02.15.13 — “Sunday Morning”, as covered by Bettie Serveert

Bettie Serveert

I haven’t been writing every day. That’s the whole purpose of this blog. It’s supposed to be a writing exercise for me with the possible side benefit of turning a few people on to some music that I like. I can’t make any excuses — good or bad– for my recent spate of sporadic inactivity. I hope that it’s not a continuing trend.

I didn’t write yesterday, but I gave serious consideration to writing about a song that Bettie Serveert did as a cover of a Velvet Underground song. Today, as fate has it, my hand has been forced to do the same. I’m not writing about the same song that I thought about writing about, but it’s another Velvets song that the Betties did. I’ll explain in a bit.

To be clear: I am not a “fan” of the Velvet Underground. I don’t own a single Velvets record. I understand and appreciate their influence and their fingerprints on a lot of modern indie rock, but I’ve just never gotten into them. Part of it has to do with their frontman. While this might come across as blasphemy, I just don’t care for Lou Reed. I’ve given some of his solo records a fair shake, but I just don’t like them. I haven’t given VU as much of a fair shake, and I’ll say again that I appreciate their influence. However, their records just don’t do much for me. While I know and like some Velvets songs, I’ve just never been able to get into VU as much as I probably should.

In 1998, Bettie Serveert released an album of live covers of Velvet Underground songs. It was recorded on November 27, 1997 in their hometown of Amsterdam at one show at the Paradiso club. If you’ve ever been around these parts or if you’ve ever met me in real life, you probably know that I’m a pretty big fan of Bettie Serveert. I won’t get into the details about this band, who has had a 20+ year career, but if you want to know, just ask.

Today, the Hopscotch Music Festival made its first major announcement regarding the 2013 festival, which will take place this September 5-7 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The festival uses 15 venues, all within walking distance of each other, and there will be a total of 175 more bands playing over the weekend. They haven’t announced any of the headlining bands yet. In fact, they sold out of the VIP tickets and have sold a good number of full-festival passes before they announced any of the performers. Today, they announced the first band.

John Cale, who was one of the founding members of the Velvet Underground, and who co-wrote many of the songs on the first two Velvets records, will be playing as the main act at Memorial Auditorium at this year’s festival. I assume that he’ll be playing Friday night at Memorial Auditorium while the main act that night is winding down in City Plaza.

Cale, who will turn 71 next month, was an active member of the Velvets for the first two records. He was also on Nico’s first solo record before launching a solo career that has spanned five decades. One of his biggest accomplishments was when he made Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” his own. It around Cale’s cover of the song that the late Jeff Buckley based his own definitive cover version.

While Lou Reed was the principal songwriter of the Velvets, Cale co-wrote a few songs, including tonight’s song. I’m lame, and I don’t know the original, but here’s the Bettie Serveert cover of “Sunday Morning”:

“Sunday Morning”, as covered by Bettie Serveert

Like I said, I’m not a Velvets fan and I don’t even know the original version of this song, but it’s easy enough to do a little bit of research.

“Sunday Morning” was the first song on the Velvet Underground album The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967), and it was one of the few songs with Nico rather than Lou Reed on lead vocals. Even though it was the first song on the album, and even though it was the single that preceded the release of the album, “Sunday Morning” was the last song added to the album.
One of the defining characteristics of the original version of the song was the use of the Celesta, which was John Cale’s idea. In the Bettie’s version, they use a xylophone. They don’t normally have any tuned percussion, but it was necessary as a Celesta facsimile for this song.

I won’t go into further detail. Just enjoy the song.

Bettie Serveert plays VENUS IN FURS and other Velvet Underground songs is out of print and a little spendy even for used copies. I wouldn’t call it “essential” unless you’re a pretty serious Bettie Serveert fan or a fanatic of all things Velvet Underground. It is, though, pretty good, and worth it if you can find a reasonably priced copy. You can find unreasonably priced copies of the rare live album from the amazon store here.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

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