Regular readers know I am not busy informing myself about the latest news. Honestly, all news passes me by. So this might be sounding funny to you, but the news of Lou Reed’s passing reached me yesterday. Eddie (PTV3) told me when I mentioned to him that there is so much Lou Reed on Portuguese radio, even on the non-pop stations (I don’t listen pop-stations). Not paying attention to moderators, I assumed he probably would come for a gig to Portugal. Wrong! It also explains the extreme high amount of visitors on this site few weeks ago. It must have been friends and acquaintances who thought I would write something about Lou’s passing. Everybody who has been in my house found many vinyl’s of Lou Reed in my collection. I was much into Reed, especially in the 70ties. Besides that I liked his music, it was also a ‘scene’ thing. The Velvet Underground was popular among all of us. I also listened to his solo albums until a certain period. When I was 11 years old I already purchased Velvets ‘White Light, White Heat’. After that I bought every release, even Metal Machine Music. Yes, I had the original pressing of MMM. The record that disappeared out of the stores after a few days! (The record company thought it wouldn’t sell and put bad reputation on Lou’s career, so they pulled the record back). I remember well purchasing that record. Hans (record store owner, read the Zanzibars Twist download page on this site for more info) ordered a copy for his store knowing that I would come demanding the new Lou Reed release. Standing in front of the counter we had a strange little conversation. He asked me “do you really want this record” I said “yes”. Hans: “Are you sure?”. Me “yes”. Hans: “But did you ever hear some music from this record?” Me, getting annoyed: “sell me this record goddamned! Stop wining about it”. He sold me the record with the message that I would back in a day turning it in. I didn’t. At home I played Metal Machine Music completely. I listened it from the beginning to the end and moved it into my Lou Reed/Velvet Underground section of the record collection.
I somehow got ‘over’ Lou in the 80ties, when English became somehow my first language and his lyrics got more clearly registered in my brains. Wow, what is Lou cynical, and negative too. I started to dislike his music and didn’t play the records that often any more but still kept on purchasing new releases until ‘Songs For Drella’ (late 80ties). Making career in music bizznix promotion copies of a few 90ties releases where given to me. ‘Magic And Lost’ , ‘Set The Twilight..’, ‘Perfect Night’ (Live) and ‘Ecstacy’. All these cd’s disappeared again. I gave them away. Same with a few records like ‘Live in Italy’, ‘Growing Up In Public’ and some more. Have to look into my collection which. Lou made many ‘lesser good’ records. I understand! The old record company contracts force you to produce within a certain time. This can be contradictory with creative inspiration. After ‘Berlin’ Lou was very mediocre for a long time. ‘Rock and Roll Animal’, ‘Live’, ‘Sally Can’t Dance’, ‘Coney Island Baby’, ‘Rock and Roll Hearth’,…. All not so great records, but ok. Think of this list I only dumped ‘Live’ and kept the others for memory. Lou was better again with ‘The Blue Mask’ for a moment, but lost it immediately again with ‘Legendary Hearts’, ‘Mistrial’, ‘New Sensations’. I kept only ‘Legendary Hearts’, again…memories…. ‘New York’ and ‘Songs For Drella’ where very good again. After that I was definitely over it. If you never purchased a Lou Reed release but want to start now, you will be complete with ‘Transformer’, ‘Berlin’, ‘New York’ and ‘Songs For Drella’. Of course you must get the 4 Velvet Underground releases ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’, ‘White Light, White Heat’, ‘The Velvet Underground’ and ‘Loaded’. Forget ‘Squeeze’, it sucks.
I visited a good amount of Reed performances through the years. The last one was in Ljubljana (Slovenia). Year I forgot, but it was the ‘Ecstacy’ tour. I even attended Velvet Underground reunion shows in The Netherlands (somewhere late 80ties or early 90ties?). I am very bad in the exact dates. I know, its easy looking them up on the internet, but… too lazy and what does time matter.
Lou’s live performances where pretty boring. He just was there with his band playing the set dry, efficient, accurate, not exploding in energetic jams or interesting communication with the audience. I understand! This was his ‘thing’. For decades (since the 70ties) Lou’s live sets where predictable with many standards, always starting the gig with ‘Sweet Jane’, playing his hits in the beginning and end performing few songs of his latest album in the middle. Most remarkable though was a live album from the later 70ties ‘Take No Prisoners’. A recording from the ‘Bottom Line’ club in NY. Lou talks through the complete gig. So far I didn’t mention this period of Reed’s career. Somehow I liked it the most although it also includes his worst record ever ‘The Bells’. I think what attracted me on this period was the sound. Lou performed with a kind of synth on his guitar that created a massive distorted orchestration sound. I loved it. ‘Take No Prisoners’ is a recording from that period. Even ballads like ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ and ‘Coney Island Baby’ are performed in a massive wall of distorted noise. The ‘studio’ album Lou introduced this sound with “Street Hassle’ is the only record that here, in my house, survived. Its finds it way to my turntable regularly, while the others (even ‘Transformer’) just stand there holding dusty memories.
Lou’s passing didn’t shock me. Of course I was surprised for a moment hearing the news, but lets be honest, he wasn’t the youngest either. Its obvious to me that many ‘stars’ of my generation are reaching the age of leaving. Naturally. Nothing to be sad about. Sure all my support to the people (family) who where living close to him, like I would support anyone living close to a person they lost, famous or not. But Lou I never knew personally, only his records.
Its a generation thing. Expect many to follow soon. There is simply just a certain amount of years in your live. Probably much younger people, who grew up with very different ‘stars’, will be lesser effected by these kind of passings. Time moves on.
Surfing the web learning what cause made him pass I must say, Rock and Roll took him. I probably pass similar, but without transplantation. My liver will simply give up. No money for replacement, no media either. No radio, no newspapers, no tv, no memorial. Just me…death!
This drink is to you Lou, tanx for the good moments I had with your music.