Lou Reed 1942-2013 (1)
The death of Lou Reed has just been announced. I’m thinking back to the early weeks of 1967, and the release of The Velvet Underground and Nico, which had such a profound impact on all who were prepared to be receptive to such provocative music: “I’m Waiting for the Man”, “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, “I’ll Be Your Mirror”, “Black Angel’s Death Song” and, of course, “Heroin”. And then White Light/White Heat and the third album. Each of them a map leading to a different future. He was a strange, difficult and brilliant man.
Forty five years ago I managed to get an extended review of the first album into the local paper for which I was working as a junior reporter, serving my apprenticeship. It made a change from covering juvenile court and golden weddings. And now I have to sit down and write his obituary for the Guardian. So although I’ll keep any further thoughts for that, I didn’t want his passing to go unmarked on this blog. The pages above are from the copy of Screen Tests (Kulchur Press) I bought in the year that The Velvet Underground and Nico was released. Words: Gerard Malanga. Photograph: Andy Warhol.
Twenty-two years later and almost twenty-five years ago, he played the London Palladium after ‘New York’ was released. I recall his first words – and there wouldn’t be many more spoken between songs – were along the lines of: “We’re going to play ‘New York’ from beginning to end. Any songs you call out for while we’re doing that won’t be played tonight. If you keep quiet, we’ll do some other stuff after.” There were no shouted requests, he played ‘New York’ and then some old favourites. It was close to a perfect gig.
It was indeed a fantastic gig, John. And right now I’m listening to “Dirty Blvd”, one of the best things he ever did.
This solo performance from 1972, with John Cale, isn’t too shabby either:
There are a very few artists that have acted as beacons along the path of musical and artistic discovery over the decades. Lou Reed was one of the brightest. A light just went out on the Wild Side.
Richard, agree about ‘Dirty Boulevard’ – a great song which is on the Wilde side: in the gutter looking at the stars…
Enjoyed your Guardian piece.
I don’t go in much for this sort of thing – and I never cared a great deal for the Velvet Underground – but your Lou Reed obit in the Guardian was the best piece of writing I have encountered about anything recently and, believe me, I read far too much. They’ll all be taking the piss, but that was beyond brilliant.
When I opened up the Guardian obit page on the train this morning I glanced at the byline first, and with a mixture of relief (best man for the job) and anticipation (can’t wait to see what RW says) read it twice. Great job Richard. RIP Lou.