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A few thoughts on Lou Reed

October 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Most everyone has a personal story of when we first got Lou Reed or the Velvets. I came to the party late. Throughout college the only Lou I knew was Transformer. I had that CD in constant rotation in my car (along with Exile On Main Street and L.A.M.F.). Transformer is a glorious rock and roll album, but I don’t think I really understood what Uncle Lou was up to until just after college, when one day I walked out of Vintage Vinyl with the Velvet Underground box set.

I didn’t listen to it right away. I remember ending up in south Jersey one night with a couple friends of mine, for no reason other than it was a hours drive away from all our usual haunts. We were parked next to a Church’s Chicken, having just eaten the worst fried okra imaginable. We had all heard the stories. Lou and Andy and John and Nico and the Factory. So we put on disk 2 and played it. Loud.

It wasn’t the raucous punk rock album we were expecting. It was at times melancholy, violent, and desperate. No doubt the effect has dulled a bit by the decades of imitation. But clearly the album was something special. Then we got to disk 2, and the White Light/White Heat sessions. It was too much to process in one night.

Lou Reed got a lot of milage out if being Lou Reed. When you’re the guy who invents cool, you can do albums of tai-chi background music and pretty much get a pass. But now that he’s passed away, we’re left with some crazy stories and a truly remarkable and expansive body of work. If the is one sentiment that sums up his oeuvre, it would be okay, you did that. Now try something else. No looking back.

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