For my first punk “plague song,” here’s “There Is No Time,” from Lou Reed, one of the godfathers of punk. I chose it because it’s an urgent call to action.
The song is two decades and many musical experiments after his Velvet Underground days, where he explores some of the sonic territory later embraced by punk. But New York (1989) – the album on which this song appears – is a lean, powerful rock record. And this track is its most punk. In some ways, it’s more early Clash or Ramones than it is VU.
I identify with its urgency, its directness, and its capacity to surprise. I mean, it’s in the form of a manifesto (another reason I like it), but – despite the claim that “This is no time for learned speech” – it has lines like “This is no time for circumlocution.” But also lines like these: “This is no time to swallow anger. / This is no time to ignore hate.” And “This is a time for action / Because the future’s within reach.”
Doing Lou Reed’s Sprechstimme without a microphone was … not entirely successful. When I sing, my voice carries above the sound of the guitar. But playing loud punky guitar without amplifying my speak-singing means you have to listen a bit more closely. In the video, you see less of the guitar and more of my head because I’m trying to get my mouth closer to my iPhone’s microphone. As I say, not as effective as I’d hoped.
Apart from the inadequate amplification, it’s a fun song to play – exactly five chords that repeat in the same order (chorus included!). The main challenge here was getting the lyrics in the right order. They’re memorable, but figuring out their internal logic – why the “no time for private vendettas” verse might follow the “no time to swallow anger” verse – was my challenge.
Reed’s original is easily one of my top five Lou Reed songs – which is saying something, given that he wrote “Sweet Jane,” “Pale Blue Eyes,” “Walk on the Wild Side,” “Satellite of Love,” and “Turning Time Around.” Anyway. Here’s the late Mr. Reed himself, backed by Mike Rathke on guitar, Rob Wasserman on upright electric bass, and Fred Maher on drums.
Looking for a #PlagueSong to perform? Check out this ever-expanding playlist. Of course, you may have a song in mind that I don’t know – and that would be welcome!
- Plague Songs
- Sing. Sing a Song. #PlagueSongs, no. 1 (17 Mar. 2020)
- Do Not Touch Your Face. #PlagueSongs, no. 2 (24 Mar. 2020)
- The Bright Side. #PlagueSongs, no. 3 (31 Mar. 2020)
- It’s later than you think. #PlagueSongs, no. 4 (7 Apr. 2020)
- There doesn’t seem to be anyone around. #PlagueSongs, no. 5 (14 Apr. 2020)
- Be an optimist instead. #PlagueSongs, no. 6 (21 Apr. 2020)
- Kick at the darkness. #PlagueSongs, no. 7 (28 Apr. 2020)
- So far away, but still so near. #PlagueSongs, no. 8 (5 May 2020)
- If you just call me. #PlagueSongs, no. 9 (12 May 2020)
- In the end, they’ll be the only ones there. #PlagueSongs, no. 10 (19 May 2020)
- No matter how I struggle and strive. #PlagueSongs, no. 11 (25 May 2020)
- Love. #PlagueSongs, no. 12 (1 June 2020)
- What Is Your COVID-19 Routine?