Monday, October 28, 2013
Lou Reed: A Tribute
At the Big Apple that is also known as the City that Never Sleeps, New York City just got quieter as on October 27, 2013. The city lost one of its great treasures in Lou Reed who died from liver disease at the age of 71. If Frank Sinatra was considered the King of New York back in the 1940s and 1950s. Reed would take on that mantle since the 1970s and do it with such class and danger making the city just as exciting. A young Jewish kid from Brooklyn who grew up in Long Island, Reed personified the city in its ugliness and at its most dangerous. Yet, that is one of the reasons why the city was so fun as he was their king though he acted like one of them by walking on the city and such.
There is no question that Lou Reed’s contribution to popular music is important with his work with the Velvet Underground to his amazing solo career. Brian Eno said it best that for those that had bought Velvet Underground and Nico when it first came out started a band afterwards. The four studio albums the Velvet Underground made from that debut w/ Nico as well as White Light White Heat, the third self-titled release, and Loaded are all quintessential in the world of rock n’ roll. Though they never sold a lot of records from 1967 to 1970, there wouldn’t be punk rock in the 1970s if it wasn’t for the Velvets as there also wouldn’t be post-punk, alternative rock, indie, or anything that was daring if it wasn’t for Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Maureen Tucker, Doug Yule, and Nico being part of that entity.
All of those albums that Reed did as a member of the Velvets as well as compilations and box sets of outtakes and unreleased material showcase a wealth of music that wasn’t just ahead of its time. It was also dangerous not just in the subject matters such as drugs, sex, and things that were considered taboo and adult in the late 1960s. While Reed may have not had the kind of vocals that was considered fantastic in comparison to a lot of the mainstream music that was playing on the radio. It did appeal to those who weren’t comfortable with their vocal ranges as Reed was also someone who didn’t know many chords in playing the guitar. Yet he did said that even if you knew only one or two chords, there are a million things than can be done with so little which definitely appealed to the world of punk.
After leaving the Velvets in 1970, Reed would begin what would be an outstanding solo career that began in 1971. Though it got off to a rough start with his self-titled debut released in that year. It would a young up-and-coming artist in David Bowie who would help Lou Reed get success as a solo artist with the help of Bowie’s Spiders from Mars guitarist Mick Ronson as they produced what many consider to be his greatest solo achievement in Transformer. If there’s one solo record of his that anyone should start with, it’s this one. It’s an album from start to finish that is a joy to listen to as it features such classic tracks as the ballad Perfect Day, the love song Satellite of Love, the crunchy rocker Vicious, and of course, his only hit single in his entire career in Walk on the Wild Side.
While Reed maybe famous to the public at large for that one song and introduce him to a wide audience, he was still a cult artist of sorts with a devoted following that would grow in the decades to come. Albums such as Berlin (my favorite), Rock N’ Roll Animal, Blue Mask, New York, Songs for Drella with John Cale, Magic & Loss, and The Raven showcase an artist who was willing to be daring, dangerous but also filled with a craftsmanship and care as a songwriter that is unique. He was also someone who made record that were quite questionable such as his last studio release in a very strange collaboration with the metal band Metallica in the album Lulu. While it wasn’t a total disaster, it was still an album that didn’t have anything great to offer though it showed that Reed could still keep up with guys who were younger than him.
Throughout Reed’s solo career that also featured stories about his notorious drug use that had him competing with the likes of Keith Richards of who was the most notorious rock drug user. Like Richards, Reed would eventually clean up his act while maintaining that air of danger as Reed also created one of the most daring artistic statements with a double album in 1975 called Metal Machine Music which was a record of feedback that is all over the place that just goes on in four different sides. It’s a record that either was loved or hated as there was no question that it would help pave the way for genres such as noise-pop, shoe gaze, industrial, and all sorts of crazy-ass avant-garde music. Lester Bangs was right in calling the album genius as he was known for having a love-hate relationship with Reed.
Reed definitely earned his title as the King of New York while maintaining his status as a regular guy who loved rock n’ roll and doo-wop as one of his great contributions in the 1990s was a blistering cover of Doc Pomus’ This Magic Moment in tribute to the man that helped learn how to write songs. It appeared in David Lynch’s 1997 film Lost Highway where it was used in an effective moment in the film proving that Reed could do wonders to a great song.
One of my favorite Lou Reed moments was in an appearance in the Nine Inch Nails touring documentary Self Destruct from their 1997 Closure home video release where Reed was backstage talking to Trent Reznor praising him for rocking very smart as they had a beer together. It’s a moment where one of the coolest guys in rock gave a thumbs up to one of my favorite artists in the world.
Lou Reed definitely was a class act as another moment that I think plays into his legendary status is a rare duet with longtime friend David Bowie at Bowie’s 50th birthday concert in 1997 at Madison Square Garden in the song Queen Bitch that was Bowie’s tribute to Reed and the Velvets.
New York City will never be the same as does the world as Reed’s influence in music was also important to the world of social and cultural changes in Czechoslovakia where Vaclav Havel cited Reed and the Velvet Underground as a profound influence for the Velvet Revolution to occur in the late 1980s during the Fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. It’s not just these changes that Reed inspired as he was also influential to many musicians as Cowboy Junkies created an amazing cover of the Velvets’ Sweet Jane while Duran Duran did a cover of Reed’s Perfect Day that Reed himself loved. There will never be another Lou Reed. Yet, right now. He’s probably rocking out w/ Nico, Sterling Morrison, John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Mick Ronson, and Doc Pomus while going to the bar where Dimebag Darrell Abbott is the bartender. We will miss you Lou. Thank you for the music.
R.I.P. Lewis Allan “Lou” Reed (1942-2013)
© thevoid99 2013