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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Bowie at the AGO

October 20, 2013 at 7:23 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

When someone says, “I like David Bowie,” I’m often tempted to ask which one?

Bowie is a chameleon, and although the last record I really paid interest to was Scary Monsters (maybe I’m forgetting something), those early years of his career are peerless: Ziggy, the cracked actor, the thin white Duke, etc. Bowie’s creativity seemed endless. Not only that he helped out (and yes, ahem, borrowed from others lie Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Mott the Hoople)

So, if you’re any sort of Bowie fan you really should check out the exhibit currently at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The exhibit is spread over two floors and contains artifacts, music and film from Bowie’s career along with materials from those who influenced Bowie (one room is full of Warhol items).

Even if you’re a Bowie expert, you’ll likely see something new – early films and posters were fascinating, along with different mixes of songs. And c’mon, where else are you going to see Bowie’s mid-70s coke spoon?

Admission to the show includes an audio tour which tends to cut out, and it’s often unclear which part the audio is discussing, but overall it’s quite impressive.

A word of advice though. Book your ticket online. I went Sunday morning at 10 and the place was packed. The show runs until November 27, 2013.

Oh, and my favourites, Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust and Heroes. 


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