If in “Doin’ The Things That We Want To,” Lou Reed referenced the films that his buddy Martin Scorcese made about New York, then it’s weirdy ironic that he closed his album about New York with a song about a film Marty made about a time and place far far away.
That film, of course, is The Last Temptation of Christ, Scorcese’s film that featured a controversial sequence where Jesus comes down from the cross and experiences an alternative reality as a normal man. You know, like that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Picard gets hit by an energy beam from a probe and lives out the life of a guy named Kamin, but much less blasphemous.
Blasphemous, of course, it wasn’t, but the late 1980s were the early days of the culture war, and as a result, loads of Christian groups protested over the fact that Jesus and Mary Magdalene did the thing they wanted to — even though they were a married couple and therefore it should be OK — causing a controversy so huge that when Last Temptation of Christ came out on VHS, the owners of the video store I managed wouldn’t stock it. Not because they were religious in that sense, but because they didn’t want the hassle for a film that was only ever going to bring in a few hundred dollars.
Anyways, Lou tackled all of this — well, not the video store part — with “Dime Store Mystery,” showing an empathy for the suffering Jesus that none of his protesting followers could muster for a man who was being tortured to death.
The duality of nature, Godly nature,
Human nature splits the soul
Fully human, fully divine and divided
The great immortal soul
Split into pieces, whirling pieces, opposites attract
From the front, the side, the back
The mind itself attacks
With Rob Wasserman bowing his bass guitar and Reed and Mike Rathke sending billowing chords towards the divine, “Dime Store Mystery” was also a set piece for the guest percussionist, one Maureen “Moe” Tucker, who Lou used to work with in a little band called The Velvet Underground.
This was a huge deal. Even though Moe was on majestic floor tom duty and not straight ahead forcebeat mode, it was still Moe Tucker playing on a Lou Reed song, and given that it surfaced 20 years later she was a Tea Partier (remember the Tea Party?), I now wonder if she even knew — or cared — what she was playing on.
I guess it doesn’t matter: given the various transgressive songs of the Velvets, Moe had probably turned off any part of her that would have been offended by his words a long time ago.
“Dime Store Mystery”
“Dime Store Mystery” performed live
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