Lou Reed

October 27, 2013 at 9:08 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

What to say about the passing of Lou Reed today at age 71?

Reed, the band he founded, the Velvet Underground, and his subsequent solo career, had such an effect on me and the music I care about, it’s difficult to  know where to begin.

Perhaps at the beginning. Very likely the first Lou Reed song I heard was “Walk on the Wild Side” on the BBC when I was about 8. Didn’t know what it meant, though funnily enough neither did the BBC (the legend is that the song was aired because no one at the Beeb got the reference about Candy Darling giving head).

And gradually, as I came of age musically I heard more and more references by bands I liked to Reed and his band, the Velvet Underground.  The first Lou Reed album I bought was the live “Rock and Roll Animal,” probably because it had a number of songs I had heard of, though not necessarily heard.Not his best album, and I later sought the originals

And then in a record shop in St. Catharines, White Light White Heat.  Now, it’s not for the faint of heart. But that 17 minute “Sister Ray” was and still is pretty intense. I don’t think I’d ever heard anything like it. Maybe I never will again. I remember listening to it with a friend in a car on the Queen Elizabeth Way as we almost drove off of the road during I”I heard her call my name.” And it was funny too. Listen to the Gift without laughing, I dare you.

Then, it was the first Velvets record. It’s been said that when you heard a band you like, the next thing is to listen to the people who influenced them. The first Velvets album isn’t really like that. It’s impossible to tell. The band brought together such diverse elements (and if I refer to Lou reed founding the band, it’s not to slight the contributions of Cale, Tucker and Morrison), that they spring Athena like into the world fully formed.

And over the years I gradually bought all the Velvets albums, along with the live ones, the bootlegs I could find, and even the various “rip-off” editions  mono/stereo and mildly remixed. What a score when those outtakes albums came out in the eighties. And still it comes. I remember the joy when those demos came out.

Lou Reed’s solo career was a bit spottier. Such high points and a lot of lows.  I have some I love: Transformer, the much misunderstood Berlin, The Blue Mask, and the magnificent New York. Fans can argue for their favourites, and the ones we’d rather forget. (No, I didn’t buy Metal Machine Music, but I did laugh at bits of Take No Prisoners)

By all accounts, Reed was not the easiest person to get along with. I remember seeing an interview with journalist Daniel Richler where Reed grunted one word answers (and sometimes not even that). Afterwards, Reed opined it was one of the better interviews he’d done recently.

But that’s not the point is it?  Reed made some massive contributions to popular music. Many of the things I love would not exist in their present form without him. And for that I’m glad he was who he was.

Shortly before I began to write this piece, my daughter came up and asked “Was Lou Reed in the Velvet Underground?” No, she didn’t want to hear any of his music (I insisted, but she was adamant), but one of Glee cast she follows on twitter had expressed sorrow about Reed’s death. So maybe the seed is planted.

Now, I’m going dig out some of my favourites and listen to them. You should do the same.

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