisingly
large) number of New Yorkers who recognized her, she definitely had a no-BS
persona. She insisted on lugging her own gear aka her drum kit. No mean feat for a (then) late-50’s woman
who stands about 5 feet tall. She was hardcore.

4. Moe chainsmoked at least 3-4 packs
of cigarettes a day.
She often smoked while she played. The whole
studio was filled with smoke. Once, partway through recording a drum track
she inexplicably strolled out of the studio. We were like, “Where did
she go? Did we piss her off or something?” No, she’d just run out of
smokes and had gone downstairs to buy some.

5. Moe told me she used to mock and
laugh at Andy Warhol
and say his
paintings weren’t really art. She said he thought it was funny and that he
always agreed with her and admitted he didn’t think his own paintings were
that great either! She also said there were paintings laying around
everywhere and at times he couldn’t even give them away as gifts. Everyone
who knew him was sick of his paintings. I don’t think Moe dug modern art at
all. She totally got it, she just didn’t like it and thought it was
pretentious.

6. Moe also knew Phil Spector. One time she told him how much
she loved his (amazing) production of Ike & Tina
Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High,” which famously was
not a hit in the USA.
Instead of being gracious about it, Phil inexplicably screamed at her,
“Then why didn’t you buy the product?!?!” and then ran away
nearly in tears. She said after that, she kept her distance from Phil
because he seemed kind of crazy. Smart thinking, in hindsight!

7. Moe had worked in a Wal-Mart
distribution center
(an office job basically) and not actually on the
floor of a Wal-Mart. Still, she definitely
thought the job sucked and was bummed out that her contribution to the
Velvets (which was appreciated by the fans) was less appreciated by some of
her bandmates (mainly John Cale). She was
still good friends with Lou Reed.

8. Moe really didn’t give a crap what
anyone thought of her.
She pretty much spoke her mind, and was always
honest (not in a mean way, just in a really direct way, but sometimes
people found that jarring). When the topic came to politics, even back
then, Moe was bummed out about the way the country had turned out. She
(correctly) thought most mainstream music and culture was total garbage.
She also thought that America
should focus more on itself and fix its own problems (education, urban
decay, etc) rather than meddling in international affairs. It doesn’t
surprise me that she would vocally support whatever cause she believes in,
whether that cause is crazy and unpopular or not. She definitely struck me
back then as right-leaning. She was definitely not a fan of “big
government,” or being told what to do, etc.

9. Moe’s life in the south is very
far-removed from her days in the Velvets.
She has a bunch of grown
kids, many of whom play in local southern rock bands. She has a small house
and a garden. She likes the country life. Kind of keeps to a circle of
friends. She’s like the indie rock Harper
Lee! She still plays drums now and then. Every year she sends me and
a bunch of other people she knows a nice Christmas
card.

10. I don’t think Moe takes politics
that seriously.
I think mainly what happened is that she’s mad about
the economy (she got a raw deal when it came to money and the VU) and
probably has too much time on her hands. She’s definitely didn’t come across
as a crazy racist zealot – in fact the only musicians I ever heard her
praise were Tina Turner, Olatunji, Bo Diddley, etc. I don’t know why exactly she’s
mixed up in the lunatic Tea Party, but it’s probably a bit of a fad for
her. A year from now, she’ll probably (hopefully!) be shaking her head and
saying “Man, the tea party turned out to suck and be filled with
losers, etc.”

 

 

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