So last week, I got a bunch of emails about Moe Tucker being a Tea Bagger (sexy!) oops I mean, a Tea Partier. I think it's great that Moe is finally generating the press she deserves! Nothing wrong with using kooky political beliefs in the service of self-promotion. And like Johnny Ramone said, "Punk is rightwing" and "Reagan is the best president!!!" Er, I mean, wait, Johnny Ramone was insane?
Anyway, I thought I'd just type up a few "Memories of Moe" for my own amusement. For those who don't know, she played drums and produced my 1999 album "The Lives of Charles Douglas" (recently reissued by Broken Horse Records UK)
Moe Tucker was really cool, and incredibly great to work with. But she was definitely eccentric. Here's some of the stuff that sticks in my mind the most:
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!
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 chain-smoked 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 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.
7. 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.
8. 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 likes the country life. Kind of keeps to a circle of friends. She's like the indie rock Harper Lee! She still plays drums. Every year she sends me and a bunch of other people a nice Christmas card.
9. I really doubt that Moe takes politics too 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. I don't know why exactly she's mixed up in the Tea Party, but it's probably (hopefully?) just a fad for her. A year from now, she'll probably be shaking her head and saying "Man, the tea party turned out to suck and be filled with losers, etc." Or maybe not!
Anyway, I think Moe should run as a Tea Party candidate! President Moe Tucker in 2012! (okay, not really).
PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED PHOTO OF MOE TUCKER TAKEN BY TERRY TOLKIN
(Zabriskie Point Studios, NYC, 1997, during the recording of "The Lives")