Thursday, November 7, 2013

Lou Reed

A few months ago I wrote an article, an obituary in fact, for Lou Reed's liver. A few weeks after that I played and sang a Lou Reed set in downtown Bangkok. Now the sad news has sank in that the rock and roller has died aged 71. Time to write a bit more about the man and how he had made such an influence, not just to myself, but on 20th century culture.

I recall quite clearly hearing I'm waiting for the Man for the first time. The time. The place. 1993. A friend's house, the record was unlike anything I'd ever heard. That violent piano, sardonic bass-line, that cynical vocal range and Moe's tribal drum bothering. And the subject? Scoring drugs....What more could a sixteen-year-old school boy want? I ended up buying the record from the friend there and then.

The new wave of indie bands in the early 90s, were for the most part, obviously not going to last. We had bands with names such as Cud, The Family Cat, Half Man Half Biscuit, Four Heads in a fish-tank...On and on it went.... The Mary Chain I rated and was also smitten with Luke Haine's outfit the Auteurs and their first recording New Wave.

Of course I, like any other young kid in a band raided my parent's record collection. The Stones were all attitude and guitar riffs. The Beatles were always a little bit twee even during their Sergeant Peppers exploration.

VU: Here were a group that sang about drugs, darkness, loneliness, despair. They also sang about escapism and mental explorations without being all West Coast flowery.  Jim Morrison was closer in terms of image and attitude and while the Doors were more solid musicians I'd say Lou wrote the stronger lyrics. He also wrote tender songs - Check out the third Velvet recording.

His solo career was shaky. Highlights included Berlin, New York, Take No Prisoners, Magic and Loss, and The Blue Mask. I saw Lou perform live several times and the acoustic set (in the Queen Elizabeth Hall South Bank) recorded as A Perfect Night is still one of my favorites. I won't discuss Metal Machine Music here - but I still have the original vinyl with the sleeve-note - 'My week beats your year."  

Lou Reed introduced me to literature. On the final pages of Victor's biography there's a transcript of a conversation between Lou and William Burroughs. Reed also dug Raymond Chandler, Selby Jr, and John Rechy's City of Night. He was well read and wrote well.

I feel that there is a line of creative people that stand out from the crowd. Lou Reed held that line strong for many years. Burroughs held it, Bukowski held it; who will hold it now?

Does it even need holding?

Do we need original cult writers and musicians possessed with a special talent and the confidence to just be an artist?

Of course we do.

Lou Reed -     .

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