Sunday, October 27, 2013


I loved Lou Reed and his music.

I remember when I was about 14 years old and my family would stay at my grandmother's house.  She had no television, and only old records for a seldom-used stereo.  If I wanted to listen to any of my own music I had to bring my little transistor radio and hope it would pick up some stray station late at night.  I spent hours in the back bedroom at her house, listening for sounds to catch my ear.

That was when I first heard "Sweet Jane".  I thought it was one of the best songs I had ever heard up to that point in my life.  It wasn't until a while later when browsing through the record bin at my little town's downtown PayLess Drug that I noticed the name of the song on an album called "Loaded" by The Velvet Underground.  I didn't think much about it, and it ended up slipping my mind.  It wasn't long after that when "Walk On The Wild Side" happened, and then I found out who Lou Reed was...  formerly a Velvet and now out on a solo career.

Again I kind of put Lou on the back burner, but when I was at the University of Oregon in the late Seventies and early Eighties it was a whole different story.  I got caught up in all the punk and "new wave" stuff going on at the time, and a few of my music buddies talked about how so much of it was derivative of (or influenced by) The Velvet Underground...  so I checked them out, and I got hooked.

I probably listened to "White Light, White Heat a hundred times during the next few years.  I remember going through a pretty mighty Lou/Velvets phase, exemplified by some heavy drinking and "stage diving" off an old couch onto the hardwood floor at my good friend Sonny's house with "Sister Ray" cranked way up...  and on several occasions there was some pretty tribal-style cathartic dancing to the song "The Blue Mask", one of Lou's best and fiercest recorded moments.

That led to the later acquisitions of the "New Sensations", "Mistrial" and "New York" albums through the Eighties, and then to "Set The Twilight Reeling" in the Nineties.  Plus the Velvet Underground box set "Peel Slowly And See" and Lou's box set "Between Thought And Expression"...  all essential items for my music collection.  And he continued to produce music that got to my heart up until his mid-fifties.

From songs like "Coney Island Baby" and "Kill Your Sons" to "The Blue Mask" and "Set The Twilight Reeling", Lou Reed excelled in writing songs from the gut.  To my way of seeing things, there were no songs he wrote that weren't genuinely his own, and none that didn't come from deep inside him.  And what a mind he had.

After the "Set The Twilight Reeling" album in 1996 I didn't find his releases as appealing, and I kind of drifted away from his music.  I was particularly disappointed with "Lulu", the album he did with Metallica in 2011.  It saddens me that something I enjoyed so little was his last recording.  But it didn't really matter, because by then he had long ago cemented himself in my mind as one of the best and most intelligent rock and rollers to have walked the planet.

Looks like it's time to have a beer or two and go crank up some Lou Reed.  I'm thinking "Busload Of Faith" or "Good Evening, Mr. Waldheim" might sound pretty damned good right about now.  I got to see him perform those songs live at a show in Seattle in 1989 while he was out touring for his "New York" album, and it was a great show.  That CD always brings back some great memories.

Lou Reed isn't with us now physically, but his music will live forever, and he will live forever in it.

"And the glory of love...  the glory of love...  the glory of love might see you through."  


Blogger jim marquis said...

I'm raising a glass to him as well.

9:06 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Excellent tribute. I only have 2 of his albums: the first Velvet Underground album, with the picture of a banana on the cover; and Lou Reed's solo album "Rock and Roll Animal," live versions of several Velvet Underground songs.

I always loved the sax solo at the end of "Walk on the Wild Side." Played by Sam Rivers, one of the greatest sax players ever. He probably made more money on that one Lou Reed record than he did in his entire jazz career.

The Rude Pundit also has a great writeup today on Lou Reed.

8:46 PM  

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