Monday, March 24, 2014

Satellite of Love 2000

Bono—the acquisitive lead singer of U2—seems to have a small obsession with Lou Reed's "Satellite of Love." U2 covered it for the 1992 B-side of "One" and then played it live on their world tour, where Bono would duet with the beamed-in transmission of Lou on a video screen. But he wasn't done with it. When this most dogged of salesmen somehow talked German auteur Wim Wenders into directing his original script The Million Dollar Hotel, the song became the centerpiece of the film's soundtrack, appearing in three different versions, including one sung by the film's female lead, Milla Jovovich. This song has the same sultry three-in-the-morning beauty of the entire soundtrack. It also features a dream band that includes trumpeter Jon Hassell, guitarist Bill Frisell, and overall sound guru Brian Eno. But the reason I'm writing about it is that this rendition is a quite different song than the Lou Reed version, the U2 version (which hues closely to Lou's), or the one recorded (but never released) by Lou's old band, the Velvet Underground.

The chorus on the Million Dollar Hotel version is similar to earlier versions, but hardly an exact match, and the intro and verses practically constitute a rewrite. The MDH rendition has a darker hue, due mostly to the substitution of a D-minor for the brighter A7. This minor chord takes the song into a distinctly different melodic terrain; Hassell drops a nice—very torch—melody into this space during the intro and the breaks between verses. There is also a nifty G-C-G shift, unique to this version, that echoes the three syllables of "satellite." These changes appear subtle on paper; they are not, however, when you hear or play the song. In short, it's been jazzed.

I want to make a little plug for the entire soundtrack, which is excellent, one of the better creations to emerge from the U2 camp since the heady days of Berlin and Zoo TV. Like the band's 1995 Passengers collaboration with Eno, it is not well known but is refreshingly free from all the usual obligations. (There is a wealth of great music on the album, including the very fine "Never Let Me Go," which I've also tabbed.) As for the film itself, it has been available for free on Netflix practically since they started streaming things, but when I finally decided I'd check it out, I found that it had been removed. Netflix often toys with me in this way. The upshot is I've never actually seen it. It has a remarkably low profile for a Wenders film, so I'm guessing it's not great, but when/if I ever do have the pleasure, I expect the experience will be a bit like seeing one of my own dreams, since the music is settled so deeply in my imagination. (Wenders, incidentally, also shot a video for "Stay" that I'm still trying to forget.) I should probably point out that, if the fan forums are any indication, a lot of people passionately dislike Jovovich's vocal. But U2 unfortunately has a lot of fans who gatewayed to/from U2 with Coldplay, if not Christian rock, and this is one of the many things they're wrong about, because Milla is fine.

The 'net is full of tabs for "Satellite of Love," but as far as I can tell this is the only tab for this notably different—and in some ways better—version of the song.

Satellite of Love
(words & music Lou Reed)
From the Million Dollar Hotel Soundtrack

Intro: G Dm F C

G      C      G
Satellite's gone
F              C
Up to the sky
G          C        G
Things like that drive me
F                C
Out of my mind
F                        Dm
I watched it for a little while
C
I love to watch things on TV

G C G
G               F
Satellite of love
C               G    C
Satellite of love
G               F
Satellite of love
C               G    C
Satellite of love

C             G      F              C
Satellite's gone
 way up to Mars

G          C        C                  F                  C
Soon it will be filled (baby)
 with parking cars
F                        Dm
I watched it for a little while
C
I love to watch things on TV

Satellite of love (repeat)

G            Dm          F              C
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday (repeat)

Satellite's gone
 up to the sky

Etc.

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